CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Friday, August 28, 2015

Welcome Back Artists!

Watercolor, offered in a variety of forms (watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, liquid watercolor,  watercolor markers and pan watercolor sets), is featured this week in the Painting Center
The art studio is up and running - almost as if we never left! One thing about our choice-based studio is that once students know where everything, how things are used and cared for, and where to store work in progress, artmaking can begin. For the start of the school year, I am working with only 6th and 8th graders. These learners are already familiar with materials and routines, so we can step right back into the swing of things and start making art on the first day. 
By "A" grade 8                                                                               
My friend Clyde Gaw, a high school art teacher in Indiana, observes that artmaking in a choice-based studio can feel and appear "rhizomic" - a setting where ideas are brought together in a charged web of interconnection. It's good to be back in our lively studio-classroom where students  return to explore their ideas, test new possibilities and learn from one another.
The clay center is a favorite place for kinesthetic learners

A broken arm does not prevent "K" from preparing a new batch of alpaca wool for needle-felting.
 Welcome back artists!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Student is the Product

The following was originally posted on TAB-Choice Art Ed Yahoo site, November 3, 2010, Post # 19720 and re-posted here by request. http://tinyurl.com/nftw2o4

I think all TAB teachers may go through "buyer's remorse" when they let go of the beautiful, teacher-directed projects that wowed adults and looked great on the bulletin board. To expect that the authentic art of children will approach this standard is unrealistic. 

It takes some time to adjust and genuinely appreciate kid-art that is developmentally appropriate, but not always adult-pleasing. Our ideas of what should be produced in the artroom is skewed from prevailing practice in which children are manipulated to produce artificial product - products that are naive-chic. 

Have you ever taught that portrait lesson where you ask the kids to draw just head, neck and shoulders? "Like your school portrait" I used to say, often timing it to be near school picture day. Although you specifically instruct the kids to let the shoulders come right to the edge and meet the bottom of the paper, some kids sneak their arms and legs into the picture, resulting in a huge head and neck and comically tiny arms and legs.To them, it just doesn't make sense to crop the image the way you suggest. Cropping is a concept that comes later on. WE like the way it looks, and appreciate how it makes the kids draw big (WE love it when kids draw big).How many of us have have instructed kids that their image needs to touch 3 sides of the paper? That helps make their art look great too ("their art"?). We are experts at this subtle control to produce product.

When students are allowed to explore, experiment, play and discover, it is not uncommon for them to take several steps backwards developmentally (or appear to), back to a more age-appropriate stage, or even earlier, to a less mature stage - if they have had little experience or opportunity to use art materials without adult control. Hand-printing, finger-painting, splatter-painting and swirls of color are all pretty normal step one ("scribble stage") stuff, but can quickly become kind of boring, so most students use these experiences as a stepping stone toward artwork with more purpose.

I had an interesting experience today with a class made up of half old know-it-alls (students I started with Choice-Based art last year who were chomping at the bit to get ALL the centers open NOW!!!!!) and half new-to-me students. I TRIED to open centers slowly but the experienced ones were getting ready to either explode or mutiny, so I opened the Drawing, Painting and Sculpture centers all at once and asked their help to bring the new kids along.

After I said my standard "centers are now open, start your art" one new 6th grader from Russia came to me and said "I listened to everything you said, but I must have missed something - what are we supposed to do? I explained that this was up to her - she could choose a center and begin. I watched as she started a painting. It was as if she had never experienced any of it before - what to do? What to make? How to make it? What next? And now what? Each mark she made delighted her. She made a red heart outline (on a GIANT piece of paper) and filled it in with more red (she was delighted with this) then - made a red heart outline and filled it with blue (it was touch and go for a minute - had she put it too close to the first heart? Would it fit? A Cliff hanger!) then what? "Five minutes til clean -up" I announced. Hurry! Scribble scratch paint a background Oooooo - that doesn't look very nice! Now what? Oh! Fill it with black! Look! It covers all the scratchy background! Time's up! Finish tomorrow.

I wish I video-taped her - it was like watching a baby take her first steps.

Will it look good to the principal? Nope. Was it a good use for a 24" X 36" poster board? Probably not, could have used newsprint. What will it say about the program if I have an art show? Not much. What was the quality of the learning? Enormous. The student is the product, not the painting. the learning is the thing. The thing is not the thing. Will this student charge into the studio tomorrow eager to get to work? I'll let you know (I am betting yes).

Monday, June 15, 2015

It's a Wrap!

Clay Sumo Wrestler packed up with other 7th grade treasures for the journey home
"To-Do" list all done by today's classes

Monday, June 8, 2015

Unexpected Inspiration

I have noticed that even when I take students outside to practice landscape painting, many still depict trees in a schematic manner with a single trunk "stem" and a fluffy cloud top - these are sometimes called "lollipop trees."

I thought students might like to see how professional, adult artists approach the subject, so I recently showed a very old, quite dated film of four  Disney Artists  out painting from observation ("a busman's holiday"!) The film starts with Walt himself introducing idea about creativity and originality and then shows the four artists at work in their day-job as background artists in the Disney animation studio (circa my childhood).

Then it gets to the good part - the 4 artists head out to paint the same tree in their own original styles, with their favorite mediums. 
I was prepared for kids to complain that the movie was old, or boring, but the opposite happened - they were intrigued with the animation process and even more so with the part showing the artists-at-work on their various tree paintings.
Grade 6 artists at easels in the painting center
And then I was even more surprised when so many students went right from watching the film to the painting center, set up easels, and started to paint trees. That was Friday, and it is still going on today, even after the weekend. 

We are fortunate that we can see trees from each window of our art studio, but many students pulled tree images from the internet as references. If it wasn't raining today, some kids would no doubt have been back outside. 

Two of the artists in the film demonstrate painting with palette knives. Students found ours in the printmaking center, because we use these to get the ink out of the jars. 

The results of this new tool was surprising and interesting for students, and was nothing I have shown before.

I guess I'm writing all this to say that I never really know what ideas will be "grabby" for students and I am pretty surprised by all the interest they have had in painting tree-portraits, in our last week of classes, mere days before the painting center (and everything else!) closes down.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Pleasure and Pain of Plaster

In an effort to offer students suffering from Spring Fever something to latch onto, I set up a table this morning like so: 
Half papier Mache, half plaster gauze. 
Only one of these faces is cast from a human face, the rest were made from some molds we found in the closet

Vocabulary and concepts were introduced: 
  • Armature - try wire, aluminum foil, wadded paper - let's avoid balloons for now.
  • Mold - try a Styrofoam mask form, a wooden bowl - please protect the mold first with plastic wrap and remember that the mold needs an "exit."
  • Cast - pretty much the same as a mold, only it is done with plaster. Can be poured plaster or plaster-gauze.

 It didn't take long before the "mold" was 7th grade "A," who agreed to have a cast made of his face even though once underway, he remembered that he is claustrophobic.
The plaster heats up a little while it cures. We protected "A's" face with a damp paper towel, and wrapped him up pretty well in some fabric we found in the fiber art center, to keep the drips off his clothing and out of his ears.
Somehow, a student talked me out of a balloon ("to make a piggy bank like I did last year, but smaller. I still have the first one!") And later, a second balloon was issued to make a planetary pinata ("for a social studies project.") I have gotten very reticent about handing out balloons for paper mache, because frequently, nothing comes of them. I hoped my students today would build an armature with other available materials. I let students know that the only reason to use a balloon, really, is if the sculpture needs to be hollow.
Once all the plaster gauze has been smoothed over our volunteer's face, another student volunteers for the best part: reading a story out loud, to sooth and entertain 'A" while the plaster finishes setting up. I knew there would be a good time to pull out my copy of Millions of Cats" (see previous post).

Middle School students thrive on novelty and teamwork. Today's plaster and papier mache set up was just the thing to jump-start some creative thinking and making and to engage students who are well aware that we are nearing the end of another school year. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Gang's All Here!

I guess the word is out: Students can come to use the (their) art studio during "last block," as long as they have "a purpose and a 
pass" and agree to work independently (it is my "planning period" after all!) Today there were more students using the studio during last block than during any of my classes during the day - and unlike any of my regular classes, these students are self-selected and from all grade levels.

Recent student cat-themed work by a collaborative group of 7th grade artists prompted me to head to the attic for my copy of Millions of Cats," which I am gearing up to read when the moment is right. But today it surely felt to me like the refrain in that classic old storybook: "Cats here, cats there, cats and kitten everywhere!" (Only the "cats" were kids!)
For a while, it was a more-or-less closely guarded secret that I would allow students to use the studio during last block (if they promised to work independently and agreed to let me do the same). Through-out  the year I had a small group of faithfuls, who more-or-less kept this information "under their hat." But as the year has worn on there has been a steady increase of students arriving daily, testing to see if the rumor is really true.  

One student comes with his aid, because ever since the quarter changed, he misses his daily dose of drawing, One student brings a friend and enjoys some time away from her core teaching team, one student, who once needed an aid's help, now comes and works independently on an ever-growing collection of slab-built, functional pottery, often given to friends and family as gifts. Groups of 5th graders, who had to wait all year for their turn in art, are making up for lost time by coming to the studio immediately after their regular class is dismissed, getting, in effect, a double block of art (clever 5th graders). Then there are the 7th graders who have a project due for social studies. Their presence swells the studio almost to overflowing and brings along a sense of urgency ("its due tomorrow," they inform me). 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vermont Art Educator of the Year

Thank you to the Vermont Art Teachers Association (VATA) for naming me the 2015 Art Educator!
Tina Logan (VATA Secretary and Past President) presents me with the very special, ever growing art teacher award-statue at the Shelburne Museum last October. The deal is, I now have to add something to it before returning it for next year's lucky recipient! My students have more than a few ideas about what we should add, including: wings,  a feather tail, googly eyes, a flower garden...how will we decide on just one idea?

My Vermont colleagues surprised me last fall with this honor at the annual  VATA  state conference. Next, I was recognized along with fellow state recipients from the North East Region, at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Conference in New Orleans. What a thrill!

Nan Hathaway with Becky Wright,VATA Treasurer, Peter Geisser, NAEA Eastern Region Vice President & June Krinsky-Rudder, NAEA Eastern Region Vice President Elect
This is so exciting for my students and I! My students signed their names all around the VATA award certificate before it went into a frame and up onto the studio wall, because we figure; if I am the Vermont Art Educator of the Year, they must be the Vermont Art Students of the Year!
Thank you VATA, and NAEA for this very special recognition, and to all my students, past and present, for teaching me so much.