Saturday, March 16, 2013

Construct, Observe, Color

I mentioned a little while back that my saving graces this year have been my new work buddies and my Art 2 students. Yesterday was one of the best days this year and it makes me sad, no matter how tough it has been, that I may not be up at the high school again next year. I think there is going to be some major shifting around in our little art department. At the very least I will go back to the position that I had last year, teaching part time middle school art. I know my principal there said he will advocate for me. He reassured me that I shouldn't be worried, but nobody likes change. I will be happy to have the opportunity to keep doing what I love. And for that I am very thankful.

The images above are of a three part lesson/ unit about observation and color. This is one that I feel like I built from my own idea and am proud of the results. Traditionally, I have had eighth graders observe and study still lifes that I have constructed.

These two images are from the school where I first taught. The students are in tenth grade and I occasionally see a few at the school where I teach now. The student on the end (left) produced the image below of the white still life.

So, I took this idea and tried to step it up a little for my Art 2 students. Still life and value drawing are pretty big components of Art 1, but I didn't want to have them draw my boring old (literally dusty at this point) still lifes. I had the genius idea that with such a small class, only 15 students (!), I could bring in a bunch of recycled materials that I had been collecting and have them construct their own. There were egg cartons, paper towel tubes, broken down cereal boxes, cardboard scraps, bottle caps, newspapers, hot glue, scissors and tape. I demonstrated a few construction techniques and reviewed objective versus non- objective. Then I let students take off!

When the pieces felt balanced and complete, I had students spray paint them white. At first I had gesso, but many of the materials we used were very porous. It was like a sponge soaking up water, but the spray paint worked better to block the "pores" and cover the sculptures. Thankfully we have a vent, so we did not have to go outside.

I don't know why this is sideways, it is correct in Picasa! I get to share a pretty sweet classroom with fabulous prints and spotlights. The now white sculptures were placed under color lights and students completed at least three color studies with dry materials of their choice. If I were to do this again, I would try to find brighter color bulbs. I put them in clip lamps like the one pictured above in the front of the room, but they didn't shine very far. It was more like mood lighting. Plus, I didn't realize how much light came through the sky light, so there was not as much contrast as I had hoped for. 

As the last student finished up their sculpture and began the color studies, I reviewed color more in depth. I attempted to have groups of students become "experts" on different color schemes and then share with the class at large, but this group is not very vocal. I need to improve this part of the lesson, but I think the handout I provided was helpful.

Finally, students selected a color scheme and completed a long term acrylic painting of their sculpture in that theme. 

Sorry for the weird shadows. There were no lights in the display case.
When the painting was complete, students could paint their sculpture however they liked. I would maybe switch these last two steps. Initially I felt that keeping the sculpture white would help students see different values and then they could interpret that into color. I think that worked, but not for every student.

I have such a great group of students! There are a handful not pictured because they're still not entirely done. They are actually more of the objective pieces including a turtle, fish and wolf. What was great about this activity was that every student was successful in their own way, from the gifted student to the student with special needs. There was something for everyone, forcing some out of their comfort zones and causing students to look and think in a new way. I'm really proud of these kids and I can't wait to share some of their more recent work!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I have been super incredibly busy for what feels like the entire school year. My poor blog has been neglected and I thank all of you, especially my new followers, who continue to stop by and check out what little I have posted this year.

All of my hard work towards my Master's is coming to an end in the next few months and I couldn't be more excited. (I'll have time to blog more! ...among other things) However, I am most excited about my last three credits...

I am going to Nantucket to paint!
For two weeks and sixty hours of instruction.
Over the 4th of July holiday.

I only need three more credits to earn my MEd and although this will be an undergraduate level course, I am able to use the credits. So awesome! And thank goodness too, because none of the other courses being offered this summer sounded at all interesting. This way, I get to learn something ENTIRELY NEW (can you believe I have very little paint training? and I've never used oils before) and I get to LIVE somewhere I have never been before.

I met with the professor yesterday and showed him everything from digital pictures from the Sketchbook Project, repeat patterns hand painted with gauche from my textile classes, to hours long figure drawings from my undergraduate classes. I am pretty proud to say that I am a UMASS CVPA graduate these days especially after the professor was so impressed by my drawings. (college of visual and performing arts)

I will be staying in apartment style housing with the other, at most, eleven students. Our workspace is about four miles away and the apartments are within walking distance to restaurants, shops and a little village. I plan to bring my bike, a bunch of books, my camera and plenty of sunscreen in addition to the list of supplies I happily await for from the professor.

Now to hurry up and wait for summer!

Monday, March 4, 2013

high school happenings in art 1

Here we are in March and looking ahead to the rest of the school year. I really think it is going to fly by! I'm feeling the crunch, but looking forward to celebrating my students' art achievements in April and May and all the wonderful end of the year activities soon there after. I may even have an art filled beginning of summer, depending on my own portfolio review this upcoming week. (I'll fill you in and keep you posted later)

A while back, I posted about my experience teaching high school this year. I can't say it has improved too much since the new term started, but I try to focus on the positives and the influence I am making on kids who really want to be there. And actually, I know I have some impact on the kids who are taking my class just to pass an elective. I can tell by the way they engage in conversation and even share things with me, occasionally asking my opinion on different topics.

I need to work on not getting worked up over the kids who consistently don't want to put in the effort. They are young adults who know my expectations, and as much as I push, they make their own decisions about their actions and earn their own grades, not me. If I am in the high school again next year, I need to advocate for no more than 25 students in a class. (Right now I have 30 with 24 desks...) I know if the class size was even three students smaller than I have now, I'd be able to give more feedback and attention to individual students than spending my time surveying the area, keeping students on task. But who knows! Next year could be completely different.

The artworks above are from my Art 1 students, the first half of the year. Many of our activities have focused on using line and value to add interest and render form. The first two black and white pieces are scratch boards, using texture and pattern to show value. The piece above is one of the more successful split self- portraits. One side was drawn using a mirror and shading and proportion techniques. The other side was drawn from the imagination or photo references, of symbols/ ideas/ pictographs to represent the artist.

I've found it very interesting how overwhelmed and worked up students get when asked to draw from their own imaginations and ideas. It makes me want to really look at the way I teach. Perhaps focus more next year, at the upper level, the process of being creative. I think I need to really explain why we take the steps that we do... brainstorming, sketching, evaluating, creating... and not just go through the motions. Being in grad school has really got my mind turning and thinking about how I teach and where to go from here.

My Art 1 students are finishing up some observational and compositional drawings of soda cans that has (thankfully for me to feel more successful) brought their shading and observational skills to the next level. After a quick activity about color and abstraction, we are moving on to a long term painting project inspired by Peter Max. I already know I am going to go insane painting with 30 students in a classroom that isn't mine, but oh well! My hope is that they will learn some new terms, experience a new material and paint something inspired by their own life after all these technical drawing activities. I really hope students take the opportunity to branch out. (I also hope they come out awesome since we have an art show at the beginning of April!)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Color Scheme Number Design

This sixth grade lesson was inspired by Figure 5 in Gold by Charles Demuth and Numbers in Color by Jasper Johns.

To motivate students, I asked a few to share what their favorite number is and why. We discussed how numbers have meaning to people and cultures. I suggested that artists may be inspired by numbers as well and presented a slide show of work from Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns and Charles Demuth.

Students were then instructed to select one number to be repeated numerous times around the page. We quickly talked about typography as I gave each table a sample of numbers in different type faces. I drew a sketch on the white board to demonstrate variety of size and placement. Finally, students used up to seven lines to divide the page and create new spaces and shapes. By the end of the first class, students traced their lines with white glue. This time, I demonstrated a few techniques using the document camera.

At the beginning of the next class, I gave students a vocabulary activity to complete independently or as a table, explaining that they would be using the words for their designs. Students were asked to match the correct definition to a color scheme, using a glossary (from Art: A Global Pursuit) and photo copy of terms and definitions.

Students were asked to choose from a warm, cool, monochromatic, analogous, triadic or complementary color scheme for their number design, now that they knew a color scheme is a plan for selecting colors. I noticed that pink and lime green is a thing amongst the sixth grade girls. I had to walk a few of them through how that could fit into a color scheme.

There were also many with warm colors/cool backgrounds and vice versa. Students were encouraged to experiment with blending and making new colors within their color scheme. If I were to do this again, I would cut down the size from 12x 18 to 9x12. I'm finding many students do not have the stamina to complete the larger size, especially after missing class for snow days and special events. Overall, I am pleased with the results, most students are proud of their work, and I was able to expose them to new materials, techniques and terminology. (I think my favorite however, is the one at the beginning of the post!)