Thursday, November 28, 2013

High School Spirit

Working at a high school is much different than working at an elementary or middle school. That's a given. But the atmosphere in a high school right before the big Thanksgiving Day game is like nothing I've ever seen.

It starts with Spirit Week.
Each day, from the Wednesday before the game until the Wednesday of the Pep Rally, has a different theme. Grades compete to see who has the most spirit and results are announced at the end of the day. (Although my freshman get the impression that it is rigged for the Seniors to win.)

The first day was Celebrity/Character Day (I did not participate). The next, mix and match/ opposite day. You can see my outfit above. That Friday was Boston Strong/ New England Sports. Monday was Pajama day... it was the coldest day so far this winter and with the heat hardly working in my room, I loved that I could get away with wearing a sweatshirt and slippers! Next was Color Wars: each grade and staff were assigned a color to wear. Everyone seemed to get into this one! The seniors in particular were decked out and must have had shirts printed ahead of time. Plus there were girls walking around in pink tutus and guys in pink tights. (The attire made my evening a little easier, but I will get into that in a minute) The final day, the day of the Pep Rally, was Blue and White day.

So Tuesday after school...
Actually, let me back up to last year. On the day of the Pep Rally last year, I walked into the art room, the door somehow already unlocked, scraps of paper everywhere, unwashed brushes in the sink and our paint supplies seriously diminished. What happened?

The night before the Pep Rally, the tradition is for each grade to decorate a hallway and make posters for the gym. Remember, Spirit Week is a competition. So somehow students got into the Art Room unsupervised and took what they wanted... I was new and part time, if someone had told me, I would have been a little more proactive. I was also seriously annoyed. So this year I decided to do something about it.

I approached the principal a couple of weeks ago, asking if there was any money to supply students with paint not from the art budget. I went out and purchased some tempera paint and will be reimbursed. We have plenty of not so great brushes and somehow a good supply of poster board. I also asked if it would be okay to charge students twenty-five cents for the boards and have the proceeds go to the Art Club.

I have to say, everything went pretty smoothly.
I put the paint in small containers and coffee cup holders like I used to with the little ones.

I had the desks pushed together into giant tables and other supplies like scissors and tape out and available. If students wanted to take supplies outside of the art room, I took down their names, holding them responsible. (I only lost two rolls of tape!) Through the night there were probably up to fifty students in the Art Room and out in the hallway.

By 5:30 though, I was tired and hungry, having no idea that they were going to stay so long! I asked the dozen or so still working to wrap it up and shoot to be out of the room by 6. I had a great group of Juniors make sure the tables were scrubbed and even had some out in the hall washing the floors.

Between poster board and butcher block paper sales, we made $15.50 and the room was still intact. The art department may not have gotten a shout out at the pep rally, but I was happy to give up my time to be a silent part of a spirited tradition that brings the students together in good fun.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

DIY Decor

My bureau is usually a mess. Not necessarily because of jewelry, but that doesn't help. (I'm really bad at putting laundry away and I don't know where the best place is to store receipts.) I saw this on Pinterest about a month ago and decided I should give it a shot.

I purchased some peg board at Lowe's and after some trial and error, I found the color that I wanted. Valspar spray paint is the best. Below you can see my messy room and the curtains I love, from which I try to base all bedroom decorating ideas. I also have a Monet print that has served as color inspiration for pretty much all rooms in our apartment. Next to the bureau is my makeshift closet. We have two closets and a pantry in our two bedroom apartment. No linen closet. I turned the eave into a closet with a closet bar and a tension rod to hold curtains. 

And my new jewelry organizer. I decided to put the pegboard into an old frame I had. This is puts less holes into our rented apartment walls. Otherwise I was going to use mirror hanger rosettes. 

Tomorrow I will hang some 's' hooks and get this party started!

I know I might be jumping the gun a bit, but I also started a DIY holiday project. I have seen a bunch of Christmas card holding wreaths on Pinterest. Again, since our place is rented, I have felt bad about taping our cards to the wall, so I decided this year to make a place to hold cards. I bought a wire wreath frame, fifty clothes pins, red ribbon and a bag of styrofoam balls. I had the light green spray paint from the DIY project above and purchased some hunter green to complement this project. 

After spray painting the clothes pins, I hot glued them to the wire frame. Noticing that they were not going to stay very well, I ran some red ribbon around the back, hot gluing and hopefully adding some stability. I also wrapped the ribbon around and between the frame. Finally, I hot glued the styrofoam balls to add some extra decoration. I am pretty happy with the results and can't wait to start clipping some cards in there! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Celebrity Half Challenge

A huge emphasis in our Art One curriculum is learning about observation and value in drawing. To be totally fair, I drew a lot in high school, but didn't really "get it" until college. As a second year high school teacher, I am still trying to find that balance of what is art one really about and how can my students be successful?

Term Two started with some observational drawing, value scales and vocabulary. We discussed cast shadow, full light area, half tone and reflected light, taking notes and practicing gradations. I did the same along with the students, under a document camera that I am borrowing from the Drama department, which was projected in the front of the room. oooh ahhh technology. But it caught the students' attention! We then drew pumpkins like the ones above.

Next we broke things down into simple, geometric shapes. Under spot lights on tripods, students observed cast shadow, full light and reflected light on spheres, cones and cubes. This part was totally boring to them. I knew it and tried to emphasize that everything they will draw from here on out can be simplified to these shapes... and that this was so important that I am counting it as a "project" grade.

I kind of just threw together the next assignment as a filler between observation and their own value drawing, but I am so, sooo glad I did. Inspired by this pin, I typed up very specific directions, with a vague rubric, as I am counting this as a mini project grade as well.

Students were asked that as they finish their observational shape drawings and value scales, to go into our small (six) computer lab and find a picture of a celebrity.

After cutting the picture in half and pasting one side to a new paper, they were asked to observe the value and proportions from the discarded half or the pasted side, in order to recreate the other half.

I am overjoyed for these kids.
Many were taking pictures of their work with their cellphones before turning it in. One even posted it to Instragram and another told me he was trying to prove to his mom what he had accomplished in art class.
From a teacher stand point, this was a fabulous exercise. Students didn't want to "mess up" because they wanted their celebrity to look as real as possible. They had to draw upon everything I have taught them about observation and measuring, as well as value, and making comparisons between lights and darks. The face can even be broken down into spheres, which they had already drawn. As students were working, they were actively seeking feedback from me and their peers, taking photos and making considerations about how to improve. What more could you ask for!?
Again, I am so very proud. From here, students have been given the task to create a drawing that uses value, communicates an idea and defines the space. Many are overwhelmed by the openness, but we spent a couple of days in the library looking for images and inspiration, so our creativity gears are turning. Look for value drawing final images sometime in December or January!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Drawing, as an adult, continues

I don't think I have EVER been kicked out of a bar. There was the one and only bachelorette party I went to where we weren't even allowed into the bar... But I have never been asked to leave a bar...
Until this Thursday.

So if you missed the previous post, I am taking a drawing class that meets in a different pub each week. This week, due to the location, my classmates sort of trickled in, finding a few seats here and there at high tops and at the bar. I sat a few seats down from the teacher, next to one of my classmates who works for a children's book publishing company. We each ordered food and drink and casually sketched and chatted as we waited for our food. After we ate, my classmate and I agreed that our vantage point was a little spent, and eyed a high top table. A waitress hesitantly came over after we settled in, asking if we would be ordering anything, as these tables were part of the dining room. We each said that we would order and she brought over a drink menu. Upon her return, she asked if we could move back to the bar, since there was room.
I was a little annoyed, but I understood. We were not going to be a high paying table since we had already eaten. We awkwardly went back to the two seats we just occupied, explaining to the bar tender (whom we asked prior to moving if it would be okay) that we were asked to move. I don't think she really minded after we both ordered another drink.

As I was working on this drawing
a woman, I later identified as a manager, started speaking to our teacher. I couldn't hear what they were saying behind me, I was in "class" after all trying to focus on my work, but it sounded like she was concerned. Like a game of telephone, the message that we should stop drawing people made its way down the bar.
Before I could even start another drawing, the manager looking woman started speaking loudly from behind the bar, at the teacher. "You couldn't even respect my wishes..." What? One of my classmates spoke up mentioning that we had all been there for at least two hours, had paid for meals and drinks. "Are you asking us to leave?"
Pretty much.
My classmates settled their bills and discussed going to a dive down the street. It was about 8:30 at that point (class is from 6:30- 9:00). I opted to settle my bill, finish my drink and go home. It was a school night!
My children's book publishing classmate decided to do the same and we ended up staying til 9 talking about books, illustration and the state of education and literacy in MA and the nation. I might have scored a free Caldecott Award winning wordless picture book, as well as some networking that might allow me to get in touch with illustrators willing to talk to high school students. Let's just say she works for a company that appreciates dots and ish. (mom, those are titles...)

So really, I was defiant and didn't leave the bar. The drawing may have stunk that night, but the intellectual conversation and networking was absolutely fantastic.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fashion as an Art Teacher

If given the chance, I'd wear something like this everyday. Jeans, t-shirt, hoodie and a pair of chucks. Most of my "kick back" shirts promote the local sports team, or like this one, beer. (The 'V' or peace sign stands for Victory brewing in PA). Definitely can't wear anything like this to school! So when it came to dressing for the MAEA conference, I panicked a little bit. What does a young art teacher wear that looks professional and creative?
On day one, I went with this.
I've felt a little like I am cheating this year, as I tend to wear different colored jeans and variations of t-shirts. My purple jeans above are a perfect example. Paired with boots and a blazer (made out of sweat shirt material!) I feel like I dressed it up a bit and stayed true to what I am most comfortable in. The blazer and black t-shirt are from Target. The sweater and jeans are from Ann Taylor Loft. The boots are a recent bargain found at Marshall's. They are by BOC.

On the second day I assumed others would be a little more casual. I was right, but I would still wear this outfit on any given day teaching. I paired navy cords with heeled booties, a collared shirt and sweater. I love a bargain and picked up the Not Your Daughter's Jeans cords at a local discount shop called Frugal Fannies. The collared Liz Claiborne button down I bought on clearance, per usual, at JCPenny. I wish the sweater from H&M fit a little better, but I made due, rolling the sleeves and folding under the the scoop neck. The scarf is a hand me down from my mom years and years ago... she thought it was ugly and I tend to wear it with everything!

I wore the sweater earlier in the week too, at parent/ teacher conferences. I paired it with a sleeveless dress from H&M, since my room was getting nice and toasty and I anticipated some anxiety perspiration. I threw on a pair of tights and ankle high cowboy boots that I have had since I started teaching, plus a silk scarf that was most likely my mom's in the 80s. 

Looking at these outfits, I guess I keep it together pretty well. When I first started teaching, there were some teachers in the building that still wore pants suits and other wore high heels. I've always tried to be comfortable yet professional. This year it all comes down to comfortable pants and shoes, paired with layers and sweaters in all colors. Seriously, I have red, yellow, green, blue, purple, khaki, black and gray pants, plus sweaters in gray, black, blue, brown, purple and yellow. I have really been enjoying my Dansko clogs and Clarke's wedges in tan and black. Having enough basics that can be interchanged really seem to be the key. I'll just keep trying to play off my jeans!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Greetings! From Day 2

It is a beautiful fall morning here, just south of Boston. 
Driving down to the South Coast, not to be confused with the South Shore, the last two days, the sun warmly greeted me, rising through the trees much like the image above. I don't always get to appreciate the beauty as I rush off to work in the morning. The chance to relax with hardly anyone else on the road and my music coming through the speakers, was very welcomed.

The second day of the MAEA regional conference was held at UMass Dartmouth's New Bedford Campus, also fondly called the Star Store. Before the university purchased the building, sometime before 2001, the building was a store, hence the name. The artisan program is housed here in addition to gallery and studio space.

My studio space was behind the column on the right in the photo above. I had a large table, a section of cork board and access to print tables and the dye kitchen pictured below.

I spent a lot of time here junior and senior year, wearing my blue apron, plugged into my first ever iPod.

The first session I took yesterday was absolutely for selfish reasons and I'm not afraid to say it! (Nor was I the only one!)  I spent many hours at these printmaking tables as an undergraduate and when I saw that my professor was leading a workshop, I absolutely had to sign up. While he couldn't remember my name, he did remember my face!

The photo process printmaking that was demonstrated for us would seriously need to be adapted, modified and previously prepared if it was to work with even high school students. I think the biggest take away as art educators was the idea of inquiry. There is so much left to chance, or the unknown, between light exposure times, how much time in the developer, what certain materials and pigments will and will not do... the list could go on... but printmaking can provide students with a sense of play and questioning that students can so often loose with painting or drawing. I guess that's what I took from the session. Others may have had a hard time with it, but beyond printing making for oneself, I can see it could benefit the students.

The second session I attended was about how a small, disjointed, hardly recognized art department became a power house in a now regional-ized high school. The quote above is placed on every bulletin and program this department publishes. I left the session empowered by some great ideas and much to think about over the next years...

I totally skipped the lunch provided by the conference, even though the buffet the day before was awesome. Instead I opted for the local burrito joint, No Problemo. I "checked-in" on Facebook and let me tell you, my friends were all sooo jealous. There are a bunch of places to eat and shop in New Bedford, in fact the little down town area, complete with cobblestone streets, has had a bit of a comeback in recent years. But nothing beats No Problemo. The food is fresh and tastey and the music and skate culture is popular with the clientele and staff alike. Its the kind of place that writes on the chalk board near the tip jar "a free kiss with every tip." (I didn't get mine.)

This has gone on way too long. I will wrap up with this:
The UMass Dartmouth Art Education Association Student Chapter had a great presence at the conference. You could tell that each was involved in some capacity or another, from attending the sessions, to guiding conference goers, to discussion panels. The buttons on the right and in the middle above were being sold by the chapter as a fundraiser. They are trying to raise enough money to represent UMass at the National Art Education Association Conference in San Diego this spring. In addition to the buttons, students produced 8"x8" art works, displayed in a gallery the second day of the conference, and held a silent auction.  Both are fantastic ideas (that I might need to steal borrow, for art club) and I wish them luck with their endeavor!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


From the Massachusetts Art Education Association Conference! 
Actually, I am at home in my sweats blogging from the couch again. The conference is taking place at my Alma Mater, as you know if you are a frequent reader, of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Its only about an hours' drive away, so I have opted to commute. Today's workshops were in Group VI pictured above. Tomorrow we'll be at the Star Store in New Bedford.
The campus was designed by Paul Rudolph. Some group or another recently voted it one of the ugliest campuses in the nation. The architecture style is called Brutalism. As a student, the winter months definitely felt "brutal" and to be honest, I initially didn't want to go to school here because of the coldness of the concrete (among other things.) Pictured above is the recently renovated library. The design has won awards for bringing Brutalism into the 21st century. Had this renovation been done while I was a a student, I would have been there way more often! It is a beautiful combination of color, glass, and concrete.

Check out all the swag!
Really, there are a lot of flyers... information about Sargent Art, including an opportunity to get to other conferences with funding from the company, Youth Art Month information, a brochure for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, a New Bedford Tour Guide and most importantly, a certificate of attendance. With our new evaluation system, that piece is like gold. Not only does it have the number of PDPs you have earned, but also counts as evidence to be documented for the evaluation...

I really wanted to attend this conference because there was a workshop about DDMs or District Determined Measure, which is tied into the new evaluation system. My department has been creating and implementing a pilot this year and I was looking forward to more information and discussion points. And I think everyone else was too. I didn't get into that session.

However I was very happy to be in a session about divergent thinking and middle school. Really, divergent thinking can apply anywhere, but it was rewarding to hear about how it works in an inner city middle school. I came out of the session rejuvenated and looking forward to implementing many of the ideas, including written reflections and artist's statements as a part of a rubric that can be applied to every assignment, in my own classroom.

The last session I went to made me really want to get my MFA... at UMD. Or at the very least take this new class that was created out of the realization that teaching practices are better, and teachers are happier, when they are creating. The class is inquiry based and an individual experience for each student. In the beginning, students generate a list of questions to explore in their work. Then, through guiding questions by their peers, create and assess. Thanks to wikispaces, students have a place to share and gather feedback, almost in real time. The professor acts as a facilitator and participant, creating and acquiring feedback just as the students. I've noticed personally this year, that it is easier for me to approach students and give feedback, as I am engaged in creating outside the classroom. (Or at least I paint and draw with a much greater frequency than I have in the past) I also thrive on the energy of my students which makes me want to go home and create. The structure of this particular class could totally be adapted for upper level high school. Its a great lesson in how students can help each other and how teachers can help guide discussions... I am always the teacher who answers a question with a question, so often that students now anticipate what I am going to say. Teaching students how to think this way will foster collaboration and more authentic engagement and creation.

So overall, a great day.
I am really looking forward to tomorrow. All of our sessions are 80+ minutes since they are studio experiences. My first session involves printmaking and is taught by a professor whose class I thoroughly enjoyed. Check back soon for more conference goodness!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Drawing, as an adult

I finished my Master's in August, but I love learning so much that I signed up for a drawing class through the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It's not your typical drawing class though...
It meets in a different pub each week. 
The class pretty much combines two of my favorite things; drawing and beer. But really, the class is an opportunity for me to get out of the house, meet new people and enjoy drawing. There are only eleven people in the class, including the instructor. The first session was on Halloween, so only five of us were there. (I am guessing the other six either have kids, were out partying or didn't want to chance going in town) The instructor had us start by playing a few rounds of the Exquisite Corpse game.
If you have never played before, you should definitely bring out the drawing pencils at your next party. Very basically, each person gets a piece of paper and folds it into thirds. On the first third, the first person draws a head. This person makes sure to draw a few guidelines into the next third before passing it to the person to the right. This person then draws the mid-section of the figure without looking at the head. Guidelines are drawn and passed to the third person who adds the feet, or bottom of the figure. We played three times, which was enough time for a beer and some food, and each drawing was progressively strange. Salvador Dali and his Surrealist friends would play this game at parties. Its a great way to get the creativity flowing.

From here, we began drawing each other at the table. The image above is my second drawing of the night. I was so hesitant to draw people that I really focused on the architecture of the dining room. Hopefully I get a little more comfortable. But at the same time, this is one of the first drawings I have really done in pen. It felt really satisfying.

We ended the evening with gesture drawings in the bar. I filled about three pages with thirty second scribbles while my classmates tried to complete multiple minute drawings. Above is a bearded gentleman pouring a beer from a pitcher.

Mind you, it was also Halloween... above was some cat lady with pearls and a man wearing a squid hat.

Unfortunately the next class is also the night of parent/ teacher conferences, so I will have to miss out. :(

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Scratch Board Landscapes

I am so proud of my students.
Scratch board can be a challenge. Students are used to making marks that are dark and with scratching, the lines are light. (My co-worker does not do it with students until they are in Art two or three) For me, I felt like scratch board was a natural progression after working with shape and line, specifically line personality and line quality. I took it as an opportunity to review foreground, middle ground and background as well. Plus, we discussed texture and touched upon value.

We watched a couple of YouTube videos that I feel worked really well to reiterate key points.

We watched the second one first (sorry, I am just learning how to import videos). It totally caught students' attention and the music was energizing. We watched the first few seconds a second time in order to really catch how she began her scratch board. I encouraged students to take notes too. After watching the second video, I asked a few follow up questions and drew examples of hatching, cross hatching and stippling on the board. 

I think what also allowed students to be successful with the scratch board was supplying them with many, many visuals. I have collected numerous landscapes over the years, from calendars to magazine pages and postcards. These provided students with a great starting point. That, and their cellphones. Many worked from images they had or found.
I also noticed early on that many were intimidated by the scratch board. After watching the videos, we simulated drawing with scratch board by experimenting with white charcoal on black paper. It was a real challenge NOT to outline shapes before filling them in. Seeing this, I put together a Power Point for one of the following classes. 
I borrowed some info from here. Mainly the idea of what they might do when they really don't want to. Check out the man in profile illustration. I think that image really helped to put things in perspective for students. 
I followed that with several examples of landscapes. We discussed a couple, pointing out foreground, middle ground and background as well as scratching techniques. Finally, the last slide was a sunset with a palm tree. It looked okay at first glance but I asked students what was the big "mistake"... outlining the palm tree. I then asked, if it was their image, what would you do to improve it? This got students to think of all aspects of the page. They realized, upon further inspection, that the light source was not consistent and that areas were left black when it was supposed to be light out. 
I felt like a genius! Engaging students in this way made all the difference. 
The two images in this post were just the two I was able to snap. There was a huge success rate. And if anything, students realized that the creation of art is a thought process and one that takes effort and care.

From here we are moving on to observational drawing with emphasis on contour lines, followed by volumetric drawing.

If you would like the power point presentation for this lesson, please feel free to leave a comment with your email. I love sharing!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I had fun once...

It was horrible.
Grumpy Cat Pumpkin!
He (she?) just makes me giggle.
I found a stencil online, managed to fold the print out so that it looked right on the round surface and used a corn cob holder to poke holes into the pumpkin and transfer the design. Once I scooped out all the guts, I started cutting. Thankfully I only cut myself once. The scab is still left, but after one night the pumpkin shriveled! Oh well, at least I got a picture.