Monday, July 25, 2011

The Elemental Art...Cart??

I can't believe summer is almost over...already!! Wow.  As my contract last year with the public school system was for one year only, I, like every other teacher hired at the Oct. 2010 job fair AND a lot of regular contract teachers without tenure, found myself job hunting again at the end of May. It was a little scary, and, if I'm honest, I allowed myself about a week to worry and stress and feel sorry for myself. After a short bout of wallowing, I started sending out resumes and applying for every possible art position in Florida. I was so very fortunate to find a position right here in Broward County!

So...a week from today I'll begin two weeks of new teacher induction for my new adventure as art teacher for a new K-6 charter school about 15 minutes west of where I live. It will eventually be a K-8 school, so that might mean changes in the organization of the art program, as well. But for now, I'm looking forward to being there at the start of the new staff, fresh faces, eager students and families...all of us excited about the possibilities!

The biggest change for me (besides being in an entirely new school) will be that, for the first year, I'll be on a CART! Hmmm...I'm equally intrigued and terrified by this. I know it will be a challenge, but I'm going to face it with a smile and simply be grateful that I am able to continue teaching art and doing what I love. The plan, as I understand it, is that the school will receive an additional building this year. So by next school year (2012-2013) I, and any other teachers moving from room to room, should have a dedicated classroom. This year will certainly have its challenging moments, but there will be exciting ones, as well. And just think of how my skills in organization and efficiency will grow! :)

I've found a few fantastic sites with helpful information from teachers who have been teaching from an art cart for years and have it down to a science. I will certainly be taking their advice!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lines! (What's in a name?)

I love lines, and once my students realize how important a role lines play in their drawings, they love them, too!

When I first started teaching art, I looked and looked for a source that would tell me the "correct" names of lines. Beyond curved, straight, bent, broken, etc. I never did find one. So I pretty much made up my own.

Now, when introducing students to line types, I talk about dotted, dashed, straight, bent and curved, but I also tell them about the descriptive names I use for more specific lines.  The other art teacher at my school uses some of the same line vocabulary, but we differ on a couple of line types (my curvy/curly vs. his squiggly, for instance), so I share that with the kids, too. I worried at first that this might be confusing for them, but so far it hasn't been an issue at all. I also tell them that if they want to make up their own descriptive name to help them remember some of the lines, it's absolutely okay.  A rose by any other name may not smell as sweet, but lines come together to make beautiful art no matter their name!

This project helps students think about the ways they use lines in their drawings, both together and alone, and how different lines can represent a number of things.

Time: 1 45-minute class period

  • 12"x18" paper (of any kind)
  • crayons
The Project:

I first have a class discussion about various lines and draw and label examples on the board. Then we do the activity:

1. Have students fold a piece of 12"x18" paper in half. Do this two more times. Open up the paper to reveal 8 rectangles.

2. Students then trace the lines of the folds so that the rectangles are clearly visible and separate spaces. I have them do this using only one color.

3. I walk students through writing and drawing an example of 8 lines. They write the name of the line at the bottom of the rectangle (and draw an example, if you wish, just above the name). I also have them choose only one color for the words and line examples so these don't get lost in the drawing.

4. After going through this with all 8 boxes, students draw a picture above the name and example using that particular line type as much as possible. They can use other lines, as well, but the line of focus for that rectangle should be clearly represented in their drawing.

These are the descriptive names I use: wavy, zig-zag, dotted, dashed, curvy (curly, squiggly, etc.), looped, thick & thin (together, due to space), and scalloped. 

NOTE: It probably seems strange to be posting this at the end of the school year, but my classes change out every six to seven weeks, so I just got new groups of K, 1 and 2 classes. And since I didn't start the blog until later in the year...well, here we are. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recycled Collages!

In celebration of this amazing planet we call home (and because there was a poster competition...), 3rd-5th graders made collages out of scrap paper, old newspapers, and other random odds and ends. I sent five posters off to the competition, but the rest were so fabulous that I just had to put them up outside my room (all the ones that were finished - or mostly finished - anyway).

As with any competition that comes our way, I worked in a little curriculum, as well. We discussed a bit of collage technique, such as gluing down objects in the background first and using overlapping to show perspective. Students also had the challenge of combining collage with drawing. I think they did a really nice job, and the project coincided nicely with everything else "Earth Day" that was happening on campus.

5th Grade Showcase

Awesome cake donated by a local restaurant
Because we are a magnet school of the arts, our third through fifth graders choose a focus class that they enjoy and want to explore more thoroughly. At the end of the year, all of the 5th grade Art majors have one work exhibited in a showcase at a local library. The reception for this year's exhibit was last week, so I thought I'd put up a couple of photos. A lot of the pictures have the kids in them, so here are a few shots of the show...just one wall of the library, but what a wall! :)

Congratulations to our graduating young artists! Thank you for your hard work this year. I hope you will all keep creating!

Relief Prints (K-2)

One of the biggest challenges I have with my kindergarten students is giving them opportunities to explore and be creative while keeping a cap on the chaos. This project for K-2 is one that I feel truly lets them be expressive and independent and doesn't require me to spend an hour prepping and another hour cleaning, resulting in delighted, well-informed young artists and a stress-free teacher!

Pretty much every art teacher makes Styrofoam relief prints, so I don't expect that I'm teaching anyone anything here. And I'm sure I'm not the first to discover the value of markers in inking Styrofoam printing plates, but I must say I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to let kids "ink" their stamps themselves without hauling out the paint and smocks. It really is the little joys that thrill me.

For this particular foray into relief printing, I simply had K, 1st and 2nd grade students draw a circle around the flat surface of a Styrofoam plate (the inside) and then cut out the circle. The result should be a flat surface on which to create the drawing. In the past, I've used index cards as a template and cut rectangles out of plates for the students prior to class. Not only does this take time (not a ton since I use a right triangle and an X-acto knife, but still, time is time), it also takes a step away from the kids, and I think it's important for them to be involved in as much of the process as possible. Also, since we're working with a standard size plate, if a child has difficulty cutting and the circle ends up smaller than the plate surface, it really doesn't matter. There's still plenty of room to draw.

The Project:

Time: 45-minutes

  • 9" Styrofoam plate for each student (or more...1st and 2nd work quickly)
  • Pencil for each student (dull tips work best)
  • Variety of water-based markers
  • Newsprint (I used 9"x12")

1.  Draw a circle on the bottom/flat surface of a Styrofoam plate.

2. Cut out the circle, removing the raised edge of the plate. The circle becomes the printing plate.

3. Using a dull pencil, draw a picture on the printing plate.

  • Draw large, leaving plenty of space in between lines. When inking, the lines will remain white, so if lines are too close together the student will get large areas of white when printing, and the image/drawing will not be clear. 
  • Press firmly, with pencil tilted at an angle to avoid "tearing" the styrofoam. Have students go back over lines to make sure they are pressed down enough to create a relief effect. I walk around the room with a demo that students can touch so they can feel how deep the lines should be. (A whole here or there is okay along the lines...the lines become negative space and don't print anyway!)
  • I discourage words, because the image is reversed when printed, and this just causes too much confusion for younger artists (and too many requests for me to write things on the board backward). Also, without words, students focus more on the visual elements of their design.
4. After the drawing is complete and all lines are deep enough to create a relief effect, "ink" the plate with water-based markers. (Dryer markers will not work well...there has to enough ink in the marker for an effective transfer.)

5. Carefully lay a piece of newsprint ON TOP of the paper. Press down with both hands, keeping one hand still to keep the paper from sliding and using the other hand to smooth the paper. Smooth from the center out to ensure a clear print. 
  • Students usually want to "stamp" their printing plate like you would a rubber stamp, putting the paper on the table and pressing the plate onto the paper. This doesn't allow for enough pressure to adequately transfer the image.
  • Also, thicker papers, like construction paper, don't work as well as newsprint for transferring marker ink. 
6. Peel the paper off of the plate to reveal the print! (I love the delighted chorus of "oooo's" and "ahhhh's" that I get when demonstrating this for the kids.)

A few student examples:

Kindergarten students drew suns and used different line types to express emotion and energy in the sun's face and rays.

I encouraged 1st and 2nd graders to think about the circular shape of the printing plate and to consider this shape when deciding what to draw.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pen & Ink Hands!

This was a fantastic introduction to pen & ink for my third-fifth graders!  I borrowed the project from Art Projects for Kids and adapted just a bit (but not much).

This project makes it possible for all students to feel successful, which is really important at this age when so many of them get frustrated with their drawing skills and are at risk of giving up altogether.

Lovely cross-hatching by a 5th grader.
I used the project to introduce three pen & ink techniques: basket weave, stippling, and cross-hatching. I did a thorough demonstration of proper technique and pen use for each, then had students practice until they were comfortable with at least one. 

Pen & Ink has always been very meditative for me, and I was surprised to see how deeply my students got lost in the process, as well. They absolutely LOVED this project and, while working on their drawings, were the quietest they've been all year long. And that speaks volumes, friends.

Time: 2 or 3 45-minute classes (depending on how quickly students work)

  • 6"x9" white drawing paper
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Medium or fine point Sharpie markers (one per student)
The project: 

1. Use a pencil to gently trace part of one hand onto a 9"x6" piece of white drawing paper. I then show students how to look closely at their hand to add wrinkles and fingernails. Questions to ask: "How many knuckles do you have on each finger?" - "Do your fingernails extend beyond your finger?" - "How do the lines on your fingers curve?" - "Do the lines touch wrap around your finger or are they just on 'top'?"

2. Trace the hand drawing with a Sharpie (or other fine-tipped marker).

I think some of the "unfinished" drawings are quite nice...
3. Choose one of three pen & ink techniques demonstrated to fill in the negative space/background of the drawing.

I found the inspiration for this project on Art Projects for Kids. While I'd love to be able to say that all of my best projects are the product of my own amazing imagination and experience, that simply isn't the case. Most of my experience teaching art prior to this year has been in private schools and through small community non-profit centers, both of which generally allowed for much smaller class sizes than those I have in public school. As a result, I've spent most of this year trying to rethink my approach to certain techniques and concepts in order to make them work for larger groups of kids. Beg, borrow and steal (with credit) has been my mantra, whether from wonderblogs like the one above or from my fellow art teacher at NAGE (who's been at this longer than have I and has been very gracious with ideas and feedback). 

This student wanted to intentionally leave an organic edge at the top of his drawing. He also worked hard on the gradation from dark to light values.

For basket weave, I encouraged students to work in a spiral, starting with a central "block" of 4 or 5 lines and alternating horizontal and vertical blocks, working out from the first one. This is to avoid visible lines of blocks and white space. However, I think the negative space created by the basket weave lines in this drawing create intriguing movement within the drawing. Sometimes I'm glad the kids don't listen to me. :)

How do you not love a 10 year-old who can reference Star Trek??

A small fraction of students' drawings...there are hands everywhere!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Updates coming soon...I promise!

Ugh! I've been so bogged down with exhibits and other commitments that I've really been neglecting this poor blog. I have a number of photos on my camera and a few things to scan, as well. We've been very busy in the Elemental Art Room...I'll provide proof soon!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Even MORE Underwater Watercolors!

Kindergarten drew warm-colored fish (at least that was the plan) in crayon and then painted a cool-colored watercolor wash over their entire paper. Paper size is 6"x9". Great experience in watercolor techniques for these young artists!

Alex - Kindergarten

Samantha - Kindergarten

Tylah - Kindergarten

Yoandri - Kindergarten