Friday, September 28, 2012

Teaching Reading in a Visual Art classroom

Right now I am taking a graduate class called "Reading in the Content Area." Some of you all might be familiar with it since it is one the standard courses required of nearly every degree program for an educator to become fully certified to teach. It's also the one course that I have been able to discover is the most detested of all candidate teachers with the exception of those teachers who are answering the calling to teach Reading.

Before this class I was totally unwilling to call believe in the notion that "Every teacher is a Reading teacher." My thoughts were that if I wanted to be a Reading teacher than I wouldn't be in Visual Arts in the first place. On top of all of this is the fact that I am legitimately dyslexic when it comes to reading so that makes me life Reading even less!

Well, I gotta say that I am two weeks from completing this "Reading in the Content Area" course and I have officially jumped ship to stand corrected and agree with the notion that, "Yes. I AM a Reading teacher and every other teacher of subjects other than Reading can be, too!"  Had it not been for this class I wouldn't have known how important literacy is, how threatened it currently is, and how much literacy affects overall school performance - including the arts!

The above picture is one I took during the graphic design class while the students were working hard on figuring out some serious design challenges and while I could have just given them a tutorial to figure things out the way I always have in the past, I have changed things up majorly this year! Just like in all of my other classes, I am doing things by way of inquiry based learning/teaching.

Yes, I help to steer the ship that is my classroom but I am treating my classroom more like a ship that is a huge sailboat rather than a speedboat with a big motor. My goal is to help the students discover where and how the wind blows and then use it to propel them forward rather than letting themselves get lazy and just rip the motor cord and plow through all of the waves.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WiPs: "Common Threads" Printmaking project | 2D Design

I am doing printmaking for the first time ever with the 2D Design classes and I cannot tell you how much fun we are having with it!!! Ever since I have started teaching art, I have always had a challenge with 2D Design class specifically and this year? My world is rocked because I am loving almost everything about it. What took me so long to realize that 2D Design class can be awesome?

Printmaking is just SO awesome because it is absolutely chock full of moments of "big revelations" when you finally peel the printing plate off of the support and see what the print/impression looks like! 

All of the adventures with color mixing and arrangement and ink application are really fun to watch happen!
My issue with the 2D class hasn't been because of the students by any stretch but much more the artwork and project ideas themselves. I am naturally more inclined to like, understand, and want to create artwork that is 3D. It's just how my brain works. And because of that? Well... it's no wonder that the 2D Design class has presented such an incredible challenge for me as a teacher.

I (mostly) do not enjoy drawing but I do love painting if only for the truly tactile and sensory opportunities that painting always presents. Little did I know that 2D art and design can offer sensory experiences that have plenty of dimension as well. I stand corrected!

Setting up an "inking station" in the back of the classroom just happened like this and it's work so well I am keeping it.

Right now the students are in the midst of stages 2 and 3 of the creative process/framework I have been using for all of the 2D design projects/lessons so far this year.

(By the way, I am working to get a template for this up and going so that you can access it and use it more readily if you want to. I will also try and present all of my lesson plans in this format for them to be easier to understand.)

My goal is to push for this project to be finished by the close of this week and for the 2D students to be moving on to their next project, "A Place of Grace" (that employs painting from photo references with oil pastels) - by the beginning of next week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And the winner is...

Thank you all so much for participating in the the Dream. Pray. Create. first ever giveaway of my current "favorite things."

I am so delighted to announce that the (randomly selected) winner of the giveaway is...

of Sharpie Woman blog

Here is the winning entry/comment she left detailing her favorite product to use in her classroom:

It seems a lot of your love your liquid watercolors because Pat wasn't the only one who mentioned them! I think I am going to have to be buying some to try in my classroom for next year! :) Thanks for the suggestion!!!

Congratulations, Pat! I hope this winning is a real blessing to you and all of your creative endeavors. I will be contacting you via contact email so I can get your mailing address and ship your prize package to you as soon as I can!!!
Thank you everyone who both entered to win and also considered entry but decided not to. As I have said before, I appreciate your patronage of this blog and the fact that I have a place here on the interwebs to call my own creative niche is enough for me any day of the week.

Also, Doug L. - Thank you for the great suggestion to break up long blog postings into two for the sake of making them easier to read. I know I tend to be incredibly verbose (it is actually a product of my dyslexia) and this can make for some incredibly long reading just as much as it is for my writing it in the first place. I used to write for a photography blog and they made me break up postings into parts just as you suggested so maybe I will try that here to better meet the needs of all of you lovely, blog readers and supporters!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Give Handmade | The gift of Giving

Don't forget to enter the contest 
of this blog's first ever giveaway of my "favorite things!!!" 
It ends TONIGHT at midnight EST so I can announce the winner TOMORROW on the blog!!!!

REMEMBER: You have to leave your comments on the original blog post that announced the contest found HERE VIA THIS LINK (click this to access it!!) in order to be officially entered and considered in the final count to be randomly chosen for the prize package. Don't forget that there are (2) ways to be entered in the giveaway and the cut off time/date is TONIGHT - Tuesday, Sept. 25th at midnight EST!!

******* Warning: This is a photo heavy posting not about classroom art education!!!*******

Something I really enjoy doing (but rarely get to do) is crocheting amigurumi. I fell into the artform when I was a new mother to my now four year old daughter and I needed something to do to pass the time and occupy my hands while I would wait for my little girl to wake up from naps to nurse in her infancy. (I have a hard time with NOT having something to occupy my hands at any given time)

I taught myself to crochet (after four years of my childhood best friend trying to teach me) in two weeks of watching youtube videos and reading online tutorials on other peoples' blogs because I was so enamored by amigurumi. (They are so charming!! How could anyone NOT fall in love with them.) I joined a social networking site that is purely meant to connect crafters of knitting and crochet called

My time when I was really into crocheting was before I was able to be an art teacher so I think doing such work fed my need to create. I started off with patterns but eventually learned that creating my own original works inspired by real objects was a lot more fulfilling for me. My first major undertaking ever without a pattern to guide me was this Thomas the Tank Engine for my daughter's first ever friend as a going away gift since he was leaving the daycare she attended when she was a baby.

The above took me so many hours and so much trial and error that I felt like a total champ when I was done and I become that much more inspired to try my hand at free-form soft sculpting more amigurumi toys. I naturally have an issue with following patterns/directions and so free-forming it really worked well for me. I would look at pictures of things online and then take what I like from multiple versions of an amigurumi idea and then try and make my own version of it. Below are some of my free-formed crocheting adventures.

Little girl elephant
Baby Harp Seal

Maryland girl crab

Baby Lamb doll

Little Girl giraffe without spots

"Sherman" the gnome (made this right around the time Gnomeo and Juliet came out in theaters)

A baby chick

I also made fun and silly hats (for novelty and amusement of my own) for my daughter. I have always been a HUGE fan of the Tom Arma babies in the face of what Anne Geddes was trying to do (Because come on! The Tom Arma ones are both hilarious and adorable all at the same time!!!) and making silly hats was my way of drawing inspiration from him. I have made hats for babies in the family but mostly I just make at least one hat for my daughter every year. It all started with the baby viking hat for me that I made for her around Easter.

And then it just took off from there. My personal rule for crochet has become that I don't do anything that can be functional (like sweaters or scarves or afghans) but I will do a hat if it can also be a little bit of silly art. My dream is to (at some point) crochet a yoda hat. Until then, this is all I have done so far. I have free-form crocheted all of the below.

Koala with red bow from two Christmases ago for my daughter  

Blue monkey hat with flaps for my daughter's cousin two Christmases ago

Aviator style hat with flaps and goggles in heart-shaped (to make it more "girly")

20s style clochette hat with a flower for a cousin's little girl

Pink pig hat made from variegated pink and orange chenille yarn 

I was making toys and hats long before my daughter learned to appreciate them and the other day (in her mess of a toy room) she came upon a little turtle I made for her long ago in one of my very first every amigurumi endeavours. It looked like this:

This was made with a pattern found HERE from when I was first learning to crochet
My daughter had no clue I made it and when I told her I did she was blown away!! And she she promptly asked me if I would make her a pink shelled turtle who could be the "mama" because the above is teeny-tiny and handheld. I could not say no to her sweet request and last night I finished this up for her just in time for her to take it to show-n-tell today at playschool.

Much larger than the original and went along with the idea of the original but it was free-formed really.

I cannot tell you just how delighted my daughter was when she woke up (EARLY at that!) to her new turtle. She, of course, didn't hesitate to ask me to make a purple one that could be the "daddy" turtle. I... well... I would like to make her another one but I don't know when it will happen. *shrug* I get bored with doing the same animal over again (especially when it immediately follows one I just did) and I might be more inclined to try my hand at making her an Olivia piglet doll instead seeing as how that is her latest obsession and I am very charmed with Olivia myself.

Anyway, I guess all of this is nothing more than me tripping myself down memory lane (so to speak) with all of my random crocheting adventures but I thought I would share it just the same since it's the latest in my effort to give handmade this year. I have actually tried to teach students to crochet to try and get a little bit of a fellowship group going at both schools I have taught at (in my career) but many of them don't seem to have the patience it takes to learn the craft and then perfect it in order to be able to make (especially free-form) any of the things I have shown you above. I do have one student who graduated last year and is bound and determined to learn eventually but mostly? I am on my own with my quiet obsession and adoration for crocheting purely for my own amusement and novelty. If you are into it though? You just consider joining ravelry!!!! (My username on there is stuffshemakes if you want to connect with me) in addition to leaving me a comment on this posting so that we can connect and maybe be "accountability partners" in our crocheting endeavors. It is the one thing that is such a great stress reliever for me and I know that I probably should do more of if I can help it. Perhaps it works that way for you as well and if we are both doing it together? Well, there are two less stressed people in the world.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Three points for the WIN

I am just about beside myself because of what the image above shows.

The class I took the image in is Graphic Design. While it might not be so obvious, the student in the center of the two is helping the two students he is between and he is also not sitting on the correct side of the room (meaning at his usual seat) because he previously was sitting there and he physically got up to help the two students pictured above. Before he did this though he helped the two students he was sitting in between at his regular seat.

The Graphic Design class is working on a project right now that seeks to visually communicate what the fruits of the spirit look like if it were to be made into a graphic image. (I will present the lesson idea eventually when they actually finish it.) This is their second major project of the marking period so far but their first one where they are not working from a tutorial.

(Normally, I start out the first month of instruction for Graphic Design with tutorials entirely in order to teach them the functionality of the Photoshop program but this year I decide - like with my other art + design courses - to push them to learn via an inquiry-based teaching/learning approach.)

The above image is of a moment that I believe (for the rest of my teaching career) will easily rank in the top five. It's not rare for me to witness students help one another (because my classroom/school is just like that in the way it works most of the time) but this one time this kind of occurrence was INCREDIBLY noteworthy.

The student who this moment centers around (like all of the other students in this class) was very challenged by this project and sometimes outright gave up because of the challenge. They originally wanted to do subject matter that was far from what the project called for and I really pushed them to get beyond themselves and do something different in order to receive something difference. I pushed them to recognize that this assignment didn't just have to be like any other assignment and they had the unique opportunity to learn about the fruits of the spirit in a way that they never knew possible. They obliged me in the way students sometimes oblige their teachers "just because" they are supposed to and want to stop the lecture already. In the midst of all of the obliging, though, something happened and totally changed the game for them. They didn't only start to really learn what the fruits of the spirit are but they also really learned what they truly looked like (and not in graphic format) because they started to embody what they were so seeking to understand.

I called this posting three points for the win because what happened was a serious moment of win. It was a moment of win not just for me as their teacher but also them as the student. It was a moment of blessing that was paid forth in dividends because they not only figured out a majorly challenging design issue (that so many of their peers were working to try and figure out) but they also sought to help not only some of their peers but MORE of their peers. And why? Because they wanted to share "how good it feels" to really succeed at overcoming the challenge at hand. When they first overcome the challenge themselves, while everyone around them was struggling, they were completely elated and excited at the event. The first thing I said to them was, "How does it feel? How does it feel to do something REALLY HARD and WIN at doing it?" They could hardly put it into words and could only agree that it was a feeling so amazing that it almost left them speechless. I suggested that such a thing would be worth sharing and when they took my suggestion, I KNOW that the feeling they had only increased exponentially.

I pray that your Monday is one filled richly with blessings. I pray that your week brings you a moment as much like what I share as possible. And I thank you for allowing me to share it the way I did.

Don't forget to enter the contest 
of this blog's first ever giveaway of my "favorite things!!!"

REMEMBER: You have to leave your comments on the blog post that announced the contest found HERE VIA THIS LINK in order to be officially entered and considered in the final count to be randomly chosen for the prize package. Don't forget that there are TWO ways to be entered in the giveaway and the cut off time/date is Tuesday, Sept. 25th at midnight EST!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Create (vs. make) art that is Successful (vs. unsuccessful)

During the summer I took a painting course at the local community college in order to satisfy some credit requirements for my graduate program. (I am working on my Masters of Arts in Teaching for Visual Art - Secondary Education) One of the big things my professor pushed us to do is provide constructive feedback and commentary during peer assessments and when examining masterworks during lectures. The phrase was this...

"This [insert type of artwork OR specific element of the artwork - ex. line, shape, color, etc.] is successful/unsuccessful because... [insert specific details to support your belief of WHY it is successful or unsuccessful]"

Is the above confusing the way I just presented it? Sorry about that. Allow me to explain how it as I offer analysis/critique of an awesome caricature of Bob Ross I found via Google Images on Deviant Art by user AOK02. Here is the image and below find an example of the aforementioned sentence start in action:

This caricature of Bob Ross is successful because the use of the line to illustrate his hair - both on his head and on his face/within his beard - strongly realistically suggests how Bob's hair actually looked. On his head it was definitely kinky and curly and his beard has more straight hair that laid down a little bit more neatly. 

Do you see how the sentence starter works now? I hope I did a better job explaining it!! Definitely it's a very formal way to explain something and it takes a little getting used to but it's worth using simply because it wholly employs disinterested pleasure in order to analyze and critique art and it ELIMINATES the type of feedback that goes a little bit like this, "I like this painting because it has purple in it and I like purple."

Did you just get that? Let me pull that (dreaded) THING out and highlight it for you. It's something that I hear all too often when I hear people evaluate artwork and what it says usually has NOTHING to do with the artwork that is being evaluated/critiqued in the first place. Here it goes again...

"I LIKE this [insert a type of artwork] because
I LIKE purple and this [type of artwork] is purple!"

GRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr... even just looking at it and reading it annoys me.

Now. I know, I know. Not everyone is an art critic and not everyone is meant to be an art critic. That doesn't mean that I (as an art teacher) shouldn't attempt to teach my students how their work of art could be "read" or interpreted OR that I shouldn't attempt to teach my students how to better CREATE work (rather than make but I will get to that) in order for it to be such a thing that is worthy of being evaluated and "liked" solely because it utilized the a color that happened to be the favorite of the person who was looking at it. Really? I mean REALLY? If this were really the way paintings were critiqued and evaluated, think of all of the amazing masterworks that would be considered "bad" because someone didn't like blue or purple [Van Gogh's Starry Night] or they didn't like "a lot of color" all at once [Kandinsky's Painting with Three Spots] or even they weren't really a fan of caves because of a bad spelunking experience [Lascaux Cave Art].

(I understand that I am presenting some ridiculous reasons why people might call a certain work of art "bad" but I can't say that I haven't heard some of these preposterous reasons before. *shrug*)

In my art classroom I have officially BANNED the use of the phrase "I like..." or "I don't like..." when we are doing critiques and analysis of both masterworks and peer work. By doing so they are automatically forced to use language that more fully employs art vocabulary as well as fully explaining how that vocabulary works within whatever they are looking at during the moment at hand.

Something else I have banned in my classroom? The students are no longer allowed to "just make" things and I am REQUIRING them to INTENTIONALLY CREATE works of art. The dictionary defines make and create as being one and the same of each other but I have presented the idea of the student that they are not that at all! I have instructed them to think of create as being much more intentional than making something and creating being an action that isn't just an action but is also an  inspiration or even something that provokes real thought or emotion to erupt within someone or even it forces someone to "stop and stare" a little bit longer in order to understand what is before them. I have said to them that artwork that is "just made" is often easily forgotten after it is experienced initially or it is so not noteworthy that it isn't even noticed to begin with! I have pushed them to realize that if they have created something that it will be something that is a visual communication so much that someone will be able to look at it and READ what it says just as easily as if it were actually words on a page.

So there you have it! This is the talk that we have been talking in my classes and despite the fact that it has really challenged me to break a lot of old habits of theirs, it has been SO worth it when I see them talking amongst themselves and then holding up their work and saying things like, "I think this/that is SUCCESSFUL because you can really see the speed of the line and the integrity of your marks are very strong and authentically spontaneous looking the way they were made." Amazing? Seriously. My student artists are talking this talk and PROVING that they know something about visual art! And their artwork is sure showing it too!!! It, too, is talking just as much and saying even more than what my student artists are saying about it.

Don't forget to enter the contest 
of this blog's first ever giveaway of my "favorite things!!!"

REMEMBER: You have to leave your comments on the blog post that announced the contest found HERE VIA THIS LINK in order to be officially entered and considered in the final count to be randomly chosen for the prize package. Don't forget that there are TWO ways to be entered in the giveaway and the cut off time/date is Tuesday, Sept. 25th at midnight EST!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lesson Idea: The OneLiner | 2D Design

One of my favorite things to do with the students is continuous line blind contour drawing. It almost always yields works of art that are interesting and intriguing. The element of surprise and leaving the act of creation up to a little bit of chance helps the students to let go of themselves and learn to trust themselves as well. It also proves to them that successful pieces of artwork don't always come in moments of highly-controlled planning and preparing and some of their best (and most favorite) works sometimes come organically and spontaneously.

This project was called the "One-liner Modern Art" drawing but I decided to just call it "The OneLiner" because I felt like for my purposes? That just makes more sense. The idea of taking the continuous line drawing and melding it with the technique of blind contour drawing aimed to teach them to learn to do mastercopy type work as well as drawing from still-life observations. They were also able to experiment with mixed media and they used crayon, watercolor, graphite, charcoal, ink, and marker for the coloring of their line drawings.

I adhered to the same framework I started with and introduced to you all last week with the Drawing from the Abstract lesson idea and this project idea (like the aforementioned) was inspired by something that I found in the Drawing Lab book that I love so much. I tried to preserve the essence of the drawing exercise but I expanded upon what it suggested and then fit all of that into the framework I am continuing to use for the creative process the students are learning to follow:
  1. Explore & Experiment - The students did speed drawing exercises both from still-life set ups as well as masterworks (I used this one from Picasso that is so popular - yes, the students did this upside down)
  2. Figure Out & Focus - The students did multiple peer reviews in order to help them consider techniques that they might have tried OR identify which technique they have used so that they can use it again and then intentionally create a work of art using that technique. They also did trials of either mastercopy works and/or working from a still-life set-up. They also tried out color palette ideas and different mediums.
  3. Stick or Scrap - The students looked critically at their own work and they decided whether they liked what they had been doing or if they wanted to go back to step #1 or #2 in order to create something that they felt was a little bit more successful and adhering to their goal with the work of art. Some of the students decided to abandon their mastercopy efforts and decided to go with one of the still-life set-ups and vice versa. They used intentionally decided upon color palettes and applied the color in specific ways.
  4. Know & Go - This is when the students got their final support to work on (watercolor paper) and they went confidently in the direction using specifically decided upon techniques and color palettes. 
I differentiated instruction with this project by offering them four different drawing examples for them to choose from if they did mastercopy works and two different still-life set-ups if they wanted to work from observation. I also allowed them to use whatever medium they wanted to work with as informed by their creative processing. Here are the two still-life set-ups that I gave them to work from...

I encouraged the students to get up from their seats and position themselves as they decided would output the best and most interesting perspective of the still life they selected. They had large drawing boards and I also allowed them (on some days) to listen to "personal music" in order to help them stay focused on their task at hand.

Some of the final works the students created are here! I am SO proud of them for what they both learned, figured out on their own, and created INTENTIONALLY vs. just making for the sake of making something. They worked very hard and it definitely shows (I think)...

Mastercopy work

Still life

Mastercopy work

Mastercopy work





Many of the students initially thought that they wanted to do a mastercopy but then they changed their minds because they realized the creative liberties they could take by creating something completely original (and in their unique styles) by working from observation. It was very exciting to see this discover this and also watch their technique and individual works develop from trial to trial and then make it to the final work that they turned in. I am having an especially difficult time picking pieces to go into the student gallery and that makes me so excited!! Now if only I could have the wall space to be able to show them all.

Don't forget to enter the contest 
of this blog's first ever giveaway of my "favorite things!!!"

REMEMBER: You have to leave your comments on the blog post that announced the contest found HERE VIA THIS LINK in order to be officially entered and considered in the final count to be randomly chosen for the prize package. Don't forget that there are TWO ways to be entered in the giveaway and the cut off time/date is Tuesday, Sept. 25th at midnight EST!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(First EVER Giveaway) WIN a few of my favorite things!!!!

Hello blog friends!!!!!

Now, I know I have said time and again that this blog/website has been an incredible blessing to me because of the way it has connected me with incredible working artists and art teachers. I have also shared with you all the fact that I have the great blessing of being able to do what I love (be an artist and an art teacher at an AMAZING school with just about every resource I could dream to have) despite the fact that the economy is the way it is (with teachers losing their jobs left and right) and this is my 3rd (but final) career.

I am so blessed and I want to share some of that with YOU!!!! Last week I happened to hit posting #200 for this blog and since I started it? My blog stats tell me that the hits on the site and certain pages/sections have gone from a couple hundreds hits to almost TEN TIMES that on any given day, week, and for the whole year. It's amazing to me that I can share with you all the way I do - dyslexic and ADHD writing style and all, and you keep coming back and encouraging me to not stop.

To celebrate all of this and thank you all, I picked out some of my most favorite things I have used - both in teaching and for my own personal art creation endeavors. I thought and prayed for weeks about what to pick to giveaway and then I ordered it all (this is not a sponsored giveaway unless you want to think of the Almighty God as that which I think is fair in all honesty). My goal is with what I am doing here is to take from what Matthew 25:14-30 says with the Parable of the bags of gold and live that out loud here and now.

So, without further adieu, here is a video of me presenting to you a "few of my favorite things" that make up the total prize package of what you can win...

But if you don't have the time (nor interest) in watching the video, here is a list of what is included in the "prize package" I am giving away the following:
  1. The tried and true book that I simply will not stop talking about called DRAWING LAB FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS
  2. A set of Crayola brand Portfolio Series Water Soluble Oil Pastels - 24ct color set
  3. A 9x12" pad of vellum Bristol board by Strathmore that is awesome for mixed-media as well as the amazing aforementioned oil pastel set!
  4. A roll of Paint Splatter Duck Brand Decorative Tape that is sold at your local craft/art stores but it is so awesome that more of it is always useful so that's why I included it
Not too shabby, eh? But what you really want to know is "How in the world can I enter to win all of this awesome stuff?!!!

OK. There are TWO ways you can enter this giveaway.  Here's how to enter to win my "favorite things" prize package:
  1. LEAVE A COMMENT on this entry telling me what YOUR favorite art product is to use and explain why. This could be something that you like using in your art education endeavors as much as your own personal works. 
  2. Connect yourself with me and "follow" this blog via the section over on the right sidebar - the button is blue and it says "join this site." Leave a SEPARATE comment telling me you have done so to confirm this second entry. I am actually not doing this to get myself more followers but more because if you do so, I can easily add you to the active feed of "Favorite Art Bloggers" (also on the right sidebar) a whole lot more easily.  If you already are a follower of this blog, that's fine but I still need you to leave me a comment telling me that you are already a friend of the blog.
The rules of the giveaway are below so don't forget to read those before you try and enter. The contest will close on Tuesday, Sept. 25th so please leave a comment no later than midnight EST of Sept. 25, 2012.

Thanks so much and I will announce the winner on WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26th 2012 here on the blog!!!

  •  This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only. (Sorry! Had to do it like this because I purchased the whole prize package and I am shipping it on my own dime. I may be blessed but I still have to be a good steward of my blessings too.)
  • You may only enter TWICE - (one for a comment of your favorite type of art supply and one for the comment confirming that you are a follower of this blog) and if you attempt to submit multiple entries, I will only count your initial entry for the selection of the winner. 
  • You must provide me with an email address so I can get in touch with you if you win!!! I will not share your email address with anyone but I need to be able to contact you if you win so I can send you all of this cool stuff!
  • Anybody can enter this (meaning art teachers or just working artists) and if you win, you must provide me with a  standard mailing address via email so that I can send you your prize!!
  • There is no guarantee that you will win and the winner will be selected at random.
  • Your prize package is not exchangeable or returnable for money, goods, or services from me.
  • Your entry will be automatically disqualified if you use any profanity, discriminating/prejudice expressions, or personally attacking or offensive (of my discretion) comments toward me and what I do here on my blog.
  • I will pay for shipping & handling fees in order to mail the package to you but once it leaves my hands (meaning, it's being mailed to you) I am not responsible to anything that might happen to it OR providing you with a replacement if it gets lost or stolen during the mailing process.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Staying fresh and inspired

Where do you get your inspiration in order to create your works of art OR instruct your student artists? Do you get it only from blog hopping or google searching specifics about a project idea you want to try out? (As many of you have done to end up here on per my blog stats at least.) If that's mostly what you are doing, I would challenge you to try something different in order to seek out and find inspiration. In the past month or so I have done just that - pushed myself out of my usual habits of blog hopping and google searching - and I have found that it has totally reinvigorated my teaching and reinspired me. Below is a little background as well as some examples of the types of things that I have found particularly inspirational and "game changing" (if you will).

Despite the fact that Jonah Lehrer's Imagine has come under great fire because he fabricated some of the Bob Dylan quotes in his writings that ultimately meant the book was pulled from everywhere and anywhere it was sold and Jonah subsequently resigned from his position at The New Yorker - I still say that Imagine wasn't/isn't totally worthless because of all of the aforementioned. The Bob Dylan section certainly adds to the book's failure but the rest of the book? It has some very intriguing information. I am talking specifically about the section where Jonah notes how a person is more likely to be inspired and creative if they travel and travel often.

Mr. Lehrer suggests traveling as a way of staying fresh and inspired because he insists that by taking yourself out of your everyday environment, you are forced to be more aware of things around you in order to help yourself fit in with your new surroundings. Doing something like this is necessary when you travel 1) so you don't stick out so obviously as the tourist you are, 2) so you are respecting the new place/people/traditions that you might find yourself within, and 3) so you can experience what is there for you to experience as authentically and organically as you possibly can.  (Do I sound a little like a social scientist or anthropologist? Probably. It's because a huge part of my academic studies have focused on both of those things and art education is my third career.)

Traveling is so important though because it offers you completely new ways to think of some stuff that you never would have thought of because you are so used to the same thing over and over again, everyday.  For example, did you know how many types of barbecue there are in the US alone? There are SO MANY types and your experience of the different types largely depends upon where you might be in the US. I mean, this is kind of an obvious example (I think) but it helps support my point so that's why I mention it. (BTW - I am a fan of the Carolina Vinegar-based barbecue more than any other kind. No offense to you and whatever is your favorite.)

All of this being said, a person should be well-traveled in order to open themselves up to the vastly different experiences offered by traveling. Trouble with this (for me) is that I have neither the funds nor the time to indulge in such a way. BUT, I have found a way around it. Here are some ways that I have been able to "travel" without going any place physically but gaining what I feel has totally served as wonderfully new and fresh inspiration in order for me to carry into my art classroom and share with my student artists.

1. Listen to podcasts
Ever tried out podcasts? I spent my entire childhood listening to books on tape and podcasts (to me) are the next best thing from that. (I use an app called Downcast to manage my subscriptions.) In the morning I will listen to devotionals (I like Family Life Today and Focus on the Family) while I am trying to jumpstart my day with my usual coffee and then I will usually pepper the rest of my day with Freakonomics. Here is a recent Freakonomics podcast that really made threw me out of my usual thinking and gave me pause to see performance arts from an entirely different perspective.

Freakonomics Radio Podcast: "Fear Thy Nature"

Now, while I don't always agree with everything I hear on Freakonomics (or any other podcast station I might listen to), that's not the point. The point is that by listening to things I otherwise might not like or agree with, I expand my ability to consider the opinions of others and exercise the power of disinterested pleasure. The better I am at disinterested pleasure, the less "judge-y" and self-centered I am and I think this alone makes me a better visual artist, visual communicator, and art educator.

2. Talk to people (I am talking ANYONE)(And I mean really talk, like, in person) who are NOT artists
Did you ever notice how artists and art teachers have a tendency to stick to their own kind or just be islands unto themselves sometimes? I am pretty sure this exists within the profession of teaching of just about any kind even despite the push by school administrations the country over to goad teachers into as much collaborative planning as possible. Whatever the case, social networking and virtual connections have made this even more true I think. (I realize this might seem contradictory especially considering the fact that this site is electronic media and you are experiencing it by way of the internet right now.) I have been thinking lately that despite the fact that the overarching goal of the internet was to connect the world, it hasn't exactly don't that as much as it might seem.

As a matter of fact, I feel like in the way it has connected people, it has disconnected them as well. People don't talk to one another anymore when they are standing in line waiting for their order at a restaurant because they are mostly occupied with whatever text or smart phone activity they might have available to them. People are disconnected! But you know what? Without realizing it, I have been railing against this notion and going out of my way to talk to people in person. I have even been doing this if it means that I only get to exchange a sentence or two with them and not have a whole conversation! Usually the abbreviated exchange occurs as a result of me complimenting someone of the color palette or "theme" of the outfit they are wearing. Recently (at the gas station) a conversation that could have been abbreviated was extended and I learned a lot about drag racing because I complimented a guy at the pump next to me on his very unique volkswagen bug drag racer. His car is the one below (I googled this) that is the black car...

Did you know that in order to achieve a really fast drag racer, the designers/creators of their vehicles will go to great lengths to make the lightest vehicle possible even to the point of removing the on-board lighting (like the head or tail light) systems? The chassis of the car will also likely be steel so that the car can endure/survive any accidents but the floor boards and as much of the rest of the rest of the car will be aluminum because of how light in weight it is? Did you know that they average volkswagen bug is almost twice the weight of a well-made (and winning) drag racing bug? Yeah! All of this is what I learned from a less than seven minute conversation with the designer/maker/ driver of the Billy-the-Kid drag racer in the video who just happened to be standing at the pump next to me last Friday and who happily indulged me with answers to my curious questions. His answers really made me think about the importance of an artists materials though especially in terms of real function and how that plays out with actual necessity.

3. Watch Viral Video
Do you do this? I LOVE doing this!!! It is pure entertainment and amusement and silliness. That's not all it is though. Sometimes it's seeing other people's really amazing (and sometimes completely genius) ideas in action. Seeing things that are outside of the box the way they so often are is always inspirational to me. Some of what inspires me is just the editing of the videos themselves. Video editing has come SO FAR and the way something is edited has a huge impact on how you watch/experience it. Sometimes the editing itself is more genius even than the content. My recent favorite that I have seen is something from a Youtube channel called Bad Lip Reading that one of my colleagues (who is an English and Composition teacher) shared on Facebook the other night. If you are a Twilight fan, try not to be offended by this because it kind of makes fun of Twilight. Also, if you don't "get" this, I understand because in order to get it, you have to kind of know the movies and general goings-on of pop culture to really get them.

Obviously the above is not related to art education. That's kind of the point though. It's about getting out of the hole or corner we too often end up in and not even thinking about what is going on in the rest of the world. It's also about being aware of trends and having some with-it-ness so that you are showing students that by stepping into their world, they will end up more encouraged to step into yours - meaning, you can get them to want to learn anything you present no matter how boring it might seem or how difficult it might present to be.

And that basically sums up where/how I find inspiration for what ends up going on in my class. All of the above are actively used in order to inform my teaching and even my curriculum decisions and I have found that by opening myself up beyond the scope of just looking at art education-related things, it has made me a more open minded artist as well as enabled me to offer my student artists an experience of art education that is far from stodgy and inspires them to always be fully engaged. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Best Practices: A student-centered studio classroom | Visual Art

I cannot tell you how worn down I am already with teaching/working and it is not even close to the end of school year let alone the first semester OR marking period. Last week I got an FYI email from the academic dean that said, "Guess what! We are halfway through the first marking period!!!" WOW. Just... WOW.

Now, I already have a hard enough time knowing what day it is as it is (and usually I don't know what day it is) but I am really REALLY bad about knowing what day it is in the grand scheme of things and deadlines pop up on me all the time forcing me into "do or die" mode at any given time. This isn't because I procrastinate though. Really, it's because I'm so caught up in the moment and investing myself completely that I am not thinking about what is beyond that as much.

Take my current endeavor for classroom management as evidence for that...

One thing I am determined to do is make the studio classroom as student-centered as possible. While such a thing requires an incredible amount of planning, prepping, and then taking out and then putting back in of things - I am SO pleased to report that all of my efforts are WORKING!!!!! There have been less and less incidents of such things like students asking me questions like, "May I use [insert any color, shape, design idea, etc. in this place]?"

Now, I totally get that school is meant to help teach conformity and the importance of conformity. Just the same, I have found it's been sort of damaging to the creation/production of successful artwork. I have found it has made student artists to be more timid, far from confident, kind of afraid to try things out in order to answer a question or satisfy a curiosity they might have, and just generally unwillingly to be autonomous if they can help it. Perhaps this is just a high school thing and I have really REALLY obedient students (the latter is VERY true and I am abundantly blessed to have this) and this is why they want specific directions in order to follow them but I don't know. The one thing I do know is that it has squeezed the beautifully organic creativity that I know would otherwise be there from the hearts and imaginations of my wonderful student artists.

In the past I have really compartmentalized each of the student project endeavors with a general attitude of segregation between the mediums we use. I have thought of it like, "Now we are doing scratch-art and when we are doing it that is ALL we will do." This has left very little room for organic creativity and even original thought to occur. I never realized how damaging this was to the act or creation OR the way it was a damper or even elimination of original thought or ideas.

I mean, definitely there are certain types of work where it isn't possible to do more than just one type of medium but if I don't have a requirement to limit mediums, why not allow the students to decide how and when to layer them OR if and when to use them at all? If I provide them with a place where their exploration and experimentation is not only suggested but also aggressively encouraged and fostered, it is certain that they WILL be more creative because they almost can't not be as the situation dictates and the objective of the projects require. For all of these reasons I have decided to try and make every possible medium that could be used available to the students for every single project we do. How they use them, and IF they use them ends up being completely and totally up to them. 

One last way that I really manage and facilitate this very student-centered approach to art education and instruction? I do my best not to tell them what I think and I push them to tell me what they think about how and what they are doing. I probe them to look intently upon their own work so that they can not only find things to articulate and explain about their work but even more so pushes them to find the words to say about what they are doing especially if they don't have them immediately. It is common practice for the students to ask me what I think and for me to just look at them quizzically and then turn the question back to them  and say, "Well... what do YOU think?" Despite what this might imply that I don't answer their questions or give them specific directions that would help instruct them in the most constructive way, it's not that. Rather, I allow them to start the conversation, I (immediately and mentally) assess what they say in order to understand where they are coming from/what they understand, and then I steer the conversation based on that.

So far I am dog tired by doing things the way I am doing but you know what? It has been SO worth it. It has been SOOO incredibly worth every last ounce of effort and energy. My classes as quickly becoming the "well-oiled machines" I was so praying and hoping they would be and the student artists are truly going beyond making things and truly being imitators of the almighty Lord by CREATING.

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's working!!!!!!

I am so pleased to give you an update on the new art gallery within the art gallery at my school.

The students have really taken to it and I visit it every day's end that I have to help manage and monitor its use. So far there has been everything from sharing of works-in-progress from the classes I teach as well as some surprises like things that look like they were done in class or quickly done just to be a part and within the "mix."

Currently I am waiting for a pretty big shipment from Amazon and one of the items in that shipment is sculpey clay and 50 circular magnets of a brand that I found is most high quality to do something like make more magnets for this gallery within the gallery. This endeavor is going to be the first fellowship event for the school's art club. And down the pike for the art club? We also have lots of set painting that will happen, face painting at the October school-wide community Harvest festival, and then monthly afterschool make-and-take gatherings for students to be able to make arts and crafts in a more relaxed type of atmosphere.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Giving form to the formless

This is how we started what we are working on!!
The one thing I continually take away from my concurrent graduate studies is the need for me to always be willing to re-evaluate what I am doing in my classroom and with my students to ensure that it is something that is the "best practice" (so to speak). 

So here's a confession: Before this year I started to get a little bit complacent with what was going on with my teaching and art happenings in my classroom. Well... I mean, maybe it wasn't super evident that something like this occurred but in retrospect I just really feel like that is what occurred. And for this reason? I decided that starting this year I am going to start thinking of myself as a first year teacher EVERY year that I teach. That means that this year I am a sixth year, first year teacher and the road is wide open for me to do brand new things in my classroom because technically I shouldn't have last year and the year before and the year before that to push me back so I can rest comfortably on my laurels.

Approaching teaching this year has been a really positive thing. Yes - it's created a lot more work for me. It's been worth it though because what it has always created is much more successful student artwork. At the beginning of all of my classes I made a very big point a emphasizing that the overarching goal this year was to not just make artwork but to CREATE it. Per the dictionary, this is one in the same thing but as I adhere to Biblical teachings and I teach in a setting that grounds itself and fully embraces the intent to approach things with a Christian worldview creation and creating is a BIG deal. I mean, the book of Genesis starts off the entire Bible with "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..." For this reason, I take my job of teaching creativity and creation VERY seriously. To me? It's pretty much the ultimate in answering the call to be an imitator of God.

The 3D Design class has been working VERY hard on their first major project which is to do subtractive sculpturing with foam blocks. The subject of each of their sculptures is determined by the individual student artists but all of them must sculpt something that is an abstract idea or question rather than just picking something that "looks cool." I know this is confusing how I have presented it but basically, each student artist is being tasked with giving form to something that might otherwise be formless. An example might be something like "What it feels like to be at the beach" or "What does someone's life look like when they are living a life without a moral compass of any kind." Sound a little crazy and amazing that my students are doing this? Well... yeah. It IS a very ambitious endeavor. But you know what? They can do it and they ARE doing it. They are absolutely coming up with original ideas, they are cultivating what is emerging from their own curiosities, and they problem-solving beautifully.

Now, I'm sure one question you might have is this: How in the world are you doing this? Well, I started out with something VERY basic and with lots of conditions (read: exact directions that couldn't not be followed and standards that weren't open ended and hard to achieve). They sculpted the "puffy" heart for the Explore & Experiment stage of the project and then I instructed them to take their hearts and use them to intentionally make a statement where the heart was the vessel of the message. I have them the cliched suggestion (just for example purposes) of how a heart could be split into two with jagged edges and it could be called "broken hearted."

Some of what the students came up with were the following...

The student artist said this about this piece: "When you give someone a piece of your heart, your heart remains your heart but it might be a different shape depending upon how much of it you gave away. This doesn't matter though because so long as the person is willing to know it's a piece of your heart and they really shouldn't just run away with it, then your heart can still be as big as it always was and the bonus is you have shared it (literally) with another person."
The student artist of this one declared that "My heart has a door that can be opened by something/someone so that something could be put inside (and behind) the door because if not? That space would remain empty and otherwise vacant."

It is hard to tell but this heart has a cross shape carved into it and it also sort of resembles a key hole. The student stated that "The key to [my] heart is a cross which is symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ."

The students were each required to sculpt the heart and then do something like what you see above with it and then they were required to sketch a front, side, and back OR aerial view of their idea as well as be prepared to explain and defend the design decisions they made. They have been sculpting for two solid days of class and they are expected to have all of their sculpting done so that their pieces are ready to be sealed, painted, and mounted on pedestals at the start of next week.

So far they are doing very well and learning a lot but I will say that my sinuses are not loving all of the styrofoam dust being scraped and whittled and then kicked up in the process. Oh well. It's totally worth it if you ask me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The need for SPEED (art)

Do you do "speed art" or quick drawing exercises in your classroom? I have never done them before this year but I have been doing them in the 2D Design class and I am thinking that they are here to stay. I like them so much that I actually might adapt them to the 3D Design class. I find that they really loosen the students up (especially when I find them holding fast to their very in-the-box ideas) in addition to it teaching them to think a little more spontaneously and on their feet. Something else it does? It debunks the myth that a successful piece of artwork does not always require immense amount of time, intense effort, or ridiculous planning. This isn't to say that really successful works of art should only be done on the fly and in the moment per se but it's much more to help the students to see different ways to carry out a creative process for the purpose of creating visual art.

It absolutely warms my heart to look at all of the students so deeply invested AND interested in the task at hand.
During my most recently finished 2D Design project venture and also their current project (that I cannot decide on a better name for), I have done quick drawing exercises in the midst of their creative processing and each time I have been more excited and encouraged to keep doing them. I mean, have you ever seen students to fully engaged and invested as this?

One thing that I have found is very helpful to help facilitate the excitement and establish proper pacing for speed art/quick drawing type exercises is to use music to keep time. I prefer to use pieces that do not have lyrics and the one I used while the students were working in the picture taken above was Bach's English Suite 2 in A minor BMV 807 - Prelude. Here is the exact version I played. It is a solid four and a half minutes long and it even seems like it slows down to stop all together part way through which really makes it tricky for the students since they will almost stop and then realize that they have at least another minute left to keep working...

I feel like the Bach piece really has a good rhythm to keep things moving, it's interesting and appealing to the ear, and it also exposes them to another great type of art! Some of my other music selections I think are appropriate are jazz pieces. I am a huge fan of jazz standards specifically.

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