Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Digital Found Object Faces

Here's a fun lesson I did with my Computer Graphics class at the beginning of the semester. In first semester we focused on a lot of different tools in Photoshop but for this first project of the new semester I wanted students to practice different ways of obtaining images. This time they were not allowed to use any images they found online, but instead could use the scanner and digital camera.

The full lesson plan can be read here as a Google Doc and the Slides presentation I showed to kick it off can be viewed here. You can also "keep" the lesson and resources on the smARTteacher.

We looked at illustrations made by Hanoch Piven, one of my favorite illustrators, and watched a chunk of his TEDx Jerusalem talk. We discussed composition and how the objects he chooses to make the facial features of his subjects often relate to their personality or life. Here are the requirements and suggestions given to the class:

  • Create a self portrait using found objects for facial features. Consider using objects that represent you.
  • Pay close attention to the composition- how things are arranged. Not only should the objects be composed into a face, the whole portrait should fill the space of the page so that it is interesting and eye-catching. Will you use just head and shoulders or a big head on a little body?
  • Use a combination of techniques to digitize your objects- digital camera and/or scanner
  • You may paint the background of the head and digitally place the objects on top
  • Image size should be a minimum of 8x10 inches, 300 ppi

The students seemed to really enjoy this lesson so it will be brought back again next year. I had used Piven for inspiration at the elementary level but this was my first time introducing him to high schoolers. Click here for a mixed media Piven-inspired elementary lesson and here for a fun activity tub, the Piven box.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Unsung Heroes

I heard about the Unsung Heroes art competition from a former colleague (featured in the video above) and thought it sounded like an awesome project. I decided to use "Heroes" as the first themed project for my high school graphic design class. Some students have taken the class 4 times and it's a first for others. The students could choose any medium to communicate their idea.
We started with a discussion of what a hero is and watched the videos from the Lowell Milken Center. Next, I asked students to brainstorm and research to choose a hero. They could choose a hero from the LMC website that would be pre-approved for entering the contest, they could find their own unsung hero from history and seek approval for entering the contest, or they could just focus on a hero without the contest. I had a few students email to ask about a relative who had served in the military being their unsung hero only to be disappointed when they found out their person didn't meet all the criteria. I encouraged them to go with their choice anyway since I wanted the project to be meaningful to them and the contest part was just extra.
The students who chose personal heroes seemed more engaged in their projects overall than those who chose from the Unsung Heroes list, so I'm glad that I didn't limit them to participating in the contest. The contest is an amazing opportunity with a great message and the largest monetary prize packages I've ever seen in a middle and high school art contest so don't let that deter you! It seemed that most of the students who chose from the Unsung Heroes list did so randomly just to meet the requirement where the students who did their own research or chose a family member did it because they cared.
Will I reuse this theme in the future? Possibly, but I will probably not do it as the first theme for a class, or would instead offer it to my advanced students. The project does not have to be a portrait, but it is helpful, and many students were intimidated. I decided to let some trace the contours of a portrait of their unsung hero with the agreement that they would add more to it, and I wish I wouldn't have. There's not necessarily a problem with tracing- lots of contemporary artists do it instead of a grid method and it's not that different from Renaissance artists supposedly using a camera obscura- but I typically don't let students do it unless it is a photo that they took. Tracing has now been a hard habit to break for those students. Some saw tracing as the default and totally forgot about drawing but I think we're back on track now.
For my unsung heroes project I used my grandpa. He fought in Vietnam and saved many men. He disobeyed his orders and flew into a hot zone and rescued a bunch of men. He deserves recognition because he is a very humble and amazing person. I used pencils, colored pencils, and sharpies to create my artwork. I drew a chinook to show that’s what he flew to rescue the men, I then drew a picture of him in uniform, an American flag because ‘Merica, the 82nd and 101st airborne symbols because that was what he was in, and lastly I drew his dog tags. My grandpa is one amazing, humbled, loving, and caring man you will ever meet. For these reasons is why I used my grandpa for this unsung heroes project.
Today many women participate in the Boston Marathon, in but 1967 that wasn’t the case. Over history, there are people who stand out and make a courageous move to be the first one to do something. Kathrine Switzer was the first women to run the Boston Marathon. I chose Kathrine Switzer for my unsung heroes project because she is a light illuminating in the darkness. She shows society that just because you are a woman, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do things that men are doing, such as running a marathon. Also she is a great example in what it means to have determination and drive. During the race, officials tried to pull her out of the race but she wouldn’t give up. I was interested in Kathrine Switzer’s story and I could relate to it well because I’m a runner. Whenever you have passion and interest in what you are doing, it just makes your work all the more better. Kathrine Switzer is a hero to me because she was unique and original. She didn’t go where the path led, but instead she went where there was no path and left a trail. The whole story about how she started running and then realized that she could be capable of running a marathon is inspiring. It reminds everyone that knows her story, that the most dangerous place is in your comfort zone. Kathrine Switzer definitely deserves recognition for her amazing accomplishment of being the first woman ever to run the Boston Marathon.

When you think of heroes on 9/11, who do you think of? Firefighters? Policemen? First responders? What if I told you that one of the men who saved the most lives on 9/11 was none of those things. My graphite drawing represents Benjamin Clark. Clark was a chef on the 96th floor of the South World Trade Center Tower. He started his day as he always did on that tragic September day. But when the events unraveled, Clark went into action saving all the people on his floor, saving over hundreds of lives as he worked his way down the tower. Clark died when he stopped to assist a woman stuck in a wheelchair. Clark could have made it out alive along with the men and women that he saved. That would have been courageous enough but instead he stayed to assist someone who would have died without a chance. That is why he is a hero. I chose to do a graphite drawing to show Clark’s story. I drew a portrait of him in the foreground and the burning twin towers with the smoke spelling out “Clark.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Painting Boot Camp Year 2

Progressive teaching involves constant reflection on planning, instruction, student engagement, etc. to determine what worked well and what could go better. After last year's painting boot camp, I decided to try a few different things this year. 
  • Tempera (1 day)- Color mixing activities and color theory- primary, secondary, warm, cool, neutral
    1. Review or introduce the color wheel and use it to point out different relationships.
    2. Groups use primary colors to mix secondary and make color wheel
    3. Inquiry mix skin tone- students use primary colors, black, and white to try to mix a paint color that matches his/her skin tone.
    4. How to clean brushes
    5. If time, paint a fruit with only primaries
  • Watercolor blending, dry brush, layering, etc. (1 day)
    1. Demonstrate sky and clouds, wash and wet on wet, lifting paint with tissue, creating lighter values with more water
    2. Students make light sketch in pencil then play with watercolors. Suggest fruit but students may choose.
  • Landscape- background, middleground, foreground, clouds, palette knife, creating texture, shadows
    1. Show Bob
    2. Ross remix. Because it's awesome. Once in a while a student will ask to just listen to the song. :)
    3. Demonstrate techniques for each medium, creating texture, using fan brush, etc.
    4. Students choose picture- bring own photo or discuss search tools to find photos labeled for reuse, combining photos to avoid plagiarism. Use Watercolor on watercolor paper or Acrylic on canvas. Sketch divisions. Paint starting with sky/background and move forward.

The landscape painting took most students several weeks. I chose it because not only is it a traditional genre of painting, I thought it would give students a way to gain proficiency in painting and some confidence that they could take into their future choice-based projects. It took a lot longer than the other boot camp activities (most students spent about 3 weeks on their paintings) but I think it was worth it.
 Here are some paintings, and some other work, that I put in the display case when they were finished.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Guest Artist: Kegan Meister

I'm a firm believer in being real with my students and admitting my weaknesses. I'm honest with my students that wheel throwing is not my strength. I didn't do it much in high school and had maybe half a semester on the wheel at ESU. I finally learned to throw during my 2nd student teaching placement- and then taught K-6 for 6 years so I've had to relearn. With lots of practice over the last year and a half, I'm feeling more confident and have improved quite a bit, butttt, my skills are not nearly as advanced as a family friend who is majoring in ceramics and thinking about becoming an art teacher. Kegan sent me a message last August to ask if it would be ok to demonstrate throwing for my classes before his semester started up again. I said absolutely and rearranged the schedule to fit him in. Kegan spent most of the day at school demonstrating which I hope was as good an experience for him as it was for the students and me.