Monday, January 21, 2013

Egyptian Pharaoh Portraits

Probably four or five years ago, I purchased one of Patty's first PDF packages at Deep Space Sparkle. At the time I was working for a summer camp as the art specialist and this lesson fit in perfectly with our "World" theme that year. Since then, I have completed this lesson at two different middle schools. I love it because from the teacher's point of view, you can really use whatever materials you have and you know your students are going to be successful. From the student's point of view, it may be a challenge to draw a face, but its well worth the "risk" and there is plenty of room for creativity.

This year, students used oil pastels and metallic color pencils on black paper. Students were encouraged to blend oil pastels to make new tints and shades, especially for the skin tone.
Another reason I like this lesson is because both boys and girls tend to like it. Middle school students can get a little touchy if topics aren't approachable for them. Selecting lessons that are welcoming for all students is something to really think about when selecting any lesson really.

It wasn't a requirement, but students were encouraged to integrate their background knowledge in their designs. I have been trying this year to have my seventh grade lessons follow the chronological order of the Ancient Civilizations students are learning about in Social Studies. I have also been using Visual Thinking Strategies whenever possible this year. For this lesson, I projected an image of a mummy mask, straight from the Museum of Fine Arts' (Boston) online collection, and we discussed what we saw using VTS. Allowing students to make connections on their own, with just a little guidance from me, made this lesson a richer experience.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Keep Calm and Create

I realized this week, with mid year upon us, that I haven't posted much of anything about the high school classes I am teaching this year...

I think the main reason for that is because I feel like I am struggling. This is my fifth year teaching, but for three hours everyday I feel like its year one all over again. This time there is no supervising teacher to give me feedback or a department head to give me guidance. Its tough to reach out in the short time I am at the high school each day, and I've tried. After a whole half a year of "making it work" I'd like to know that its working.

I've been discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm from what feels like the majority of my 76 students. Its really hard to motivate 30 high school kids (in a room with 24 desks... that I can't re-arrange everyday into groups because its not my room) at the same time. Students are stooping to the lowest common denominator because they see what others can't/won't/aren't doing.

I also struggle with the cell phone issue and back talk. Music helps me focus, so I allow students to listen to music while working. However I am constantly policing, looking at screens when I should be meeting with students. That parts on me and with a new term there will be a firmer hand!

Its not all bad though.
My saving graces have been two groups of people: my co-workers and my Art Two students.

My co-workers at the high school who share the other art room (which is my co-homeroom, we still don't get how that worked out) have my back. At the beginning of the year, I asked millions of questions and they always helped. Not ordering ANY of the supplies for this year myself, they are always willing to show me where things are and share what they have. Most importantly, they listen and we talk. I suppose they know that I'm "making it work" and in some ways, I know they are struggling with the same things I am, they just have a couple more years of practice on me.

My Art Two students remind me everyday why I wanted to teach high school.
There are only sixteen students and they are totally a Breakfast Club kinda group. Each student is individual and its been shining through their work. And we're not even working on expressive stuff in class yet! The group as a whole is hard working and willing to grow with me. I am able to conference with each student and talk to them about their work on a real level.
I can't wait for us to finish up a unit of study we've been working on since November. Unfortunately I don't have picture yet, but its been a process! We took recycled materials and made objective or non objective sculptures. After spraying them white, we did color studies under lights and now students are working on canvas board color harmony acrylic paintings. The final step is to take the sculpture and paint that however they want.... I am hoping for some cool patterns, textures and graphic stuff, but we'll see.

For now,
found here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Atmospheric Perspective Watercolor and Acrylic "Studies"

I am really proud of my sixth grade students who followed through with this challenging assignment. Our schedule was very broken up right before the holiday break, so even though I started this with all students, only a few finished. This was a challenge not only for the students, but for me. After each class I needed to reflect and take note of what worked and what didn't work. As I suppose I should with any lesson, but this one in particular needed extra thought.

There have been multiple pins floating around lately of assignments using the basic concept of value to define space. One of the units in the sixth grade curriculum focuses on nature, so to continue our study of trees, I thought this would be a nice follow up and addition. I was inspired by this pin:

from Pinterest

I made sure to test the materials before I started this assignment. I like to try my assignments first so I know what might be frustrating for students and have some tips ready. The trickiest part of this painting was the timing. For the background we used watercolor which needed to dry before applying the acrylic layers of gray and black.
  1. We started out viewing a completed work and talked about what we saw. Kids picked up right away that it looked "3D." I would ask why and list things like overlapping and shade on the board. I wrapped it up by talking about atmospheric perspective. I knew that in science students had recently learned about atmosphere so I explained that a way to remember atmospheric perspective in art, is that there is more atmosphere between us and the farthest horizon. Therefore it looks hazier, the atmosphere starts to blur the details. 
  2. Students then decided what colors they wanted to use to describe the time of day in their painting and used watercolor to fill a 9x12 page. I challenged students to blend at least two colors. I also showed them how to use paper towel to create texture (and in some cases pick up excess/too much paint).
  3. If there was any time left in the first class period, students planned the placement of their trees and horizon lines on newsprint.
  4. The next class began by talking about value and a review of atmospheric perspective. Each student was given a small palette and brush. Tables shared water cups and had a small container each of black and white acrylic, which could be scooped onto their palettes with pop sticks.
  5. Thankfully, I have a document camera, which after a disastrous first class, I realized I should use for the following steps. First of all, I was able to show them what their work station should look like, including about how much paint should be on the palette. Next, we drew the farthest horizon line and small trees, like their sketch, right over the watercolor painted page from last class. 
  6. Using the document camera again, I explained how to make a very light value that would be used for the trees and land farthest away. 
  7. After a few minutes of working, I would ask for ideas about what we would do next. Remembering atmospheric perspective, most student understood that the next layer would be a little darker. I again modeled with the document camera. At this point, the students understood the patterned and worked independently.

I find it really interesting the wide range of brush "techniques" student used. I think in order for this to be more successful, I need to go back to basics. I made the assumption that sixth graders would know how to hold a brush. I also made the assumption that after drawing trees for an earlier assignment, students would know how to paint the silhouette of trees. Overall, the complete images are really beautiful (and already caught the attention of their homeroom teachers) and I would try this lesson again.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ringling Art Museum

 As a kid, we always went on little educational adventures. Nana and Papa brought us to numerous museums and parks, including visits to of homes of past presidents. Now as an adult, I think museums and house tours are getting up there with brewery tours as one of my favorite things to do. Of course, the art teacher in me is also appreciative of a nice little art museum! This winter break, I was able to enjoy a great house with beautiful grounds AND an art museum, all with my Mom and Nana in the warmth of the Florida sun.

To me, the Ringling Art Museum is like a hidden gem. Its really more than just an art museum too! I had no idea what to expect, in fact it was either Mom or Nana who asked me if it was going to be all art about the circus. (First of all, this was Nana's idea and second of all, do I really want to spend a day looking at circus art!?) I wasn't even sure if it was the same Ringling let alone where Sarasota was in relation to where I was staying. I knew nothing! And was pleasantly surprised.

Come to find out, it is the same Ringling as in the Ringling Brother's Circus. In one of the buildings on the grounds, which was the old art museum, there was an informative half hour video about the life of John and Mable Ringling. Both came from nothing. Before the stock market crash and the Great Depression, John had made some good investments, including real estate in Florida, and was the youngest brother of the successful Ringling Brother's Circus. He and his wife Mable taught themselves about art and began collecting. Also, like Isabella Stewart Gardner up here in Boston, the Ringlings designed a Venetian pallazo which was their winter residence. After Mable died young and the economy took a down turn, John refused to sell their art collection, even though he was pressured. When John Ringling died, their art collection, home and grounds were given to the city of Sarasota for all to enjoy.
The first building we went to, above, was the circus museum. An amazing artist (whose name I can't remember) built an entire miniature circus. The detail was incredible! It was encased in glass and the lights even dimmed to simulate night, and visitors could walk around to see every aspect of unloading, preforming and reloading the circus. I read Water for Elephants about a year ago and it was cool to compare my visual images to what I was seeing in the miniature. I was surprised to see the book in the gift shop on the way out too!

The next building was even cooler. There was a refurbished train car that was once John and Mable Ringling's car. Seeing the train car in person really brought to life many of the scenes I read in Water for Elephants. Plus, I have been reading a few other books that have taken place between the 1900s and 1930s where a lot of train traveling takes place. I'm fascinated!

But then there was more in there! In another room there were life size wagons with the signs advertising the side shows.

That kind of circus art was cool!
Then Mom and Nana got nostalgic because there the wagons that were used when the circus would bring the parade through town. I don't ever remember seeing these, but the craftsmanship was gorgeous!

Then there was the pallazo.
Mable really took over this project and as the video told us, she spared no detail. I don't know if I could ever live in it, but it was nice to day dream and think myself a part of the Great Gatsby.

AND THEN, there was the art museum.
At this point we had already been on the grounds for hours, with a little picnic lunch at the car (only later did we realize there were tables). I enjoyed walking through the sculpture garden. I also appreciated that in each gallery there were laminated cards with information about the images and sculptures. Nana wanted to catch a tour from a docent. I usually don't mind a docent, but this one went on and on and on. Nana did a great job keeping up and looking interested, but I was getting tired. Much of the collection is also religious in nature or Baroque. It felt like freshman year art history all over again. But, how amazing that these pieces were collected by one man! Try to check out the link at the beginning of the post. You'll be impressed.

 This was probably my favorite piece. The curators even painted the gallery to match and hung a chandelier like the one in the image, just above the piece.

There are four or five Rubens in the collection! Massive paintings filled with symbolism.

Creative use of the bougainvillea!

Such an awesome day.
And I got to use my student discount to boot. Four awesome places for five bucks!

And thanks to my mom for many of the photos in this post!