there's always a quiet spot in the studio.
20 December 2008
my intermediate drawing & painting students are making value drawings of small areas of texture around the room enlarged to create abstract compositions. i didn't do this project last term because i was afraid it was repetitive with a few other things i like to do but it seemed to fit into this weird time between the beginning of the term and the break.
and this class is so diligent and passionate they ate it right up. see picture below with tongue out in concentration.
19 December 2008
when i worked in brooklyn, friday afternoon happy hour get-togethers were a big part of teacher life. it was a time to chat without kids around, share stories, complain, and have fun. people don't do that sort of thing here. i think it's partly because our school is in the woods and everyone drives from all over to get here.
but this year i decided to try to start a new tradition of getting everyone together the thrid friday of the month. i figured this way everyone can plan on it, put it on their calendar, get a babysitter or whatever. it's been pretty successful so far and i continue to believe that socializing with co-workers, especially in an emotional job like teaching, is a good thing.
december would have been the 4th third friday of the year but it was a snow day...not just any snow day, but really a blizzard (that endede up lasting for three days). and we still had a group of 12 people come out. two peopl eeven walked miles in the snow to get there.
18 December 2008
...you get christmas cards like this...from kids who don't even celebrate christmas.
for the record...here and in brooklyn the most thoughtful heart-melting christmas cards i've ever gotten have all come from kids who don't celebrate christmas. hmm.
16 December 2008
in the second week of art principles i have my students spend most of their time interacting with each other and with the world of art. i find it gives them a chance to get to know each other better while developing language with which to discuss works of art. plus i get to observe how they work together in groups and what i need to add to my curriculum for this particular group of students.
one of the activities i like to do is to have them work in groups to teach the class to re-create a famous painting. they start by discussing and analyzing the painting. then they make plans and lists in their sketchbooks.
finally, they get up in front of the class and try to tell their classmates verbally what to do. they are not allowed to demonstrate or show the class the picture. usually about a quarter of the way into it they realize how difficult the task is and it gets very funny. they realize how articulate they need to be and how closely they have to observe the painting to be able to get the class to re-create it.
it's always funny for the kids to see the results of the crazy yelling, talking, and gesturing. and then we answer one of my very favorite questions to ask teenagers...how would you do it differently knowing what you know now?
15 December 2008
this activity isn't mine. i can't remember where i read about it or did it myself but i think it's pure magic. i find a picture usually one with people and text and project it upside down at the front of the room using the lens of the projector to make it as blurry as possible. i give the kids charcoal, paper towels, and erasers, and tell them to draw exactly what they see...no more, no less. after about 20 minutes i focus the lens a little bit, lecturing them all the time that they need to keep up with what's on the screen. i continue to focus every few minutes until in the end the picture is totally in focus and the drawings are finished.
it works like magic every time. the students who have diligently drawn from observation as the picture adjust have perfect drawings. many make their best drawing to date on this day. and the smart asses who think they know what it is and try to outsmart the project end up with a word spelled wrong or a figure out of place.
following the drawing we have a discussion about the process of doing this...about building a drawing (which i say all the time but they usually understand during this activity) from the general to the specific.
this is not an orginal idea...but one of my favorites, especially for 9th graders. i pair them up and one person gets to look at the still life while the other draws. the person looking at the still life's job is to describe what they see to the drawer, but they are not allowed to use the name of any of the objects. they are also not allowed to point to the paper the drawer is working on or gesture in any way. the goal is for the drawer to make an accurate drawing of the still life.
my students love, love, love to talk so it always cracks me up when they gave so much trouble doing this...and they do. after they finish we have a discussion about what it took to complete the task and what they would do differently if they had to do it again. and year after year they say the same thing. they would have started by calmly giving an overview of the set up so the drawer had a rough idea of what they were doing. then they would have described the shapes in more detail in an organized way, either from top to bottom, or from left to right.
i try to drive home the idea that the level of effort it took to observe, analyze, and describe, is the level of effort they should be putting into every drawing if they want it to be accurate and dynamic.
09 December 2008
the first project i usually give my advanced 2d students is the index card project. they have to make 25 pictures related to their theme using at least 10 different types of imagery and 10 different approaches to materials...and they have about 4 hours of class time to do it in.
they consistently think this is THE most outrageous thing any teacher has ever asked of them and balk at the bulk of the work.
my school is great for kids in many many ways but one thing it teaches them that concerns me is that the world will adjust to their pace. now i'm not a teacher who fusses over deadlines but i do think there's a lot to be learned especially in terms of artmaking by many thing very fast or one thing very slow...neither of which my students love to do. so i try to impress on them that there is something to be learned by working within my parameters. oh and by the way i went to 7 years of art school and have been teaching for 8 years so i kind of know what i'm talking about.
so i tried something different this term to try to move them along a little...to set the pace, literally. i gave them each the same 3 xeroxes and told them they had 15 minutes to make 2 pictures about their theme using only the xeroxes, glue stick, and scissors. and then...i set the magical timer. teachers know about the timer. what is it about it? the omnipotent timer. something about that ticking makes the kids take it more seriously and argue less. and they did it without debate. they each made 2 images in 15 minutes. next year i'll make it only 10.
and they proceeded to make the other 23 pictures without much complaint.
note the ever-present webs in the photos.
this term i'm also teaching art principles. this is a 9th grade general art class. it's a little different than all the other classes i teach because it lasts for two terms. it's also usually a small class...this term i have 10 students in it. so i get to know the students really well and they become a sweet little supportive art community when all goes well.
to start out on the first day i have them do artistic interviews with one another. i give them a series of questions they ask their partner and then their job is to make a portrait of their partner as an artist and to introduce them to the class as an artist. i find this activity really opens them up. we laugh at all the funny stories of how art has shown up in their lives, especially in the form of bad art teachers or siblings who made fun of their skills.
the portrait you see above is of a girl who got really angry when her elementary school art teacher told her to change the color of the sky in her drawing and who once found great success in an egg drop contest. i think it's a hilarious picture.
this term i'm teaching advanced 2d art. it's one of my favorite classes to teach because it is so much about ideas. it's about the kids making their own work, not mine. it can be tiring but incredibly fulfilling for me...and for them.
i spend the entire first week teaching them how to develop a theme they can work with for the whole term. this year what i did was to put pictures of famous works of art around the room. i then asked them to walk around and look at the work recording what they observed.
on the worksheets you see below i asked them to generally record themes & concepts (what the work was about) and subject matter (what was the work a picture of).
after a healthy debate about what i meant by themes & concepts, the difference between themes and subject matter, and a discussion about how anything could be a theme and the fact that many themes overlap we made this list as a group of possible themes to work with.
we also decided as a group that a theme was a big idea and definitely something you could hold or touch.
after this activity each student chose a theme they were willing to commit to for the entire term and they made a brainstorming web with their theme at the center. i use these webs as starting points for almost all the projects over the course of the term.
some students chose themes that are way too big. some chose themes that will go cliche real fast. i tried hard to control my natural tendency to save them by correcting these mistakes. they will suffer a bit, but through the suffering they will learn either not to choose such things in the future or how to grapple with it today. either way i'm pretty happy.
we'll see what kind of work we get.
here are the finished sense of place paintings from the oil painting classes. they came out very well and some of them are hanging in the gallery right now. i think the students felt good about the outcomes. they were finally able to see the results of all the hard work they've done over the course of the term.
and although i'm pretty sick of teaching these oil painting classes it makes me realize how very difficult it is to teach a beginner oil painting class in 12 weeks. next year...no beginners, no lunch class, and only one section...period.
they're still at it... these advisory birthday parties...and i'm still going along...for now. this one involved a cute game where the birthday girls wrote down truths and lies about themselves and we tried to guess which was which.