Sunday, March 19, 2017

Thin Stix Review

 Kwik Stix sent me a set of their new "Thin Stix" to review, a product they suggested would be perfect to keep on hand for last minute poster projects. I'd have to say that I agree! This product makes poster-making a breeze. 
I've never really enjoyed using markers to make posters. I much prefer the look of a painted poster but sometimes that can be time-consuming when you have to wait on a section to dry so you don't smudge it when moving on to the next area. Kwik Stix are tempera sticks so you get the look of paint with the ease of markers, and they dry in about a minute and a half. The Thin Stix are probably a little more than half the diameter of the regular Kwik Stix so it's easier to get smaller details.
The first poster I made to test the product was for a supply drive that our Student Council hosted to benefit our local Humane Society. I would suggest that you get the feel of the stix before you start on your poster. There are a couple parts where I got in too much of a hurry without practicing first. What can I say, I was excited.
Next, I made a poster that will be used to welcome art teachers to KAEA Summer Camp which I'm really excited to be hosting in my hometown this summer. It's nice and bright and bold and will work great!
 The next time I tested the Thin Stix was to make some posters for my school's Aggie Olympics. What are the Aggie Olympics? I'm glad you asked. We have a very active FFA chapter and during National FFA week, there is a different activity every day. Friday afternoon concludes with the Aggie Olympics where the staff and each high school class competes in different events. This year some of the events included a slingshot contest, milk bottle bowling, horse "apple" toss, and more. The students make posters applauding their class and dogging their competitors and it is SUPER fun. 
I used my Thin Stix to make a couple new posters- Teachers Rule Students Drool (with a Snapchat filter) and Winning the Aggie Olympics Since Before You Were Born! Each poster took no more than 5 minutes to make.
I had students coming in asking for markers at the last minute and I let my TA use the Thin Stix. I didn't get a picture of the posters she made but she liked using the Thin Stix as well and after I let my 6 year old use the rest of the sample for his artwork, she asked if we were going to get some more. It would be too pricey to totally replace all the markers with Kwik Stix but I hope to buy a couple packs to keep on hand for special poster projects.
I will also buy another set for my oldest son who LOVES this product. I kind of love that they clean up so easily. Bottom line: if you can try this product, I have a hunch you'll like it.

You can buy Thin Stix on their website, on Amazon, and from Sax. I haven't looked other places but I'm sure they're around!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Community and TAB-ish art history

Last summer as part of my graduate coursework, I took a class that was a survey of art history for educators. I LOVE art history, I minored in it at ESU, but I was a little nervous not knowing if we'd be expected to create lesson plans "in the style of" the artists we were learning about. Thankfully throughout my courses at UNK, I found that they had a real interest in letting the students make the program work for their lives- their teaching style, grade level, community, etc.

Throughout the course I tried to develop resources that I would actually use. I figured out how to incorporate art history into my TAB-ish classroom.

Our school mascot is a cobra. 
One unit that inspired an idea was American Regionalism. I always try to boil art history down into the big idea. Regionalist artists were basically painting pictures that represented the people, places, and stories of their communities. Today's communities, even in the midwest where Regionalism was rooted, look much different than in Grant Wood's, Thomas Hart Benton's, and John Steuart Curry's day. Technology and social media have changed how we connect. I wondered how my students would define their communities.

I've been using a mixture of boot camps and themes for my main high school art class. On the day we were due for a new theme, I started off with a slides presentation about Regionalism.

We discussed the slides, discussed the idea of community and how it doesn't have to be a physical community, before brainstorming communities that the students are a part of and figuring out how they wanted to represent the idea of community in a work of art. Some students chose our school as a community, several represented teams or organizations, some used farming or hunting, some chose online communities, some even represented serving the community in the military. The ideas were vast and so were the media the students chose to carry out their ideas.

This student made a rural scene which fits our community but filled in the space with binary code to represent himself.

Two designs with the same composition and colors (our school colors) reversed were woven together to represent our school having a lot of different types of people but we're all one community. Made by a student with some special needs.

Our school has very successful running programs and the students talk about the feel of family and community there. I wish I'd planned for more time on this project. The painting of the team on the top right would have been much improved if the student wasn't rushed to finish before the end of the semester.

Godspell was our school musical last fall so it made an appearance in a couple projects.
This student works at a veterinary office as a kennel tech and represented her job as part of her community.

This was supposed to be a church picnic but the student ran out of time and had to eliminate more of the crowd. 

Representation of the style and sense of humor of this students' community of friends.

Artist Statement: I decided to represent the farming community through the burning of CRP/Grassland. I choose this topic because I grew up in a farming community. Also, I have had experience in burning CRP. In my art I painted the grass being burned, sparks flew through the air and into the fire, and the fire was fully ablaze. I had trees in the background that were about to be caught on fire. Finally, behind the fire I have the burnt pieces of grass that have already been through the fire.
The two students above used their after school jobs as part of their community project.
Artist Statement: I did, for my community project, a couch with four people people, one a Death Eater (from Harry Potter), one a Science Officer (from Star Trek), one a X-wing Pilot (from Star Wars), and a Superhero (The Flash, from DC comics). I represented the Nerd community by putting these four together. I chose this topic because I am very big in this community. I visually represented this by putting them all hanging out together on a couch, in one of their houses. The title also represents the community by being the thing that starts every Simpsons’ episode ever (Couch Gags).

One of my freshmen loves wheel throwing and is pretty good at it. She has a large family that represents community to her so she made a bowl to represent each member of her family.

I think this theme will be added to my rotation. I teach in a small school so my class "regular" art class is like an Art 1, but students can take it more than once so I may have a senior with 4 years of art under their belt and a freshman who hasn't had art since elementary school in the same class. I think I will have to figure out a rotation of themes or some other method to allow students to propose their own theme. My advanced art class has been a full-TAB experiment this year. I'm still finding the right balance for my students.

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.”