Teaching watercolor to my 8th grade accelerated Studio in Art students was probably the most significantly beautiful thing I have done at school all year. I gave them each their own palettes and set of Koi brand watercolors. They began by painting on small sheets, practicing four techniques: saving the white of the paper, glazing, wet-in-wet and dry brush.
Then I gave them Arches 300# watercolor paper. They drew landscapes with barns.
Paintings took weeks to create. Many, many days of thin coats of glazing culminating in dry brush details. These kids are extraordinarily talented. I guided them, but really, they were on auto-pilot for much of the lesson. My job was to remind them to utilize formal principles consciously – rhythm, balance, emphasis…and to insist that they trust their own hand and intuition, so that their style could emerge. My goal and hope for them, as they mature as artists in high school and beyond, is for them to stay true to who they are and what they want to evoke in their artwork.
I am beyond blessed to know these talented über-amazing young people!!!!
On Tuesday, I gave each of my twelve Studio in Art students a valentine. I prepped 3″ x 5″ canvas panels with a few layers of beeswax. I carved in a heart stencil. I thought this would be a quick and fun way to introduce them to encaustic painting.
I took an encaustic course (graduate level) at Syracuse University in 2012 with free credits I’d earned for hosting a student teacher. Davana Robedee was my instructor. I love incorporating this relatively new-to-me media in the art classroom.
Students melted oil pastels on pancake griddles (all the windows in the room were open and the fans were on high) and went to town tackling their tiny canvases. The thing about wax is that when warm, it produces a luscious liquid color on the brush – but as soon as you remove it from the heat source, it solidifies, so…that brush stroke needs to be a quick thinking confident one – needs to count! They really loved the process. We decided to add a second day of it, which gave them time to process the process and make better decisions once they got the hang of it.
I painted 11″ x 14″ canvas panels with black acrylic paint for each of them and glued wooden plaques to the centers. Students carved into their encaustic paintings with clay tools to enhance the texture then added mixed media items to it and/or to the black frame. We brought the encaustics in for the landings with Elmer’s glue.
I am in love with the decisions they made and the fact that in three classes they all created these wonderful emotionally-charged finished products. So beautiful. I love heart energy! <3
This lesson is inspired by Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
Students had to conceive an idea for the composition. I had planned to have them draw thumbnail sketches, as well as lists of what props they would need – but after showing my accelerated Studio in Art kids the ones done by my students in 2012 and 2013 via my school web-site, they just knew what they were going to do. It was the craziest thing and really phenomenal the way they all collaborated with one another.
Each student planned the day for their picture – we had two weeks before Christmas break and it was a tight schedule for the twelve of them. They all brought their costumes, props and their A games with them, lol!
I just loved how they were able to count on each other and how responsible everyone was for their respective part in both their own work and that of their friend(s). Models allowed the artist to direct them. The poses replicated the ones in Wood’s painting with the person on the right looking straight into the camera and the other one gazing in the distance. I placed the school’s green screen against a wall for the photo shoots, printed the pictures then cut and pasted them to foamboard.
They created the backgrounds using a variety of mixed-media including tissue and decorative papers, toothpicks, beads, glitter and more. The border was done in metallic paint to act as a frame. A picture from the internet chosen to convey a theme was selected as reference and they attacked the canvas panels with vigor. It was so exciting to see them work. There was so much confidence amidst the chaos of all the materials.
Once the background was finished and dry (everything attached with Mod-Podge and/or hot glue), we placed 3-D Os on the back of the foamboard and poppped the pics on top. The result – twelve very different, very cool mixed-media pieces that are currently on display in a glass case in the atrium of Chittenango Middle School in Chittenango, New York.
My 8th grade accelerated Studio in Art students created these clay fish sculptures. We used Sax under-glazes with Amaco gloss glaze on top.
I think this is one of my favorite lessons of all time. I just loved how much care the students took to build their sculptures and then to glaze them. We had twelve colors. They had to use at least six (two to three coats each).
Roll the clay out with a rolling pin (each piece was approximately 3″ x 6″). Then place crumpled up paper towel in the center. Close up one side. It will look like a waffle cone. Add clay to the top to smooth out the head then add fins, a tail, eyes, gills and other details. This is done using slip (clay and water) as the glue/mortar that seals clay to clay.
They took about four classes to create and four classes to glaze. I let the sculptures dry for two weeks before the bisque fire.
Every year I do a pencil-only celebrity portrait lesson with my Studio in Art students, and each year I recognize less and less of the celebrities. Oh, the drawings get better every year, I think. I just cannot keep up with pop-culture, lol.
Here are the celebrity drawings from the past couple years! Can you guess who they are?
Studio in Art is one of those jack-of-all-trades courses. I cover drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and technology. I teach still life, landscape, portrait and abstract concepts as well, so it is a little bit of everything.
Every so often I do this sculpture/installation/photography project based on the work of American artist Sandy Skoglund. I love how this lesson has so many concepts all rolled into one.
First, students create the armature then plaster and paint a rat sculpture. I’ve always done it with rats because they can be simplified and look both uniform and unique – usually students create a tail that makes their rat easy to identify in a “police line-up” of rats, lol.
I usually give students a small Gatorade bottle then show them how to add newspaper or paper towels and masking tape to shape the armature, adding tagboard for ears and aluminum foil for the tail. This year I drank a bunch of Simply Orange and Simply Cranberry and we used those bottles to make giant-sized rodents.
I have fourteen students in class. They painted the rats gold – there were three hues from which to choose. Every time I do this lesson the rats are a different color. We’ve done them in red, blue, yellow and green, so I thought the gold ones would look fun. Plus, I just bought more metallic paint. It is Sargent’s metallic acrylic. Love it!
Next, we take a tour of the school to spot areas that we travel everyday – to make the invisible visible. We look through viewfinders made out of index cards to see the space from a number of different angles. There are some wonderful bits of architecture in our school that make for great photographic landscapes!
I have the students create storyboards – just a sketch of what they want to do for their photograph and I give them a hand-out with some questions to help them solve the riddle of this project. For example, what emotion will they convey? Will it be funny? A depiction of social injustice? Romantic? Who will be in it? What will they do? What will they wear?
In addition, we talk about POV – will the camera be at eye level or above eye level (w/ photographer standing on a ladder or standing at the top of the stairs looking down) or will it be at rat level? And is it an active or passive photograph? Is the viewer directed to what the people are doing or what the rats are doing? Or is the viewer looking at what the people are looking at?
You see, there are a lot of options and a lot to think about. Sandy Skoglund’s models wear the same color to create rhythm and harmony. Successful images would be ones where the photographer coordinated their models to do the same.
I assigned the dates for their photographs, which were taken during class or after school if they wanted to take the shot upstairs (no one did this year). The rats were housed on carts that they rolled out to the installation area. They did this unsupervised (I know! Can you believe it? I am actually letting go of my inner control freak! It’s a slow process but it is happening!). I gave them the camera and they came back with the rats and several shots. They told me which one they wanted and I printed them.
While this was going on, the rest of the class worked on a wood sculpture lesson based on the work of Marisol Escobar.
All of the photographs are on display in the school hallway. In addition to seeing great art, the fun of it is to view and search for their rat – is it a star or a supporting player? And of course, it is fun when they see themselves as models in their friends’ pictures.
Artwork is assessed as follows – how closely it resembles the storyboard vision, composition, which includes how well they have utilized foreground, middle ground and background concepts, and if characteristics of the work resemble Sandy Skoglund’s. The rats were assessed separately (armature, plaster application, paint application).
Yeah – this lesson encompasses so much, I think. They must create a sculpture then create an image with a point of view, make that image come to life…and there is a lot of freedom, and yet, there is also tremendous responsibility. So many of the images were nearly spot on from the original storyboards! It was a really amazing experience this year – for my eighth graders and for me.
My Studio in Art students just finished these mugs. So – it was a glazing project. They were ready-made bisque-fired cappuccino mugs. Students used Mayco and Amaco glazes to create an animal of the Chinese Zodiac in honor of Chinese New Year.