Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Light and Color

We have officially entered the world of color!
This photo is courtesy of one of my seniors in our Art One course. 
I'll explain how she made it in a moment.

Much of this introductory lesson is adapted from Exploring Visual Design.
Through our first activity, I attempted to emphasize the importance of color. With the desks in groups of four, I placed a black and white photocopy of an image at each set of tables and asked the group to discuss what was in the image, what the story might be and what the mood or emotion is that the artist is trying to convey.
After a few minutes of discussion, I asked for them to make predictions: What color would each item be? How might the story change?
Then I gave students the color copy and they compared. I loved hearing the ohhhs and ahhhs. Color made a huge difference?

But where does it come from? What is it?
I enlisted the help of someone a little more qualified:

From the video we learned about light, white light and the reflection and absorption of color. We briefly talked about neutrals as well.
Next, we played around with light and the reflection of light and color. I borrowed some gels from the drama teacher and allowed students to use the camera on their phones plus the filters to see what happens when certain colors are filtered out.

This doesn't seem like much, but the blue is greatly intensified. Plus, extra kudos for composition.

The wizard was part of our drama production last year. Looks menacing with an extra layer of green!

Same subtlety as the blue and interesting composition.

Probably one of my favorites. Great composition.
Seems like everyone had fun, just hope students actually learned something.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Art One Value Drawings

We have officially made it half way through the school year!
With just one more round of midyear exams, thanks to a snow day, our third term will be underway next week. The majority of term two was spent working with value; developing an image and executing the final product.

So much went into each of these drawings.
For many students, this was a great challenge, as this was the first assignment where they were given a significant amount of time and freedom.

To prepare, I talked about value in terms of the lightness and darkness of a surface. We completed two mini- projects, which I posted about here. We broke it down to five elements of shading, identifying full light, half tones and cast shadows of various objects.

In addition, I introduced the Rule of Thirds to help with composition.
I suppose it is more of a photography technique, but I feel like it really helps to create more dynamic images. At first it was an abstract concept to my high school students, but when I put it in terms they understood... pointed out why Instragram has that funny little "hashtag" and why the pictures always look awesome when you know how to use the grid correctly (its not to put stuff in the middle as many initially thought)... they got it!


I also developed a worksheet in addition to showing the video. It has a place to record a definition, or at least take notes, then five pictures (including one of my own photos) for students to analyze.

We also watched this video during another class and took notes on Six Ways to Create the Illusion of Space. This actually popped up on my blog roll when we started this assignment and it was perfect timing. I again had a small "viewer's guide" to along with the two minute video. I find that giving students something to write down is a good signal to them that its important information. I also made a poster to reiterate the concepts. 

To develop ideas, we spent a couple of classes in our library. I encouraged students to think about broad, overarching topics. I provided a few graphic organizers, including an ABC brainstorming chart that encourages student to list something for every letter of the alphabet about a topic.

Students gathered a few reference photos to work from. Others even used their friends and phones for a photo shoot.

I really enjoy how each image is unique and speaks to the individual. The concept is the same, using value to create form and space, but each voice and style is still there.

For many, it was difficult to come up with a concept on their own. I spent a great deal of time working one on one with students through this process. Reflecting on the assignment, I may narrow down the broad ideas for them in the future. For example keep it to fantasy and fears. I'd also spend a little more time on observational drawing of the basic shapes. Its boring, but I need to find something to really solidify the concept of what value is and how to effectively use it. The majority of my students "got it" but I'd like a way to bring that number up.

Overall, I am absolutely thrilled with the results! I have amazing, dedicated and driven students. This was not an easy assignment by any means. Each student had to think of an idea, develop it, and push themselves to do something they had never done before. In the end, I asked for a written reflection about their work and the process they took to create it. Many commented that it was difficult but were surprised by what they could accomplish and were equally proud of their drawings.

I think we can all agree however that we are ready to enter the world of color!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Self Portraits with Technology

I've only been teaching for six years and I have seen a huge increase of technology in the classroom and in the home. When I was in high school, the Internet was still new and if you wanted to use it for a research paper, you had to go to the library. Now, I can wirelessly print a picture from my cellphone and access the internet on my t.v.. When I got an iPhone this summer, I realized just how attached to technology my high school students really can be.

Last spring I taught myself how to use iMovie and created this video about digital literacies for a graduate class.

Now that I am teaching high school full time, I have a little more access to technology (and time) and try to use it as much as possible to engage my students. Last week I had my own "aha!" moment when I stepped back from a lesson and saw that it was actually working. (perhaps thats because the day before I could only get a half step ahead of myself and had an off day.)

My Art 2 students will be designing a mixed media self portrait in the third term. The portrait part will be in pencil and I have a wide range of abilities when it comes to using value. I'd say that the majority of the class initially felt intimidated drawing themselves, even with a printed photo reference. So, I went to the internet, specifically The Virtual Instructor and gathered a bunch of video tutorials.

First we reviewed the proportions of the face.

I asked students to take notes and draw along with the instructor. This particular video was a review, as I had introduced these concepts before the holiday break.

Next we watched the tutorial about drawing eyes. High school students love drawing eyes and I think this is a great example of how planning out and applying value can really bring a drawing to life.

(This isn't the exact video, but one I could upload from youtube)

Now here is where it got fun, for me.
I paused the video occasionally to reiterate vocabulary and techniques and when the video was over, we took out the mirrors and students drew their own eye, with the information they just learned. It was awesome! I think many students were surprised by what they could accomplish. Success!

We followed this pattern over the next few classes for mouths, noses, ears and hair. All of which can be found at The Virtual Instructor. Students now have a bunch of "studies" and notes to fall back on when they are working on their final portraits after midyear exams this week.

This particular student LOVES old, vintage cartoons. He is constantly doodling. I feel like this was a great exercise for him. We talked about finding a balance between his style of drawing and realism. The eye on the top right is a wonderful example.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Technology in the Classroom: A Flappy Bird Epidemic

I am a huge proponent of technology in the classroom. If I had a tablet for every student, or even just a few more computers, I would write lesson plans that incorporated technology until I was blue in the face. My students are "into it" and I do what I can to use the technology available, like showing videos, power points and doing research in our little lab.

In fact, I let students use their cellphones in class!
Our school policy is that it is up to the teacher's discretion. That also means that it is up to the teacher to reinforce his/her rules.
In the beginning of the school year, I did not allow students to use their phones in class. I wrote in my course overview, which every student signed, that technology was initially banned until I deemed it appropriate. I don't think I allowed even iPods until October.

Now that we are into more long term assignments, the rule is that if I am not instructing, students are allowed to listen to music or look for photo references on their devices as they work independently. If they take advantage of the freedom and I catch him/her, I typically give one warning, with the threat that the next time I speak to him/her, I will ask for the device. And trust me, I have done this more than a few times this year. And when that one student refused to hand over the phone, that person was asked to go to the Dean's office (our principal equivalent).  

This week Flappy Birds took over.
It is the week before the end of the term and Midyear Exams.
I could not fathom starting something new. Mainly, I didn't want to jump into color when the Midyear is mainly about value. So the week has been a series of exercises and make up work and by today, even I was bored (doing the same exercises with four classes!) But as the students got bored, they turned to their phones and that ridiculous game!
I explained that the exercises completed during class time were like the practice math problems that wind up on the test. They were a big deal! Most students heeded my advice, but there were a few who were not so happy to turn over their devices.

Aside from Flappy Birds taking over this week, I really love having access to technology. Having instant access to images is extremely helpful. It allows me to point out subtle differences that students have not yet learned to see. It helps them experience the benefit of looking closely without the price of a plane ticket. (Would I love to give them that, absolutely, but technology is our second best access point.)

I have also found that allowing students to listen to music can make a world of difference. I remember college, lugging a cd binder with me to class so that I could load up my disc man and draw in the comfort of my own noise. It helps to be able to zone out and get into it. I typically have a couple of sets of ear buds so that students who forget headphones can sign them out for the class.

What do you think? Can you use technology in your classroom? How do you feel about students and cellphones under your watch? What is your school policy?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New year

Happy New Year!

I hate New Year's Eve. There was always so much emphasis on having an "epic" night, especially when I was a teenage, that I learned to loathe the high expectations. I'd much rather a low key night with friends and family. But I do very much enjoy the idea of a clean slate; a new beginning. As a teacher, I feel like I have the benefit of two times a year when I can restart (September and January) and thats pretty fantastic!

As much as I don't want to emphasize it, this is a big year for me. I turn 30.
I remember my mother's 30th birthday, or at least the photos and VHS tapes, we are only 25 years apart. :)
But now its my turn.

I discovered today that there are a bunch of lists floating around the interwebs of things to do before turning 30.
I quickly grew bored of them. They were clearly written by early twenty somethings and young mothers. Nothing wrong with that, but I have three months, not nine years, or kids and a husband for that matter.

I did however enjoy this video from Buzzfeed.

SO, I decided to make a short list of things to consider over the next three months and beyond:
  1. "Quit drinking. Quit carbs. Quit unhealthy foods. Quit bad friends. And then pick them all up again. Repeat this cycle until you know how to drink, know how to eat, and know how to love. Or turn 30. Whichever comes first." Ryan O'Connell from toughtcatalog. I realize I did not say this, and some twenty something did, but since college, I have come to understand the benefit of this cycle.
  2.  Don't worry, be happy. Its so simple, yet so true. I have spent so much of my life worrying that I forget to live in the moment and be happy.
  3. Set attainable goals. I've decided that I function best with goals in mind. So with #2 in mind, I need to also make sure that those goals are not too far fetched.
  4. Live in another country. I stole this one from other lists I've read. I consider my time on Nantucket this summer as time abroad. Make sure to click the link above!
  5. Start writing a blog. Also stolen from other lists. I have to say, I enjoy having the ability to share parts of my life with others and even more so, enjoy the connections made from my three year journey here.
  6. Manage money better. Start a 401(k) or in my case a 403(b). I have started managing money better thanks to free services provided by my local credit union. In addition to my teacher retirement fund, I'd like to open a 403(b) this year.
  7. Get fit. I purchased a Planet Fitness membership this week. Wish me luck!
  8. Keep taking art classes, even if I don't need them for work. I had a blast with my five week drawing in pubs course. It was a great balance between skill and fun and has kept up my desire to draw. Plus, I am able to relate to what my students are going through because I too am drawing.
  9. Visit friends and family more often. I stink at this right now. I see my grandmother once a year and my mom twice a year. They are both in FLA and my best friend is in Maine. Hopefully by managing money better, I will be able to visit people more often.
  10. Travel alone. My Nantucket adventure was eye opening to me in terms of being able to travel alone. When not in the studio, I spent a decent amount of time alone, or met up with just a couple of girls from class. I'd like to pursue this more. 
  11. Paint. 
  12. Dream.
  13. Spend money on quality things- don't cheap out. The way I see it, at this point in my life I'd rather spend money on things that are going to last. I'm not waiting for a wedding registry anymore. If I want a food processor, I will save my money and buy one on sale!
  14. Stay up until 10pm or later on weekends. Or at least as late as I can, depending on the work week!
  15. Earn Professional Status AND my Professional License. This may take some work. I should have Professional Status after the first school day next year, but I may need a couple of classes to attain that Professional License. Hopefully by 2015!
So here's to 2014 and turning 30!
I'll keep y'all posted on my adventures in teaching and life as long as you keep reading!