Friday, July 10, 2015

Art Can

Make a Difference!

Before school let out for the summer (a whole week and a half ago (June 29th for teachers!)) our assistant principal presented the staff with a challenge: decorate a bulletin board for the new school year and you could win cash money. We could have our students do it, have our clubs do it; it could be for a department or an organization. It's not like we had anything else going on...

We are the Art Department. I felt the need to participate and show off our skills despite the fact that we had finals to grade, rooms to clean and supply orders to fill. Plus, $$$. 
I found this on Pinterest and with some modifications, made it fit our school and school motto. Thank you Salem Public Schools!

But this little can with a powerful message would have been swallowed by the surrounding white space of the bulletin board. Our awesome long term sub realized this too and asked if she could paint our faces a la Warhol in the remaining space....
Sure, why not?

And that is just it.
Many teachers leave the building, having to pass this space. They were able to see the progress over two or three days and it got people talking. I even got an email from a teacher I hardly know in the English Department, letting me know that Art really does make a difference and thank you for your excellent work. (There are over 100 people on staff, so to be fair I only know a handful, but how cool!?).

Recently the Art of Education posted 7 Things to Know as a New High School Art Teacher. The first thing Timothy Bogatz wrote was "be yourself." That is so, so true. Now, new and old students will see our bright, shining faces and hopefully feel welcome in our art, photography and drama rooms. I can't help but laugh every time I round the corner and see my co-workers face reflected in the windows of the drama room. It is awesome.

And we did win.
First prize and the cash money went right to Art Club!
But for me, the real prize is that people witnessed us working as a team and are now talking about the Art Department like they never have before.

My summer vacation has hardly started, but I am so pumped for the 2015/2016 school year now!
Hopefully see you at the Art of Education Summer Conference next week. #aoeconference

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Expressive Elements Exercise

So if you haven't stayed tune to my sporadic posting lately, I teach high school, full time.
The pacing is way different than middle or elementary school. My Art 2, Art 3 and Portfolio students maybe complete a piece and a half each term. That is something I'd like to work on in the future, but it's where we are at right now. Plus, when they do complete an image, as much as I want to share with the blogosphere, I have a hard time posting the images. For one, I feel like I am way busier than I ever was, and two, my students have put so much time and thought and themselves into these images, that they are no longer mine to share (if they ever were in the first place). So for those reasons, my lesson sharing is a little more in frequent.

Today though, I was just gushing after first period.
I have taught Art 2 during period 1 for the last three years. (that is probably the only consistency with my job over the last four years). The first two years, I had wonderfully small classes, like under 15! This year, at the highest, I was at 25. But, I have been able to do all of the in- process critiques, mini- lessons and presentations just like I have been with the smaller groups. Perhaps it has something to do with being the first (or second) period of the day, but it has been awesome!

Currently with Art 2, students are in the process of finishing their Symbolic Portraits. I totally stole this lesson from Painting with Brains "back in the day." I have given my students a choice in media, and many are working with color pencil on a large scale (16x 20) so class after class can become tedious, especially a double, which is 88 minutes.

So today, being that it was a double and literally the middle of the term, I started my Art 2 with an exercise. (I ask them to keep a sketchbook that is passed in once a term with 6-8 pages or the equivalent of four hours worth of work (which is nothing compared to Art 3 where they pass in 10 hours each term) so this counted towards one of those pages). I felt like some students needed a break from colored pencils.

Very basically, the exercise was to deconstruct the portrait of Picasso (at the start of this post) and reconstruct it in a way to convey an emotion. Students could cut or tear. Add color with color pencils or markers. Use elements of magazine or painted paper. Words were not allowed. Extra copies of the image were provided. All pieces did not have to be used.

I began the exercise with a recap of what students may have learned in Art 1: expressive line and color psychology. I realize that what I was asking students to do was very abstract and unlike anything we have ever done before. But the variety of work that was produced in just 40 minutes was AWESOME! I can only imagine where these students will go in the future if this is the kind of problem solving that I see now. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Winter Post

It is Friday! Whew. 
This was our first full week of school since February began. In fact, it was the first full week of our third term.... Now that I think about it, we had midyear exams starting January 20th and the schedule has been wacky ever since those were complete.

We have had ELEVEN snow days.
As it stands, we will be in school until June 30th with at least one day to be rescheduled somewhere.

Over 100 inches of snow has fallen in Boston, most within a three week period, and more predicted over the weekend (not a big storm, thank goodness!). I live a bit south and swear we have had more snow than that. The pictures above and below were taken this past Wednesday when I went snowshoeing in the marsh down the street. I live in a city of over 90,000 people and am so fortunate to have this little oasis so close.

I signed up my school to participate in our region's Youth Art Month exhibit that takes place in Boston. But with a week off from school followed by Winter Break, the drop off date came up real fast! Thanks to a team effort, we got it together and I even sent out a press release today.

In addition, we are signed up for the Vans Custom Culture contest. I tried to talk that up this week too. You know, while trying to get back into the swing of things, keep kids engaged in their drawings started weeks ago, start the early finishers on the in between short term projects, and explain how that damned dress can be white and gold AND blue and black (ugh). It has been a balancing act to say the least.

I needed to snowshoe if only to be alone from my thoughts for a while and to instead be surrounded by the light and beauty.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Calder Inspired Wire Drawings


I have wanted to do this lesson for a long time! After weeks of drawing exercises using sighting, guidelines and crosshairs, I wanted to provide my Art One students with an opportunity to use line in a whimsical, playful way.

I pulled together some online resources, including a slideshow from the Whitney Museum and a youtube video of Calder performing his circus, as an introduction. Next, I had students brainstorm a list of people or animals in motion. Then, I introduced and demonstrated gesture drawing. We grabbed some drawing boards, conte crayon and manila paper and headed to the hallway so we could spread out.

In groups of four, students took turns modeling some of the actions they brainstormed earlier in class. I encouraged students to think of lines beyond stick figures. After the first drawing, I gave them advice to look at how the model's shoulders were in relationship to the hips and to take note of the direction of feet.

We had just enough time left in class (a double, 88 minute period) to return to the room and debrief. I asked how gesture drawing could apply to developing their sculpture. Many saw the connection and had a great starting point the next class when they began to flesh out and develop their own ideas.

Students liked the idea of making a "sculpture" but when it came to the actual construction, I was met with some resistance. Instead of having 30 students crowd around a wire demonstration, I found a simple video tutorial. This way, I was able to give individual instruction to those that needed it and let other use the video as a starting point for their own exploration. At that point, I gave students a two to three foot piece of stove pipe wire and a run down of how to use the tools before allowing them to practice making connections and bends.

There was a bunch of complaining that building with wire was too difficult. I honestly think that physically using their fingers and having to plan where connections would be, was the difficulty. There was no formula to follow and that was tough for some kids to get over. I really pushed students to think for themselves and experiment.

For the final sculpture students used more pliable, silver wire ( 18 gauge? I can't remember) I also provided some white and yellow, thin wire, copper wire, buttons and electrical tape. In the end, I am proud of what my students accomplished. I am proud that many pushed themselves outside of their comfort zones and tried something new with many successful products.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fantastic Fall

I can not believe that we are already two weeks into our second term. I've really been neglecting my blog!

I have to say, I feel like this has been my best school year yet. Seven years in and I finally feel like I know what I am doing! But, I didn't start the school year feeling so great. Most summers I have time to at least outline our pacing from September to December. This year, between buying the house and family time/ gatherings, I hardly looked at the curriculum. Amazingly, I eased back into it, like riding a bike.

Here is a blurry version of my class working on a still life drawing after attempting the same still life from a verbal description, as a part of a series of pre-instruction drawings. The series concluded with our District Determined Measure drawing. The DDM "test" will be administered again in late January and I hope that there will be some measurable growth.

First term we focused on contour line drawing, engaging the right brain, measuring and sighting techniques. We concluded the term with Calder inspired wire drawings to reinforce line as a descriptive element. Now into term two, we are working with value to describe form and eventually space. Check back for future posts! (hopefully)

Things are been pretty busy this school year:

From the end of September through the beginning of November, I had my triptych exhibited in a show called Beyond the Classroom. All the work displayed was from local, south shore art educators.

I also reached a career goal, attaining Professional Status! Basically it is the same idea of tenure. I have worked for three years and one day in the same school system! 

I was asked last minute to chaperone a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts with a couple of English Language Learning history classes. It was very rewarding. A few of the students I had had the year before and it was really gratifying to listen to them converse in English about some of the pieces. Above is one of my favorites from the American wing.

The following weekend was Columbus Day weekend, so we took advantage of the extra day and headed up north for some rest and relaxation. We did get some exercise hiking up to the top of Mount Tom. I was pleasantly surprised when we reached the top and my boyfriend got down on one knee and proposed! There was not a sole around the hour hike up, but moments after the proposal, someone had spied us, asking if we had just gotten engaged (had we? did I even say yes?) and offered to take our picture. It was a gorgeous and memorable morning for sure!

While still on cloud nine, we started our first house project the next weekend, stripping wallpaper. Needless to say, we are still working and hope to finish painting over the Thanksgiving break.

Never a dull moment!
Winter is shaping up to be pretty busy.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From Grand Cayman to Long Island: August

I seem to have spent a good amount of time on islands this summer!
I began the month of August on the island of Grand Cayman. It was probably my favorite port of the cruise.

For a few bucks, we hopped a taxi right at the port and went to a beach club where we rented chairs and an umbrella. The buckets of beers were a bit on the expensive side, but Mom and I chocked that up to a YOLO moment. (yes, I really used that in a sentence.)  The sun was hot, the water was a blue I had never seen before and it was really refreshing. We spent a good amount of the day there, but decided to pack it in a couple hours before our ship was set to sail. And we left in the nick of time as it started to downpour when we got in the taxi! So much for shopping...

After warming up in the hot tub and promptly taking a nap, the skies cleared and left us with this beautiful view from our cabin.

The last day of the cruise, I finally opened the book I brought, listened to music, and caught some more rays on deck. We had a lovely final dinner with our table mates, and all received a special dessert from our waiter; Carnival's signature melting cake AND a side of cheese cake that when eaten together melted in your mouth with a coffee/hazelnut taste. We celebrated Mom's birthday too. After dinner, walking the deck, we caught an awesome lightening show. It went on for about twenty minutes, at a safe distance, and I know Mom was pretty excited, saying that it was something she always wanted to see.

We took it easy upon returning to Florida, taking a couple of day trips and working around the house. I even made dinner a few nights!

Of course there is always beer involved when I travel. I researched Florida breweries one night and came across the Dunedin Brewery, the oldest craft brewery in Florida. Dunedin is a pretty cool spot that I have never really explored, so Mom and I started the day at the Art center, taking in some local artist's work and a few other shows there, and ended the day at the Brewery for lunch. It was a cool spot that I will definitely go back to!

Another day we took a road trip and I saw parts of Florida I have never seen before. We drove about an hour and a half north of Clearwater, taking back roads all the way to Micanopy. They call it the town that time forgot. Just look at that picture! The main street was full of antiques stores, even the shops themselves were once the general store, a house, a barn. We had lunch at the one little sandwich and ice cream shop and poked around. I would have bought so many pieces of furniture at the first place we stopped. It was clean and uncluttered and everything was clearly labeled with approximate dates and prices. There was a fireplace gate in the shape of a peacock, a heavy, heavy gargoyle door knocker, a beautiful, tall solid wood dresser complete with a mirror and drawers that locked with a skeleton key, painted owl bookends and a mid century round dining room table. Nothing I could fit in a suitcase, thats for sure. 

I was pretty anxious to get home to my new house though. I had unpacking and settling in to do, not to mention some hanging out by my new pool while I could. Amongst all the hard work though, we had the chance to go out and enjoy, a couple of times. 

We had breakfast, complete with my favorite Bloody Mary's, at Deep Ellum in Allston.

And took the train into Harvard Square another afternoon for lunch at Charlie's and some back to school record and clothes shopping. We could even walk to the train from our new house!

I snapped this photo on an after dinner walk one evening. I still can't believe this is my neighborhood and that we are still so close to Boston. I can't wait to set up my easel!

At the end of August, we drove to New London, CT and took the ferry over to Long Island for the first of my nine cousins' wedding. We had a great weekend full of family and reminiscing. I was really thankful to spend time together and to make some new memories.

There was a photo booth available to guests that had props. My brother of course brought them to the dance floor. My uncle also caught this great shot of my Nana and her sister. I love it!

We were able to beat the Labor Day traffic, coming home Sunday afternoon. Monday we spent getting ready for the work week and it's been full steam ahead ever since. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Best Summer on Record.

As we returned to our city last night, it seemed hot and tired.
The same lethargy could be felt today as I did errands.
Its almost as if the here and there and everywhere-s of the city's summers hit at once, as well as the anticipation of the start of school tomorrow, the day after for the kids.
I am already prepared for the pleasantries of my co-workers with their "how was your summer-s?" and "are you ready for the new school year-s?"

I have to say, the summer of 2014 was probably the best summer on record.
And I am not the slightest bit ready for the new year.

I started out painting on Nantucket, an island thirty- two miles off shore, for two and a half weeks.
Followed by packing up as much as I could of our second apartment, in anticipation of the last move for at least for the next thirty years.
Afterwards, leaving for a Caribbean cruise and a week in Florida with my immediate family, as the other half of my family moved what was left of my packed belongings into our new home.
(What kind of lottery did I hit to have such an awesome family!?)
And finally I was home for another two and half weeks before traveling to Long Island for the first wedding of one of my nine cousins!

I wasn't looking forward to what this year brought as I turned 30 in the Spring. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what the summer held for me.
I am nervous for the new school year to start, as I haven't had much time to plan with all that fun, and will be teaching two courses I have never taught before.
But, I am excited for the challenge as I enter my first year as a "tenured" teacher.

Thank you to everyone who made this summer possible. I look forward to hosting you in our new house!