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Dura-Lar in the Classroom

by Carole Silverstein

It is no secret, as written about in my 1st blog, that I am in love with Grafix Drafting Film for my own artwork – and have been painting on it with acrylic inks for 22 years now.

I am also an art teacher and have been teaching over 22 years, these last 6 at a private high school in Los Angeles. I have been teaching the AP Studio Art/ Honors IV Art class open only to seniors. This class is designed to develop each student’s unique voice in a series of related works, for their first time, and in their chosen discipline (drawing, sculpture, photography, architecture, etc.). I always try to impart, to this impressionable age, the need for a healthy balance between rigor and play. Rigor or discipline to sustain ideas through a body of work – and play to find one’s deepest and most meaningful discovered expression without burn out. Therefore I encourage “play” through the incorporation and exploration of new materials.

This past year I had a group of exceptionally talented students. It really was a dream group. In their creative processes and struggles over the year, I would give them new material to try, among many other teaching strategies. I passed out a few packs of 9” x 12” .04 and .05 mil Matte Dura-Lar to several of my students at critical times in their creative journeys to play with. All three of these students did some very interesting and varied things with them; all had different results which you can see here.


Matti is a lover of drawing, specifically of mythological fantasy. She uses a female warrior protagonist and animal companions like wolves and dragons in her drawings. She used the translucency of the Dura-Lar as a comic book artist might – drawing on several layers, with her characters on top and the setting or place in colored markers below on another sheet. She could take advantage of the Dura-Lar’s translucent characteristics – tracing and repeating her characters from her many sketches in notebooks. It opened up her composition possibilities and freed her from some of the solutions she had been using previously. She also cut up her character drawings on Dura-Lar (since copying became so easy) then collaged and reassembled them into a new composition. Additionally, she experimented on the translucent material by creating fashion illustrations for her characters (inspired by Mad Max type costuming).

emersonEmerson, who had been making sophisticated abstract sculptures and reliefs that existed in the space between drawing and sculpture found a new way to explore her themes. She took the Dura-Lar but used its stiffness as an element in a sculptural model by both drawing on parts of it with scribbled graphite and then standing and folding it in with other paper elements. She used the light translucency of the Dura-Lar as a beautiful contrast to the opacity of the other paper elements. She could emphasize a simultaneous delicate, fragile quality against a tough strength, as well as a two-dimensional surface interest with a sculptural space.


Rachel is the young architecture student who had been making intricate and elaborate architectural models. When I gave her the Dura-Lar sheets, it allowed her to work sculpturally in a faster manner to work through her ideas. She used them dramatically as folded and standing architectural pieces. But she also took advantage of the translucent material by adding colored markers across the entire surface. She designed as a 3-d model, looking quite abstract; her version of a skate park. She created several abstract sculptures by folding (origami -like), cutting into, bending, and standing up on top of mirror bases. These techniques became a quicker way for her to work than the usual painstaking time it takes to make a more traditional model. And it allowed her to think through her ideas more quickly and also playfully (with color and speed).

I want to thank these three young brilliant creative artists for inspiring me in so many ways and for being willing to share their artwork here. Wishing them each the best as they start college this very month! Thank you to Matti Schulman, Emerson Tenney, and Rachel Mair.

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