Saturday, May 26, 2012

Moving digitally...

I created grade description panels that were framed and placed at the start of each grade level in our art show last week. I've been exploring various digital art and publication sites recently and decided to toss the panels (a PDF file) into issuu and send the "publication" out to families who weren't able to go to the show so they can read about what we've been doing. (I added a cover and an end page.)

Issuu is an online publication site. It's FREE, and it's really fabulous. Our school will have 6th and 7th grades next year (and 8th the year following), so I'd love to start a student magazine. This would be a great way to publish it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

End of Year Exhibit!

The Arts & Enrichment Evening was smashing success! What a terrific turnout, in spite of a seemingly endless rainstorm that hit a couple of hours before the event and put us behind setting up the art work. The guys from Artome were fantastic, and I think seeing that truck roll in with all of my young artists' framed work was more exciting than most things I've experienced in quite some time! If you want a gallery experience for your art show, call these folks!

Here are a few pics from our show. Thanks to a co-worker who snapped photos for me!

5th/6th grade aisle

4th grade self-portraits (With 6th grade in background. The only snafu was that
the guys who packed the Artome truck didn't load enough displays. About 1/3 of
6th grade work had to be propped in chairs. I tried not to complain. It could have been much worse.)

5th grade self-portraits and Kandinsky color studies

Another 6th grade display.

Kinder artist with her watercolor painting (3rd grade pastels behind)

2nd grader with his warm/cool landscape (3rd grade behind)

1st grader with her watercolor painting (1st grade prints behind)

1st grader with his self-portrait (K/1st art work behind)

Kinder artist with her classroom teacher.

1st grader with her watercolor painting (2nd grade behind)

Monday, May 21, 2012

K and 1st Spring Watercolors!

I found the inspiration for these lovely spring watercolor paintings on Art Projects for Kids. It's a terrific exercise in simple landscape drawing for Kinders and 1st graders, and the frame around the edges of the drawing really helps students use all of their space rather than drawing tiny flowers in the middle of their paper. So this works as an excellent introduction to composition, as well. I decided to use watercolor paper and liquid watercolors as my youngest artists needed a new paint medium to explore.

Here's what we did:
  1. Class 1: I led the first class, the drawing portion, from the white board while drawing along with the children.

    • We drew the frame first, and I gave 1st grade students and advanced Ks the option of creating a double frame. Some of them added patterns within their frames. 
    • We then drew a horizon line. This could be grass or it could be hills. I left it up to my students.
    • We began adding flowers by drawing the blooms first, positioning them toward the top of the frame. Stems and leaves were added next. Whimsical flowers are a favorite of mine in my own art work, and the kids always make comments when they see my screen saver (seen in this post). This was a great opportunity to show them how I use lines and shapes to come up with fun new flowers to draw, and it allowed them to create their own imaginative flowers.
    • We then discussed the types of insects and bugs one might see in the spring. (We did this project in early April...I've just been late in posting.) Students added a bug or two or three flying through the air or crawling in the grass or on the leaves of the flowers.
    • Students then traced ALL of their pencil lines in Sharpie. This was excellent practice in using fine motor skills. Also, a number of students didn't understand the term "trace," so this was useful for vocabulary, as well.
  2. Class 2: Students painted their drawings with liquid watercolors. I really love these SO much more than pan watercolors. My only complaint is how easily the colors get muddy. Kinders aren't careful about cleaning their brushes, and by the time I got to paint with the last class (of 10), the blues and greens were a bit grayed out, and the yellow...well, the yellow simply was no more. I freshened the yellows for my 1st graders once, and we managed to keep them fairly yellow-ish for at least long enough to finish painting.
And here are more of our colorful spring watercolor paintings:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

5th Grade Self-Portraits: Lichtenstein

So I'm thinking I'll never attempt this project again with 5th grade. Maybe 7th, or even 8th next time. It took much MUCH longer than I'd planned (about 7 classes, which is 7 weeks), but once we started, we couldn't just stop. I try to instill persistence and commitment in my young artists, so we had to see it through to the end. What took so long? All those DOTS! Combine the level of patience required for that task with the precision and attention to detail required to achieve successful results, and I'd have to say that this was not a lesson with a high success rate for all students.

Having said that, some students (those with a hefty dose of patience and excellent fine motor skills) turned out beautiful results. And for all my protesting, when I look at the results overall, they really are impressive. Maybe it's just this age. Some of them are ready for this level of concentration, and some just aren't.

Here's what we did:

Prior to beginning the drawing/painting:

1. We watched "Who is the Artist?: Artists of Pop Art", which takes students through the work of Andy Warhol, Wayne Thiebaud, and Roy Lichtenstein in order to familiarize them with the characteristics of Pop Art and these artists in particular. (They really enjoy the video, by the way. I love this series. It quizzes students as they watch, and they really come away being able to recognize the work of the aritsts discussed.

2. Take individual photos of students and print out as large as possible on 8.5x11 paper. I had students choose a pose/expression that would later become inspiration for their speech/thought bubble. 

Class 1:
Show examples of Lichtenstein's comic panel paintings and discuss lines, colors, etc. (as well as noticing where he used dots and where he used solid color). I gave students their printed photos (oh my, the commotion and giggles), a piece of 9x12 drawing paper, a 9x6 sheet of Seral transfer paper (I cut it down from a roll I've had for a while), and a couple of pieces of tape. We taped their photos to the drawing paper, centered as best they could, and used the transfer paper to trace the contours of their portrait. Hair was the trickiest part for most of them. The girls in particular wanted to draw every tiny strand of hair, so we talked about the shape of their hair, the curls, etc, and how to suggest hair without drawing each single strand (which basically turns into scribbles).

Class 2:
Students continued transferring their photos, then traced the lines in Sharpie. We used rulers to draw a frame around the portrait (so the drawing looks more like a comic panel), following the natural border created by the printed edge of the image.

Classes 3, 4, 5, 137, etc.:
This is what took so long. We used watercolor palettes and pencil erasers to mimic Lichtenstein's dot technique. This is what I told students to do:
  • Create HORIZONTAL lines of dots (don't follow the contours of the lines in your drawing). Start with a clear area across which you can make a straight horizontal line (forehead, for example). Then begin adding additional lines above and below the first one. Stagger the dotted line so that each new dot is between the dots above/below it. (I don't have a photo of this step, but if you look at the first painting in this post, the student did a really nice job with this on her face.)
  • To create lighter skin tones, add more water to the paint. The first dot is always darkest, so make one dot on newspaper or scrap paper first, then move to your painting. Each dip in the paint will make 3 or 4 dots. Some students decided just to be orange or yellow since the only skin tone we had was brown. :) A few of them did try to mix colors and dilute the paint for a fairer peachy complexion.  (See more paintings below.)
  • Apply the dot technique to skin, clothing, and background. Apply a solid wash of color to hair, eyes, and other small detail areas (fingernails, lips, etc.).
  • One of the reasons the painting portion was so tricky was that students had to be careful not to create holes in the watercolor wells. The paint becomes gummy with so much use and water, so it was vital to dip the eraser just in the surface of the paint and not push down into the thicker paint. Some students used way too much paint, so their portraits were sticking to everything, even when "dry." A layer of parchment paper on top of portraits solved this problem. If I ever have a classroom again I'll do this project with acrylic paint and let the students mix their skin colors. This would make this particular issue much easier to handle.
Classes 6 and 7:
After the third class of bringing in and setting up the watercolor paints and handing out (and cleaning up! ugh) all the materials necessary (I'm on a cart), I decided we were DONE with painting.
  • Students who weren't finished, due either to absences, slow progress, or lack of using time wisely finished their "paintings" in watercolor marker. I actually really like the greater contrast of doing the backgrounds in solid color, so maybe I'll go this route automatically next time. We had issues with neon lips, so I also gave students colored pencils if they wanted softer pink/brown lips.
  • Students cut out speech or thought bubbles and glued these to their self-portrait. I created three templates that students could use if they wanted. Some made their own, and some used the ones I copied onto drawing paper. I don't like to use templates as a matter or course, but we really needed the time saver.
  • Students wrote their phrase in pencil, then traced in Sharpie.
Here are a few more of our 5th grade Lichtenstein self-portraits:

Add caption

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Arts & Enrichment Evening!

The Spanish teacher and I are putting together our 1st annual Arts and Enrichment evening, which will feature my end-of-year student exhibit, as well as crafts and a performance from his students. I can't wait! I'm working with Artome for the exhibit. This is the first time I've done a whole-school show, so it's been quite the undertaking. However, Artome makes it a lot easier than matting and framing everything myself. If not for them, I don't think I'd be doing this. I know there are art teachers who spend weeks (months??) preparing artwork and hanging, so I'm grateful for the help.

I had invitations printed through Vistaprint, and they'll be here Tuesday. (I've used this company for business cards before, and I used them for my creativity campaign posters earlier this year. Great quality, and I can't argue with the price for such professional products.)

Here's our invitation. If you're in South Florida on May 18, feel free to stop by!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

IF: Return

Summer is a mere two months away, and I am anxious for its return!

The end of the school year is always a bit exciting (energies are HIGH), but it's also more than a bit packed with all that still remains to be completed. I'm planning two field trips and my end of year exhibit (for all 600 students!), plus evaluations are coming up, and, of course, the FCAT (Florida's two weeks of standardized testing). And now MAPP testing, as well...the students will be given a standardized test in the Enrichment subjects. I've never had to "teach to a test" (and I refuse to do so now), so this whole idea of testing my young artists on content (especially when I only see them once every five school days, if that) is a bit stressful. And so visions of lazy days filled with reading and painting are my fuel right now.

This illustration is how I imagine myself for the larger part Summer 2012. Apparently, I was thinking the same thing around this time last year, as I painted this last May. The girl in the painting is not me at all, by the way. She just kind of appeared in the midst of the flowers, and she did seem to kind of belong there, so I allowed her to stay. I apologize yet again for pulling a painting out of the archives. (See above for my excuse...)

So let's go, Summer. I'll be right here waiting, Kindle and paintbrush in hand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

IF: Swamp

My dad in the swamp. Behind him is the camp house he
built. This was in April 2009 when the river was really high.
Usually we can walk around beneath the house.
I grew up in the swamp. Literally. I was raised on the banks of the Altamaha River in south Georgia, and my bedroom as a teenager overlooked the swamp and sloughs that edge and merge with the river. I truly love the swamp. And so my first thought when I saw this week's theme was that I'd do a tribute to home. But nothing came. I've even written a story about the swamp based on boat trips with my dad that I hope to eventually work into a dummy that I can submit. Still, nothing came.

Then I started thinking about the Everglades and my current home. I live in Fort Lauderdale, and for those who are unfamiliar with the history Florida's development, south Florida was literally built ON TOP of the Everglades. The land was drained and cities and roads erected, which is the direction I finally decided to take with this week's challenge.

I did this quick watercolor sketch this evening, and while I don't love everything about it (it seems dull and lacking in contrast), it was fun to break out the watercolors for myself and not in preparation for class. (Keep reading for an explanation of the drawing.)

Had to take a photo, so there's a bit of a shadow. Too late to scan. Can't wake the SO. :)

Certainly I didn't include anywhere near enough cars to represent the ridiculous amount of traffic on the roads down here (and all of these drivers appear to be staying in their own lanes), but if you've ever been to Ft. Lauderdale you might recognize a few of the buildings in they skyline (plus the Allure of the Seas, and enormous cruise ship that was just launched at Port Everglades last fall...or was it the fall before? I can't remember.)

Beneath the criss-crossing highways (there are plenty of those in reality) are a couple of Everglades residents. Sadly, this is not far from reality either. While the swamp itself is the western border of Broward County and about 20/25 minutes from downtown (so not really beneath the highways), wildlife does find its way into traffic and the city. My boyfriend and I rescued an anhinga a few weeks ago. It was stunned and wobbling across six lanes of traffic. We pulled into a parking lot, and Anthony stopped three lanes of east-bound traffic to corral the bird off the highway to a gas station where we gently secured it in a rug we had in the trunk of the car (you don't want that beak anywhere near you or your face) and took it to a wildlife rescue downtown. The price of progress I suppose. And tourism.

Oh my, sorry to get so serious. I'll stop rambling on for now. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you are all having a terrific week. :) 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IF: Shades (and other spooky things)

Busy week, so I'm pulling out another drawing from the past for this week's Illustration Friday topic, Shades. Actually, I think it's rather fitting. I did this for a friend a while back. He writes horror fiction and we both share a love of the macabre, so this tribute to classic horror was well-received. His favorite genre authors, actors, and characters populate the graveyard while a Nosferatu-esque vamp and other creatures (including three characters from one of the stories he's written) approach him as he writes. 

This was a value study for me, as well, and I had fun playing with the light and shadows. I definitely got a few of them wrong, but I must say that, regardless, I really love the value contrast throughout the piece. It was a lot of fun to do. Mixture of watercolor and ink.

A Nice Surprise for a Wednesday!

While passing by the front desk on my way to Kinderg.arten this morning, the school receptionist handed me an envelope. I'd received mail! Yay! I never get mail unless it's a supply order (and I get pretty excited about those, too!) So who on earth was sending me mail at school?? Turns out a family friend who has a print shop in my hometown printed up a few notecards of my tropical "Easter egg" bird from last week's Illustration Friday challenge, along with envelopes with my school's logo and address, and sent them to me. Love it!! Thanks Bill!! 

Magnolia Printing provides archival prints, notecards, and other print products for artists. Shipping is obviously an option! :)

Magnolia Printing 242 South Hickory Street
Jesup, Georgia 31546
(912) 427-8596
(912) 228-3904 Fax

6th Grade Self-Portraits (Or "Bob Ross is a Genius")

Anyone else find themselves quoting Bob Ross in the classroom? He had a beautiful way of expressing the joys of art, and "happy accident" is probably my favorite Bob-ism. This current 6th grade self-portrait project has certainly yielded a number of very happy accidents. What began as a failed ink and oil pastel batik project turned into a large crop of fabulous sgraffito wonders! (See the original post here.) 

So after two classes (for some students) of scratching away at the india ink that just wouldn't wash, my 6th graders were actually thrilled with the results. I had to keep on them, though, because they just couldn't visualize the end. To them, it seemed that their brightly colored self-portraits were ruined. And then they saw the results, and wow, what great discussions came from problem-solving our way through our original "failed" technique.

Here are a few of the (much-needed) lessons my 6th grade young artists gained from this experience:
  1. Never give up. If something seems difficult, keep at it. You have the ability to complete anything you start.
  2. Don't judge your work until you reach the end. Art evolves through the process of creation.
  3. Keep an open mind. If you find your work moving in a direction that's not quite as you planned, just go with it. See where it takes you.
  4. Learn from your "mistakes." Mistakes are necessary in order to grow as an artist.
  5. Artists are problem-solvers. If something doesn't go as planned, explore other solutions. If you're still not satisfied, see lesson #3. (This is a lesson I voice in every class.)
And here are their results. (Some finished and some close to finished. A few students will go back in with white pastel to brighten their eyes in our next class.) I actually love this more than the original plan. Happy accident indeed! For students who were a bit behind, I gave them the option of applying a coat of black tempera paint and rinsing the drawings (which is what I was originally planning to do with the ink). Some chose to do that, and some chose to go ahead with the sgraffito technique. The tempera batik portraits are at the end. They turned out really well, too!

Sgraffito Self-Portraits (India ink over oil pastel)

This is a future self-portrait of sorts. This student
drew his dad. :)

This student was the first one to try to rinse away
the india ink. Her drawing tore a bit, so she's going
to add a bow or other hair adornment to cover
the hole. So smart!

Tempera Batik Self-Portraits (Tempera wash over oil pastel)