CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

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.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How To Write An Artist's Statement

This, my friends, is how it's done.

Name: "B" Grade 6
Title: Color
Media: Oil Pastel, Sharpie
Studio Thinking Habit: Express
Artist's Statement: "This piece shows Creativity (color) being trapped by the Modern Mindset (Sharpie). There is a little piece of color that is trying to escape but getting cut off by the black arrow. The arrow symbolizes the normal/average path."

First artist statement of the year for this 6th grader, whose art class started Monday. He will have art for 9 weeks this year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Pleasures of Printmaking

Brayer Party

Tools and materials are set up assembly-line style. Students start in the "ink zone" and move down the line to the "Clean zone" before pulling their print. Printmakers always wear aprons (to wipe their inky fingers on!)
 Printmaking is always available in our studio, but to drum up business, I set up our spare table in an inviting "Art Trap" (and then I wait for artists to fall into it.) The table space is divided in half: "Ink Side" & "Clean Side." Artists ink up at the left, and then carry their inked printing plate to the right side, wipe fingers, choose paper, and use either a baren or the etching press to apply pressure before pulling their print.

The main attraction at the printmaking center may be this Charles Brand press left in my care when my brother up and moved to Japan

First try by "A," Grade 5

Printmaking is process-rich and comes with its own vocabulary. 
And students find out that a lot can go wrong! Some years ago a helpful student gave me this sign(photo below) to help others avoid the common pitfalls printmakers encounter - it now lives in the Printmaking Center in the studio
"What Went Wrong?" sign by "MM" many years ago!