Monday, July 22, 2019


I wanted to share some of the artwork my intro high school students created during our "Story" themed unit this year. You can see another post about this theme along with a slides presentation full of examples here:
A couple students took on the challenge of altered books. This was a play on Rapunzel with the artist's friend serving as model.

The next 2 altered books were inspired by anatomy and by telling stories. The book on the left (in progress at the point of this photo) has a rib cage cover and the inside had sections of pages cut away to represent the organs. The book on the right is supposed to be a campfire where you could sit and tell stories. The student used tissue paper for fire and ash.

The next project was created by a student who loves fantasy and dragons. She made a hollow egg first and cut it apart so that it fit perfectly together. Then she sculpted a tiny baby dragon. She experimented with layered glazes and found a combination she liked.
The following project was made by a student who wanted to explore spray painting. He created a combination of stencils and masks that he used to make a phoenix.
This student used a mask mold as a starting point for a mermaid. She added some real shells in the end.
It's always fun to see the variety. I only wish I'd taken more photos!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

7th Grade Art

I'll admit it. Middle school is the grade level I struggle with the most when trying to figure out how to run my choice-based classroom. It is likely because the makeup of my classes vary wildly from year to year. Some years I have all the students who aren't enrolled in music, and other years it is opposite band. Some students actively choose are over a music class but most are in there by default. The size of the classes in the last four years have ranged from 6-19 students. Each semester I end up waiting to see the makeup of the class and then responding to it, offering the level of choice that I feel the students are ready for and typically giving less direction as the semester progresses.
This year I had a fantastic 7th grade class. There were only 9 students in the class and they were pretty artistically motivated. I was able to give more freedom earlier on than usual. We had a loose pattern of an assignment that started with an open-ended prompt followed by time to work on independent projects. Some students kept coming back to their independent projects throughout the semester and others would complete multiple projects while their classmates finished up their assignments. I saw a lot of collaboration from working together on constructing sculptures to sharing ideas and inspiring each other.

I am looking forward to seeing what these students create as 8th graders!

We went through a lot of cardboard!
This flower was gifted to the kitchen workers and brightened up the lunchroom for the rest of the school year.
A couple of students even explored digital paintings using photoshop and a graphics tablet on the left and procreate on the right.

Friday, July 12, 2019

2019 State Fish Art Contest

I've written about the State Fish Art Contest before (see posts here) because I feel like it, along with the Jr Duck Stamp, are great programs that merge art and science. It's always a choice for my students to complete the art and an additional choice on if they want to enter the contest or not. This year I only had 3 students choose to enter... and 2 were my own children! My kids worked on their projects over spring break and it was a good distraction from screens since spring break in Kansas is usually too cold to do much outside.
My oldest son chose the Colorado state fish- the greenback cutthroat trout. He had watched me using watercolors a few months before so he was excited to try out some techniques. He drew the fish and used masking fluid to trace the outline. He used a wet on wet technique to paint the water, letting drops of color fall on the wet paper and then sprinkled coarse sea salt and some table salt on the wet paint to create a pretty cool effect.
When the background was dry, he painted the body of the fish and later used colored pencils to add details.
Showing off his finished painting
My middle son used a wax resist technique, adding watercolor over his crayon drawing of a channel catfish.
Some states have a lot more participation in this program than others. It is not well known in Kansas but it is a worthwhile program, especially if you have students or children of your own interested in wildlife, conservation, or environmental science.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Practicing What I Preach: Oil Painted Portraits

I think it is important to practice what you preach, so I try really hard to make time to make my own artwork. That has looked different in the past year with the addition of my 3rd baby but I feel so much better and more like myself if I do something creative, even if it's only 10 minutes at a time, and I think it is good for students to see me working on my own art. During the spring semester I managed to make 2 11x14 oil paintings of my oldest and youngest sons. I finally found got the right reference photo for my middle son so hopefully I will get that painted by the end of the year. 
Both paintings were made in my classroom. I started the first painting you see here because a student wanted to oil paint a portrait so I decided that would be a great time to start one of my own to demonstrate. I worked on it sitting next to that student and a few minutes here and there when all the other students were working independently. I just found a strategic location where I could see everyone and it worked out great! I also spent a couple of lunch sessions painting after I finished eating and stayed after school to work on it while my older boys played on the play
I like taking progress photos while I work. It helps me to reflect on my process.
I took the painting to Highland Art Day where I added it to the teacher display. While walking around checking out all the artwork I overheard another art teacher making disparaging comments about teachers who have time to make their own artwork. How they (we) must not have big classes and can't possibly have children of our own... I was nearby wearing my youngest in a moby wrap at the time! I was pretty frustrated at the time at the rude comments and chose to go get a snack instead of confronting the other teacher. I may not have classes as large as some art teachers but I work just as hard and trust me, small schools have their own issues. No situation is perfect but I wish we could build each other up instead of putting down others who we perceive to have it easier. 
The two paintings side by side
The next painting showed more of the figure. It fits the personality of my oldest who loves to build and explore, and is not super comfortable smiling at a camera!
This painting was more of a challenge for me. I wanted to use the same style as the first portrait but I had so much more information in my reference photo. I eventually accepted that they were going to have different styles but as long as each represents the subject well, I'm ok with that.
More progress photos
Finished painting
How do you make time for your art? Do you ever work alongside your students?