Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Independent Students

As I sit here, writing my 3rd post for the year, I’m already feeling pretty good about blogging in 2015.  Of course it is only February and I have 11 more months ahead of me to go, but I’m optimistic.  Tonight, I’m showing off my independent study student work. 
I’m a big believer in displaying artwork.  I try to hang every project we finish.  Notice I said the word try.  I probably hang about 80% of the work we accomplish.  My real goal is to fill the walls of the school.  I believe it is not only good for the students to see their work displayed, but it is also good for school moral and pride.  When community members come into the building, art hanging on the walls is like a shining light and testament that learning is going on within classrooms.  It is also a daily reminder… that I teach.  In a future post I’ll write more about my theories on displaying work.  Tonight I want to talk about my independent students. 
Student work as far as the eye can see!
I have a few students that work entirely independently from my classes.  They show up to the art room during their assigned periods, and mostly they hang out in the back of the room, doing their own thing.  Sometimes they join in on what the class is doing (mostly when I need experienced art students to help during art show season), but for the bulk of the time, they are on their own.  In formal settings, I call them my “open studio” students. 
Independent clay work

Working at the color wheel table!

In informal settings, I call them art rats.  But that’s another story. 
The plastic mice I use for my Mouse Paint  lesson.  FYI, I do not teach this lesson to high school students.

Kidding aside, these are my most involved, creative students.  These are people with a deep need to create.  And I was shocked to realize I was doing them a disservice.  I never display their work.  They make it, I grade it, and then what?  Usually they would take it home. I decided that was not going to do for 2015.  I created this huge black banner for independent work to be displayed under.  I wanted to make the sign special, a little bit bigger and more eye catching than normal.  I hung it right in the main hallway, across from the cafeteria.  So far, I have 10 pieces of work underneath.  I’d like to triple that number by the time the spring art show comes around. 
Ignore the glaring light in the corner and notice how much space is left for MORE PROJECTS!

We made the sign from black butcher paper, and then used the elison machine to make the letters.  A student suggested using rainbow colored paper for the letters and I said, “heck yea!”  My scrap boxes are over flowing and second semester hasn’t even started yet!

Lots and lots of pretty paper...

  On a side note, I was surprised all the different colored paper we had in the art room. 

After we hung it, the open studio students were happy with the final product.  In celebration, one of them even drew a rat.  It earned a place on the wall. 
Add caption

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A bulletin board is worth 54 comments

It all started with a camera.
Mini photos are the best!


Not just any camera.  For Christmas, my mom and dad got me one of those new Polaroid digital, instant cameras.  This was probably the coolest gift I got this year.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it is amazing.  It’s even visually attractive, kinda resembling the Instagram logo.  It’s a real camera, but it also prints tiny picture stickers.  It got me excited about all the possibilities of taking instant pictures.  Example: how cool would it be to use those tiny photo stickers in a visual journal?!?!

Obviously, I received this camera during our holiday break.  While taking tons of photos of my kids, my dog, and my food, my mind wandered towards my job.  I knew when I got back to school I was going to replace all of the bulletin boards.  Good bye, cute holiday scene!  I needed something fresh, something rocking, for the New Year.  I try to update my hallway displays at least every two months.  I hadn’t changed it since October, so I was waaaay overdue. 

Excited about my new camera and the whole Instagram-inspired thing, a seed was planted in my brain.  I started browsing Pinterest for an Instagram themed bulletin board idea.  I saw a few, but most of them were ideas where you posted pictures of students working.  Not exactly what I had in mind. 
That's a big icon.

Well, after brainstorming for a bit, I had the great idea to put a quote next to a giant Instagram logo.  This year in my art room, I have been stressing the idea that anyone can make art.  Who cares if you can’t draw well/ paint well/ collage well?  Everyone can make art.  A good part of my students get so paralyzed over the idea “I can’t draw,” that they don’t even try.  So what I did was put up the saying “Art isn’t Instagram.  Art is more than pretty pictures.”  Under that, I wrote out the following hashtags--- #your ideas #yourlife #nothingsperfect #whocares #makeart.  I was pretty proud of how the entire thing turned out. 
Back in my day, # was a number sign.

#nothingsperfect  Like my paint stained bulletin board.

One of my advanced students added a hand!  I was so impressed. 

As luck would have it, the week we came back to school not only did students have a half day for staff development, the next day we also had a two hour delay due to cold weather.  That was two days in a row where we had 20 minute classes.  Yuck.  I don’t know about how your class runs, but by the time my students get their materials out, it would be almost time to clean up.  So instead, I found a cutout of an iPhone on the Internet and assigned my classes to draw an Instagram photo inside of it.  So simple, yet they really enjoyed it.  I was preheating their brains after a long vacation. 

Big trucks are a giant inspiration to my students.   

Thinking there was a deep personal story behind this, I asked my student if there was anything wrong.  His reply?
"I can't draw eyes."

The blog is called "cultured cows."
Here’s where the story gets exciting.  After I had everything hung in the hallway, I snapped a quick picture and posted it to the art teacher’s facebook page.  I just wanted to show off my crafty art teacher skills.  I also wanted to tell an amusing tale between me and a 6th grader when I was constructing the darn thing.

 I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

People started commenting.  Some people got what I was trying to say, but some people didn’t.  Nobody was cruel, like telling me my board was crap, but people were wondering if I hated Instgram and/or photography.  The art teachers' FB page is a wonderful place for feedback, and they gave me something to think about that I hadn't thought of. Is Instagram art? 181 likes and 54 comments later, I believe I explained myself the best I could.  Or people just got bored with the thread and moved on to a new topic.  Either way, I really listened to everyone on the thread.  A few people made the suggestion to add the word “just,” to the bulletin board.  I agreed with them, but everything was already glued down, so I did the next best thing: a door decoration.  Ta Da!

So here is my completed work.  I also found this article on the Internet, which connects to the entire discussion.  What do you think?  Is Instagram art?  Is it a tool?  Should I requisition a ton of instant film for next year’s art classes?  Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Holiday Art show...The Grinch!

Art shows are the only reason I have to write in this blog.  At least that's what it would seem by my posting history.  I'm going to blame my lack of posting on the end of the school year.  And then, uh... a busy summer.  And then...  Oh, all right, I admit it.  I've been lazy.  But I'm going to stick with it this time.  I hope. 

                Enough of the promises.  Let's get to the art show.  This year our winter/ holiday concert and art show had the theme of the Grinch.  The chorus sings songs from the movie, the band plays the music, and a representative from the English department reads the book.  I have to say, this was our biggest and best show to date.

                Of course, I was all about the Grinchy art.  The Grinch is one of my favorite holiday books.  It was hard to come up with a Grinch themed project for each class, but it was incredibly easy to think of giant Grinch themed sculptures.  We always do giant sculptures to go along with our themes.  One year we made a train to go along with our Polar Express themed show.  In my last blog post, I talked a little about the giant Ndebele hut that we made for the art show last spring.  We tossed around all kinds of ideas.  One was doing a large sized model of Whoville, complete with Mount Crumpit.  Another was doing the inside of a who house (after the Grinch had visited) and even contemplated a who house with a window that you could look in and see little Cindy Lou Who fast asleep. 

                Those were the rejected ideas.  We settled not on one, not two, but three different ideas.  Three.  Different.  Ideas.  We created a tree, a sled (complete with Grinch and Max), and the "Welcome to Whoville" sign.  We did this because we like to really pile on the pressure right before Winter Break. 

                The first thing I'll talk about is the sled.  It was entirely student designed and built.  The middle school children helped paint it, but its design was executed completely by my independent advanced students. 
                The second thing we built was the tree with the whos dancing around it.  The tree was made by studio one students, with the ornaments made by 7th graders. 


                Lastly, the sign was designed by advanced students and painted by pretty much any warm body that happened to wander into the art room the week before the art show.  This thing looks amazing, but it was hard to hang up.  What made it so difficult to assemble was that it consisted of three separate pieces of cardboard.  I wish we would have made it one piece, but we were afraid it wouldn't fit through the door.  I think it would have been easier to put up if it was all connected.  Ah, that's what we call a learning experience my friends.
Notice the Grinch dress?  I made that!  I also made the Cindy Lou Who costume!
                The rest of the art show was amazing, of course.  I was totally impressed with all the work the students did.  I really love how their personality comes out in their art.  This year, we hung over 700 pieces of work for families and staff to look at.  We also created a huge sign that featured pictures of our students at work.


TAB Grinch projects.


                I have to say, it was an incredibly successful event.  My administrators were impressed, my students were proud, parents got a better understanding of our program, and I felt job satisfaction.  Life can't get any better than that!