21 May 2009

great shots

17 year old boy on tricycle.


s.a.t. scores came online at 8am today. does the college board hate teachers? i mean how do they expect the kids not to check on their phones and laptops and then how do they expect us to keep teaching after the freak outs about how they're not going to be able to get into any colleges start.

it is only 9am and i've already had kids in tears, running to the bathroom, and worries that have run from academics into appearances and back. i wouldn't want to be a teenager today for all the money in the world.

by the way, it's only been the girls who are freaking out this way. they asked me what i worried about when i was in high school. other than looks and body image...i can't remember.

20 May 2009

...and we're back.

yes, it's true. i haven't posted to this blog in over a month and i've pretty much neglected to post anything about my third term classes. there are a couple of real reasons for this like...i got engaged to a fellow teacher (more on that later) and i got a puppy which i've been running home to during all my free periods.

but my lack of posting is about more than that and i'll try to keep writing about it as it becomes more clear. in some ways i started checking out when my seniors did and in some ways it's been good for me. i have a tendency to take this job too seriously. i think i've also needed this blog less as an outlet...but i'm not sure yet why that is.

my plan for now, though, is to go back and tell the story of my classes after the fact because, in part, this blog serves as a curriculum map and journal for me and because even though i haven't been posting i have been taking hundreds of photos just like i always do. it's possible this will be annoying for those of you following along through google reader and i apologize. i'll be back-dating and writing in the present tense and that might be wierd.

11 March 2009

student quotes.

"wanna see what i did during spanish class today? thumbnails. you've corrupted me."

09 March 2009

more figure drawing.

my 9th graders continue to blow me away. we did some gesture drawings of each other this morning. they loved posing for each other and coming up with wacky positions. even the kids who have been struggling with drawing seemed comfortable with the scribbling as a way of finding proportion and weight.

we're going to do a project about people that requires them to work more from their imagination in a few weeks so this is the prep for that.

04 March 2009

principles of design project, beginning.

one of the biggest weaknesses in art made by teenagers, in my opinion, is composition. they are scatterers. they like to just toss everything and anything into their work. i think this is mostly because they don't understand the possibilities available to them. so i two years ago i developed this project i called the principles of design portfolio. i asked them to use xeroxes to make studies that showed their understanding of things like balance, emphasis, movement, etc. it definitely helped their vocabulary, but the project was too dry for 9th graders.

so this year i decided to mix it up a bit. i asked them to choose two characters from the xeroxes available (they're from a collection i have of old national geographic magazines which means the people are from all different races and economic classes) and to create a "situation" between them...to tell a story. they have 8 small pictures in which to tell the story and each picture should show their understanding of a particular principle of design, like using contrast to emphasize, for example.

they are just going crazy over this project. they love the idea of creating little soap operas between these characters and have done so much planning. in fact, i had to push them away from their sketchbooks and towards the actual collages.

on friday i plan to teach them how to bind the pages together to make a book. more pictures of the finished products soon.

12 February 2009

a little help from my friends?

when you go to art school, making art seems so easy.
then you go out into the real world and suddenly it's hard to keep it up.
for me, there have been two key elements to keeping the practice going: developing routines and rituals and creating a certain kind of studio space that works for me.

next term i'm teaching a class for seniors, the focus of which is making a body of work to be in the "Senior Show". i'd like to start by talking to them about developing their own process to keep themselves working and am looking for some ideas. i thought who better to ask than all my clever artist friends. so, if you could, would you take a minute to respond to this post in a comment with any examples of what you do on a regular basis that feeds your work?

mine would go like this:
studio must haves: sewing space, display space for both paintings and drawings, light, reading chair, dog bed.
3 ring binder: for images that might inspire color combinations or compositions.
routines & rituals: work on paper everyday before school, read arts section NYT and write friday mornings, blog, find some time during school day for sketchbook, go to 1st friday openings in boston
when i get a chance and as often as possible: talk to artist friends for feedback, go see art

i realize few people over-plan like this, but without these things i would not be productive.
what keeps you productive?
if you know of someone who has an interesting routine or ritual share that too.
help me out. if you'd like, send pics to dukebecky.at.gmail.com.

06 February 2009

student quotes.

this interaction occurred between me and a student who i had spent 15 minutes brainstorming with at the beginning of class.

me: "what have you produced today?"
student 1: "i've gotten two good ideas for the new project. first, i'm going to...."
me: "show me a sketch."
student 1: "no, no, let me just explain..."
student 2: "when she says make a sketch it means she's done talking to you."

05 February 2009

differentiation...is exhausting.

we talk a lot here at my school about differentiation...figuring out how to reach each student with their various learning styles...how to create a learning environment that allows each student to thrive. i feel like this is something i've always been concerned about. i've always felt strongly that the kids should be making their work, not mine. so many schools you visit and all the art on the walls looks the same.

so especially at the junior and senior level i make every effort to design projects that are open-ended, that allow each student to find their own personal solution. i am also pretty loose with deadlines, introducing a new project every week but allowing them to finish them at their own speed. this can be tiring (for me) because at any one time each student might need to be using different materials or need a different kind of feedback. i took all the photos you see below in the span of about 2 minutes and all the students are in the same class...and yes that IS a blow torch. wait till you see the results.

03 February 2009

student quotes.

"the snow is dancing miss roberts."

02 February 2009

i only turned my back for a second...

in trying to mix the right color to paint her hair on her self-portrait, this student decided to cut a piece of her hair off to lay next to the paint for comparison. anything for art.

30 January 2009

great shots

fortune from chinese new year now on my office door.

mapping the still life

it is so important to 9th graders to make drawings that are super realistic but they are rarely willing to put in the amount of energy needed into actually observing what's in front of them. so...i try to develop ways to trick them into doing more observing than drawing in the hopes that they will build these habits before it matters too much.

in this exercise i set up a still life and then ask them to create a representation of the set up on paper without actually drawing any of the objects. it should be detailed enough so that someone could gather all the supplies they would need and then re-build it in another location at another time.

i did this for the first time when i was teaching basic drawing at the university of iowa and i can't even remember if it was my idea or if it's one i stole from someone else. the iowa kids came up with all kinds of crazy solutions to the problem. my 9th graders are often less inventive but this year's crew did some interesting things. and they learn what they're supposed to whether or not the work they make is all that visually interesting.

advanced 2d - project 2.

i've been trying to get my advanced students to think about their theme in a more global way. so i made this chart to show them what i meant.

for this 2nd project i'm asking them to make a diptych in which the two pictures address opposite points of view on an aspect of their chosen theme. in this class i don't emphasize traditional drawing and painting. i'm more interested in seeing them spend their energy on developing sophisticated ways to communicate visually about ideas they've developed thoughtfully. so i'm seeing some interesting methods for generating imagery.

from l to r: paint on xerox, xerox transfer, collage, using the in-focus projector to create a turntable made from traditional instruments

shape collage brainstorming.

my 9th graders are starting the collage project this week. the class is very small (yes, that's the whole class seated around the table with me. sorry brooklyn teachers).

we looked at a powerpoint i made with pictures of work that focused on shapes, including cave paintings, Harriet Powers's quilts, and Matisse's collages. as we looked at the pictures we talked about how people have been using shapes to tell stories about their lives ever since the beginning of time.

after looking at the pictures we gathered around the table and did some thinking and talking about what stories revealed something about our personality. some of the stories were events we remembered and some were stories that we'd heard over and over from family and friends. some of the stories included the time d tried to to make a smoothie and forgot to put the lid on the blender, when i's family moved to japan and he was the only red-head in class, and when s took a class on fashion and all the well-dressed girls picked on her but she got an A. it was a good conversation. we'll see what they make.

27 January 2009

dancing in the studio.

this is what happens after you force 15 year old boys to draw for 2 hours.

watching students watch.

one of my students said he wanted to do some marbling for his materials project. in my head i'm thinking...marbling? that sounds kind of crafty and lame. but...in an effort to relax my inner control freakiness i stood by and watched...luckily he proved me very wrong and has made some of the most beautiful work i've seen in this studio. check out the crowd gathering to watch the process in the videos below. i'll post the results when i snap some photos of them.

26 January 2009

focusing on focusing.

on mondays my advanced 2d class draws from observation. for the first half of the term i focused on increasing their understanding of what it takes to build a drawing...working in layers, being flexible, working from the general to the specific. they seemed to get it but they haven't been observing as closely as i wanted them to.

they're the group on "the plan" after all and they tend to get silly when we work from observation. so today i decided i would provide some of the structure and they would provide the rest. they would draw tiny pine cones. i hoped the size would help them to get involved and obsessed...

i also told them they couldn't sit within 10 feet of anyone else and they had to work in silence. i recommended headphones. they got to choose large or tiny paper and the materials they wanted to work with. i advised them to think about their natural tendencies...to work small and detailed or big and sweeping and to choose wisely.

and...they did it. they worked in silence, away from each other. they spent 50 minutes observing intensely. and most of them made the best drawings i've ever seen them make.

they need that internal focus to make accurate drawings. so what is it? is it sitting instead of standing? is it working without and audience? is it the tiny objects combined with the teenage brain?

or was it me?

i sat away from them and worked on my computer while they worked, making one or two quick laps around the room. i rarely allow myself to do this. rather, i circle around like a mother hen while they draw making mental notes of who's having trouble with what and yelling out suggestions to the class. maybe they were just as relieved as i was to have some quiet for once?

this makes me think it could be interesting to have a class like this work on one tiny drawing all term long next year....

the changing still life.

this morning i did one of my favorite drawing projects with my 9th graders. i can't remember anymore which projects i invented and which i didn't...but i started using this exercise to fight the number one battle i have when teaching teenagers to draw...their inability to be flexible. they insist on getting it right on the first try or they give up. they get extremely aggravated when they realize their drawing is out of proportion and something big has to be moved...god forbid. and they do not like eraser marks or any other kind of stray marks on their work. all of this cracks me up as they want adults to move deadlines and leave their stuff all over the place but that's beside the point.

here's what i do...i set up two simple objects on a table and i tell them to make the best drawing they can of what they see using line and value. after about 15 minutes i add an object. they adjust their drawing appropriately, erasing and re-drawing as needed. i continue to add objects to the still life every 3 minutes or so until the table is full and their groans reach a certain level of drama. then...i start taking objects away every 3 minutes or so. this positively drives them over the edge. i usually leave one object on the table but i move it to a different spot. their drawings show the history of the process which i love, love, love...and they hate.

the most important part of the whole activity is the conversation we have afterward about what was frustrating about the process of making the drawing. i talk to them about how the physical activity that happened during this exercise should be happening during every drawing even when i'm not messing with the still life.

this is an exercise that several students have told me (much after the fact) really changed their thinking about what making a drawing is all about. they admitted to hating the activity, and maybe even me a little bit at the time we did it, but were thankful later on.

21 January 2009

the plan...

i came back from new york to find my room a disaster and little evidence that my advanced class got any work done at all while i was gone. they are juniors and seniors. they had assignments to complete. they have class last period on friday. in every way they are in trouble.

i saw the mess first thing when i came in yesterday and it made me very sad at first. then i got angry. then i realized that maybe i've gotten a bit lazy...a bit soft...since i started teaching at a private school. in brooklyn i never would have run a class in the relaxed way i've been running this one. i'm asking them to do very independent work and to work with very big ideas and i've given them very little structure in which to do so. they sit wherever they want, roll into class and get started on their own, and unfortunately, they're also a hilarious group of people. so they laugh a lot and i laugh a lot...this is not inherently a bad thing...but things have gotten out of control.

it occurred to me that if we are trying to master "progressive teaching" at this school maybe we need even more classroom management than we needed in brooklyn.

so i have instituted "the plan" which is basically they way i ran my classes back in brooklyn.

and of course i gave them a pretty good lecture. my life (and theirs) has been changed. they seem happier. they're making better work...and lo and behold i'm able to better record their progress because i can actually hear myself think while they're in the room.

the thing is classroom management is not only about keeping the high energy focused and the shy kids safe...it's also about creating a working environment for yourself. i think we forget that sometimes. i have to be able to do my job which involves some level of concentration. it's much calmer around here this week and i feel better able to do my job.

20 January 2009

inauguration day.

i brought in my rabbit ears from home and set them up on the television i usually show my powerpoints on. my intermediate drawing and painting class was scheduled for a double block and they're all knee deep in several projects so i just set it up and let it play. they painted and watched like they were at home. it seemed perfect...for me and for them.

at 11:15 we all gathered in the assembly hall and watched the live coverage on the big screen.

i feel lucky that my school co-ordinated this...but i have to admit that i often feel conflicted about experiencing so many big events with my students rather than with friends or family. i know most people watched at work and i did too. but i feel like i can't always experience things the way i normally would (read...crying) in front of the kids. maybe this is silly.

the experience also made me long for brooklyn to see how my former students felt about the whole event.

16 January 2009

eavesdropping on nyc school teachers...

i'm in new york city for several days and tonight riding home on the subway i was standing next to a group of 4 nyc public school teachers, all female, all over 50...and they made me happy and hopeful. first of all they were over 50 and they didn't look or sound tired, bitter, or cranky. second of all they were riding home at 11pm on a school night and they didn't look or sound tired, bitter, or cranky. third of all they didn't look or sound tired, bitter, or cranky.

but what was so exciting was the story one woman was telling the others. the staff at her school had been discussing the inauguration next week and trying to decide whether the students should see it at school and how. the school has 1300 students and they don't all fit in the auditorium and they don't have the technology to stream television in there. she explained the various scenarios they'd discussed and it seemed nothing would work.

then one of her student's parents offered to have the entire class over to her house to watch it on her tv. so this teacher got permission slips signed for each child and is planning to walk her class to this students house next tuesday to watch the inauguration. 

apparently, other parents heard about this idea and now almost every class in the building is taking a field trip to one student's house to watch the inauguration which leaves enough room in the auditorium for the classes that don't have hosts. 

THIS is how we should be solving problems. THIS is thinking outside the box. plus i love the mental image of a pile of 3rd graders gathered around a tv in someone's living room watching president obama's speech.

15 January 2009

great shots

08 January 2009

carianne's spill project.

carianne worked with my advanced 2d art students today. she talked about "spilling" paint and working from and with accidents. they loved this...naturally.

after "spilling" they looked for imagery within the spills and further developed the "spill" into a painting. the picture on the right became a design full of hearts.
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