Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Artsonia Artist of the Week

It finally happened!  One of my students has been randomly selected for Artsonia's Artist of the Week contest!  12 pieces of art from each age group are randomly selected each week.  Anyone can vote and not only does the winning artist get featured on Artsonia's home page and receive a Dick Blick gift certificate, the school's art program also receives a Dick Blick gift certificate which would be very helpful in this time of budget cuts!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Snow Pictures

I thought I would post a few pictures of the snow from the blizzard we got in Kansas over Christmas.  I don't know how many inches accumulated but there were 3 foot snowdrifts even in town.

I thought the drifts on the side of the road were gorgeous!

I am thankful for 4 wheel drive.

This is a picture of the snowdrift out my back door.  It is on top of the steps but you can see how high the drift goes!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Break Artwork

This is what I have been working on in the category of Art since starting winter break.

Acrylic Painting

I have a 4 year old nice named Rosie who LOVES animals.  I asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she was so cute when she was thinking about it.
Rosie: "Hmmm... How about a picture?  You're good at making pictures aren't you?"
Me: "Sure.  What do you want a picture of?"
Rosie: "How about a giraffe?"

We also bought her Hungry Hungry Hippos so I guess they'll go good together!

Mixed Media Painting

This painting started off as an ink drawing.  I had a photo that I took about a year ago that showed the silhouette of a pair of cardinals on bare tree branches with a snowy sky behind.  I used the photo as the basis for an ink drawing- just black ink on white paper.  I thought it was too plain so I decided to try my tissue paper "transfer".  I scanned the drawing and printed it out on plain white tissue paper.  I painted a canvas with a combination of white, icy blue, and metallic silver acrylic paint.  After the paint was dry, I used a gel medium to fuse the tissue paper to the canvas (and coated the rest of the canvas for uniformity.)  When the gel medium is applied, the tissue paper disappears but the ink remains.  I applied some more silver paint to the tops of branches to look like ice and added the spirals and stripes to the canvas.

At this point, I put the canvas on my kitchen table and stayed there for over a month until I added embroidery today.  I was so frustrated with the project for a long time and didn't know what to add to complete it.

I had decided to embroider a phrase in the bottom section and "Be Still" kept sticking in my head.  The reason I like the image of the birds on the branches is the sense of calm.

Be Still Meaning #1: Be Still and Know that I Am God -Psalm 46:10  This verse is something that I need to keep in mind when I start to worry and try to control things that I should just trust God to take care of.

Be Still Meaning #2: Any fans of Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are? "Max said 'BE STILL!' ...and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all..." I thought this was kind of funny since Max is the opposite of calm.

....Speaking of WTWTA, there is a really interesting blog about the inspirations for the movie (which I more appreciated than enjoyed), lots of contemporary artists, musicians, authors, etc. are featured there.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Eric Carle

I get email updates from Eric Carle. In the latest email, there was a link to his blog! The blog is really cool, it has artwork and writing, his latest post is about his childhood Christmas memories.

The blog reminded me of the Eric Carle unit I did during student teaching last spring. Each grade K-6 did a wax resist painted paper collage project inspired by Eric Carle.

Kindergarten students learned about complementary colors and made fruit pictures. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar)

1st grade students learned about the moon while making moon and stars pictures (Papa Please Get the Moon for Me)
2nd grade students learned about warm/cool colors and made caterpillars. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar)

3rd grade students cut hearts from their painted papers (3rd grade did wax resist and tempera with texture combs) which were displayed in the hall for Valentine's day.

4th grade students drew a letter out of a hat and chose a word to illustrate for that letter.

5th grade students made imaginary animals. To get the students thinking about combining parts from different animals, they were instructed to just draw the head of an animal. Next, the drawings were rotated in their group and each student added to it (exquisite corpse style.)

K-5th grade students were in charge of painting their own papers and 6th grade students were assigned a color to create for the classmates to use

6th grade students were to tell some sort of story with three parts/three illustrations. It could be a song lyric, joke, story, nursery rhyme, or process.

A is for Art: An Abstract Alpahabet

I have no idea what happened to the formatting, the text is not cooperating like it usually does!

A is for Art: An Abstract Alpahabet is one of my very favorite books.
The book was created by contemporary artist and Caldecott Award winner Stephen T. Johnson.
I saw Stephen speak at the Kansas Art Education Association 2008 Fall Conference in Lawrence, KS.
You can view artwork and read about his books by visiting his website

Synopsis: A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet is a remarkable journey of discovery about art and language through painting, collage, and sculpture by Caldecott Honor artist Stephen T. Johnson. With literal renderings of each letter, complete with witty titles and playful, alliterative captions, Johnson’s abstract art forges connections between words, objects, and ideas.
Can you find the hidden letters? Look closely and you will see a letter C made of colorful candy, a letter H hidden in a hook, and an S in a soft shadow. From A to Z, each stunning, original work of art will stimulate the imagination and creativity of children and adults alike.

At one of my schools, a rotation is set up for each class to have a lesson taught by the Specials teachers while the grade level teachers collaborate.
The lessons are supposed to integrate our content area and either math or reading.
I came up with A is For Art: An Abstract Alphabet Alliteration Alphaboxes Activity.

I am a big fan of alliteration. Alliteration is when a group of words all start with the same letter like the title of the book or "bouncing baby boy".

Alphaboxes are a reading/vocabulary strategy in which there is a box for each letter of the alphabet where new or important vocabulary can be recorded.
I modeled the strategy and we each wrote down "Alliteration" in the "A" box for the first entry.

I read each page to the class and then we recorded vocabulary words for each letter.
Some were art vocabulary and some were just interesting (like kapok!)
For "A" we wrote down alliteration, abstract, and affixed.
For "B" we wrote down bisected.
We got through the first half of the alphabet in our 40 minute class and the students were having so much fun they asked if we could finish the book in the next rotation.

I HIGHLY recommend this book (as well as Stephen Johnson's others) and I promise you will not regret the purchase!
I have one copy for home and one for school!

6th Grade Monochromatic Silhouettes

Ancient Greek pottery was the inspiration for this project. I thought the students were going to be studying Greece at the time of the lesson but the schedule had changed. Guess they just got a little preview. The students viewed (described, analyzed, interpreted, and judged) images of Greek pottery and discussed the positive and negative space relationships, the monochromatic silhouettes, and how the images showed action to tell a story. The students thought of their favorite things to do and chose one activity to show in their silhouette paintings.

I really liked the image below and the students were excited to find out that the central figures on the pot are boxing! I called on individual students to make observations about the pot and after they had shared their initial observations, we just went through each of the elements of art and discussed how each is used on the pot. The pot, a three-dimensional work of art with two-dimensional surface decoration allowed for a great discussion on positive and negative space. I like to tell them that negative space is the space around a space to get their attention! The actual pot is positive space and the empty area around it and through the handles is negative space. When it comes to the decoration, the figures and designs in the darker color are positive and the lighter color (empty space) is negative space.
510-500 BC

I told the students that the figures and props in their paintings were going to be one solid color to make the entire work monochromatic (mono= one, chromatic= color). A monochromatic color scheme uses tints and shades of one color. A tint is a color with white added to it and a shade is a color with black added to it. I had a wooden drawing model that I put behind a piece of fabric serving as a makeshift curtain to show them a silhouette but it was still hard for the students to grasp that everything they drew was going to be one solid color. I finally thought to remind them of the iPod commercials that showed the silhouette and that helped. I happily made a fool of myself to demonstrate finding the best angle to show the action of the activity the students had chosen. I asked for ideas they had come up with and showed a straight-on and profile view and talked about which would be a better choice for each.

The students didn't have very much experience drawing figures so I told them just to do their best. Before they started drawing, I talked about the ancient Greek ideas of the "ideal" human proportions. I told them that we didn't need to worry about faces since just the silhouette is shown but that your foot is the same size as your head and that your body is about 8 heads high. The students in the first 6th grade class didn't believe me so I had one of the students measure my head. Then we got to integrate math! The student said my head measured 8 inches so we multiplied that by 8 to get 64 inches. They I had the students divide 64 by 12 to convert the inches to feet. We came up with 5' 4". I am really 5' 7" but I told them that is pretty close! The students chose a piece of construction paper and spent the first class drawing the silhouettes in pencil. I normally have assigned seats but to make it easier to handle paint for the second class, I grouped the student by the color of paper they had chosen. I passed out pretty small brushes and the students painted in their figures/props. We need to keep working on craftsmanship but here are a few of the more successful student examples:

Sports were the most popular activities chosen but some students chose things like reading, making art, or baking. Just about anything can work, you just have to find the right angle.

4th Grade Geometric Shape Op Art

Op Art is a style of art that confuses the visual senses by generating optical vibrations or ambiguous or undulating spatial relationships. I created the Op Art picture above to introduce the style of Op Art we would be creating to my students.

4th grade students brought together art, math, and science when they created their own Op Art using geometric shapes and complementary colors. First the students practiced measuring skills by using a ruler to create a grid. Next, the students chose geometric shapes and arranged them over the grid. I had a list of shapes that will show up on the Math State Assessment so I created (labeled) laminated shape stencils for them to trace. Finally complementary colors were chosen and added to the artwork. Complementary colors are opposite on the color wheel so the color relationship enhanced the optical vibrations.

This is probably the most successful student example.

I don't know how successful this project was overall. Most of the students acted like they had never used a ruler before. Maybe they haven't. Maybe I'll try it again after they have had me as an art teacher for a couple years. Even after I demonstrated measuring, marking every inch, using the ruler to draw a straight line, reviewing, reviewing, and reviewing some more, I couldn't believe how many different ways the students came up with to not follow directions! Some didn't measure all. Some got WAY off on their measurements. Some only measured on one side and tried to eyeball it to make a straight line to the other side. Some measured all four sides but didn't use the ruler to draw the connecting line. Some measured correctly but didn't line up the ruler.

Then the color part was tricky and I understood that. I really don't think it was too hard for the students but a lot of times they convince themselves that it is before they even try! The project was done in about 2 and a half 40 minute class periods and almost all of them could have used more time. The project had to end with the semester so several students took their drawings with them to finish.

Most of the examples I used to introduce Op Art were found on the Scientific American website in the article from November 18, 2008 called

Art as Visual Research: 12 Examples of Kinetic Illusions in Op Art

The article included useful information and a slideshow of examples.

Bridget Riley and Op Art <--- Cool recording of her speaking about colors

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

First Grade Symmetrical Butterflies

I was thinking about how to tie different kinds of lines and shapes together for a fun 1st grade project. I decided to use butterflies to tie in math not only with geometric shapes but with symmetry. I found a cool animation on a website that showed a butterflies wings being folded to match up and then opening to show symmetry. First the students folded their paper in half and then drew only the outline of half a butterfly on one side. Introducing the project and just the first step took a whole class period. Several students could not grasp only drawing half of the butterfly even though I had demonstrated, explained, and gave several reminders. I kept making them erase it until they had followed directions correctly. I think it was too tempting to have that much blank space on their papers! I reviewed the assignment and passed out oil pastels at the beginning of the next class period. I showed how to trace the outline with oil pastels, fold so it was on the inside of the paper sandwich, and burnish to transfer the lines to the other side for a perfectly symmetrical butterfly. Of course we had to trace back over the transfered line to make it dark enough but it was a lot closer to symmetrical than if both sides were drawn free hand. Next the students used crayons to draw lines and shapes on both sides of the wings. I encouraged them to do one line or shape at a time: draw a circle on the right wing, draw a circle in the same color on the opposite side so it would match if folded. After the lines and shapes were drawn, the students filled in the space with color and added a background.

2 More Kindergarten Projects

I'm getting a lot done today on our first official snow day of the school year! School was in session yesterday but I called in afraid to make my 4o mile trek to school with worse weather in my area.

Here are 2 more Kindergarten projects I've been meaning to add:

Kandinsky-Inspired Concentric Circles
Kindergarten students learned about artist Wassily Kandinsky and used the DBAE approach- Describe, Analyze, Interpret, and Judge, to discuss his painting Farbstudie Quadrate from 1913. I love the painting and have a poster of it in my classroom. We talked about the shapes and counted the circles and squares, talked about the colors, discusse
d "abstract", learned the word "concentric", shared opinions and ideas, and talked about aesthetics. Here is a picture of Kandinsky's painting:
Wassily Kandinsky - Farbstudie Quadrate - Art Prints and Posters
Several students thought the circles look like eyeballs and of course being in Kansas, a few said they thought it was pictures of tornadoes. I showed the students how to fold their 9x12 inch papers in half horizontally or hotdog style (thank you Dinah Zike) and then how to fold the paper into thirds. After the paper was folded I showed the students how to start
with a circle in the middle of each section then make different colored rings around it using markers and some crayon on top of the markers. The picture above was not quite finished but it's the best image I have of the project right now!

Cars and Roads
I got the idea for this project from one of my Kindergarten students who constantly wants to draw "car roads". At first I thought he was saying Cairo but then he made a drawing to show me, an intricate grid of "car roads" or highways. I played with the idea and came up with this: First students draw their roads, an interesting line that fills the page. Some drew curvy roa
ds, some straight lines, whatever they wanted. After drawing the road, they were to fill in the rest of the space with things you would see next to a road or highway. Next, I showed the students how to draw a VERY basic car and truck using simple shapes. Each student picked a construction paper square, drew their vehicle, and cut it out. I thought it would be good practice to try to cut out the shapes that they drew and while it was very difficult for some, some students surprised me with their fine motor skills! After the vehicles were cut out, they were glued to the roads.

Art Games and Secondary Colors Free-Draw

Since we only had two days of school the week of Thanksgiving, and I have a compulsion to keep all my classes on the same schedule, we didn't start any big new projects that week.
With my 3rd grade students, we went through Inside Art: An Art History Game where Trish the Fish guides you to answers about which painting you got sucked into at the Art Museum.

With my 2nd grade students, we went through A. Pintura Art Detective: The Case of Grandpa's Painting, a 1940's style detective game where you compare the mystery painting to other paintings from Art History to identify the correct artist. For both 2nd and 3rd grade, I had the students vote on the choices and I selected the link with the most votes. I did have to ask the students to close their eyes to vote so I could see what they really thought instead of looking around to see what the other students voted for.

In 1st grade, we had been talking about geometric and organic shapes. I made a PowerPoint game with images from Art History. The students all sit at tables/color groups so for that day the color groups became their teams. I cut out construction paper shapes for each color and labeled them "Orange Team" etc. and taped the paper to rulers to serve as paddles, the first team with their paddle up got to answer the question. I kept score and the winning team got to line up first at the end of class. The biggest problem with the game was teammates fighting over whose turn it was to hold the paddle and getting mad at other students for not raising the paddle fast enough. I didn't expect so much drama and everyone would have had more fun had they just chilled out. We had to stop playing the game early in one class because they were fighting with each other so much. For the rest of class they got to listen to me talk about being respectful and sharing and then sit quietly.

I had had some repeated listening/following directions/being respectful issues with one of the first grade classes so I told them we would be doing a listening activity instead of playing a game. I put them with a partner and numbered them 1's and 2's as they entered the classroom and had the 1's step outside the classroom with me. I told them that when we went back in, their partner was going to tell a story and they were to be the worst listeners they could. I told them some of the things they do when they are supposed to be listening to me- messing with supplies, talking to other students, looking at something/someone else- as suggestions. When the number 2's were telling their story, I had to turn around so they wouldn't see me laughing. Some of the students were getting very frustrated, one student was even yelling at her partner "LISTEN TO ME!" I gave them about 3 minutes to tell a story and then we had a discussion about how they felt when their partner was not listening to them. I told them why the number 1's were being awful listeners and that I, too, feel bad when people don't listen to me, especially when I am trying to teach them. For the rest of class, the students wrote sentences about why it is important to be a good listener and/or how they feel when people don't listen to them, then drew an illustration.

I made another PowerPoint game for the Kindergarten students that was all about color. At the beginning of it, I reminded them of learning about primary and secondary colors when we read Mouse Paint and had them list the colors for each category. Next I showed them the warm and cool side of the color wheel and said you can remember the difference by thinking of hot and cold on a sink or several pointed out that fire is hot and it is red and orange. I found a bunch of images from Art History and even showed some of my paintings asking them either if it used mostly primary or secondary colors or was mostly warm or cool. I think it was a great way to reinforce color theory and to introduce some new artists. Here are a few of the images I used:

Primary Colors- Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie, Jackson Pollock's Stenographic Figure
Secondary Colors- Edgar Degas's Four Dancers, Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait with Hummingbird and Thorn Necklace
Warm Colors- Georgia O'Keefe's Red Canna, Sandy Skoglund's The Cocktail Party,
Cool Colors- VanGogh's The Starry Night, Gustav Klimt's Sunflowers

At the end of class, I gave each student a piece of paper and let them draw whatever they wanted as long as they used the secondary color crayons I had set out in cups before class. See more in our Artsonia gallery.

Thanksgiving Shoe Turkeys- Kindergarten

This was a great one-day project for Kindergarten. We have 40 minute class periods and about the first 10 minutes were spent talking about turkeys. I asked the students why we would be talking about turkeys in November and for them to tell me everything they knew about the birds. I made my dad and my brother proud by telling them things about turkeys I know from growing up in a hunting family. (My brother likes to tease and asked me if they were awake when I was done talking!) They already knew about the special tail feathers but I told them that turkeys "strut" and spread out their fans, have spurs for fighting, and even have beards. The students thought the idea of turkeys having beards was pretty funny. The students already knew about the waddle. After we discussed turkey anatomy, behavior, and names (Tom, Jake, hens), I showed the students how we would use our shoes to make the basic body shape. I took my shoe off and traced it on the whiteboard to talk them through it then the students either took their shoe off to trace or stepped on the paper while I traced for them.

You can see more Shoe Turkeys in our Artsonia gallery.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Bugs!

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Monarch Butterfly on cosmos

Monarch Caterpillar

Praying Mantis

Differential Grasshopper

Kansas Critters: Bugs!

My K-3rd students are working on Kansas Critters Bugs! It is an awesome program sponsored by the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita. (An awesome place to visit if you ever have the chance.) If you have K-8 students and work in Kansas, this would be an awesome project. There is a list of species of insects and other "bugs" that are accepted for the contest and the works of art can be any kind of drawing or painting that is 9x12 or 8.5x11 inches.

I spent a whole class period showing my students a PowerPoint of images. I just went down the list and found photographs of as many species as I could. Well, mostly. I have an intense (and irrational) fear of spiders so I only added two pictures before I got too creeped out. The students were really excited I just had a hard time getting them to understand that we didn't have time for a story about every bug. I answered as many questions as I could with my bug trivia knowledge from 5th grade when we started an OWLS garden and the information I learned while looking for pictures. Of course the younger kids don't understand the difference between a question and a statement so that was kind of funny. I had to tell one of the Kindergarten classes not to ask "why" questions. I don't know why green stink bugs are green and I don't know why dragonflies have 4 wings. To help them fly, probably? I tried to tell them that most animals are the way they are because it helps them do their "job" even if their job is eating grass or hunting other bugs. It was nice to integrate science and most of the grades had completed bug units earlier in the fall.
For the next two class periods which will take us clear to Winter Break, the 1st-3rd grade students will draw their bugs. I am only going to spend one class drawing bugs with Kindergarten students. I have copies of some of my bug photos for each group of students and a sizeable stack of bug books from the library. I will be so excited if one of my students' artwork gets selected to be published in the book! Students can also submit facts, poems, or stories about one of the bugs to make up the text of the book.

Golden Garden Spider

Some sort of katydid, not on the list unfortunately!

Dogday Cicada

Swallowtail Butterfly

I think this is a honeybee? It's kind of hard for me to tell what kind of bee it is.