Wednesday, May 30, 2012

For what it's worth

A gorgeous bouquet of hand-picked wildflowers gifted to me by one of my senior art students!

Well, the end of the year is here, folks - and what a year it's been!!! Last Thursday my beloved senior art students graduated and today is the last of two days with final exam week starting tomorrow for the non-graduating students. Also, my summer studies (for grad school) kick off tomorrow.

At the beginning of this year I was completely convinced that this year would be a doozy with the way it kicked itself off and I can hardly argue that it was anything but that. Following the excitement that was the start of the school year, we also had an earthquake, record-breaking torrential downpours and hurricanes, and all manner of other interruptions of regularly scheduled school days. And that was just the weather!! The rest of the excitement? It came by way of the amazing student artists I am so blessed to spend my days alongside.

Some of my favorite moments of this year were the following...
This year was full of surprises and successes and incredibly unexpected challenges. More than anything that I couldn't have begun to anticipate was my incredible adoration for this year's graduating class. I don't know what it is about them but I just have loved this year's senior class. They have been more creative, innovative, and fired up to take the world by storm than any other senior class I have ever had the blessing to work with. While teachers are never supposed to play favorites, I must confess that the class of 2012 includes so very many of my favorites. I know they are all going to charge into the world and do really great things. I absolutely know it and I cannot wait to see how it will all turn out for them.

As for me? Like I said before, I have summer classes that I am doing. I will be taking about 12 credit hours (to be specific) with six of those being studio art courses. I will, of course, do my best to blog my work and art adventures - that will also include a week long painting camp I am doing in partnership with my school's summer program offerings! This pretty much makes up the first half of my summer but the second half will be devoted to gearing up for next school year. My department will be doing curriculum review and accreditation, the student-elected visual arts prefect (basically the senior student who is the head of the visual arts student group) has already presented an incredibly ambitious plan for the senior college mural board that I have to help her finish conceptualizing and then figure out how to fabricate, and (of course) there's all my graduate studies to keep up with and the art direction for two major performance art productions.  *phew* Just enumerating it all like that sure does make my head spin and makes ME want to run off to some deserted tropical island! *ha!*

Anyway, thanks so much for sticking with me this school year. This blog has grown so much in the past year!  Per my stats,  I'm REGULARLY getting readers from international locales and folks whose IP addresses are based out of school districts which means I am definitely connecting the amazing visual art colleagues that I am so blessed to share company with (even though I might never meet them IRL). You all have no idea what it means to me to have you reading/sharing in the things I am doing in my classroom and (possibly?) that you are also using them with your own students. My goal ALWAYS will be just to give back to the art education and visual arts community even though I feel like I will never be able to repay what it has done for me by giving me a place in the world that I am happy to call my own.

Today is my last day of classes with my kids and tomorrow is the start of exams so there is going to be a good break in art education and student work stuff for a good while.  I will do my best to not be too scarce this summer though at least as far as it goes with my own personal studies of the graduate and studio art varieties. Once again, thanks so much for sticking with me through all of my ups and downs of blogging!!! Please don't be shy about "keeping in touch" with me via my comments section or via email (address is along the sidebar over there on the right).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Does anyone else have this problem too?

Last Thursday and through the long weekend, this is what the studio art classroom looked like...

That right there, folks, are tables that are absolutely covered with senior student artwork just waiting to be claimed. Emptying out the student work archives is a tradition at my school and the seniors are all supposed to get their work on the day/evening of graduation. When it's not claimed, it's offered up to the rest of the students/school community to pick through and take if they like. While it might seem like a weird thing that some of the other students take each other's work, it happens too many times to count!!! The students all really love and support one another in this way.

Anyway, I've got today and tomorrow when this stuff is going to be gone/sent on its merry way to happy homes in addition to a number of other not pictured items that have been archived since even last year *for shame on me!!* that will also be taken out of here. Come Thursday and I fully expect to have the art archives cleared out with counter tops cleared as well and supplies stowed away and stored for the summer. :) *Phew*

At the beginning of the year I couldn't imagine the year being over but now that I'm here? I cannot figure out how I got here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I'm doing a visual Bible study

Yesterday was a rare occasion for me: I went to church and actually paid attention to the sermon.

I know how bad this makes me look as a Christian.

However, I refuse to put on a front that I am perfect, have "it all figured out," OR that living a life following Christ is easy for me. I am far from perfect, I most definitely don't have even the slightest clue what "it" is much less do I have "it" figured out even partially, and living my life for OR by Christ is easy, simple, or clear cut. It's just not. It's just not.

For some months now (maybe even years?) I have had this inspiration to study scripture in a way that I feel is a little more approachable for me - one that is wholly grounded in visuals.  The idea is that I would do the following:
  • Read scriptures from my life-application study Bible on a DAILY basis
  • Meditate on said scriptures
  • Create something from what I get from the messages that I am reading - that can be drawing, painting, sculpting... ANYthing that is visual and made by my hands, heart, and imagination.

Yesterday when I was sitting in church my pastor brought up the topic about how Christians generally don't know the Bible even close to well enough. He said that there are agnostics and atheists who actually know God's word better than most Christians. He went on and on about it but the jist of it all was that I am not reading enough of my Bible and therefore am not learning anything from it. To say I felt convicted by this would be a gross understatement. And honestly? This very feeling has been weighing on me for some time now. I am terrible at Bible study, I know it, and I have done pretty much nothing about it. Still, that doesn't mean that I don't want to be better at it. I absolutely do and it is just about me stepping forward in confidence that even though I can fail, that doesn't mean I am a failure because I can turn things around and do better and BE better.

So, I've finally done it. The "brainchild" I have carried with me for long enough has finally been born into a new blog. *Seriously? Yes. ANOTHER blog for me to keep up with and maintain!*

To my credit (and in my defense), I am doing a scripture study in this way so that I am a little more accountable to what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, and IF I am doing it. I'm not doing this blog to build up readership or as a possible future source of revenue. I'm doing it because scripture study is what I'm supposed to do and that's that. I won't be linking it permanently on this blog though I might mention it every now and again in blog postings but if you are curious about it or just want to join me, we could form our own online community for visual Bible studying and call ourselves "How Great Thou ARTists," y'think? *I know... I know... so punny, yet delightfully appropriate...*

Here is a screenshot of my new blog: How Great Thou ART. Bookmark it, blogroll it, visit it, JOIN with me!

So that's what I've been doing this weekend on my end. Just wanted to share it with you all.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kiln... you kill me (-__-)

 While I like, love, and adore most things that come along with my job, there is one thing I strongly dislike, loathe, and even HATE most every time: Using the classroom kiln.

OH MY LAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Now, I understand that this is a COMPLETELY first-world classroom problem because many people have neither clay nor a kiln but indulge me for just a minute since I feel like I rarely make such a request.)

When I first came to this job I was super excited about all of what I was going to get to do. The facilities are pretty much top notch, the students are amazingly talents, and I pretty much could say I had no qualms about anything. Then, they showed me the classroom kiln and I *pretty much*  turned the other way and pretended like it was never shown to me in the first place.

To me, the kiln is this: The place where enthusiasm and what would otherwise be great student artwork comes to die.

Is that melodramatic? Well, that's really the way that it works most of the time and I mean that very literally. Now, I understand that my issues with/against the kiln could be completely as a result of "pilot error" (on my part) but that's not my point here because (in my defense) I have read, researched, and tried the kiln enough times to feel completely legitimized about my raging hatred against it. That being said? I cannot dislike the kiln more at this moment because this is what some beautifully sculpted student work looks like today...


To be completely fair, some of the pieces did make it through the firing process and are currently being painted by the students they belong to but I'd say this represents probably less than 10% of the total amount of student work. *GRRRRRRrrrrrrrrr...*

Oh well... *pfffffffffffffffffffffttttttt*

Just had to get this off my chest.

At least there is model magic - THAT I do love!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lesson Idea: The Illustrated Recipe (Round 2)

This is the second year I've done this lesson idea and since it's continued to go over well and be a favorite, it's likely going to be kept as a mainstay. Right now I'm trying to take the images and put them in a hardcover bound book (like last year) and I'm excited to get it printed up and have it delivered! Here are some of the best pieces turned out this round...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

End of the year woes

Less than two weeks remaining of school for me and the students are finally doing the "unit" of project work that is ceramics and clay sculpting. It's totally a "first world" complaint but I can't tell you how much I detest this project. Why? Well, NORMALLY I love doing the clay project but my supplies budget was cut about December time which left me scrambling to find material and ultimately landed me with some old-ish hand-me-down clay that just wasn't very well suited for this project. Normally I use Sculpture House Boneware clay so I don't have to deal with the in-classroom kiln but this year I guess I'm going to have to fire it up to finish out the year.

(Like I said before, I am aware this is a total "first world" complaint considering I was even able to have clay to use for three whole classes AND I have a very nice kiln to use whenever I want to. Just don't mind me. I know I'm being a baby about this whole thing.)

The objective for the project was to have the students do cartoon versions of themselves but the clay was hardly the kind that should have been used for this type of thing and I also didn't block off enough time for this so I ended up throwing in the towel and just kind of letting the do whatever. Someone did a really awesome "storm trooper" so I'm glad they were at least able to have fun.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

RoyGBiv day still on my mind

Technically this is day-old news here on the blog but this is a great shot (not taken by me) that is currently parked front and center on my school's homepage...


What a wonderful day and opportunity for fellowship it was!!!

I have been able to speak with a number of folks (administration, faculty, and students alike) about what they took away from it and I have gotten nothing but super positive feedback. Administration has even said that they would fully support (meaning funding and all) for this to be a recurring event at the end of every single year!!!! *SCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRE!!!!!!!*

You must realize something: This idea originate from my own "crazy" imagination in the midst of winter when I was also working on getting the ombre experience lesson idea together while also juggling everything needed to do the sound of music set design and fabrication. I casually mentioned it to the one senior student who spearheaded this with me with (sort of) the expectation that he was absolutely "crazy" enough to want to do it. (He's just that kind of awesome and so I kind of wasn't surprised that he wanted to do it.)

Here are some more shots and things to note of how we got from start to finish on the whole thing.

We did a number of trial runs with inflated balloons to see how long they would maintain their ability to self-levitate. We determined that we had a max of 8-10 hours before they would lose their ability so in order to fully utilize that ability, we determined we would have to inflate the balloons the morning/day of the release. Our preferred time frame would have been mid-morning but we ended up being given the tail-end of the school day in the way of the last two periods - so about 1:30-2pm was when we would do the release.

In order to accommodate both the inflating of the balloons, storage until the release, etc. etc. etc., we used our school's performance arts center/venue and gathered over 20 students to help inflate, tie off, and attach balloon clips (with strings pre-attached) to the balloons. We estimated it might take us as long as five hours with two tanks of helium based on some balloon inflating that had been done weeks before for another event for around 300 balloons. We ordered 600 (100 of each color from Oriental Trading) but ended up with less than 550 because of shoddy balloon quality, balloons that burst from being overinflated ("pilot" error, if you will), and ones that just got away from us and floated up to the ceiling while we were trying to inflate them. We had the students come in at 5:15am to do the inflating and we were done and cleaned up by 8am when school started. (Note: EVERY student that came in said it was "totally worth it" and other students that missed out were disappointed that they didn't take the opportunity to join in!!!)

We stored the balloons in this venue until they students would all gather together for the presentation and instructions about how this whole event would go down...

We did provide lots of coffee and other yummy breakfast food as extra incentive for those who got themselves up and into school so early. 

 At the last period of the day, all of the students were gathered in the venue for the presentation about color theory (done by my senior student partner-in-crime) and he capped off the presentation with specific instructions about how each student was to get their balloon off the balloon clips/strings and out to the school quad in formation in order to release them. There were diagrams/maps that showed the path they were to walk and volunteers on-hand to facilitate traffic control and flow. Volunteers were wearing rainbow tie-dyed shirts so though would be easy to pick out from the crowd.

 Once the students got out to the quad, there were more volunteers (donning the requisite tie-dyed shirts) who were holding large poster board signs corresponding with all six colors of the balloons we had.

Students stood in their color group (away from other groups) until they were given the "OK" that every single student had exited the building with a balloon and was ready for the release.

 The center of the color "wheel" formation was marked with a duo of balloons (in black and white) where my senior student stood with an electronic megaphone and I was with my camera to document the action.

 When all was clear and everyone was confirmed to be outside with a balloon in hand, the volunteers were given the "yes" to bring their groups toward the center and we all bunch together as closed as we could. A countdown was given from 20 and then the balloons were finally released.

Again, I'm sorry I don't have any video of the actually release but it was truly (for lack of better words) MAGICAL to experience. Even now just looking at the stills of the event above with all of those colorful balloons floating up to the sun, I can hardly put into words how it felt to be there. And that, my friends, was/is the whole point of such a thing as RoyGBiv day in the first place!!!

It's about not just telling but SHOWING the students the gift that is an experience, that gift that is visual art, the gift that is being a part of the creation of visual art, and the gift that is being a part of something so much larger than itself.

A lovely blog reader (Hi, Cynthia S!) left a wonderfully supportive comment on my original posting about this event saying that she was going to "copy" this for her school next year. Friends, folks, blog readers, WORLD - PLEASE COPY THIS IDEA!!!!! Like I said before, to my knowledge (and per Google) no single day like RoyGBiv day exists at all AND IT SHOULD.

My own personal thoughts about this are to maybe not make it one single day that is the same day every year (though the last day of school is a good one for it to be) but perhaps making it a "surprise" experience - so you never know when RoyGBiv day will be - is better since that type of thing better adheres to the whole way that rainbows happen to begin with. Rainbows are kind of surprise to come upon, right? But they are always welcome. Now, for something like a balloon release? Well, that takes some planning so you would certainly require a select group of folks that would have to be "in the know" about it but my thoughts are that it could happen in other ways too. Like, perhaps, one day at lunch rainbow cupcakes could be made and served to surprise all of the students. (BTW - this is also another significant undertaking to make happen. I know from experience!) or you could figure out a way to get a sno-cone truck to come in and serve up those pre-fab rainbow sno-cones (I know, whatever, it would definitely cut down on the labor to make RoyGBiv happen in the first place).

Whatever the case, I'm actually leaning towards making RoyGBiv day a regular occurrence at my school. My reasoning also harkens back to the fact that I teach and live by an establishment of faith and the rainbow is SO sacred as it is featured in scripture. I love being able to draw students back to scripture to remind them of how much of this present-day world still contains the makings of scripture from way back when because it helps them to see how timeless the words of the Bible truly are. For purposes not of faith though? Well, RoyGBiv day is just awesome and that's all there is to it.

So all of this is to say that if it can be done at my school? It can be done at YOURS too and I encourage you to help make this happen because you just have no idea the enormity of the gift that you will be giving your school/students/self/colleagues/administration/community when they witness it. :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

RoyGBiv day should be every day

Photo credit: One of my amazing colleagues who was NOT stuck in the middle of the crowd like me!
"And God said:  'This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
"'I set My RAINBOW in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.  It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the RAINBOW shall be seen in the cloud;  and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh;  the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  The RAINBOW shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.' ” (Genesis 9:12-16, NKJV throughout)
Yesterday was the last day of classes for the beloved seniors at my school. Today is their last day to be on campus (other than for graduation activities) and I can hardly believe that the year is really drawing to a close and they won't be here anymore. I don't know what it is about this particular group of seniors but I completely adore so many of them. They have been the MOST creative, the MOST energetic, and the MOST FUN of all classes I have had so far. While teachers shouldn't (but certainly do) play favorites, some of my most favorite students ever have been members of this class. That being said? It was a rather monumental day to partake in and I've spent months and weeks working on the very event you see pictured above.

You see, yesterday at my school, we did something that I have affectionately named "RoyGBiv Day." As far as I can tell (and as far as what Google has told me) a day like this doesn't exist but that didn't stop me from dreaming and scheming of a way (with a "partner-in-crime" graduating senior) to orchestrate a 500+ balloon release/launch with balloons of the whole rainbow spectrum.

This particular senior is a VERY advanced art student who has exhausted the ranks of the art program here (both visual and performing) and while I've never actually had him in a class of mine, I have managed to work pretty close with him on a number of different occasions so much that even my (almost) four year-old daughter calls him "Mr. Treasure." (Not his name but her mispronounciation is so close and CUTE because I do think he is the kind of student that is just that special.)

While I normally never show pictures of my students on here in order to keep it about the art, I'm going to go ahead and show you two pictures of him: one where you can see him "in action" of his presentation before the launch and the other one at the epicenter of the launch itself only moments before the balloons were released.

While it  might be tiresome for you to read how blessed I feel by having this job and working with the amazing students I do every single day, it is the absolutely TRUTH. It is SUCH an amazing blessing and I am thankful every single day to not just have a job in the first place but one that allows me all that it does. And ultimately? That's what RoyGBiv day was kind of about to begin with. Definitely my student (probably one of the few who could pull something like this off) was majorly responsible for pulling it all off the way he did by doing things like getting over 20 students plus faculty members (myself included) here to school at 5am to inflate the over 500 balloons that we needed in order to make this work...

Contained within each of the balloons was a single note with messages ranging from words of encouragement, wisdom, and general well wishes. While some of the students referenced scriptures, all of them were reminded that their message didn't have to be that specifically and could be anything that could help uplift whomever might find it. The goal was (for us) to have faith that we were sending something out there into the world that someone, somewhere would need to find and the Lord would help them to find it in the exact moment and at the exact place they needed to find it.

Wish I had some video footage to share with you to help better illustrate (and punctuate) how amazing it was to behold such a sight as all of those balloons in all of their rainbow glory floating up to the sky and stretching farther and farther but I don't. (I do still photography and not motion picture.)  Just trust that it was AMAZING and if you ever have the opportunity to participate in a balloon launch? It will be an incredibly blessing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lesson idea: Triple Inspiration Egg Carton Paintings

This project is from a while back - as in, MARCH. (I know. Cut me some slack.) It was very fun but VERY challenging since it required the students to paint on a heavily textured/sculpted surface. The idea originated from an artist spotlight done on my blogroll of Dutch artist Enno de Kroon. The spin I did on the project was to make it a triple inspiration idea...
  1. Be inspired by Enno de Kroon
  2. Be inspired by a masterful artist (they could pick one from the resource library we have)
  3. Be inspired by the greatest creator of all - our wonderful Lord above!!

I saw the idea and loved it almost immediately because it really opened the door for a lot of different learning opportunities. It touched upon non-objective subject matter, allowed for some "free" painting (if you will), fully utilized most of the elements of art and principles of design, and also allowed me to not have to spend money for expensive supports like masonite or canvas panels since it called upon the idea of upcycling. (I happen to have some good friends who own a local cupcakery so amassing egg cartons for my students was pretty easy.)

I required the students to pick just about any artist and artwork and while some students went the literal route, plenty more took a lot more liberties and created things that were truly unique. One of the major challenges overall were the following:
  • The egg carton surface wasn't only heavily textured (which challenged beginning painting skills) but the support actually soaked up a TON of paint which required the students to do copious amounts of underpainting.
  • Since the texture was so heavily textured, the view of the painting (as it was being worked on) was constantly changing depending upon the angle you looked at the piece. For this reason? Students were constantly feeling "disrupted" while they were working since they would see it in one way and then see it in another almost immediately after and feel like they were off course.
  • There are so many great pieces of artwork and artists to choose from!!! Many could not pick a good one to be inspired by and this set them behind on the total hours they were able to work on them in class. (I really encourage them to learn how to self-pace and I try not to intervene unless the results will be truly detrimental to the overall finishing of the projects.
Anyway, without further adieu, here is some of the student work turned out. The first one is one of the best overall (to be fair, she is a VERY advanced artist) and there is also a closer picture of the surface of the piece.

Here are a number of other really terrific examples and "spins" of inspiration taken by the many brilliantly talented student artists I am blessed to work with on a daily basis...

This one was another one of my personal favorites.

He "popped out" the eyes by putting them on the parts of the carton that were raised.

I loved the illustrated vibe this one had!

Something interesting to note about the 3D Design students/classes on the whole:

Many of the students in this class are those who struggle with learning disabilities/challenges but the ones who are the most severely afflicted are always the ones who seem to do the best. The reason why? Their brains process, synthesize, and handle the information/ideas in ways that are three-dimensional in nature so they are often most able to do what they want to do before they do it easier than the other students who 1) Don't suffer from learning challenges and 2) have to work harder to "think" three dimensionally. On a more personal note, I am currently enduring the exhaustive process that is learning disabilities testing and I have always done better with three dimensional artwork over two dimensional.
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