Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Dot

I was looking for a way to use value in a quick project for First grade after last week's fingerprint value scale turned out to be a success. Finally I remembered that I could adapt the Kindergarten lesson on Emphasis and kill two birds here.

I read one of my favorite books, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, to my first grade students. They were especially interested in the character Vashti's painting in which she made a dot by "not painting a dot". I gave them a small piece of card stock and asked them to draw a dot with a pencil, then cut out the shape. They taped this dot onto a piece of paper and I had them paint the whole paper with one color of paint, plus black and white. They quickly discovered that they could change the value of the color by mixing. The tricky part was getting them not to turn the entire paper a nasty gray... But I solved that by asking them to keep the black and white pots in their palette "pure" so that they would have some left over. Some of them followed those directions, some didn't. I am having such a hard time with this whole first grade group this's crazy.

Anyway, after their entire piece of paper was painted, they left it to dry. The next week, they got their paintings back and I had them draw swirls on top of the paint with white oil pastels. They could also use a pastel in the color from their paint palette if they chose. We discussed Emphasis and how the Dot would be the most important part of this picture, so it should show up really well. Finally, they removed the card stock dot and saw how they had made a dot by "not painting a dot." Here is an example of the results:

So far I'm happy with how these turned out. They have a little bit of a "Starry Night Quality, and you could probably do this lesson as a variation of that if you had the kiddos draw stars instead of dots. But I'm so over Starry Night lessons for personal reasons. ;)

On a completely unrelated note, I've started an Etsy shop. So far I've mostly got prints of my photographs for sale, but there are a few jewelry items there and I've got a couple more to post in the next few weeks. So here's a link to that if you're interested!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Value of...

So I'd been struggling coming up with a lesson about value for 1st grade, and I decided, what they hey, we'll look at Chuck close and make some thumbprints. Well, they love it! This was really just a practice lesson but they are actually following the concept, and it only takes one day. I would like to have this turn into something more long-term, worth hanging on the fridge at home, but I'm still workin on that. I just gave each table a large stamp pad and told them to stamp once after putting their finger in the ink, then stamp again and again without putting their finger back in the ink. The result was a 1st grade style Value Scale!

Also, the 2nd Grade Chihuly- Inspired sculpture turned out great. So great in fact that one of the PTO volunteers asked if it could go in the silent auction in December. But I have bad news. Somebody broke it. :( So now it's in several large pieces that I will have to work some hot glue gun magic on in the next few weeks. But here's a photo of what it looked like while it lasted. If I'd had a string of white Christmas lights to put inside instead of the single light bulb, I think that might have looked better. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chihuly-Inspired Sculpture.

If you're not familiar with the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, get familiar. He's totally incredible and very dynamic to watch. I found a DVD of him "In the Hotshop" on eBay for about $10 and I was enthralled watching his team (he's lost the use of an eye and his shoulder, so he can no longer blow glass himself) blow asymmetrical glass objects. Stunning.

I can't take credit for this idea. I found it here first. The photo shows a finished installation of many students' works.

But I had just been to the Chihuly Exhibit at the Frist Center and I thought it was too good NOT to integrate into my curriculum somehow. So lucky 2nd grade, who are studying North American Art this year, will get to try this project. The idea is to use cheapo plastic glasses, add decorative details, and melt them in a toaster oven set to broil. I thought, surely I'll set the house on fire. Surely it will smell revolting. SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG! But it didn't.

I found margarita glasses in packs of 20 for $8.99 at Party City (buy one get one free! Woo
t!) and brought home a couple packs to test this out. I didn't have my rainbow assortment of sharpies at home, so I just used black for the test run, but here's what came out of my toaster oven. I only set my oven mit on fire a little bit. :p
So I will definitely be dragging the toaster to school and trying this with the kiddos.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Old School

You just never know how long it will take for Kindergarteners to do something. Today I tried encorporating some formative assessment drawing pages from the book Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. It's a great book, but the title makes me think of picking up a child and drawing with their head...
This is a book that my school librarian was getting rid of, and I'm glad I snatched it up. There are some really old school but brilliant ideas in here. And I tend to favor old school. Vintage, baby. :) Anyway, I tried this warm up I took from the book:

I asked the kiddos to copy the pictures and draw them in the boxes. They did very well looking carefully, but I made a front and back to the sheet so they'd be occupied long enough. I'd planned another two short activities for after this. Keep in mind, last week they came to my class and within seconds of starting their drawings, they were all shouting, "I'M DOOONE! HEY!!! I'M DOOOOOONE!"

But this time they worked so much more slowly that I didn't have enough time for my next activity, let alone the third one. Geez.

Also, 5th graders can stipple with sharpies. Oh, yes. They really can. I swear. I'm not even kidding! I made this part of the project optional, and about half the class wanted to try "shading with sharpies." So I showed them up close at a separate table, and even the ones who are not typically advanced artists were able to use stippling successfully. This was something I wasn't instructed how to do until I got to Art I in High School. So we're getting technical here, and it's actually working out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


So here we are in September. The kids are beginning to hit their stride for the year, and I'm finally breathing after the rush to get things rolling. Our district has a new initiative to "teach with urgency" and pretty's stressing me out. I was already teaching with urgency but now I've stepped up my game and it barely leaves time for potty breaks. I've re-done my entire curriculum and here are some examples (made by me) of projects the kids are working on now.

Above:5th Grade's Op-Art Inspired Intensity and Value study using complimentary colors. Colored pencil, sharpie. Stippling added as a challenge for the students who want to do something extra.

Last year's 5th grade probably would not have enjoyed this style of drawing, because they were the type who hated to use rulers. This year's group typically are more detail-oriented, and get a kick out of drawing precisely.

Above: 2nd Grade's Keith Haring Inspired drawing, using lines to create pattern. I'd never introduced Haring as an inspiration artist with elementary students, but I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before. They LOVE him! They are interested in his whole life, and I try to be honest with them without giving too much detail. The 2nd graders are just adoring this cartoon style.

Above: 4th Grade's Contour Line Monotype, Inspired by Egon Schiele. Detail added with sharpie and colored pencils. These kids are using regular watercolor markers to draw on large mirror tiles I bought at Lowe's. (The portrait mirrors from the catalog were WAY too pricey) Then, after wetting a piece of drawing paper slightly, they press the paper onto the mirror and pull off a print of the image. Some of them come out as good likenesses, and some are still what I call "schema" or cartoony simplified versions of faces that look nothing like the kid. We are trying to focus on proportion, since in 2nd grade this group did a self portrait drawing with correct spacing of facial features, and they are familiar with correct proportions. Egon Scheile as an inspiration was sort of added on, as I had to tie this in with Europe. But the kids seemed to enjoy seeing his works (the few that weren't nudes) and it got them thinking about how expressive a line can be. We're also using his style of only painting in a few places on the figure to create emphasis.

My budget was cut this year, but not as significantly as I expected, so I think I will be ok on most supplies. Some fundraisers may be needed later in the year though. I wonder if any other teachers out there have a preferece for colored pencils in elementary. I've ordered the Crayola Twistables, because sharpening is such a stinkin' pain, and I've only got one good electric sharpener. The hand held sharpeners do OK, but the kids prefer the electric I suppose. I haven't gotten that Twisable set yet, but I hope it's worth the price tag. I also am using Mr. Sketch scented markers exclusively now. The thin-tipped scented "Stix" are great as well. And you know what? I thought the scents would be a huge distraction, but it actually makes the kids WANT to draw more. And I am definitely ok with that. :)

I'll post more examples of projects and maybe some student work as they come along!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guess it's time for an update

So the new school year has started. It's been over a year since I blogged and maybe it's time to get my butt moving (or at least, my hands moving across the keyboard) and share/steal some art teacher-y ideas. We have this new scope and sequence, which has required me to mix up my lessons into a different order, and more often than not, to rewrite them altogether. So I'm in NEED here. I have almost got this curriculum written, but it has a few gaping holes and I'm clueless about what I can fill them with. Not only that, but our planning time has been cut shorter this year. I've also decided to make it extra hard on myself by keeping with the "Art Around the World" theme. So now I need ideas that have to do with, for instance: rhythm, movement, unity and variety, and ALSO North America.

Here are the continent themes I use by grade level:
Kindergarten: Australia & Antarctica (they only do one or two projects related to these. Most of their year in art has to do with holding scissors correctly and not losing an eye. :) )
First Grade: Africa
Second Grade: North America (I used to do Europe with them but they just couldn't quite fully understand that Zeus of ancient Greece was not real. I got phone calls. Not pretty.)
Third Grade: Central and South America
Fourth Grade: Europe
Fifth Grade: Asia

So for now let's see how it goes. I've got two days worth of classes going on completely new, untested projects. I'll share the results.