CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Studio Thinking Habit: "Develop Craft"

My new favorite quote is now installed over the door in the painting center; "I didn't know I could paint until I tried." Isn't this so true? 
Developmental art education theory suggests that children in the middle school years are transitioning from being bold, fearless, self-confident elementary-age artists to self-critical, unsure artists who now observe that their art may not look "real enough" for their maturing inner-critics. 
"J's" Work in progress
I heard an 8th grader  (let's call him "J") make the above statement, as he looked over his almost finished painting, one he rendered over several weeks. He used a photograph as reference, practiced mixing paint colors, noticed how his brush strokes could change with thicker or thinner paint application, drew and re-drew his figure-in-action and learned that wet paint applied over dry paint  can cover mistakes made the day before. He learned that he could work on a practice piece and transfer his knowledge to a final version. He learned to observe closely. Mostly, as the quote illustrates, he learned that to be able to do something, you first have to try. 
Acrylic on canvas - by "J," grade 8
And that is probably not all there is to it, because before trying, you first need to want to do it. Artists in our studio setting are asked to develop intrinsic motivation for learning and making - to find a good enough reason to risk, to try and fail, to work out problems of perception, and to work hard to develop their skills. For some this comes naturally, for others it is an almost daily challenge. I hope "J's" observation, and his painting success,  encourages others to "try."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

FELTING: Our New Favorite Thing

"J" is making this rabbit - this is the progress after two classes

Safety Rule: Keep your eyes on your work

Wow! I don't know why I resisted learning about felting over the last few years – it is magical!

Here's how you do it:
1. Have someone donate a GIANT bag of roving from the farm (thanks to “A's” mom for thinking we needed this!)
2. Have the bag sit around for 3 months while you ponder what to do with it
3. Suddenly think: “Hey, I know, maybe we should learn how to do that felting thing...
4. Order felting needles and drag out all those Styrofoam blocks another family donated (thanks for thinking we needed these!)
5. Look for a tutorial or two online to get a short jump on the students
6. Test it out a little - “how does this work anyway?”
7. Fall in love
8. Love Love Love
9. Learn the rest along side the students: make safety rules and share tips and innovations
10. Repeat 7-9 above, and invite other teachers in to try it too

We have a lot of roving...
New "pop-up" FELTING CENTER is born!

I borrowed the idea of "Play-Care" from Dr. John Crowe, Art Education Professor at Massachusetts College of Art & Design

It turns out, this experience is a perfect example of how the concept of “Play/Care” functions in the art studio. The idea is that artists need to PLAY (with ideas, materials, techniques, tools,) in order to EXPLORE & EXPERIMENT which leads to DISCOVERY. The artist can then utilize their discoveries and proceed on to CARE; when an artist works with INTENTION, PURPOSE and strives to improve their skill toward better CRAFTSMANSHIP.

Some first tries - Grade 5
Grade 8 - adding color for details. It's easy to make separate parts and then felt them together afterwards

Some 8th graders are making flat panels to turn into custom cell phone covers. One 5th grader is making a pouch to hold beans - a felted bean-bag. The rest of us are making figures and animals (mine's a camel!) 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Working with Scale

6th graders know about scale – they define it as: “Big & Small” but “not just big things or small things, but taking something big, and making it small, or taking something small, and making it big.” Like Florentjin Hofman does, for instance, with his 50 ' floating rubber duck http://www.florentijnhofman.nl/dev/project.php?id=104

6th graders work with scale all the time – take these detailed interiors, for instance, in which found objects are re-purposed as bathroom fixtures, table lamps and computer monitors. 
5th graders know how to make two wooden beads transform into a pet bird for a dream-bedroom:

8th graders know about scale too – as in the “boy-sized book big enough to get into” that a student is making into a long term project. 
"C" is using each center and new process to decorate the cover of his "Boy-Size Book"

In the choice-based art room, art history lessons often follow student initiative, instead of precede it. That way, when students invent a project, they can see how their idea relates to others in the art world – who else is working in “their” preferred medium, or who else is considering similar subject matter or approach. This makes learning relevant and personal, while honoring innovation and creative approaches to artistic problems.