Monday, August 24, 2015

Post It Forward

At the end of last school year I had the opportunity to plan for the upcoming year with my colleagues from the other two middle schools in my district.  We were particularly inspired by the idea of mail art, originating from Ray Johnson in the Fluxus Movement.  We developed this lesson called "Post It Forward," which involves students creating art and sending it on to other students.  The lesson calls for students to create post cards with a positive or encouraging message.  This past weekend, I happened to catch this story on Channel 4 about a young man named Tyler Mullins who suffers in pain daily from an illness.

Tyler's Grandparents have organized a card shower for him because getting mail lifts his spirits.  I was really touched by the story and after showing the story to my students, we decided to get in on the action.  My students created mixed media pieces, using a wide variety of materials and techniques to create these beautiful post cards.  If you are in search of a great lesson with a great lesson for the students, I suggest posting forward an encouraging card for Tyler.  His address is:
6770 Arcanum Bear’s Mill Road, Greenville, OH 45331

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Artist's Trading Cards

I am very intrigued by the world of artist's trading cards.  They are small 2.5" x 3.5" artworks which artists (in theory) trade with eachother.  I use them as a way to give my students an introduction to watercolor and mixed media artmaking in general as well as a way for them to "play" creatively.  After introducing students to this process, I always keep ATC size paper in a box on the counter so kids have making ATCs as an option if they finish a project early.  This is my process for this project.

1.  Tape down ATC size paper and play with watercolor.  I demonstrate the salt technique, wet on wet, splattering, wet on dry, oil resist, and lifting with a paper towel.  There are great demos on YouTube if you would rather go that route.  My students love using watercolor this way.  It's abstract and a combination of pretty colors and shapes.  Here are some lovely painted papers:

Of course these are lovely and interesting on their own but I like to challenge my students "coloring book" notion of artmaking by forcing them to work in layers.  I tell them to think of this process more like making a pizza than coloring in a coloring book.  

Step 2:  collage with glue or ModPodge.

I make lots of interesting collage materials available from patterned papers, tissue paper, calendars, old books, magazines, anything to add an interesting second layer.  Here is an ATC created by applying ModPodge over torn tissue paper and magazine pages.  

Step 3:  Add some other element.

I make a variety of things available to my students such as pastels, sharpies, and acrylic paint.  Students are not given a prescription of what to add to their work, but are instructed to add another element.  Their creativity amazes me!

I even got in on the action by making some silly ATCs (by request) for my six year old son.  

Hey, if this lesson inspires you to create ATCs, would you let me know?  I would love it so much!  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Illustrated Song Lyrics

In my last post I shared my method of teaching color theory by having my students create 4 landscape paintings using only the primary colors and black and white.  We continue to build painting skills by creating a painting of any song lyrics of their choosing.  Students are encouraged to think about the feeling or mood of the song and incorporate it into the painting.  These were done by seventh graders. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My favorite way to teach color theory

My tried and true way to teach color theory in a meaningful and fun way

I like to keep a healthy balance of teaching technique while still giving students opportunities for creativity and problem solving.  I find that in seventh grade is a great year to be a little heavier in technique so that students are well equipped when they get more freedom in eighth grade.  As an artist, I love mixing color and finding ways to understand color better.  I have found this to be the best way to teach color theory in a way that is meaningful to the students.

Warm-up activity:  Color Mixing Game (teams of 2-3)

This is the perfect way to set expectations right from the beginning with paint set up and clean up because this is for a prize and students will try to meet all expectations to get that prize.  BTW, the prize is a pencil, which is pretty lame but students love competing and will do anything to win no matter what the prize.  The object of the game is to problem solve with their groups to match a finished work that is hanging on the board.  In the process they are practicing different painting techniques they can employ later as well as practicing color mixing.  Normally, I would never want students to copy the teacher example.  In this case, its a problem solving activity which is putting the burden on their brains and equipping them for techniques for future painting projects.

1. Set up palettes with only red, yellow, blue, black and white.  Set up water and brushes.

2.  Reveal the Painting:

You would be amazed at how intently students work!  This takes a total of two 48 minute periods so the students who get to class sooner on the second day have an advantage.  This was by far the most prompt my class has ever been!

At the end of day 2, choose a winner.

Activity #2:  Blurry landscape paintings using only red, yellow, blue, black and white.  

On my smartboard I will show students 9 landscapes.  The students will pick 4 of the 9 to paint. This is a challenge for the students but I blur the smartboard in an attempt to force them to paint large areas, ignoring details until the end.  Later into the activity, I focus the board so students can paint details on top of larger areas.  Its amazing to see them put their color theory knowledge into practice as they mix color to achieve the different colors in the landscapes!  I think their landscapes are absolutely beautiful!

All of this will knowledge will be utilized in a third painting, illustrated song lyrics.  Check back for those fabulous pieces!

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Eyes are the Window to the Soul

This is the final digital project I will do in eighth grade Contemporary Art this year. We began this project with a discussion about the saying, "the eyes are the window to the soul."  We discussed the idea that who we really are on the inside is not always the side that our classmates see.  For the assignment, I took the students' pictures of their eyes myself and they were instructed to collage at least 5 additional images on top of that as well as draw on their images with at least 3 different brushstrokes.  We discussed the idea that in a good composition, some elements will scream, some elements will talk, and some elements will whisper.  The eyes need to be the element that screams and from there the students will decide the elements that scream and the elements that whisper.  I have to say that this is by far my favorite digital project that the students have done all year.
Teacher Example