Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Photo Friday: Halloween

Hiawatha, KS is a small town that's not too far from my school. They are best known for their annual Halloween Frolic. 
"Founded in 1914, Hiawatha Halloween Frolic is considered to be the Oldest, Continuous Halloween Frolic in the USA."
They hosted a "Horror" Halloween Photography Contest and my students were excited for that Photo Friday challenge. They used simple props- a dollar tree skeleton, a paper mâché Van Gogh head I made several years ago, and some face paint. We were lucky to have a corn field across the road from our elementary school and got permission from the farmers to shoot in the field. The students used the free app SnapSeed for some editing to give the photos the feel they wanted.

None of us placed in the contest. The winning photos were very well done, and a lot creepier than ours! We still had fun and will watch to see if they do another contest next year.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Creative Reuse: Art from Scrap Textiles

It all started with a KAEA conference workshop. A workshop description mentioned recycling textiles into art. I thought "I like recycling. I have lots of fabric scraps at school." So I signed up.
I didn't even notice that the presenter was the wonderful Liz Kowalchuk when I chose the workshop. The presentation was inspiring and we all enjoyed making pendants out of old clothing. I couldn't wait to get started with my 8th grade students.

I started with a discussion to introduce the assignment. A slides presentation kept me organized.

Challenge 1: Create a pendant
In the workshop, Liz provided us with templates. I found a bunch of small wooden shapes that had been donated to my classroom and scraps of mat board. They were all different sizes so I showed students how to make their own template on thin paper by tracing around their base and leaving enough of a border that it could wrap around onto the back. The students cut scraps of fabric from our collection- some quilting scraps and some cut from worn out clothing, glued them in place on their templates, and trimmed the corners before wrapping. When the wrapping was done, the pieces could either be turned into pendants to wear as a necklace, attached to a ring to use as a keychain, or turned into a broach by pulling one end of the fabric through a large safety pin when wrapping.

Challenge 2: Create an original work of art out of textile scraps
I am more confident working in 2D so I pushed myself to make a sculpture for my example. I formed the bird out of denim and wire, used netting from a produce bag and other scraps to form a nest, and perched it in the crook of a piece of hedge left from prom decorations last year.
I was also excited to have the excuse to pull out some of my cool fibers/textiles/mixed media books and magazines for inspiration!
I was able to purchase an inexpensive sewing machine with a grant a couple of years ago and I wish I had room for more than one because it was popular! Probably 3/4s of the students utilized the sewing machine in some way during construction.

The students didn't have many limits for what to make. Many made pillows, bandanas, or more jewelry. A couple went much bigger, working at home to add to their resources but still focusing on repurposing items.
This student found some old wire at her house and brought in burlap from her mom's wedding decorations to make a giant dream catcher which got a ton of attention hanging in the hallway.
This student was so excited that she finished her sculpture at home over the weekend right after it was introduced. Her mom and grandma gave her some help with papier mache. She used an old doll for the torso, a tomato cage for the rest of the body, an old coat for the fur, curtains for the skirt, and scrap fabric from her quilter grandma's stash.
A few students worked together in a group on a Batman costume that they stitched by hand and an armature to model it. Other students helped teach their classmates how to use the sewing machine or helped them problem solve.

Challenge 3: Plan the display
I explained to the students that they were going to be in charge of preparing their work for the display case including artist statements and a sign to explain the display so people could learn about our topic. I ended up home with a sick kid on the day they set up the display so it was really all them!

I couldn't have been more proud of the students' work on this project. They all learned new skills even though the skills were not the same across the board and they all communicated their ideas.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Painting: Trying to Loosen Up

Once upon a time, I stopped painting. Frustrated that I couldn’t get my paintings to look “right” (read: real), I stepped away for a while. 
Most of the artwork to which I’d been exposed was a realistic style so in my mind that was the kind of art that was good. When I was given the opportunity to learn and see more of art history and realize that there are lots of different styles I was able to loosen up and come back to painting. 

This is my 5th year in my current teaching position and I have observed the majority of students working on paintings being very tight trying to force a realistic style. The students also struggled to work with acrylic quickly enough and ended up frustrated with trying to blend dried paint. One of my goals for introducing painting this year was to encourage them to loosen up, move more quickly, and understand their options for different styles and approaches. 

With watercolor we tackled landscapes. I gave students the option of following along with me in a guided painting or working on their own landscape. I wanted them to have a basic understanding of landscapes without spending weeks on an acrylic painting like has been the tradition. We used wet on wet and other techniques to get the main composition laid out the first day then the 2nd was spent on adding layers for definition and texture. I asked the students to only make a few lines with pencil for a guide before starting opposed to drawing every little detail and talked about embracing the nature of watercolor- water likes to stick to other water!

Before the students started on their 16x20 canvas paintings, we did a couple of exercises with opaque paint. First, we did a one class period “speed painting” challenge. I brought in a variety of miniature gourds with different colors and textures and students each chose one to observe and paint. Here are the rules- use only primary colors plus white and black. No pencils or drawing before painting. No washing your brush. I did about a 2 minute demo mixing paint directly on my paper and using my brush handle to make marks with a Sgraffito technique. While the students were hesitant at first they relaxed and had fun with it after a few minutes, besides a few that I’m still trying to help break free of perfectionism.

The 2nd exercise was a simple technique sampler. Students folded their paper into quarters and made tiny paintings with different techniques in each section: palette knife, dabbing, scraping (using a piece of mat board), and sgraffito. 

When the time came for students to begin their final paintings they had learned some new techniques to have at their disposal. I gave the themes of “object” and “shoes” as starting points but some branches off in different directions.

I feel like intentionally practicing techniques for loosening up, in addition to introducing different styles of art in the art genres unit made a big difference in the students’ confidence and willingness to try new approaches. 
These paintings were created by a couple of freshmen boys who were not very comfortable with painting before.

A few students decided to paint candy still lifes. I pulled in Wayne Thiebaud when they were trying to figure out what to do with their shadows.

Not many takers on watercolor, but the couple that used it did a nice job.

This is the wall in our front office where I can display 10 16x20 inch paintings.
Do you find that your beginning students are stressed about realism? How do you help them to loosen up?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Jewelry Boot Camp

Spring semester in my intro high school class is usually organized by a theme for each month. But what do you do with March when you miss a full week for spring break and at least a couple other days for in-service, state basketball, etc? A couple of years ago, my answer was to run another boot camp/workshop on jewelry, introducing students to materials and techniques they could use and giving them 2 weeks to explore and create something.
Here is the slides presentation I put together with examples and links to the artist's websites.

And here are some examples of the students' work! They really seemed to enjoy learning about jewelry and having the opportunity to make something to wear or share with loved ones. 

Many students brought their own found objects in to work with.

I have a wire coiling gizmo that I purchased years ago and it is handy for making coils that can be cut into links for chain work. Of course, you can also wrap a dowel rod.

The wire coiling gizmo was also used for this piece.

We have an awesome Ag program in our school. One of my students used the equipment in the Ag shop to cut out a metal cross.

None of the materials we used were expensive- they were pretty much all scraps! The only purchases I made were some wire, cord, bails, and a rivet gun.

Here are some of the items we used: 
(If you make a purchase from these links I may get a small commission at no extra charge to you)