Sunday, June 18, 2017

Personal Pop Art

Jim Dine is an American artist who doesn't agree with the label of Pop Artist that is often used to describe him. While Dine uses simple, recognizable imagery in his work, the images are personal. Jim Dine is probably best known for his paintings of hearts but when I was researching him a while back I found some beautiful drawings of tools and fell in love with them! I love the mark making, the quality of the lines, and the range of values. 
I also like the reason Dine chose to come back to tools again and again- his family owned a hardware store when he was a child so he grew up around tools. (If you want to learn more about Jim Dine, the Art Story has a good resource.)
Here is the lesson plan I eventually came up with inspired by Jim Dine, which I posted on the smARTteacher
10 sessions; 45 minutes per session

1. SWBAT participate in a discussion about Jim Dine's work.
2. SWBAT brainstorm people who are important to them and objects that represent them.
3. SWBAT create a 6 step value scale using drawing pencils.
4. SWBAT identify the differences between different types of drawing pencils (ex: 2B, 4H).
5. SWBAT create a symbolic observational still life graphite drawing of an object that represents someone important in their life.
6. SWBAT utilize graphite drawing techniques to create value and contrast in their drawings.
7. SWBAT reflect on their work and self-assess using a rubric and artist statement.

1. Paper (white drawing paper or I've used colored construction paper for upper elementary)
2. Variety of drawing pencils
3. Erasers
4. Objects to observe (students bring from home or find in the classroom)
5. Other black and white media such as charcoal, colored pencils, etc.

Need these materials? Visit Blick!

Day 1
1. Introduction
-Lead presentation about Jim Dine's work and discuss with students
-Explain that he was identified as a pop artist but doesn't totally fit the bill since his work is more personal and about creating meaning
2. Brainstorm
-Students brainstorm at least 2-3 people important in their life
-Students brainstorm objects that could represent those people. Suggest thinking about the connection between them- what do they do together, what's special about them, why are they important to you, what do they enjoy, etc.
Day 2
3. Drawing from observation
-After students bring their objects from home they will create a line drawing from observation.
-Remind students to spend at least as much time looking at the object as they do looking at their drawings
-Draw light until you know it's right

Day 3
4. Creating value
-Talk about value creating contrast in drawings
-Demonstrate and then students create a 6 step value scale using a soft pencil and a harder pencil
-Review the differences between B and H pencils
-Practice blending and remind students to follow the contours when they shade.
5. Students begin to add value to their drawings after the line drawing is complete

Days 4-9
6. Students continue to work on drawings. The teacher provides assistance and feedback.

Day 10
7. When drawings are finished students will self assess with a rubric and write an artist statement about the work and the significance

I have taught this lesson to 5th and 8th graders, but I also think it would work well with high school. Last year I did it toward the beginning of the semester for 8th graders to give them kind of a warm up for observational drawing, practice shading, and to help them start thinking about the reasons artists choose their subject matter.
 This student made her drawing kind of a compilation of objects within the theme. She even brought in a real saddle to draw from! We didn't think she'd be allowed to bring in one of her horses so we went with a toy. :)

These two students made drawings that represented their fathers.

I only have a few photos of student work because I had a tiny class of only 6 8th graders last year. I am planning on doing it again next year and I hope it goes just as well.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dealing with Loss of a Student

One of the student's paintings
Losing a student isn't something I ever considered before, and I didn't realize how frequently it happens. My school lost a student in late February and it impacted our whole school community. I was heartbroken for the student's family as well as the other students in school, especially her two best friends. I didn't plan to write about this, but I keep seeing posts on Facebook from art teachers in a similar boat wanting to know what they should do and how to help.
I hope you are never in a position to need this advice, but if you find yourself dealing with loss at school, I hope this is helpful.

Instagram post inviting students to come for support.
The accident happened on a Friday as she was leaving school, so we had the weekend and an in-service day the following Monday. Over the weekend a local youth group planned a time for students that knew her to come be together, talk, cry, whatever they needed to do. It was well attended and seemed to be helpful to a lot of the students. There was a meeting for all staff before our regularly scheduled professional development where we talked about practical stuff like the plans for how to handle things the following morning, schedule of the services, the district's tough position, and then had several counselors from area schools there to talk us through what to do and not to do.

Here are the most important things stressed to us

  • Keep things as normal as possible because everyone handles things differently and many need the sense of normalcy.
  • Let students know they can talk to you, but try not to dwell on it too much (tricky balance.)
We were all given a statement to read to our students first hour so that they all had the same information, even though they had all heard about the wreck. The counselors were on hand all day to talk to any students or staff in need of support. Before school started that day our FCA had organized a prayer circle around the flag pole where anyone could speak and a local store donated balloons that were released. The students also encouraged everyone to wear Batman shirts (her favorite) and write her initials on their hands. There were actually a couple of students writing her initials through the end of the school year.

One thing that I found myself doing more than expected was explaining the position of the school district and administration. The district has a policy of no memorials and many students took this very personally thinking they didn't care. I had to explain again and again that the administration was probably in a tough spot wanting to be supportive and absolutely caring, but having to enforce the policy.

There are several special considerations for losing a student out of an art class.

  1. What to do with finished artwork... The student's family visited school the Monday after the wreck. She had seen a photo I put on Instagram (it felt wrong to not acknowledge what had happened) and was anxious to get her daughter's work. I gave her what I had and said that I would send the rest with her best friend when I got one piece back from a show and found the others in my folders.
  2. What to do with unfinished artwork... If the student has friends in art class and the family/friends are ok with it, let them complete the work.
  3. What to do with the empty seat... I actually considered rearranging tables but decided to keep it normal. I was dreading having the empty seat across from her best friend in my 3rd hour class, but another friend scooted over into it. They wanted to be close together and I think they didn't want the empty seat either.
  4. How to handle requests for memorial artwork... On the first day back, if a student asked to do something else (journal, draw, etc.), I let them. I had a couple of students who wanted to take on bigger projects and I just encouraged them to wrap up their assignments first with the promise that they could make something special when they were finished. 
  5. To "art therapy" or not? Be careful with trying art therapy type activities. First of all, most art educators are not actually trained in it. Second, not all students would want to participate and you don't want to accidentally make the students who didn't know know or weren't close to the deceased feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Try to keep things "normal".
  6. Talking... most art teachers are ok with students talking as long as they get their work done on normal days. I had already decided that if students needed to talk to me or each other, they would be allowed to do so in my room. I did make sure to monitor the conversations so that I could be ready with the information given me by the school, and suggest visiting with a counselor if a student seemed to be having a really hard time.

There's no perfect way to handle the loss of a student, especially when it happened in such an unexpected accident. Do your best to stick with the advice given you by your school and the supports put in place, but also trust your gut. It does get easier over time. The first week back was the hardest but everyone really pulled together and was very supportive. You don't ever forget. Each time I would find something like a piece of her artwork I missed or see her in the background of a photo I took earlier in the year, it was like getting punched in the gut, but you just figure out how to stay strong for the students.

Friday, May 26, 2017

How to Get Reference Photos Labeled for Reuse

I've made it part of my mission in the last two years to teach students about copyright and fair use. I try to encourage students to...
  • Work from observation or your own photo if possible
  • Start with an idea in your head and then find the necessary references
  • Combine multiple reference images into something new

But SOMETIMES those options don't work. For example, I had a student who wanted to paint a picture of Machu Picchu for her sister who had visited there, but the student couldn't go take her own photo and since it is a real place, it wouldn't work to change the layout. In situations where you need to work from one reference photo, I teach my students to use the search tools built in to Google.

Here is what you need to do:

1. Go to Google and type in your search topic. Select IMAGES. The tools won't show up if you just do a general search.
2. Click the tools button off to the right.
3. Under usage rights, select any of the Labeled for Reuse options.
4. Double check and use common sense to make sure it's really ok to use. For example, if it has a watermark or copyright printed on it, it was probably labeled wrong.

This is not a fool proof method, but it at least gets students to start thinking about it and taking steps to responsibly and fairly use reference images.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

TAB & Seasonal Artwork

One thing that people say they would miss in a TAB classroom is the traditional seasonal projects that students, staff, and families look forward to. I just wanted to share that festive artwork can still come out of choice-based classrooms! 
Last October (yes, I am suuuuuuper behind on blogging) I saw a bag of some cool little pumpkins in the produce section and bought them thinking that some students might be interested. I used the pumpkins for a demo in my 1st grade class, showing how I look at the individual sections instead of drawing a circle, and that observation helps me get the overall form drawn more correctly. I went ahead and reviewed some tempera techniques since students had been asking to paint and then I gave the students the option of taking a break from whatever they had been working on to draw or paint pumpkins or to continue with their own work. All but one student chose to paint a pumpkin. Their grade had recently been on a field trip to a pumpkin patch so there was a lot of excitement. 
I helped distribute requested paint colors and spread out the pumpkins for tables to share and then let students work. Some covered the whole surface of their papers with paint and some were satisfied after practicing the drawing. Some added scenery or turned their pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns and some left the pumpkins simple. The students used a traditional subject for fall art classes, but they chose how to engage with it and were absolutely delighted! I think the moral of the story here is that you don't have to "give up" special things that are important in your school community to TAB. It's about honoring the students as artists- giving them the choice and the voice to do it their way.

Bonus- if you like to incorporate other content areas, I found a great book at our local library that has estimation and counting in it- How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin by Margaret McNamara. If I had more time with the students we could have cut up the pumpkins when we were finished to see how many seeds they have.
I need to remember that there are nice display cases across from the 1st grade classrooms and take advantage of it! My classroom is at the high school so I don't always remember.

One of my friends started using TAB with her youngest students last year. She does a good job of putting out challenges in her centers and she has had some really successful themes! You can see more of what she's up to on her Facebook page or her blog, Ag Wife Artist Life