Friday, April 30, 2010


We've been talking about what feeling looks like. We've been using Mandalas. Here is what some of my students had to say about symbolic circles in their lives.

Keith Loutit and Gretchen Hupfel

above works by Gretchen Hupfel

Okay. I'm in LOVE with this art. Playing with scale is something I have always adored and been intrigued by. . .It's just something that instantly amps up an emotional response to me.

And, so wow, I think I've been in love with Keith Loutit's work for awhile. I've seen his commercial work in allstate ads and the like. . .I have NO idea how he is fabricating this but I want to watch over. and over. and over. and over.

In a way I think it makes me nostalgic too. One of my professors, Gretchen Hupfel, was incredibly intrigued by scale as well. She liked to talk about it in class and was always reiterating to us the importance of scale especially in sculpture. She committed suicide during my junior year of college and even though she was never my favorite professor I've always sort of missed her. She had a really luminary sort of intelligence and brightness. Her artwork was powerful and I've always thought that she would've been hugely famous had her life not ended so young.

So, maybe all that nostalgia makes me love Loutits work too. . .Kind of like maybe that's how Gretchen Hupfel would be contributing if she were still here.

My desk at home. . .and at work

One view of my desk from home. It actually wraps all the way around the room and I just roll from one task to the next. I need to have everything out in front of me to process as I go. . .

Thursday, April 29, 2010

WIP: More Ceramics

These are just some quick pendanty things I made. I love the glaze color but I dunno, I'm not really sure about what I'm going to do with these. Maybe that's okay.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quick Snaps

I love to make quick snaps of anything I find beautiful. I keep them in a little drawer in my studio for reference. They are great for filtering through when I have some kind of block.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Henri Rousseau

One of the things I discuss in my paper is the value of self-taught art, primitive art, and naieve art in the classroom. My students love hearing about artists who taught themselves; I think it somehow makes those artists more accessible to them. Because, hey, a self-taught artist has a lot in common with one of my students. They have talent, excitement, and drive. . .And that is enough.

Recently, we studied Henri Rousseau (a kid told me "another guy from France?? which made me realize I should diversify the curriculum perhaps for that grade). The kids really, really, really loved this unit. They loved that Henri had never been to a jungle, but still painted the jungle. The sorts of concepts used by self-taught artists are SO accessible to students -especially in the elementary classroom.

My 3rd graders used markers, collage, paint, chalk and oil pastels to make these pieces. We focused on foreground/background, a higher picture plane, and overlapping.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Papier-Mache Animals

I love assemblage. I love papier-mache. . . I really do adore any kind of messy building process. Which is great, because so do kids. My sixth graders went to the library, researched an animal, and then we made a papier-mache version of the animal. The kids decorated the platform we glued the animal to as if it were the animal's environment. I love the process of papier-mache in the classroom. It seems so daunting to the kids at first, but after a little bit of building, they become super confident. Because, really, in papier-mache you just can't go wrong!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This is all from last weekend when it was so glorious. I'm trying to keep up. . .I love the birds in the backyard. And, since the land that made my subdivision was razed when it was built, the birds are slow to return. . . But, I am getting them in my yard!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Student Displays: What's On My Walls Right Now

If I could tell someone interested in art teaching anything it would be this:

1. No one is really going to understand your job; be prepared to be okay with that.
2. Take EVERY opportunity to educate others as to why your job is important
3. Don't ever have a free-draw day. This only undermines your job and your classroom.
4. Don't cancel class casually. This only undermines your job and your classroom.
5. Make your lessons meaningful, not only is it just good teaching, it is professional.
6. Teach others the importance of interdisciplinary units when it comes to teaching; you'll have it initiate it, but it'll be worth it.
7. Hang up all artwork -not just the stuff you consider "good." You are just one person, your opinion only matters a little bit. And, it means the world to the kids.

And perhaps most importantly

8. HANG UP YOUR STUDENTS' ARTWORK. It is the most easily understandable example that you are doing your job. And, hello, art is visual. It is important for students to see their artwork on the wall.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WIP: No Expectations

On some good advice I was given, I've been making artwork with no rules. For myself.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Metal and Wire Assignment?

My budget for the entire school year for my classroom was $400. Since it is now Spring, I'm looking more at what materials I have the most of, rather than specific artists when teaching an assignment. We have a ton of that railroad wire left over from some art teacher who predates my working at the school. We've been making mobiles a-la-Calder. . .But, I saw these at the Cobb Galleria and think they have enormous potential as a future assignment. I'm thinking of making the students use glue and white tissue paper for the skin effect. It should dry very taut with some very cool results.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Art Rockstar

The below and above are images by one of my favorite student artists. The assignment was to draw their favorite animal after researching animals in the library. He chose his pet dog. And, his drawing in this manner is 100% deliberate. This drawing, which is 8.5 x 10. 5 inches took him over four hours to complete. And, if you include his pre-planning time, about six hours.

Who: 4th graders

The assignment: Draw a still life based on vegetables and a bowl presented. They were told it was okay to be creative and change the way the bowl looked etc.

The results: Both of the works below are unfinished. The first is very typical of 4th grade work. She understands the assignment, is drawing veggies and fruit in a bowl. It is somewhat cartoonish, but there is an effort to draw realistically. The second work is by one of my favorite students. His family is a very cheery sort, who are athletic, social, an active. The kid actively broods everywhere he goes, prefers to avoid his classmates (and they are not mean to him, nor is he a victim of bullying etc.), and requested to sit alone by a window to work in my room; which I allowed. He too understands the assignment because I asked him to verbalize it back to me every time there is a new assignment just to make sure. Check out how cool his bowl is with winding lines. And do you notice the bananas inside the closed shapes the bowl-line makes? How awesome is that sort of thinking? Every. Single. Piece he makes has this awesome abstract quality. I would say that perhaps that is just how he draws. . .But he thinks about drawing this way. He will observe for nearly an entire class. At first I thought he was avoiding work, but no, that is his routine. He observes for one class, thinks inbetween classes, and then draws some mad, aweseome abstract thing below. And, he erases when the line isn't where he wants it etc. etc. His parents are visiting psychologists and psychiatrists and having a battery of tests run on him etc. etc. I'm not an expert, and think that it is probably wise of them to do this. . .But, based on what I witness in my classroom, I would say that his drawings aren't the result of any kind of disorder, but instead are those of choice. He picks his colors carefully. He cares what the picture looks like. And, he doesn't judge himself against the work of others. . .I think it is pretty teriffic. I hope he ends up in Art school. lol.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Art Show

I organized a juried exhibition at my school this year. 72 students from ages 3 years old to 12 years old chose to participate. I matted, framed, and hung their artworks and Shannah Dean came to judge them.

Wow. 4 months of planning and execution summed up in the two sentences above. Haha! There was a lot of drama with this show.W e had to order later that I would have liked and under a severe crunch. . .And then half the frames came in were the wrong color! Then, my school didn't want to punch holes in the wall or aid me in coming up with any other solution other than hot glueing the frames to wall in order to hang the show. So, that was an epic battle. Eventually, we decided to glue a shint to the wall and place the frame atop that. And now, students keep knocking the frames off the wall. I've come up with several solutions to this issue which involved walking in a line etc. etc.

In any event, it is now up, and the bottom line, is that I am THRILLED with their work.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Finished!: In the Words of My Students

Students talk. They talk a lot to the art teacher. And, well, to be honest, probably to any teacher who has a good ear; kids need lots of support. In this current educational crisis climate it seems like there is more dire news about the state of education in Georgia everyday. And, I do have strong views -just like everyone else- on the topic. But the funniest part out of all of these articles is that the NEVER put a human face on the students. The never ask students what they think of the situation, how they feel, what is going on in their lives.

For example, there is a lot to say about upping class sizes to maximum capacity (which would be 45 students in some cases I believe), but has anyone asked the students what they think? There is this false presumption that students don't care, or that the are not worth being asked because they are children. But, often, children have a more accurate ethical, moral, and fair compass than many adults I know.

I make pieces like this quite often. People forget that education is about STUDENTS. I get stressed, frustrated, I rail against bureaucracy, but I don't want to let go of the humanity of my job.

When I worked in Clayton county a very active 6th grader found me on a Monday morning during his free breakfast time. That time, was one of the only two times a day (not just at school) that this particular student was guaranteed to eat. He looked ashen and pale. His coat was strung over his arm. As he approached I asked him what was going on. He pulled back the coat to expose his arm, hanging at an extremely unnatural angle, tied up in a dirty kerchief. I asked him when it happened thinking maybe it happened on the bus. He told that he and his cousin had been wrestling on Friday night and that it happened then. He had not been to a doctor or received any care. I immediately got in touch with the counselor (which was my school's procedure for such situations). The counselor called the boy's mother to get him. I would like to point out that the mother is the last person I would've called since he hadn't gotten the boy help for 48 hours already. But the counselor was reluctant to do anything else because she didn't want the mother to get in trouble. She made some comment that I didn't understand and that the mother needed another chance. You know, I don't and didn't understand. But, I did know that the boy needed to be at the emergency room. He didn't show up at school the next day and I was afraid to call because I had called to inquire about a student once, and that student's drunk mother beat her as result. I should have called. The student showed back at school the next day -WEDNESDAY- with the arm still in the sling and still broken. I didn't follow my school's procedure. I called DFACs that minute, explained the situation, explained that I was breaking procedure. I told the student to follow his normal schedule and that help was on the way. The relief in his eyes was painful. DFACs came an removed him from the school later that morning and got him immediate aid.

I think the people setting forth the education policies in this state are so far out of touch with the students, that they couldn't make a right choice -or an educated one- to save their lives.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Container Project: Whoa!

For my container project I am focusing on animation. My students love animation and they are surrounded by it. It seems really foolish to not bring their existing knowledge into the classroom. I wrote the lessons and the students did the unit back on February. I am just now making the container though (I plan to use it next year). One of my students biggest questions during the unit was how exactly a zoetrope (the big spinny thing, that you look through to see a moving image) actually worked. I could and can explain it in the abstract: It has to do with a scientific fact about our vision called persistence of vision. Our brain holds onto an image for 1/20 of a second after the image is gone. A zoetrop, by its spinning action, presents images so quickly that our brains are innundated and run the images together. All animation, to some extent or another is based on persistence of vision.

But, uh, that is really meaningless information from a visual standpoint. So, I decided to make a zoetrope. I made about before I had an even semi-decent version. They are very hard to make, which is, I suspect, why they are hard to find today. In any event, I'm excited that the next I teach this unit, I'll have an active zoetrope.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tiny Things Still Life

Through much struggle, my Upper School art students were finally ready to tackle some hard core tiny objects still life. Most of them come to me in the Fall without having taken an art class since they were in elementary school. So, in some cases, we work through some of the challenges that any teacher in a middle school art classroom would. We have been working on drawing from real life for months. And, we've made real strides. At the beginning of the year (I don't have photos) their work was indistinguishable from the middle school work. . .And now? Check it out!!! I'm a proud art-teacher mama.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

WIP: Sphere Pot

This would be my 2nd attempt at the sphere pot. Lol. I made a human breast the first time, and I liked it, but didn't love it. . .So, this is my second attempt. I made a stamp from linoleum that mimics a motif from my mother's china pattern, about which I am indifferent. In a way it is about I both revere my mother's traditions and yet, am really not a part of them. I have a hope chest-from my grandma- that is full of school memories and such, and a lot of nuances of a Southern daughter, but I'm too abstract artistic, gay, and simply just not into that to be a part of it. My sister instead fills that roll; that is a bittersweet emotion. So, here is my sphere pot.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mandalas on Parade

Sooo. The hell that is Spring Set Building has begun. I make sets for four different productions every year. This year that would be: Songs From Around The World by the preschool and kindergarten students, The Nightingale a Tale From China by the 4th and 5th graders, Rats! A Story of the Pied Piper by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella by the Middle and Upper School Students.

For the set for Songs From Around The World music teacher wanted to do something very multi-cultural. But, let's be honest, I want somethig fresher than the usual rainbow of human colors. So, I suggested doing a large mandala backdrop since mandalas are such a part of world culture. I made it an interedisciplinary unit wherein students made a madala about their favorite emotion in class. And then, they made another mandala on the backdrop. I didn't get a final picture before the backdrop was used in the play. . .But you can see the work in progress!