Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lesson Plan Wednesday: Origami Village Dioramas

This week's Lesson Plan Wednesday is Origami Village Dioramas. I would suggest this project for 5th grade or older (my 5th graders do this). This is a lesson I modified from Blick Art Materials based on the supplies I have available in my classroom. I like this project a lot because it incorporates origami, sculpture, composition, drawing, and shading. It is a great project for later in the year because it allows you to re-visit previously taught concepts. BTW these ones aren't quite finished. Students still have to add houses in the background and add detailing, but I think you can get the general idea from these images.

**you are welcome to share this lesson plan on your website or blog but please credit images from Artful Artsy Amy and the Lesson from Blick Art Materials as the source. Please do not re-publish this lesson plan for profit or for a grade.*

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Art Assessment for Non-Readers

UPDATE 9/2/2013:   Here is a link to my dropbox wherein all of these rubrics are located.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about assessment. Even though I give constant feedback and rubrics to my K-2nd grade students I always get a chorus of shocked voices (whenever I mention "grades") saying: "We get a grade in Art?!"

Uh, yeah. You do.

Their response makes me strongly believe the current assessments I use don't have much impact. When you think about it, that makes sense really. Rubrics are typically text-based and these are students who are new to reading. As someone who teaches a visual subject, I inherently understand their academic absorption is strongest when the materials is image-based.

So, why am I not using their lexicon instead of my own?

I've developed a general, image-based rubric that I have just begun to use. There are four categories on the rubric: Craftsmanship, Completeness, Creativity, and Clean-Up. Each category is represented with a picture and with text. Next to each category is a set of grading smilies worth 1-5 pts. The category smilies are represented with a smile and the following grade categories: Excellent, Very-Good, Good, Developing, and Try-Harder. Since this rubric is for my youngest students who are still new to art, it is important this rubric have an overall friendly feel; I feel this has been accomplished.

09/22/2012 update:  This is one of my most popular posts. Scribd now requires users to register in order to download, a $9 fee. However, you can still screen-shot the image and/or right-click-and-save and voila! you will have the rubric. 

You can also download a copy of the visual rubric on SmArtTeacher here.  Please do not email me for any copies of the rubric. Since I work very hard, for free, to make anything I upload here available to you, I no longer email out any extras unless it is part of a contest etc. etc.

So far, the response has been super-positive. My students really like the smiley system, and when they have something less than "Good," they want to discuss it. I like that a lot. It gives me another opportunity to talk with them about what I think they could do next time.

I also believe this will help parents to understand how grading works in my classroom. Furthermore, I think this kind of system allow parents to know how seriously I take what the students do in Art class, and in this way creates more value for what the students and I do inside of class.

This morning, Hannah over on Art. Paper. Scissors. Glue! is discussing her current assessments as well! It must be that time of year; you should go over and check out what she has to say as well.

**you are welcome to share this rubric on your website or blog but please credit Artful Artsy Amy as the source. Please do not re-publish this lesson plan for profit or for a grade. Images for the rubric originate from illustrator Michael Hicks from Discovery Kids Clip-Art. The clip-art is free for educator use, but cannot be used for monetary profit in any manner.*

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Few Finished Plush Octopi

My 7th graders have been sewing their own Octopi. I learned how to make these from Felicia of Fluffy Flowers at the American Craft Council Show. You can read about how to make these here.

I love the variety that my students created!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lesson Plan Wednesday: Color Theory, Hot Air Balloons

This week's Lesson Plan Wednesday is Color Theory Hot Air Balloons. I would suggest this project for Kindergarten/1st graders (I prefer 1st). I've been doing this lesson for awhile (I **think** I saw something similar on artsonia years ago and was inspired for this lesson from it) and it is always positive. In my experience, whenever a teacher says: "Today we're learning about the color wheel," groans usually follow. I think it must be the "write out your work in math" equivalent! My students immediately change their attitudes when they realize they will get to make "pop-up" features!

Also, please note, I put all of the Georgia Performance Standards for Visual Arts at the top of all of my lesson plans. I print them out, put them in a binder, and then highlight the standards to which the project adheres. If you are not in Georgia, you will probably want to delete/ignore this part of the LP.
**you are welcome to share this lesson plan on your website or blog but please credit Artful Artsy Amy as the source. Please do not re-publish this lesson plan for profit or for a grade.**

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

They Got In (again!)

I'm so excited to announce that my high school students are 2 for 2 for being accepted into the Georgia All-State Art Exhibition! Several students were accepted last year for being part of a group artwork, but these students were accepted individually! Yay! I'm such a proud art teacher!!

Tracing Objects for Kindergartners

Yesterday, my Kinders practiced tracing to create overlapping shapes. A few of us needed a little extra help. Here is a cute animation I made of one of the Kinders tracing MY hand.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tips for Creating Plush in the Classroom

This is my third year of including plush sculpture into my regular classroom curriculum. It has become, for my students, a rite of passage to be old enough to create the plush projects. The type of project and goals vary from year to year, but the classroom management basis remains the same: keep calm while children have needles.

Honestly, I don't entirely understand the buzz about needles in the classroom since we've got wee ones wielding scissors blades. . .But, it is definitely a new tool for the art classroom in many ways.

Here are my tips for creating plush in the classroom!

1. Have a concrete system for checking needles out and back in. You need to be able to quickly assess how many needles are missing (you don't want them to be "found" in the scrap heap!).

I use a pincushion system. Awhile back, I made a pincushion for each table. I place the number of needles needed per table in the pincushion, and when I collect, that number must be the same. I made cupcake pincushions using recycled materials and bottle-caps. If you want to make your own, click here to download the visual and written directions from my scribd account.

2. Ask for donated materials. Early-on.

You will go through a lot of fabric at first because it takes the kiddos a bit to really understand they can use the scrap fabric in 80% of situations. So, you will start with a lot of waste. You will be surprised at how many donations you will get. Donated materials can include: old sweatshirts (no fabrics that will fray), old felt, old flannel shirts/blankets, old wool felt, stuffing from old pillows etc. etc.

3. Recycle. Lots.

You will need a lot of materials with which to stuff your plush, and polyfil gets expensive. Save up paper for shredding, old dried beans, etc. etc, etc. for this. It is okay to offer students a variety of choices. Also, this year, a a credit union gave all the teachers in my school a promotional travel sewing kit. I asked that any teacher who didn't want their kit to send it my way. And, done! I didn't need to purchase any needles!

4. Put on your "patience" hat.

Even though students know how to tie knots, when I ask them to tie a knot in the end of their thread, a panic sets in. And, no one can thread a needle. For real. Some will try, and some will try to get you to do it for them every time. Suddenly, no one has the confidence to know what to do! You will do a lot of re-teaching and confidence-building on a project like this. Reassure the students and encourage peer-mentor-ship.

5. Buy Fabri-Tac

Fabri-tac is too expensive to purchase for everyone to use, but it is a great tool to have in your back pocket for a "quick fix" (and you will have them).

6. Don't provide anything that isn't essential.

A plush project has students utilizing tools and creative methods that are new. Keep the new tools to a minimum. For instance, I don't provide needle-threaders for my students because I spend more time showing them how to use the threader than they spend trying to use it themselves. Students will avoid threading their needles without the threaders even when they don't know how to use the threader because it is "easier." Also, the threaders break very easily and that cost adds up. . .Once you have the students hooked on the threaders there are a lot of complaints when they disappear.

7. Have a needle/sharp-related injury plan and share it with the students.
You don't want any bloody needles to be put back out into the classroom supply. I tell students (and remind them constantly) to use their needles appropriately. . .And, then I tell that I will not be mad if they get hurt, but that they must let me now AT THAT MOMENT, NO MATTER WHAT. That way, I can get first-aid for the student, secure the contaminated materials, dispose of them, and keep everyone safe. The kids are great about this. And, I've only had one-to-two injuries and even then, they were just a pricking of a finger.

8. Build How-To Guides.

Build up a library of visual how-to guides for students to reference. You are only one set of hands and as such, cannot spend the class tying knots and threading needles as you will be needed in a variety of other ways (like safety management). Some students will be reluctant to consult the library at first, but after repeated encouragement, you'll notice them consulting the library of their own volition.

I compiled visual how-to guides on the whip-stitch, back-stitch, running-stitch, and blanket-stitch. You can view these compilations on my slideshare account. I encourage you to download them, and print them out in tile format. Then, voila! You have your own stitch library!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Art on the Brain!

Neuroscience is an incredibly interesting and exciting field of study to me. I know I've mentioned before that my graduate thesis-level presentation focuses on how neuroscience can help us to become more effective teachers because it enables us to understand the ideal conditions under which the brain learns.

I think the word "neuroscience" is scary to most of us in a non-science-related field. My top marks were rarely in science and math. . . And as such, I've tended to avoid those areas as I've aged. But, I believe this is a mistake. I may not have a future in scientific study, but I can learn how to be a better educator by comprehending the information scientific studies uncover about education, learning, psychology, children, and the brain.

Whenever I read an article about neuroscience, I have to keep a pencil nearby to write out some of the more complex concepts in "duh! terms," and I also draw pictures to help me understand what the author is describing. I also need the internet handy to look up words and other scientific explanations for concepts the author sometimes assume that anyone reading such an article would already understand. It is work, but what I learn is has so much impact for my teaching.

Today, I came across a review of a new book: The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes US Human by V.S. Ramachandran. And, I'm excited to share what I learned about it with you (and I'm buying the book from Amazon!).

Morgan Meis, from The Smart Set reviews the book which draw some neurological conclusions about art an aesthetics. The author, Ramachandran even speculates that neuroscience could imply that we all have an innate appreciation for art on a fundamental neurological level. Here is my favorite excerpt from the review:

Interestingly enough another writer has rebutted that neuroscience has no ability to explain self, and thus art. Click here to read.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shaped Word Clouds

How neat would it be to be able to introduce an artist with a shape that represents him/her and is made from words that describe him/her?

Oh, but you can on Tagxedo (my new BFF).

I made the above word cloud using text from my blog! Enjoy!!

Ms. Art Teacher Want to Dress Up!

How much would you LOVE to do this when studying Lichtenstein?
image from here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rally for Education!

Elsa Mora, a fine artist whom I both greatly admire and have written about before, is talking about education today on her blog.

As an educator, I sometimes get bogged down in the day-to-day madness of teaching. You know, those days when one student/coworker/boss/situation/you-name-it got on your nerves/upset you/frustrated you/overwhelmed you/etc. And, on those days, it is easy to focus on the negative things about teachers: "They only work 1/2 a year; they don't deserve higher pay," "They live a lavish lifestlye" (Bill O'Reilly), "This job isn't that hard!" (John Stossel). . . Oh, and you know all of it.

But, the reality is there are far more voices speaking to the positives of teaching. We all know at least one teacher who made a difference for us. . .And, that is everyone on the planet!

Elsa Mora writes: "Not a single billboard says: 'Take care of the children, they're the future, they're the priority. The quality of a society is based on the quality of the education offered to their citizens. . .That would be kind of ridiculous to promote because it doesn't generate profit. In a profit-oriented society like this, social values get totally lost. In the end, money becomes the biggest voice. But, we just can't shut up. As tiny as our voice is, we need to keep using it, otherwise that would be like giving up our rights. Hope must be kept alive no matter what."

Y'all. She is talking about education and educators when she writes that. And, she is writing as a concerned Mama and a concerned citizen. . . and, she isn't a teacher. As my adopted grandmother would say: "How about that?!"

Lesson Plan Wednesday: Color Theory, Op-Art Hands

I have SO enjoyed the give and take of sharing lessons back and forth with all of you. I've continued to write out all of my lesson plans (I've gotten down to a science, y'all!). And man, no my LP library is big. I can't believe how many lessons (that are my own) that I have! Seeing them all in one place is a really visceral reminder of how important it is to write down those lessons right then, as-I-go!

Lesson Plan Wednesday is a new little feature on Artful Artsy Amy wherein I'll be posting a written out lesson plan with (hopefully) as many pictures of the work as possible. Postings will occur weekly and on Wednesday (obviously!). There will be a variety of lessons presented, and if I write a lesson with the specific work of another artist/art teacher in mind I will credit that person. Right now, the plan is to only share those lessons I have written myself. . .Not those shared with me. But, if you want your lesson to be featured here, please let me know and I will do that too.
Lately, I've come across some sites that sell self-written lesson plans. . .And, honestly, I get it. I get it takes a bit to write out the lesson, I get wanting to financially benefit from this work, and I don't think ill of it. . . But, I also know I will never purchase. I feel education should be free and I want to share my knowledge (oh and let's be honest, I want everyone to share for free with me too!) with everyone in the most equitable manner possible.

I hope you enjoy it!
This week's Lesson Plan Wednesday is Color Theory Op Art Hands. I would suggest this project for 4th/5th graders or even older (I prefer 5th). This is a great intro-to-contour-line-and-volume project. My hallway is currently all decorated-out with these guys, and I've already gotten tons of comments. The students love them and they learn a lot from them.

Also, please note, I put all of the Georgia Performance Standards for Visual Arts at the top of all of my lesson plans. I print them out, put them in a binder, and then highlight the standards to which the project adheres. If you are not in Georgia, you will probably want to delete/ignore this part of the LP.

**you are welcome to share this lesson plan on your website or blog but please credit Artful Artsy Amy as the source. Please do not re-publish this lesson plan for profit or for a grade.**

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


My OctoPirate

This past weekend, I attended the American Craft Council show. It. Was. Amazing. One of the things I like best about art is the infinite ways in which it is constantly being interpreted. I love that I saw so many things that I had never even thought-of/heard-of before!

The art educator in me loved that the Show offered children an opportunity to get involved in the arts through free workshops. Truthfully, the show cost $13 a person to enter (I had a coupon), so I think "free" is a little relative. . . But it was still a bargain.

I was there on Saturday and during that day there were courses for children on book-making and plush sewing. For real. No cookie-cutter, kiddie-craft art at the American Craft Council! I attended the workshop for plush sewing (y'all know I love me some sewing for kiddos!).

The speaker was Felicia of Fluffy Flowers and I can't imagine a better person to introduce plush to anyone! First, she is incredibly enthusiastic, kinetic, and charismatic. Second, she is brilliantly talented and very knowledgeable. Third, she is a librarian, so she knows how to break down information into bits for learners!

Felicia (it was hard to get a still photo of her!)

For the first part of the workshop Felicia defined plush and the art form of plush for a group of extremely excited children. She had tons of great examples of her own work (seriously. I needs me a Gnudie Gnome). One of my favorite pieces (and my boyfriend's favorite piece) was the plush trailer Felicia made. It is insane!

For the second part of the workshop Felicia walked learners through how to make a plush OctoPirate. It is so cute I get excited every time I think about it. She had these unbelievable kits she had put together for each student. They were in these little Chinese-take-out-inspired boxes with pirate treasure maps on them!! Inside the kit were all the things needed to make the plush OctoPirate. SOOOO much work went into those kits; I am so impressed with the work and care that Felicia put into those kits!

The contents of my kit

Felicia was so awesome that she let a few adults (including me) participate in the workshop because she "had a few extra kits." I can't believe how generous Felicia's was/is. I've seen/participated in workshops like this wherein it would've cost a minimum of $10 (most likely more). And, she donated her materials and time.

So, I proudly walked home with my wee kit (we got to keep the boxes even!!!!!) and my OctoPirate and wrote up Felicia's directions (with a few modifications in a nod to the materials in an Elementary classroom) in a lesson plan. I'm going to share the lesson plan here with you.

I want to encourage you to visit Felicia's blog and Etsy shop. She is really out there celebrating art in a profound way. And, like most of us art educators, she is making her own art in her own free time. . . And, she is going waaayyy beyond by donating her time and materials to celebrating art in workshops like this one for children.

So, if you download the OctoPirate Lesson Plan, please visit Felicia and give her a big "THANKS!"
His "bad" eye

**Please note that the OctoPirate is the creative domain of Felicia of Fluffy Flowers. While it is okay to teach your students yourself how-to make an OctoPirate it is not okay to try to sell an OctoPirate or sell how-to make an OctoPirate.**

Ungrateful Wretch!

Every year my school has an annual Parent's Club (PTA) Auction Gala. I've never attended for several reasons:
1. It is very expensive ($75-$100 a ticket)
2. I avoid socializing with parents because I like to keep my private life separate and well, private.
3. I don't really mix with that sort of crowd. That isn't meant to sound negative it is just that since I teach in a private school the parents are very wealthy and run in high-power and wealth circles. I do not.
4. I have social anxiety. I know! I'm a teacher with social anxiety! I've worked hard and avoid anxiety around my students, but at the end of the day I'm dying to get home and be alone! lol. The idea of a whole room of talking to people I vaguely know makes my stomach ill.

Last week I received the following note in my school mailbox:
"This is to let you know that a parent of [school name] has purchased you one auction ticket for you to attend this year's auction. You are so appreciated for all you do and they want you to come and enjoy the evening celebrating our school! They wish to remain anonymous. If you would please let [parent name, school name] Vice President of the Parent's Club know by Monday March 14th if you are NOT able to attend so that the ticket may be offered to someone else."

Ummm. Wow. I had a lot of mixed emotions. I most definitely did not want to go to the Auction, but well, how can I not go now? Ultimately, I decided I had to go because of the generosity that someone else has shown towards me. And, I've had to work hard to have a good attitude about it. I'm very nervous, but am excited that it is going to be catered by Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (yummy!).

I also realized I own nothing formal enough for the event. So, I went online and found a $17 Little Black Dress! I just wanted something to help be "blend;" not something spectacular.

I'm working hard to be excited.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Art Education Lesson Plan Template

THANK YOU all so much for the lesson plans. Swapping and sharing has been so much fun and my lesson plan library has not just grown in size, my inspiration has grown as well!

A few of you asked if I use a lesson plan template. I do. There are tons (tons, and tons, and tons) of lesson plan templates out there on the 'nets. But, I made my own, because very few of the templates out there are designed to suit art education and of those well-suited for art education none were suited for me.

My template walks through the lesson in order of the steps I go through thinking about the lesson. The template I've enclosed below is general and for all ages. But, I made template specific to each grade level as well. On each grade level, I include ALL the standards for that grade in the "objectives" box. After writing the lesson, I print it out and then highlight which objectives the lesson identifies. All of my lessons go into a binder that is arranged chronologically by grade and by the time of the year I do that project.

When I do this, I can show my administration what is going on very simply. . .And, it makes planning much easier on me. It is a little bit more up-front work. . .But really, it makes the middle-of-the-year madness so much easier to organize!

I hope this makes sense!

A jpg copy of the template is below. And, you can download a .doc version of the file (you can type directly in and the formatting will not be lost) on my scribd account by clicking here.

Feel free to print the template and share as you like. I just ask that you do not use the empty and plan template in a for-profit or for-a-grade (turn it in to a teacher/professor) situation.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Share Written Lesson Plans

Hey Everyone! I hope your week has been more calm than mine. So much is happening down here and I will write about it. . .But after things are more "settled."

One thing I am in the midst of is trying to get all of my lesson plans written out formally and in the same format. The environments in which I have worked have been extremely laid-back about how lesson plans are turned-in etc. etc. But, I'm trying to hold myself more and more accountable in fear of ever becoming complacent. In this tenuous teaching climate where jobs really do come and go, I want to make sure that I never -ever- am on the block because of my own doing (or lack thereof).

Currently, I've got about 55 lesson plans all written out in the same format! Yay me! Some are my ideas, some of your ideas, some are ideas from Crayola, Blick Art Materials etc. etc.

When you look across the 'nets you notice that people share pictures but not their written out plans. I suspect this is because those lessons take SO much time to do and who wants to just give 'em all alway? Or maybe, it is because you've written them out to align with your state standards?

In any event, what I want to know is will you share? I WOULD LOVE to share with you! I know there will be a lot of copying and pasting to make sure that whatever you/I get aligns with the format of the rest of your/my lessons. . . But still! What a timesaver!

I have 55 lessons ready for sending!

If you want my lesson plans, simply send me an email (with your typed up lessons attached) to and I will reply will my typed lessons attached.

BUT WAIT! Don't know how to compress a lot of files for emailing?! It is super easy! Here's How!

1. Put all files in 1 folder
2. highlight all the files you want to compress (click and hold down the "ctrl" button to highlight more than one file)
3. right click
4. click on "send to"
5. choose the "compressed (zipped) folder" option
6. wait. It may take a few minutes
7. Look in your original folder. There will be a new folder with a tiny little zipper on it (it randomly assigns a name based on where you right clicked earlier).
8. Right click on the folder
9. choose the "rename" option
10. Select a name
11. go to your email
12. address your email
13. select your "attach" button
14. choose your zipped folder
15 SEND!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What The Soap Resist Method Looks Like

I know when I peruse the internets for lessons, I'm looking for pictures. There may be a great lesson plan, but if it has no pictures, I pass it over. As a visual art teacher, I need the visual. So, in the spirit of knowing what moves me, here are some pictures from a workshop I taught about Soap Resist. Y'all it is fun, easy, and yields great results!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soap Resist Creative Method

Later this month, I will be presenting at the Georgia Art Education Association Spring Conference. I am extremely excited to be teaching a new art method I learned about eighteen months ago from one of my graduate school cohort members. My bud claims that her undergraduate art professor taught the method to her. The method? Soap Resist.
I've searched all over the internets for examples of Soap Resist Art, but have turned up pretty much empty-handed. If you come across something, send it to me! In some ways, this is super exciting to me because it means that it is a relatively new method!
I'm going to share it with you today! And, I've written three lesson plans (elementary, middle, and high) for the Soap Resist method. These lesson adhere to the Georgia Performance Standards, but I'm 100% sure you could slightly modify the lessons to suit your teaching needs!

My students LOVE soap resist, and they achieve incredible results with it!

Materials Needed:

- Plain bar-based soap (ivory is my choice)

- Black Canson Paper (any non-bleed black paper will work)

- Prismacolor Art Stix (experiment with other materials!)

- Water with sink or other soaking tray

- Pencil for sketching

- Xacto blade or knife for cutting soap

Creative Steps:

1. Lightly sketch out design on black Canson paper in pencil. Some pencil lines may show if drawn too dark.

2. Cut soap into manageable pieces for drawing. May want to use the Xacto blade to carve a fine tip for drawing.

3. Draw with soap on top of pencil sketch lines. Gently rub the soap back and forth as you draw so the soap line is “waxy.” All soap lines will wash out totally black.

4. Color in your image with Prismacolor Art Stix. Layer the color to achieve desired effects.

5. Run water into sink or tray until there is enough to cover paper. Soak paper in water or tray and gently rub against the drawing with your bare hand. Some of the drawing will brush away.

6. Once all of the soap is removed from the paper allow to dry and your soap-resist drawing is complete!

Possible Project Applications:

- Georgia O’Keefe florals. Students of all ages can enjoy this project.

- Hands. Advanced drawing students can achieve profound effects with soap resist while drawing hands.

- Political Awareness. Advanced drawing students can use the bold lines of soap resist to outline political agendas.

- Portraits. Because of the heavy dark lines provided with the resist, advanced art students can work on shading for portraits while still maintaining a contour-line outline.

- Shading Abstraction. Students of all ages can work on shading while drawing an abstract artwork.

- Positive/Negative Space. Students of all ages can learn more about positive and negative space by turning what is initially positive space into negative space.

Pre-Written Lesson Plans

-2nd Grade: Georiga O'Keefe Flowers Using the Soap Resist Method. Click for downloadable version on a link

- 7th Grade: Soap Resist: Monochromatic Still Life. Click for downloadable version on link.

- High School Visual Arts: Emotional Hands Using the Soap Resist Method. Click for downloadable version on link


Click below for a more easily printed version of Soap Resist Directions


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Matisse Goldfish Bowls

Part of my school's curriculum is the expectation that I teach young students to emulate a famous artwork. I have conflicted feelings about this requirement. On the one hand, parents love these projects and as such, the projects garner a lot of attention for the art department and lead to general good feelings about my abilities as an art educator. On the other hand, parents seem to sometimes think that these emulations are the only things that are art, and that garners the wrong kind of attention for my art department, and whether or not they turn out well is hardly a good measuring stick for my teaching abilities.

Ultimately, I think I find emulation projects to be more positive than negative because at least the child is learning about an artist and a specific style. . . And, well, I let them deviate in pretty much any way they want.

We did Matisse Goldfish Bowls in 1st grade this year. Our steps were thus:
1. Discuss art and artist
2. sketch as a class in crayon
3. color key elements in crayon (no fish yet)
4. paint key elements in tempera paint (no fish yet)
5. paint background with black tempera paint (no fish yet)
6. Draw fish on yellow paper and color with orange and red crayons.
7. cut out fish
8. glue fish into fishbowl
9. add orange glitter glue with paintbrushes for iridescent fish scale look
10. use oil pastel to make detail areas pop!
11. finished pieces are 12 in x 18 in

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Man, Crits can Hurt like Whoa!

I finished formal art school nine years ago (damn I'm getting old), and graduate school this past December. While I had a teensy bit of crit in graduate school, it wasn't on the level of art school and well, we weren't really making any hard-core art.

Yesterday, one of my high school students was working on an acrylic portrait and had added some very fine detail to a pot in the portrait. The added detail changed the focal point from the face to the pot. She and I had the following conversation.

Student: What do you think?

Me: Well, I think your focal point has changed from the face to the pot. Is that what you intended?

Student: Oh, well, no.

Me: Hm.

Student: What do you think I should do to change the focal point back to the face? Should I get rid of the detail on the pot?

Me: Well, not necessarily. The pot detailing is quite beautiful. I would find a way to make the face even more interesting.

Student: Oh! Well, I could add some more detail to her clothing, or make her hair more intricate, or could add some more color to the face. . .

Me: You don't have to add things to make the face more interesting. It can be more subtle. What if you crisped up a few of the lines? Made the eyes more dynamic? Created more contrast? Things like that can change a piece drastically.

Student: Oh! Cool.

This conversation got me thinking about critique, and how we learn so much from it. I, too, remember the moment I realized subtle changes to your work can be profound. In fact, I daresay many of my strongest skills were learned in critique. Sometimes, I think I miss critique.

But, then, well, yesterday afternoon happened.

I won 2nd place in a regional illustration contest about six months ago. The juror of the contest is the Art Editor at Simon and Schuster books. To say I was thrilled, is an understatement. Yesterday, I received the feedback that won my work 2nd place. I didn't even know I would get feedback, so I was very excited to see the information. It was a list of items with ratings from 1-10 (10 being best). It listed such things as creativity, character, interest of composition, color, style, originality, and editorial quality.

My 2nd place winning piece

My lowest score was a 5/10 and my highest score was an 8/10. As someone who is a perfectionist, I was stung to not get mostly 10/10! Oh, and then I remember the harsh sting of critique, and just why exactly it makes us grow so much. It sucks. Oh, it sucks so much.

At first, I was shocked and hurt, and then started the negative process of thinking: "I will never succeed at this!" Then, after a bit of processing I perceived some very helpful information. I received highest marks for my style and color. Wow. That is great. Color theory is really hard, and developing an original style is even more difficult. My lowest marks were in interest of composition and originality of composition. Okay, well, that gives me room to grow. I need to find ways to diversify my compositions and make them more interesting. That was something I already thought, but now I have added support from an expert that tells me I MUST grow in this area.

So, while at first I was initially bummed, I now have a bit of fire under my seat to get going and practicing more interesting compositions and pushing my color theory even more. I mean, why not try to the best I can be at things in which I already excel?

And, then I had a final thought. The Art Editor at Simon and Schuster Books is pretty much the top person in this whole illustration game. Her aesthetic is uniquely designed to find the best of children's illustrating. So, naturally, her critique is going to be strong and what earns a 10/10 is going to be the best (Eric Carle, Maurice Sendack, Shaun Tan etc.). As such, I should be proud that I, who at best pursue illustration part-time, performed as well as I did.

Finally, my thoughts rounded back to my students. Sometimes, I hesitate to say exactly what I think during my crit of their work. I don't want to hurt someone. . . I don't think anyone trying to crit wants to do that. . .But, at the same time, crit is the one of the most meaningful learning experiences I think you can have. As teachers, we have to find the most supportive way to relate quality crit.

And, my own experience as an artist teaches me that.

Winner, Winner Turkey Dinner!

Earlier this year, I submitted work from several (6-10) of my students to the national art contest for students in grades Kindergarten through twelfth grade entitled Celebrating Art. Six of my students' artworks were selected for the contest and publication. Yesterday I learn that from over 1500 entries, one of my fourth grader's artworks was selected as one of the top ten based on originality and creativity! My student is the only Georgia student to place in the top ten in this national contest. His/Her artwork -along with my other students accepted into the contest- will be published in the upcoming anthology, Celebrating Art ­– Fall 2010 and as a top ten winner, s/he received a $50 U.S. Savings Bond.

Yay Y'all!

The above picture is the piece that placed in the top ten.