CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

Light! Camera! Action!


The 7th grader who made this animation claimed she was not very good with computers, yet she produced this project all on her own,
figuring out how to use imovie to make her animation, add music, dub in her own voice, create titles and add sound effects.
Two stop action animation projects were recently completed in one 7th grade class. Students set up tripods, crafted characters and scenery and  took hundreds of photographs to make their short films. Theyused imovie on the classroom computers to make their photographs come to life, adding sound effects, titles and music.
"K" & "L" work together to add a snowstorm scene to their animation using a hand-textured painting by "Z"
It didn’t take the 5th graders very long to notice the equipment and begin their own projects. These students learned about the process of stop-action animation last year at Thatcher Brook, and have been able to use their prior experience to begin their projects in the art studio this year.
Meanwhile, another team of 7th graders created a hysterical movie, filming through the built-in camera on the Mac, employing a combination of live action, drawn backgrounds, special visual effects,custom sound  track and a cast of  naughty, rude reckless lizards.

Paper Mache Pets

2 balloons form the armature for this sculpture
“H,” a highly organized, intrinsically motivated 6th grade artist, listened carefully at the beginning of the quarter about to the description of the choice-based classroom. She understood that students would be doing the authentic work of artists – identifying an idea, a process and a product to work on.
"A" painting her paper mache sculpture - the 2nd dog to come to life in the studio
She came in the next day with a plan: she would make a papier mâché panda. The plan she carried in to the classroom included thumbnail sketches, images captured from the computer, a list of needed materials and the steps she would take toward completion. Over the next several classes, “H” organized her materials, started to construct the panda and planned intermediate goals. She worked on her sculpture to completion, only stopping to help other classmates who became interested in starting similar projects.  

Tandem Painting

In the studio- classroom, student artists sometimes choose to work side-by-side on similar ideas, or work together on one idea...
5th grade friends work to make a group of pastel paintings that fit together together and tell a story
sometimes producing twin paintings or connected drawings.

Twin paintings with a camping theme are painted side-by-side
Sometimes a more experienced artist peer-coaches a less experienced artist.
6th grade friends work with care to make a set of "name art" drawings, so each will have one to take home.
 Sometimes friends make friend-paintings

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Exploring Monochroma

This 7th grader was thinking about a painting she saw in a museum in Europe during a family trip last summer. She recalled that she was very attracted to a particular painting because of the artist’s use of many shades of mostly one color. She thought she would explore this idea of a monochromatic color scheme by dividing her paper into measured strips, and creating a value scale – an arrangement of shades and tints of just one hue, from very dark to very light.
Working carefully with a ruler and black, white and red paint, “L” built her painting from left to right, until the whole page was filled with vivid stripes.   

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Art of the Palette

Sometimes, preparing a palette is an art by itself - here a 6th grade student prepares to make a sponge painting in an innovative way.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Authentic Integration

Dwelling by "K," Grade 6
One of the strengths of the studio-concept in art is that students “turned-on” by content or concepts in other disciplines have a ready setting in which to pursue and extend their knowledge. Content and concepts originating in social studies or science classes may be interpreted through a variety of art materials and methods, integrating learning across disciplines.

Dwelling made with mixed media, by "C," Grade 6
While not everyone in the studio-classroom will want to set aside their own important work to explore themes relating to outside classroom work, some do. Supporting emergent curriculum, that which is initiated by student interest and inquiry, is a strength of the studio-learning concept in the CBMS art program.

The Invention of Art

The Invention of Art - Clay plaque by "E" grade 6

Every time I think I know what art is, I think of exceptions, additions or omissions. “Art,” states my friend Diane Jaquith, co-author of Engaging Learners through Art,…is a big subject.” Diane has a mathematical answer to the question: 
“Head + Heart + Head = Art”
Today I asked students to contribute their answers to this question. Here are a few of their responses:
“Art is the creation of interesting inklings.”
“Art is the expression of thoughts by physical manifestation with various materials used.”
“Art is stuff you make.”
“Art is sexy”
“Art is exploring your mind.”
“Art is everything.”
“Art is whatever you want it to be.”
“Art is something that grabs your imagination and makes it into something wonderful.”
“Art is …devotion to what you love.”
“Art is willingness to evolve, creativity, imagination.”
“Art is creative thinking and inspired crafting.”
“Art is inspiration.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Artists

Book by "H" - 7th grade

Shortly after our temporary paper marbling station closed, a bookmaking center sprang up as one way for students to make artistic use of the collection of beautiful papers they created.

Once the bookmaking center was up and running, it seemed like an apt time to introduce papermaking. Some students crafted handmade papers for use in handmade books, others used these papers as covers for their books.
5th grade
Learning about book construction became a passion for some, and several beautiful, functional unique books resulted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Master and Apprentice

“E” realized the potential in clay almost immediately – in his mind’s eye he saw the characters from the Redwall book series stepping off the page and into the studio. “E” started with a strong little mouse and learned the importance of hollowing out sculptures in order to assure even thickness for safe firing in the kiln. He devised a base so the sturdy figure could stand without tipping over.

Once the sculpture was fired, “E” envisioned the colors, textures and details he would add to bring his character to life. He moved around the studio in a sort of treasure hunt, locating all the things he needed to make clothing and weaponry and to appoint the figure in style.

That was just the beginning. More and more figures sprang to life and a peer joined in, learning the tricks of the trade “E” and “K” worked side by side to produce a lively army of badgers, rats and mice. Each artist became more and more adept at manipulating clay to produce desired results.

What would make convincing chain mail to go under the armor? How big would a hole need to be in the figure’s hand to allow for shrinkage and end up the right size to hold a staff? Although the art teacher coveted the figures and imagined a display in the showcase down the hall, each figure was spirited away just as soon as they were completed, to join the troops at home and find their place in the hearts and minds of these competent, imaginative artists.

Paper-making Artist

After her very first attempt at crafting a sheet of handmade paper from scraps and recycled surplus, “N” saw artistic potential. She stepped into the studio the day after the paper-making center opened and announced that she planned to make a special paper about the night sky. She had it all worked out – how she would use black scraps for the sky and white ones to make specks representing stars. “N” said she was thinking about it at home, and came in ready to put her plan into action.
But that was really just the beginning – “N” went on to make a special paper capturing the essence of “ghosts,” one about bats, and another called “Werewolves.”  Many students enjoy mixing the gloppy paper pulp in a blender, pouring it into the deckle box and watching as a unique sheet of paper takes form.

But this artist quickly made the jump from craft to ART, employing a compelling process and medium to interpret and communicate personally relevant themes and ideas. This is sophisticated thinking.
The predictable nature of the CBMS Choice-Based Art studio enables “N” to think about and plan for her art outside of class. She knows that the studio will be set up and ready for her to bring her idea to life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Solo Exhibit

Last week our display space was dedicated to our own “Dragonologist” and her impressive series of well-rendered drawings.
Sometimes students throw themselves into a series of work and produce several pieces around a theme of interest.  This authentic artistic behavior is an example of the Studio Habit Engage and Persist – exemplified by an artist who grabs hold of an idea and sticks with it, sometimes over many days or weeks or even longer (think Georgia O‘Keefe and her series of giant flower paintings). Most of “M’s” art is about dragons. She has taken great care with her recent series of large format dragon drawings - each with an accompanying hand written story fragment. I noticed her working on a drawing in the cafeteria over lunch one day, and observe her bringing her drawings back and forth from home to school. “M” works with dedication on each one, not stopping until she “gets it right.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Art of Collaboration

On day one of the school year, two seventh grade students arrived for art with a clear vision of what they wanted to do – provided that they were allowed to work together.

Together, over the summer, they planned to make a soccer stadium, since both are huge soccer fans and World Cup enthusiasts.
Before long, as these things go, the duo expanded to include as many as five other artists, bringing various opinions, ideas and expertise to the project.

Collaboration is among the skills delineated by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills for today's learners:
"Students will work together effectively to share and accept responsibility, compromise respectfully to reconcile diverse ideas, and accomplish a common goal." 

The finished soccer stadium, complete with outer village, is on display in the Trish Field Library. Check it out!

Monday, October 11, 2010


Blackware pot by Maria Martinez

“B” is a 5th grader. He settled in to work at the Clay Center earlier this quarter and noticed a large poster of an exquisite black pot made by Native American potter Maria Martinez. He remembered seeing a video about Maria and her work when he was an elementary school student and knew she built her pots using the coil method. “B” set out to make a pot like Maria Martinez.
"B" worked and worked on his project, starting with a wooden bowl to help form the base.
 As his pot grew he learned to shape it, bringing the form out and then back in again. He took care to smooth the coils and make the joints strong. Each day he had to wrap the pot carefully in plastic to keep it moist.

After several weeks work, the pot was done and ready to be fired.
"B" is proud of his work, and I am proud of him for selecting a difficult project of personal interest, and sticking with it from inception to completion. “B’s” work demonstrates the studio habit Engage and Persist - an essential trait for artistic growth. He also utilized the studio habit Develop Craft as he practiced the coil method for hand-building with clay, and embodied the habit Understand the Art World by referencing our most celebrated American potter. There are eight studio habits of mind (Hetland et al, 2007) students develop through their work as artists in the studio-classroom(Engage and Persist, Develop Craft, Understand the Art World, Envision, Stretch & Explore, Observe, Express & Reflect) for “B” to employ three of these in this one project is exemplary.

* For more information on the 8 Studio Habits of Mind, visit:

Monday, September 20, 2010

CLAY at last!

All classes are now elbow deep in the joy of clay. Most have had introductions or refreshers on hand-building techniques, and as of tomorrow, each class will have access to the two new potter's wheels we are test-driving in the studio.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Studio Ramps Up

5th grader "H" works in the collage center

At the start of school, the studio comes back to life, one studio “center” at a time. For new studio-users, this means getting instruction about what to find in each center, how to care for the tools, materials, references and resources found there, and how to clean-up.

"W" mixes colors and begins a large tempera painting

What kind of paint is there at the painting center? Can we use the big brushes? Where do I put my painting when I am done? Systems and routines are established so that the studio can run efficiently and students can function autonomously.

For students returning to the art studio from last year, there is review of expectations and a highlighting of changes. What is the same and what is new?

Watercolor sets, liquid watercolor and liquid tempera are available in the painting center. Later we will add acrylic, gouache, oil paint and India ink.

Midway through the second week of school, there are four centers up and running- Drawing, Painting, Collage and Sculpture, and one reoccurring question:When will the Clay Center open?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


“Art is something you make that expresses yourself.”

On the first day of art, 2010, students were asked to respond to the question: What is Art?
Answers were varied - some surprising and insightful, some intuitive and simple – but many addressed the idea of self-expression.
By the third day of school, once portfolios were labeled and studio-systems were reviewed, students settled into the real work of artists; looking for inspiration, deciding on subject matter, selecting tools, locating references.
Over the next few posts I will refer back to student responses to my initial question, and highlight some of the work produced in the CBMS studio which illustrates what art is, here and now, for this group of middle school artists.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Choice Based Art Program: Studio-Learning
What’s New in the Art Room?

“Art this year is going to be much more fun, because we get to do what we want and be really creative.”

The highest form of learning occurs when students are encouraged to work in the same manner as do professionals in the field –in this case learning about art in the same way as do practicing artists. Studio-learning in the CBMS art program empowers students to take greater control of their learning, to find and communicate personal meaning through art and to have the freedom to explore their own ideas and passions. By doing the real work of artists in a community studio, students learn about art as first hand inquirers and creative producers.

Our choice-based art program honors and empowers the student-as-artist, and offers authentic choices for students to respond to their own ideas and interests (Douglas, Jaquith, 2009). Students make choices about what materials to use to express their ideas, set up their materials and space, and are responsible for caring responsibly for their community studio. Students generate ideas, overcome obstacles and set-backs and may choose to work alone or with peers. Students are expected to reflect on and discuss their finished work. This is the authentic work of real artists.

The introduction of new concepts, techniques, art history, contemporary topics and multi-cultural arts are delivered in short whole-group sessions at the start of each class. Students are then invited to further investigate the new concept, or move to various other “centers” in the room to pursue their current interest.

Available “centers” are media based and contain tools, materials and instructions as well as resources and art reproductions. Instruction is differentiated – content and resources can be targeted to individuals and small groups in response to current activities and interests. Students are encouraged to evaluate their efforts, and describe their work to others.

Students have the opportunity to concentrate in one area in order to become expert with a particular material or method or they may dabble and experiment with a number of different centers, seeking inspiration from materials or processes. Students know they may repeat a process or revisit an idea, in effect working in series to produce a “suite” of related work. They understand that they may stay with their work until they are satisfied and may move on to a new challenge when they are ready to move on.
The program is designed to nurture and protect qualities that lead toward inquisitive, confident, inventive, tolerant, capable human beings. Recent research in the field stresses the importance of relevance, meaning and ownership in the creative process. In the CBMS art studio, students are asked to take ownership of their ideas and products and are responsible for their work and work habits. Students are asked to consider ways to stretch and reach in their projects, finding deeper meaning, greater competence and improved skill.

- Nan

Teaching for Artistic Behavior Website: http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/
Engaging Learners through Artmaking (2009) K. Douglas & D. Jaquith
The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (2001) Jacqueline Grennon Brooks, Martin G Brooks
The Art of Teaching Art to Children (2001) Nancy Beal
No More Second Hand Art: Awakening the Artist Within (1989) P. London