Tuesday, July 22, 2014

White Paper is So Overrated

During my second year of teaching, I helped to open a new school. I was given a rather large budget in order to stock and supply an art room with both consumables and equipment. This was prior to the days of heavy social media usage, and I was not well-connected to other teachers of Art. I used my wits and spent most of the budget on large items like a kiln, potter’s wheel, easels, paper-cutter, scissors, lino cutters, etc. etc. It was actually very hard to spend all of that money (oh those glorious halcyon days!), but if I didn’t spend all of it by a specific date the funds would be allocated elsewhere. So, in the end, I defaulted to what I thought was practicality and bought a wide variety of white paper.
18x24 oil pastel on black paper. 6th grader

But, ugh, white paper is overrated.

It is as if we are taught that our default way of being and creating is to start off “white.”  Consider, when someone says, “start with a blank slate” we often think of an empty sheet of white paper. But, uh, last I checked, slates are dark grey or green. There are some social discourses we could have about the fact our societal default setting seems to be white (ahem), but that is a discussion for another time.  When we were little, we were given white paper on which to create. Colored paper was for cutting and gluing; not writing or drawing. And, yeah, I get that white paper might be the best for writing - what with contrast being important for legibility. . .But, why the heck as artists and creatives do we default to white? Well, it is probably because we remember that little sheet of white paper we were given as kids or the white paper of our coloring books.
18x24 chalk pastel and glue on black paper. 7th grader
One of the most asked questions I get is, “How do you get the kids to color so fully?”  The short answer is that I trick them; I rarely use white paper.  In Art school my professors (and yours too) made me use colored papers and conte crayons to draw. They taught me that I could use paper as a value AND that I could also use the paper to manipulate value. I got tired of my students doing (what I call) wimpy “social studies map coloring” in my Art class. It seemed to me that they were phoning-in when it came to coloring, and I was spending a ridiculous amount of time engaged in cajoling (and explaining to them) them to color more fully. So, I just thought to myself, “Enough! Enough with wasting this time. Let’s give the kids colored paper.”
9x12 colored pencil on blue paper. 7th grader. 
So, I did. I still do. And, their work is so much stronger for it. I find them actually thinking about how the colors they put down will interact with the color of the paper. I often give them five to six different colored paper choices and I am fascinated with what they pick and how they pick it. It brings diversity to their work. . .And, yes, they do color more fully which lends their work a more sophisticated polish and finish.
18x24 colored pencil on black paper. 8th grader.

Now, I order more colored paper than I do white paper. In fact, I ran out of white paper in November of the last school year and I never re-ordered it. I decided to see just how far we could push the colored paper. I haven’t yet found the boundary.
18x24 oil pastel and tempera paint stick on black paper. 6th grader.

What about you? Do you use colored paper for drawing?
24x24 tempera resist on black roofing felt. 8th grader.
18x24 oil pastel on black paper. 7th grader.
18x24 chalk pastel on black paper. 7th grader.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Artful Artsy Amy: Scorpion Slayer

I'm interrupting this art blog program to bring you this late-breaking incident.

Right now, I’m house-sitting for my parents and they live on some acreage. It has been hot, sticky, and humid the past few days and this weather encourages bugs to come indoors to (I’m guessing) escape the heat. 
Well, there I was just minding my business, shutting off all the lights in the kitchen, getting ready to go to bed and there it was: A HUGE scorpion. Commence the screaming. I considered leaving Mr. Scorpion there, but this presented some problems. The jerk had parked himself next to the keurig, (and I definitely planned on helping myself to that later), there were four dogs and two cats to consider, and I would spend the rest of my time house-sitting thinking that every little itch was THE SCORPION. 

So, Mr. Scorpion had to die. 
In the past, all of the scorpions I’ve “handled” have been about the size of a doodle bug (pillbug) and of very small consequence. Anything bigger, and I deterred to one my brothers. This dude looked like he could pack some damage… And, there I was nary a brother in sight.
After squealing a bit more and screeching for the dogs (who thought my squealing was a game) to clear out, I trapped Mr. Scorpion under a glass. 

So, I asked Google. And, you know, that was just awful. Google told me that scorpions move fast, are sensitive to light, sense movement of larger predators (hello,me) easily, and can smoosh their bodies flatter than a credit card. The recommended “kill method” was to get a book and/or shoe and squish the scorpion. 
Look, I’m not an idiot. I didn’t think Mr. Scorpion was gonna go down that easily. And, the reccommended kill method presented some problems. 1) Mr. Scorpion was on the counter, 2) The counter-top is 15-year old corian (sp?) which cracks easily under heavy pressure, 3)Mr. Scorpion had TONS of hiding places and TONS of opportunity to “get away.”  I needed a method that ensure almost 100% death instantly.

Sensing my wheels turning, Mr. Scorpion, who until this point had been quiet, began to bump around in his glass cage. He was pissed. And, oh man, was he scary. I got a first-hand view of how he could move and what he could do with those pincers. 
Game on dude.

I considered spraying him with wasp killer. But, he was near the keurig. And, well he might run while I sprayed. And, I know me. I know I would’ve ended up righteously covering my parents’ house in wasp spray as I chased Mr. Scorpion around. So, no to that idea.
I thought about trying smoosh him under a flexible, yet really hard surface, like a cutting board. That way I could sorta “roll” the surface across his body and ensure death. Buuuut, the idea of feeling his body crunch totally freaked me out. And, all of my mother’s plastic cutting boards have weird cut-outs that I was concerned Mr. Scorpion might use as an escape route. 
Then, I had it! I would push Mr. Scorpion over to the sink in his glass cage. There, the sink and garbage disposal would already be running. I would quickly lift up the glass, and push Mr. Scorpion with a kebab skewer into the sink to be turned into scorpion ceviche.

It was Indiana Jones-level brilliant. 
And, it totally worked. 
Amy-1, Mr. Scorpion-0

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Google Drive in the K12 Art Classroom

As an incredibly busy person, whose ambitions often run away from her, I'm a huge proponent of working smarter not harder. Honestly, I think just about everyone is a proponent of that. Along the lines of the working smarter vein, I've simply got to talk to about using Google Drive in the Art classroom.

I know. I know. As teachers, we've been hearing about the awesomeness of Google Drive for a minute. And, some of us, may have even attended some of the Google for Education infomercials. . .Oh! I mean conferences (actually, the conferences are pretty cool, but mostly targeted at the newbie tech user).  I attended one of the conferences, and I spent most of my time re-examining Google Art Project (which is incredibly epic and useful; if you haven't checked it out you should get on that. Now.). What I failed to do, was spend any time giving Google Drive any regard. In fact, the only time I've seriously used Google Drive was when I wanted to share 8GB of lesson plans and didn't want to send 30+ emails. I figured as a teacher of visual content, I just didn't have much use or time for an application aimed at primarily word processing type ventures. 

I was so. so. so. wrong. 

My roomie, Mi, at NAEA this past year is a Google Drive Maven. Mi teaches elementary art at a Title I school in the metro Atlanta area, and she uses Google Drive in her classroom every day. When she told me this, I thought maybe she was exaggerating. . . But, when she started showing me what she could do with Google Drive, I was a believer! We sat in our rented condo in San Diego and Mi started pulling up document after document in Google Drive of carefully thought-out artistic responses from elementary students. I was astounded.

Fast forward to this summer. I'm in the midst of re-writing my class website and brainstorming about possible ways in which I can increase meaningful feedback from my students. . .And, manage the daily responses of 300+ students. So, I sent Mi a little email, and asked her to explain to me one the ways in which she utilizes Google Drive. Mi asks her students to fill out a "Ticket out the Door" as a closer to her daily activities (I'm sure you are familiar with this practice). But, she offers the students three different ways in which they can complete this task: 1) they can go online, click on a link, and fill out a Google Form, 2) they can fill out a slip in real-time and turn it in, and 3) they can use a mobile device scan a QR code posted in the classroom that links the to the Google Form. Mi is then able to login to her Google Drive account and view a spreadsheet of the student responses that she can organize in a manner similar to Excel (and I'm pretty sure you can export the spreadsheets to Excel, too). Below, is a picture from Mi's classroom website detailing this process to her students. 
image from Mi's class website, found here. 
Is this not the most genius idea?! And, before you get all naysayer about the access to technology for students and/or language issues etc.; I would like to remind you that Mi teaches in a Title I school and is asking this of students aged 3rd grade and higher. In addition to this genius, Mi is able to examine responses of students over the course of a year if she so chooses! Talk about being able to examine some data!

I knew I had to get in on this level of awesome. So, I've already designed my own exit slips in Google Drive for next year using almost the same process as Mi. Additionally, my advanced students are required to keep a log of artwork created/time spent engaged in art-like activities outside of the classroom, and are expected to achieve at least 2000 minutes over the course of the school year (this is mandated by my district). This past year, keeping track of paper logs was i n s a n e. So, I decided to try out allowing students to log their minutes using Google Form (which is what Mi is doing with her exit slips). 

I've taken screen shots of my process and posted them below with some directions. I hope you consider utilizing Google Drive in some manner in your classroom next year; there are soooo many applications for it. And, honestly, I like how easy it is to track data. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to show this kind of data -as an Art teacher- to your principal?! Do you already use Google Drive in your classroom? If so, please share! And, if you do decide to use Google Drive next year, let me know! I'd love to be able to tell Mi just how many people she has inspired.

Here is the front of my classroom website, complete with link to the Exit Slips (circled).
class website found here
This is what the students' see when they click on the Exit Slip link.

This is what the Exit Slip page looks like to students (I've pretended to be student Leo DaVinci). 

Once a student clicks on "Submit," they see this confirmation.

When I login to my Google Drive account (you already have one if you have a gmail account!), this is what I see.

I am able to click on the title of my Google Form, "Exit Slips 2014-2015 (Responses)" and see a spreadsheet of student responses to the form.

Pretty, amazing huh!?

But, you may ask, "How do you create such forms?" It is really simple, and here are a few pictures to help you out. Back in your Google Drive account, click on "Create" and choose, "Form." You will see something like this.
Google has designed the process of making a form extremely intuitive. It is much easier to go and "play" with it, than it would be to follow any directions I might give you. Once you are done creating the form, click on "Send Form" and the form is officially created and you will be given a URL link to the location of your form online.

I mentioned above, that I plan to use Google Drive to track my advanced kiddo's log sheets for outside-of-Art-class-time. Here is what that looks like.

First, they will go to our class page (on the class website). 

Once they click on "Log Link" they will be redirected to the page below which allows them to log their time. 

Enjoy Guys!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stop-Motion Animation Inspiration

Y'all know I'm all about some good ole stop-motion animation, right?

Nancy Walkup, editor of SchoolArts Magazine, linked to this incredible stop-motion animation today. All too often, when I'm teaching stop-motion animation, the truly excellent stop-motion-animation-as-art examples are either too inappropriate or too highbrow/aesthetically-irrelevant for my students.

This one hits the sweet spot of being incredibly well-done, having multiple viewpoints, being aesthetically relevant, epic, funny, and appropriate. Pin it/store it away for your next stop-motion animation unit!

P.S. Here's a link to an interview with the animators of this film. It is pretty interesting and compelling; plus, they talk about their process of filming, creation of characters, and lighting too!
Fight! from Marc James Roels on Vimeo.

My Apologies and Moderated Comments

I hope your Summer continues to be ah-mazing!

Just a bit of housekeeping, here. 

Recently, I've gotten a lot of spam-related comments and even some comments that are highly inappropriate. These include comments with extremely rude language and links to NSFW images. And, before you ask, "No, it was not your comment." Trust me, these comments are so over-the-top inappropriate that they have nothing to do with the blog post; they're just inappropriate for the sake of juvenile inappropriateness.

I've changed my comments settings so that I have to review comments before they appear here. I'm not particularly interested in limiting your conversations -or even criticisms- of what I post on this blog. . .But, I do want to protect you -and me- from viewing rude language and content. Seriously icky, y'all. Shudder. 

So. My apologies for the extra-moderation-security measures, and my apologies if you've followed a comment link that led to something unsavory. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Critical Multiculturalism Readings

I like to talk quite a bit about critical multiculturalism. As a teacher of diverse students, as a child of missionaries, and as a person of the planet. . .I find the study of equity and inclusion to be compelling and necessary. Below, are a few of my favorite readings on critical multiculturalism. Some are free, and some require a subscription a specific journal and/or database. If you are currently an enrolled university/college student and/or employee, you will most likely be able to access many (if not all) of the articles below through your educational institution's databases access (and/or through your educational institution's subscription to SagePub, EbscoHost, and JStor). 

Readings related to critical multiculturalism:
Allen, J.B. (2008)

Almeida, D.A. (1997)

Art Education for Social Justice                                                  
Anderson,T., Gussak D., Hallmark K.K., & Paul A., (2010)

Banks, J.A., McGee-Banks, C.A., (2003)

Britzman, D.P., Gilbert, J. (2004)

Toward a Pedagogy of Compassion                                        
Carson, T., Johnston, I., (2000)

Celebrating Pluralism                                                                     
Chalmers, G., (1996)

Celebrating Pluralism Six Years Later                                       
Chalmers, G., (2002)

Black Feminist Thought                                                                 
Collins, P.H., (1991)

The Power of Multicultural Education                                     
Graham, M.A. (2009)

Gorski, P.C. (2009)

The Pedagogy of Poverty v. Good Teaching                         
Haberman, M. (1991)

Knight, W.B., (2006)

New Directions in Multicultural Education                             
Ladson-Billings, G. (2004)

The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy                          
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995)

Lee, C.D. (2009)

Start Where You Are But Don’t Stay There                           
Milner, H.R., (2012)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Art History Memes: A Project about Context

You'll never view this artwork the same way again. . .Will you?!?!
My students are obsessed with memes, those funny little internet pictures that seem to go viral. In fact, I use memes to deliver my rules every fall. But, increasingly, I'm seeing artists and other creative-types harness memes to delve into more interesting, thoughtful, and provocative ideas.

I follow a tumblr called, BitchFaceArt. Name notwithstanding, it is a pretty compelling tumblr. Essentially, the curator takes famous artworks and places text over them that forces the subject matter into a modern context. The results are totally hilarious (see below). 

From BitchFaceArt
From BitchFaceArt
It got me thinking. . .Students, upon first viewing an artwork, always make interesting comments about the context. What if I allowed the students to use -carefully curated- art history images and create their own memes inspired by (again the carefully curated) images from BitchFaceArt (and I never shared the url with my students btw!)?

Well, I did. . .And, it started a remarkable dialogue about the original context of the artworks. The students were able to select from a set of over thirty famous artworks, and used Pixlr-O-Matic to add text. Next, students had to research the artwork, and the original context. Finally, students uploaded their art history memes to our class edmodo and they had to include a brief description of the original context of the artwork in the comment box. Students were required to make thoughtful comments on at least three of their classmates works. 

The kids LOVED this.  . . And, I love that it got them learning about art history in a meaningful, relevant, and student-driven manner. 

Below, are a few of my favorite creations from this project! 

Here is a list of the artworks I used: 
After the Ball by Stevens
American Gothic by Wood
Autumn Leaves by Millias
Ballerinas by Degas
Christ in the House of His Parents by Millias
Dance Me to the End of Love by Valentino
Four Studies of a Negro Head by Rubens
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer
Girl with Gloves by Lempicka
Portrait of a Nobleman with a Falcon by Holbein
In the Conservatory by Manet
Isabella and a Pot of Basil by Holomon Hunt
James Wyatt and His Granddaughter by Millias
The Card Players by Steen
Jitterbugs by Johnson
La Coiffure by Degas
Jesus by La Tour
Lady Shallot by Waterhouse
Marius at Minturnae by Drouin
Mona Lisa by Da Vinci
Portrait of a Child with a Drawing by Caroto
Portrait of Gachet by Van Gogh
Portrait of Sarah Siddons by Rosetti
The Banjo Lesson by Turner
The Flower Carrier by Rivera
The Idle Servant by Maes
The Pioneer by McCubbin
The Scream by Munch
The Singing Butler by Valentino
War by Rousseau
Young Woman with Unicorn by Raphael