CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Plaster and Papier Mache'

Plaster and papier mache' are always available choices at the sculpture center in our studio/classroom, but these materials are usually overlooked and don't seem to be integrated into the creative thinking and planning for most of my students. Instead, plaster and papier mache' tend to make a special appearance from time-to-time, usually after a student asks about one or the other, or I decide to feature them to shake things up.

Plaster usually starts innocently enough - as a covering for wire armatures, hand casts, maybe a mask - but all it takes is one 8th-grader to get things rolling: "Can I plaster my face?!?!?!?"
From there it is contagious - one plastered face leading to the next, until everyone brave enough gets a chance under wraps. 
We have a tradition - once the plaster is applied and all that is left is the waiting, the plasterer reads a story to the plastered. 
This gives the plaster a few more minutes to harden, and the person under the plaster a relaxing, nostalgic experience, while the plasterer does a little nurturing.
At least that's how I see it. 

Meanwhile - 
Papier Mache' starts like this, always:

Them: "Can I have a balloon? "
Me: "What for?"
Them: " I want to papier mache'"
Me: (groan) (eye roll) (arms crossed)
Me: "Tell me your plan, because everyone who ever wants to papier mache' thinks the only thing to papier mache' is a balloon. And you know what? When they are done, the result looks exactly like a balloon, only with papier mache' on top."
Them: "No, really, I have a great idea."
I rest my case. 

But - maybe all that whining, eye-rolling and complaining (mine, not theirs) is starting to pay off, because look what I found as I left the studio on Friday...
Giant ear, by "M" - grade 7

Bucket of puppets, grade 6

Mixed assorted works-in-progress

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

5th Grade Collaborative Drawing by "N" and "T"
Authentic Assessment
I was slightly disappointed that these two drawing partners did not choose to display the whole series of skiing drawings they created -the series looks so great lined up next to each other! The two shared with me that they changed the scale of the skier to "zoom in" or "zoom out" on the action. 
But when I read the artist statement accompanying the selected drawing, I understood the value of choosing one from many. Criteria needs to be developed and aesthetic judgment's made. This can be hard! 
Here is the artist statement accompanying "N's" drawing:

"For weeks I have been working on some       very cool skiing sketches and then I chose which one I should finalize and I chose this one. The reason I draw skiing is because I love to ski."

I went through a similar exercise some years ago when working with potter and professor emeritus Marvin Bartel. Marvin had us "make and trim 7 pots, discard two, fire four, and set one aside to decide on later." This forced me to look at my work more critically than I might have and to decide why some would stay and some would go. It was hard to break two pots that seemed perfectly good, but in truth, they were the weakest ones and needed to be culled. 

"N," above, carried out this exercise on his own, and is years ahead of me in critiquing his own work and developing a discerning eye.  

Innovation in Clay

By "S", Grade 6 (Approx. 8")
This clay artist is on to something. After installing a giraffe in her slab-built, slump molded bowl, she went on to make at least two more. Her innovation inspired her classmates to try adding sculptures to slab bowls too. 

By "S" grade 6 (Approx. 14.5"x 6")


"How the Chicken Evolved" - By "M" & "C", Grade 7

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Art Locker

Step right up and view the Art Locker!
When one student stopped using his locker, a group of friends decided it would be a good place for an art gallery. Each day they talk their way out of study hall and into the art studio to make small pieces of art to display, in secret, in the Art Locker. 
I hope I haven't blown their cover - but look! It's a delight!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Art Trap

There has been some interest (by alert art teachers) in the idea of Art Traps - here is one I set just now to prepare for the afternoon's 6th grade class. 
"Watercolor" paint made from soaking old, used up watercolor markers

I think of an art trap as an invitation - "Come, try this out -it's all ready for you." I set the table with care, trying to think of helpful details (in this case, taping paper to boards and providing the correct brushes for watercolor painting.) 
The idea is to temp learners to try something they might not have thought of otherwise, to nudge them into sampling a new media or tool, to bypass the decision-making, or set-up, that might prevent some from getting down to it. It's about removing barriers - sparking interest.
Now I wait and see if anyone falls in to my trap.

I just realized that the watercolor trap (above) is the second trap I have set today - I set the one below in the hall outside the art studio when I got to school, and have caught quite a few passers-by already.

After the loom was in the hall for a few days, two weavers started to make a "bride and Groom", then a "flower girl" and today - a "Mermaid Goddess"! (See below)
"Bride & Groom" at right, "FlowerGirl in center (pink hat), "Mermaid Goddess far left"

Friday, November 3, 2017


"C" at work on a project started with a friend "a year or two ago" in his 5th or 6th grade classroom
One of the benefits of  participating in a choice-based art program at school is that important work done at home is welcome in the studio. Likewise, studio-work can be taken home to continue there.  Moving back and forth from school to home, artists can engage seamlessly with projects that have personal meaning and relevance. 
"C" showed me his artwork, his plan, and his system. He told me that a couple of years ago, he designed a series of super heroes, complete with their profiles and whether they are "good" or "bad." 
Now, as a 7th-grader, during art class, and at home, "C" selects certain characters from his file to enlarge. He does a portrait of each on its own single profile sheet. He is using information from the "Proportion of the Human Face" lesson I presented to his class several weeks ago, and checking to see if his portraits conform to those norms. 

These images are copyrighted and appear to be part of a parent company called "The Ba News Company"
 "C" is very organized, and is whipping me into shape too - leaving his finished portraits in my "in box" for lamination. I, in turn, place the laminated profile sheets in my "outbox" for "C" to pick up. Everything goes into his specially-designed folder (a double pocket folder "C" modified to be a triple pocket folder), and is carried from Art to his other classes, then home, and back again. It has not escaped me that this student is assigning homework to the teacher, in addition to himself. 
While doing some of my homework about this artist the other evening, I learned that "C" maintains a website about his work. He has given me permission to share it here.  If you dig in, you will also find a thoughtful essay about homework (hint: click on the online newsletter for a piece written by one of "C's" collaborators).

"C" told me he use to work with a partner making comics - they reunited this year near the end of he term, when "W" brought his folder in to show me. 

Good Stuff! I'm so glad these two have kept this work and that it continues to grow with them. (Thanks "W" and "C" for sharing this).