25 March 2011

Recovering and reflecting on NAEA.

I am still recovering from a great time at NAEA in seattle. My talk went well. I was nervous. I had fun. Thanks to everyone who found some space in their brains for what I had to say. Please be in touch. I am very grateful that I came home to a second week of spring break. It's given me some time to reflect on all I saw and heard. Keep checking back for pictures of my notes from the conference, some thoughts on the frustrations i saw public school teachers facing, new thoughts and ideas about how to use contemporary art in the classroom, and my feelings about getting students out of the classroom more, among other things...in the coming weeks.

19 March 2011

14 March 2011

Thinking about time.

I have recently fallen back in love with the old-fashioned paper calendar for my students. It all started last term when I realized not enough teachers seemed to be talking to the 9th graders about how there were only three weeks left until their first final exams as high schoolers. We do so many things online here at my school, including calendaring, and I think that is a great way to stay organized and on top of things...for me. For some teenagers, though...I think they need to see it in front of them and be reminded of it everyday. I'm not big on deadlines. I rarely give deadlines for the projects we do. I let them work at their own pace, but that does not mean not being aware of time at all. There is an end at some point. The end of the term arrives. So I made some paper calendars (last term on the left, this term on the right) and I pointed to the date at the beginning of class and then made a big deal of crossing the day off at the end of class. It seems to be helping already this term, especially for my seniors who are preparing for their show at the end of the year. The end of the year sounds like a long way away, but if you check the paper calendar, it's, like, tomorrow.

13 March 2011

Less talking, more sign reading.

Unless you teach (which you probably do), it might be hard to imagine exactly how irritating it can be to answer the same question 18, 25, or 30 times in a row. I often make signs to help me avoid having to talk about silly details, freeing my brain up for the good stuff. In the Senior Studio class I teach every spring each student is busy making their own work, so on some days, they just come in and get to work. On those days I spend my time with them one on one, and so, everyday they come in and say, "Are we meeting or can I get to work?". In response I made this sign which I can flip around to communicate with them. It's working and I can now think just a little more clearly.

12 March 2011

Xeroxes...one of my favorite materials.

I fear that someday there won't be a Xerox machine in the building. It's one of my very favorite art making tools. In fact, I wish I had one right in my classroom. Something I love to have my students do, especially in the Advanced 2D Art class where they're all working with different themes, is to make pictures using only a small selection of Xeroxes I provide (see yesterdays' selection in the photo above).

The limitations make their imaginations go wild and it's always interesting to see how differently each student uses them. I have a small collection of National Geographics from the 70's and 80's and they work best. The images are just strange enough to force students to think hard about how to use them. Here are some of the results. I really love the first one.

11 March 2011

The organized teacher is the happy teacher.

When I left NYC five years ago I wondered how I would organize my classroom without a good dollar store nearby. Bins are the art teacher's savior after all. Recently, I found a great, almost dollar store nearby...this picture brings me great joy.

Clay as a model for drawing.

This clay swan is being built by a 9th grader who is very serious about art...so serious that there have been tears when drawings have been smudged...so serious that there really is nothing else but the details. I spent so much time talking with her about building drawings from the general to the specific, about holding off on the details till the forms are in place, without much success. Then...I gave her some clay. She slowly coaxed the clay into the form she wanted, using pictures as a reference, taking such time and care. Once she was sure everything was secure, strong, and how she wanted it, then she started to draw in the feathers and other details you see above. When she didn't get it quite right she happily smoothed the marks away and started fresh. I was amazed.

Maybe it's just me, but I see this "anxiety" around details growing in teenagers and I attribute it to the computer. They want the work to just appear on the page right away, perfect, the way they see it in their head. And this got me thinking about the size of the tools I ask students to work with and the way in which I ask them to work. Maybe this seems obvious to you. Maybe it should have been obvious to me. But I am now thinking about starting my Intermediate Drawing and Painting class with big clunky paintbrushes instead of the pencils students are more "comfortable" with. I am thinking of the wonderful parallels between working with clay and drawing. Maybe even, gasp, sculpting from observation before, or along with, drawing from observation. Thoughts?

10 March 2011

The Sartorialist as a model for looking at the world.

I'm constantly posting videos on my class site that I think will inspire my students. They love the youtube and I think video is a good way to get to them, to show them stuff on the side that I think will effect how they see the world. I love this one, in particular, because many of the girls I teach read The Sartorialist blog often (so do I), so he has some pull with them already. I also love anything that allows my students to see people talking about how they came to be creative beings and especially videos that show creative people in the act of seeing the world and creating their work. How DID we teach art before Art 21?

Brainstorming webs.

In my Advanced 2D Art class yesterday students started brainstorming their themes for the term. As I've done in the past, the class spent some time looking at art from throughout history and talking about the themes and subject matter that come up again and again. We discussed the difference between subject matter (person, building, animal) and themes (beauty, heroes, identity)...and thought about the big questions that artists have been asking for ages. After making a huge list of possible themes, students chose one, and created webs, some of which you see below.
I just love watching students make these webs. It's like a window into their mind. I did it with them and we talked as we worked about how and why certain ideas come up more than once in different sections of the web, and how my web about beauty would be very different from theirs. We talked about how helpful these webs will be as we try to work from ideas as a starting point, rather than materials, techniques, or processes. We will pull these webs out again and again as we move through the projects for the course. More to come...

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