Thursday, November 14, 2013

Save the Dry Erase Markers!

At my school, we don't have blackboards and instead we have white/dry-erase boards. When I first came to this school over five years ago I was really excited about this fact because in public school I had blackboards that I had a real love-hate feeling toward for all of the reasons you might imagine if you have any experience dealing with blackboards. Still, having white/dry-erase boards wasn't nearly as awesome as I thought it would be. They soon became just as annoying to me as the blackboards were but just in different ways.

(Now, I understand this is totally a "first world problem" that I am referencing but just please bear with me.)

One of my biggest issues with having a whiteboard in class is the marker issue. Markers go missing all the time but if they aren't missing, we have issues with them because the ink seems to run out very quickly. For this reason, I barely use my whiteboard and I'm almost always fussing about not being able to actually use it.

All of this in mind, a week or so ago, I started noticing that even though I wasn't using my board, the markers would always be arranged and positioned the way they are pictured above. While it seemed a little strange that they were like that (and seemed to always be put back to be like that), I didn't think much of it and I wouldn't disturb them either. Then the other day, I found the individual who was putting them like that! It was a STUDENT ARTIST!!! And almost every day, if the markers weren't like that, he would arrange and position them like that. While in the midst of him doing it, I commented and laughed and said, "Oh YOU'RE the one who is doing that! I was wondering what was going on!" The student artist, who is actually also one of our star football players and who is a really big and burly guy and sits very close to my teaching station in the front of the room, smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah... it's me." And then I asked him why he was doing it and he said, "Well... Mr. *so-and-so* does it all the time and it makes a big difference and makes it so the markers always have ink. It really does make a difference so I was trying to help you to have markers that wouldn't be so hard to use."

I gotta tell you - when he said this and said why he was doing it? It just about made my whole month and I feel like it's one of the nicest things any student has ever done for me - however small it might seem because it makes such a big difference. And OF COURSE it works, y'know? Because it helps to keep the ink flowing toward the writing tip vs. having it settle in the middle of the marker. Why didn't I think of that?

Anyway, surely you all have been doing this and I am the only one not doing this but I just wanted to share this little "feel good" anecdote because this kind of stuff is always nice to hear about in my book.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A mini walking tour of the Digital Art Studio Lab Classroom

I always showcase things of the studio art classroom but rarely do you see anything of the digital art studio classroom/lab other than finished artwork on occasion. So, here is a mini walking tour of that classroom.

The two courses that I teach in the digital art studio computer lab classroom are Graphic Design (which utilizes Photoshop) and Digital Studio (which uses Illustrator). Despite what the names of the courses imply or suggest, the Graphic Design is basically Digital Art I and Digital Studio is Digital Art II. One of my goals for this year is to change that within the course catalog so it makes a little bit more sense and there is better clarity with regard to how the two classes are connected.

Something else that you might have noted from the video is that I use a classroom management tool that is something I found from Pinterest. It's an "am I done" sort of check-list and I have it printed in color and laminated and then tacked in strategically decided upon places all around the classroom. The art teacher who originally designed it deserves so much credit for it and MORE because it is beautifully designed and created and BRILLIANT for the purposes of answering the question that the students always have of, "Am I done (yet)?" If you are interested in it, I wish I had the direct link to it but I cannot find it but the blog is HERE and it's called "The Lost Sock."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The things we all carry :: Arts Integration

What kind of arts integration are you doing these days? I mean, I know that you might be an art educator so art education is not only what you do but also what you do best but that wasn't my question. 

One thing that I am very aware of as an artist is the importance of connections and relationships. In order to design and create a successful work of art, one element or principle is not nearly so effective or meaningful if it's standing completely on it's own. Pulling the different elements of art and principles of design together - even if it's done in simple ways - is so powerful, communicative, and amazing to behold. Artist and art educators know this as fact but if we don't share that with others by INTEGRATING what we know with what everyone else knows (apart from the arts), we are keeping the richness and beauty of the arts to ourselves. And what fun is that? Seriously. Misery might enjoy company but happiness and delightedness enjoys a big ol' party that everyone is invited to, RSVP's to, and actually shows up to.

I mentioned last week that I am embarking on a new project with the 2D Design students that draws upon the power of using our lives to tell stories in order to explain how the sum of the parts is way more than the parts themselves. Every day I have been offering the students parts of myself and my story (as a way to practice what I both preach and TEACH) and I have shown them a different way to "read" things other than words on a page. Trying to do this on the daily has challenged me in all sorts of ways that I never thought it would because I'm literally trying to come up with more than a half dozen ways to say and show the exact same idea.

One of my favorite books that I have ever read is called "The Things They Carried." I read the book in my college freshman English class and it was one of the most illuminating and illustrative writings that I have ever read took a very VERY abstract concept and put it in words very simply and in a way that was easy to understand. And this concept made me think about what I carry and what my students carry on the daily that offer very interesting perspectives of who, what, and how we are in our lives. Want to see what I have been carrying out so far this school year (at least)? Here are the contents of my crossbody/shoulder bag (basically a purse) that I don't leave home without. These are the contents of what is in that bag without editing (well, photo editing not withstanding)

The contents of your bag can tell all sorts of things about you. Here's mine! What? You don't carry a tiny hammer in your purse too?

I have been hitting my student artists hard with the importance of reading beyond words on a page for the past week or so and while it's been incredibly taxing for me on any given day, it's been enormously rewarding for me to see their understandings and abilities "click" into place on the subject of non-verbal and written literacy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Keep calm... and... what was the next thing?

It's Friday. And I needed some serious comic relief because sometime life is so complicated for me that I have to make myself laugh so I don't explode instead.


Nothing like a little graphic design geekery to give me the hearty chuckle I needed. The only thing that would have made me laugh more would have been if there had been a mention or an appearance of Comic sans.



Actually, that might have made me feel even closer to exploding. Nevermind. ;)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are you an ARTIST teacher?

This series of images documents the ongoing progress/process of a very large in-class demo of oil painting.
Just this past summer, I had the great honor and pleasure to meet one of my blog readers (Hi, K!) in part because they were doing their graduate studies capstone research project on the matter of not just teaching art but being an artist who just as well teaches. The whole idea was so curious and intriguing to me because I never stopped to think about what kind of teacher I am and even seek to be other than just trying to be the best professional art educator myself. 

Still, it got me thinking - have I been an artist teacher? What does it take to be an artist teacher if you aren't one? And, if you aren't an artist teacher, should you seek to be? And if you are an artist teacher, when do you stop being an artist and start being a teacher of art - or are those identities/roles so beautifully braided together that they don't beg to even try to be separated?

When I met with my blog reader, the intent was to be interviewed by them about the whole notion of being an artist teacher but it ended up turning into a very interesting and thought provoking conversation about that plus many other things. At one point they asked me something along the lines of if I wasn't an artist teacher or even an artist, what would I call myself. I sat and thought for a moment and then I declared that I am "curious" and that's what I believe that I am. Even now, months after that interview/conversation, I feel like "curious" is the best way for me to both explain, define, and identify myself. 

Last year, I believe I struck upon something incredibly important that has truly changed the trajectory of what I was trying to do when I first became an art educator five years ago. I realized the importance of process within the creation of art and I also started making a great distinction between the notion of CREATING art vs. making art. I did this not only in my own life but I also stressed this within all that I was teaching my student artists. 

I believe it's because of this that I finally started seeing more original, interesting, thought provoking, intentional and REMARKABLE artwork from my student artist more than I ever had before. It was incredible and the difference between what I did last year with my student artists and years before? You can totally see how much more on a different "level" it was and then continued to be with each next step they took with their learning and project endeavors. The difference between the two was that I made my teaching objective and curriculum a lot more about them (so, student-centered and inquiry-based) and a lot less about me (lecturing, deliberately steering each of them through very narrow paths of techniques for making things rather than creating them).

This year I tried something even more adventurous than what I did last year with an even greater emphasis on the importance of developing and having a creative process in order to be a more intentional artist and designer. While I have readily used in-class demos before, it's been in a way that kind of disconnects me from the process for the most part - meaning, I don't really show them much other than just demonstrating specific techniques. In my own experience as an artist though, I have learned that process isn't just figuring out and refining technique. It's about the perseverance, the critical thinking, deep emotional investment and personal connection with whatever work of art is currently in the works. All of that is even more integral to the creative process than refined technique but if I don't show the students that I go through this? I fail to show them some of the most important parts of the creative process and any finished work of art I might show them that I created seems to just appear vs. it being something that they truly see and understand was a labor of love (if you will). 

Finally got the stem and leaf (on the right) done the other day! Now to keep myself from going back and messing it up.
I have been working on a giant oil painting of a Hoa Quynh flower for weeks and going on months at this point. To say that it's been slow going would be an understatement and this is as much because I can't spend a ton of class time on it because I am constantly circulating and interacting directly with the student artists and their artwork as much as I have been just avoiding painting as I am wont to do even in my home studio. I am committed to pushing the painting through to the end though and even though the students have now finished their oil paintings, I refuse to give up on finishing mine because there is still so much process to share with them for them to learn of that I know will help them in their own journey to find and use their unique artist voices.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A walking tour of the set design for "Little Women"

Yay for the set of "Little Women" being done!!!

Normally I share stills from the set design but thought you all might like to see it a little bit more in real-time with a walking tour of not only the set but also of the performing arts center at high school where I teach. The facility is really amazing and beautiful and I feel blessed every day that I come to work because of the facilities alone. Add my administration and faculty and staff coworkers to that mix and it makes me believe even that much more that I have the best job ever.

Anyway, enough of me bragging on my dream job. On with the tour...

 Sorry this was done in portrait orientation. I took the video with my phone and it didn't even occur to me to rotate the phone in order to have a perspective that would make a little bit more sense. Clearly I should not call myself an artist of motion picture with the job I did with this. Also, in case you were wondering, I edited the video (added transitions and all) with iMovie.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Following Directions is a Good Thing | Reading in Art Education

A little more than a year ago I proudly proclaimed the fact that I, too, am a reading teacher no matter how it much it might seem that reading in visual art and design does not naturally exist or belong. I'm happy to report that later I am still insistent on teaching reading in my content area!

One of my favorite ways to do this is to teach students to read directions and how to follow them exactly as they are written. I do this in graphic design by requiring them to do tutorials from one of my favorite photoshop reference books called The Photoshop CS3/CS4 WOW! Book. I have used this book for four years now and though that might seem like what it offers would be dated, I still feel like it's a great text to teach with. It offers all sorts of useful tricks, tips, and teaching of techniques in clear and concise ways that also include screen captures alongside the very technical but also user-friendly language.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Teach with [the stories of] your life :: The ART of a good story

Year after year, there are a few project ideas that I keep around because of how much students enjoy them. For 2D Design, the two that rarely get scrapped are the printmaking one and the fingerprint one. This year I decided to do something unique with these two and instead of doing them separately, the students are going to do a hybrid of them. They are going to do macro fingerprint designs that will be carved into printing plates that they will use to make a set of limited edition prints.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dream.Pray.Create. Giveaway :: And the winner is...

Congratulations, you have won the marker set!!! 

Thank you for leaving this comment that was 
randomly selected with the randomized number picker. 
(See the screenshot below)

Please contact me directly (DreamPrayCreate::at::gmailDOTcom) and provide me with your direct contact information and shipping address so I can get the marker set to you ASAP!

Thank you, everyone, for participating and please come back and enter another of at least two giveaways that I will be doing in the coming months!
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