Friday, January 27, 2012

Lesson idea: Junk mail collage portraits

This project idea was not an original one. I saw a version of it first on Princetenol as well as in my Google reader on a popular art blog called Craftzine when they spotlighted artist Sandhi Schimmel Gold and her innovative idea of taking junk mail and turning it into portraits. I think I actually starred the idea in my reader at least two years ago but, as with just about everything that I snag as inspiration, it has been implanted and festering in my brain that this year I finally had to get it out and make it happen.

This project was one of the last ones that I did with my 2D students and I am ridiculously proud of how far they have come as evidenced in the student work you will see below. They demonstrated a real understanding of visual texture and grasp for serious dexterity with regard to their cutting and assembling technique.  They also applied definite knowledge of color theory and each student artist definitely spun their own portrait attempts with very personalized (to them) stylings. Their finished works far exceeded my expectations as well as their own and many of them became more and more serious about their work as they came closer to finishing them and saw how impressive they could be if they only paced themselves and worked carefully.

We used hand-cut (by me) chipboard that I had in our remaining stock from last year and I worked diligently to collect magazines, catalogs, and junk mail from  anyone who would give it to me so that we had a wellspring of paper media to work with. I allowed them the short cut of using graphite transfer paper for the major features of the individuals they picked but they were tasked with making things as 3D as possible with shading and highlighting as well as outlines. Most of them used Xacto-knives to carefully shape and cut their pieces in specific ways and then they used glue sticks to adhere them to their boards. When each piece was finished it was sealed with matte Modge Podge.  A paper clip was hot glued to the back of each piece so it was ready to hang in the student gallery or in the growing personal art galleries in the homes of my talented student artists.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lesson Idea: Worm Tunnels

Just a reminder: this project idea was not an original one and was actually something I saw on another amazing art education blog called "Art with Mr. E."

Mr. E originally did this project with elementary aged students but that didn't deter me from considering as something for my high school level artists. Every one of them would attest to the fact that this project was far from simple and also amazing to have been able to work on and enjoy in its finished state. (See samples of student work below)

I adapted this project for the high school level by making this piece larger in scale overall - each piece was 22"x28" in size. My reasons for doing this were the following:
  • Larger surface area of design allowed for this to be a long-term project
  • The finished design is quite a sight to behold but even more impressive if it's on a large scale that encourages it to be framed and kept by each artist
  • This was used as a bit of a final assessment piece meant to evaluate their overall understanding of the following items: technique for drawing lines and using shading to show contouring, selection of a workable and interesting color palette based on color theory, management of class time and personal workflow issues
I am very pleased with this collective of work the students did both for their 2D Design experience for Fall semester (the foundational class is only one semester). Though some students failed to complete high-quality work because they didn't finish their pieces at all or completed them in obviously messy and rushed ways, this project worked to be a reliable indicator (i.e. a solid assessment piece) for how far they have or haven't come.  It was interesting enough for them to be self-motivated to keep working on, serious enough for them to be challenged on a multitude of levels, and beautiful (as finished pieces) for them to want to save as their last hurrahs for their 2D Design studies OR to be baited into taking more art courses.

Art Teacher Hack: Hot glue + paperclips = Easy way to hang student work!

I have a seriously real love-hate relationship with the whole business of dealing with the display of student artwork.

On one hand I LOVE showing off the amazing pieces of artwork and visual ingenuity that my students come out with after weeks of toiling away in the art studio classroom. Most of the time people are surprised at the things they do because the natural visual art talent is hidden within so many of the incredibly-and-obviously-talented-in-every-other-way students that walk the halls of my school. Some of the most extraordinary artists are also star/starting athletes and incredibly scholarly students at the top of their classes. The rest of the amazing talent? It's the quiet students who barely ever make a peep to trumpet their own incredible worth. For all of these reasons, the student gallery is important to maintain.

But, as I mentioned, I have a love-hate relationship with the whole business of displaying any student pieces. It requires an enormous amount of prep work - creating nameplates and hanging nameplates, rigging student pieces so that they can be securely hung without damaging the work itself OR accidentally fall down/off the gallery walls over time, etc. etc. etc. The amount of work required to change out the gallery or fill it to begin with is just so aggravating that I do everything to avoid it most of the time and, sadly, this results in not enough artwork being seen in the gallery on the regular basis.

(I am openly admitting that this is poor on my part as a teacher and education professional. *sigh* I am publicly pledging to work on this specifically from here on out!)

Thankfully, my commitment to always work "smarter not harder" has resulted in me discovering an AWESOME "hack" (of sorts) for the whole business of rigging *ahem*, I mean PREPARING student pieces so that they can get up on the gallery walls just a little bit faster.

Enter a box of standard paperclips and the trusty (and totally awesome) power of the hot glue gun...

Are you seeing this? IT IS AWESOME.

I mean, yes - it is sort-of  "ghetto" in how it looks BUT(!) this is the view from the back of a piece of artwork. (In this case stack of canvas panel pieces). Have you ever tried to hang a piece of artwork that is just rigid enough that it's otherwise perfect to just slap onto a wall and call it a day but then - OH, I forgot about that whole thing that you can't put eyelet screws in the back for the wire and all of that jazz that you normally do to hang pictures. #facepalm

Well, laugh if you want to at what I believe to be an AH-MAZING hack for hanging student work in the gallery. From here on out I'm going to be hanging all pieces mounted on chipboard and canvas panel and paneled pieces like this.

Friday, January 6, 2012

And so it ends and thus it begins

Hard to believe but I am only a week away from the end of the semester with all of my classes. That means I will be bidding farewell to both my graphic design and 2D design student artists.

I'm mostly pleased with how I kept to my project schedule aligned with the school calendar days even despite cancellations and delays for weather related issues and such things. My goal is to do project change ups every two weeks for the studio classes and every week for the digital ones and I wasn't able to keep up with that entirely for the studio classes but two projects that we did manage (out of six) were quite challenging so I think it's fair that we didn't make it to the total of eight projects for the semester that I always plan for.

The 2D students are wrapping things up with a bit of a "back pocket" idea that the amazing Mr. E originated and shared over on his blog, because the just barely week and a half I have left of class time with them is hardly adequate for us to start and finish something entirely new.

I don't do exams for any of my classes and always try to pick a project that can cap everything off and serve as a good assessment for application what they have learned during the whole semester. The original lesson plan idea from Mr. E presents this as something that elementary level students can do so I upped the complexity for my high school students by giving them a greater surface area of which to do this - they each have poster board that is 22"x28" - as well as a slightly time crunch for them to work within. They're greatest challenge is to manage their time very carefully and not socialize too much as well as investing themselves in having the most refined and polished technique possible. I'm very delighted to report that they are LOVING this sort of "advanced" coloring project of sorts.

My graphic design students are working on a project that is not originally done in photoshop and is VERY challenging since they really have to break the original idea down and figure out how to do it in photoshop. I have provided no tutorial whatsoever and am basically helping each of them navigate the waters of deconstructing and reconstructing their ideas so they can be created with the skillsets they have actively built for themselves in this semester.

I'm wrapping things up for myself by trying my best to catch up on all of the grading and gallery hanging that so desperately needs to be down with all of the terrific marking period two student work as well as trying to get everything set for me to be ready to start graduate studies in ten days. *phew* Next semester, in addition to my own school, I will be teaching Digital Studio/Illustrator (so basically the next course after graphic design/photoshop in the course catalog) and then 3D Design and Interactive Art History. I've cut back on some of my photography freelancing but I still have a few engagement shoots that will prep me for weddings starting in the summer. Just thinking about all of it right now makes my head feel like it might pop off and shoot straight up into the sky. :-p I'd say this calls for a Dr. Pepper break! :)
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