CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Monday, February 28, 2011

District Art Show

Crossett Brook student artwork is on display at the Red Hen Bakery to celebrate Student Art Month.

Each art teacher in the Washington West Supervisory Union was invited to contribute five student pieces to the display.  CBMS artwork includes; two clay pieces, one relief print, one colored pencil drawing and a mixed media painting, representing a nice cross-section of current work.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Life Form?

Photograph by Loek van der Klis (http://www.kliski.com/ ) used by permission

 I showed a short video clip of Theo Jansen's "Strandbeests" to students last week. Some asked for the link, so click http://www.youtube.com/embed/HSKyHmjyrkA  to view. You will be amazed, as were we.

For those who want to see and learn more, please visit Mr. Jansen's web page: www.strandbeest.com/ 
Jansen also appeared on a  TED (Technology Education and Design) talk in 2007. In this 8 minute clip the artist/engineer describes more about his work: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/theo_jansen_creates_new_creatures.html

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When to say yes when you want to say no

Two 8th grade boys suffered through my “5 minute demo” (this is the time at the start of class when I introduce a new technique, raise a topic of interest, highlight an artist or art movement or follow-up on issues suggested by previous student work). The two were half listening and half flipping pages in a book at the drawing center.
Twice I asked them to close the book. They couldn’t. The book was too compelling (or at least more compelling than whatever it was I was harping on!) When the class was (finally) invited to begin their work, one of these boys asked if he could take pictures – outside. I said yes – but INSIDE (it was about 15 degrees out). He said “never mind – there’s nothing to take pictures of inside, only people.” He slumped away. Then I made the connection – the book he was interested in was a book of photographs, and he was suddenly inspired to take some Vermont winter shots OUTSIDE.

                                          Photo by "A" - Grade 8
So I reversed my “no” to a “yes” and the two photographers headed out. It was agreed that they would stay on the driveway and in my sight from the art studio windows. They checked back once to ask if they could leave the driveway and go up the hill. “It’s in your line of sight” they informed me.
They returned (partially frozen), downloaded their images and started to manipulate them in iphoto. I’m pretty glad I said yes.

                                               Photo by "A" - 8th grade             

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Caught Red Handed (in Learning) (originally posted in Dec 2010)

It’s usually just a matter of time: Students exploring the possibilities in the paint center will eventually paint their hands. Hand painting must be the forbidden fruit in school art rooms –scorned and banned, but inexplicably appealing.

Oh, and it’s also contagious. There has been a rash of hand-painting in the studio recently, spreading virally from student to student and class to class. In one class, the fever spread from hands to feet, and then something unusual happened. After a day of experiencing and experimenting, one student declared “today was a practice day. Tomorrow we will do the real one.” This crew came in the next day, pulled off their shoes, organized themselves and started in.
Before long, a new plan emerged: they would use this new painting method to paint a large American flag as a welcome home banner for one student’s dad who is soon returning from Afghanistan.
Click to view video!

This plan was executed over two days before it was abandoned, perhaps because their ideas grew beyond their skill and control, or perhaps because the result was not up to their standards. They changed media again, adding large cut out letters to a hand-print background, in effect combining printmaking with collage. The cut out letters provided the attractive appearance they were after, while the hand-printed background preserved evidence of their original joy.

What was fascinating to their art teacher was the process from experimentation to clear intent. Students’ ideas shifted from play to care, as Professor John Crowe of Massachusetts College of Art and Design would say. Through discovery learning, students applied their new-found knowledge to a purposeful use of media and technique – a technique they themselves invented.


When I was ready to discard an old rubber chair mat from my office, I noticed it had some interesting texture. So, instead of throwing it away, I cut it up and placed it in the clay center, in the “clay texturing” box. 
“M” (an 8th grader) discovered it and put it to good use. Her innovation: roll clay balls against the nubbly textured mat to produce weird little clay puff balls. I observed “M” repeat the process over and over, placing each ball into a prepared slab/slump mold (see video below).
 Click to view video!
"Field of Clover" bowl - finished!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Artist's References

One advantage to being a learner in a choice-based art studio is predictability – students know that the tools and materials they need for their art will be available for them to access with autonomy, and because of this, they are able to plan for their work outside of class.

Part of this pre-planning sometimes involves rounding up needed references. In the case of the student pictured here, those references are contained within the artist’s journal she keeps at home, full of ideas, sketches and notes. She brought her journal to class early in the quarter because she knew it would help as she designed the cover for her portfolio.
Other students have brought in recycled objects for their sculpture-making, bits of Legos and other building toys to add to their inventions, and computer printouts, to name a few. Recently, the “things” that have been carried to the art studio have been assignments from other classes at CBMS. The studio has been alive with activity for two weeks, as a deadline approaches for a social studies project and a new IDU (“Interdisciplinary Unit”) is launched in Science (see photos below)

A Mummy for an 8th grade Social Studies final

Stencils for an earth-friendly, reusable bag project in Science

                                                              An ancient Aztec Temple 

Parquet Floor?

“Wait – you have to stagger the boards – like this!”

Artists make art about what they love, or what they are fascinated with, or what they are knowledgeable about, or what they are wondering about. They make art to tell a story, or share a point a view. Artists make art from memories, observations and their imagination. Much middle school art seems to fall in the category of “tribute art” – art in honor of favorite sports, favorite teams and favorite players.
This artist loves basketball. He loves basketball so much that he painstakingly clipped the rounded ends of dozens of popsicle sticks and laid them down to make a parquet floor – staggering them, on a classmate’s suggestion, to match the craftsmanship of the real courts he admires. A nice thick coat of glue was added for shine (still drying in this photo, so still a little cloudy) and the tribute to b-ball was complete.

Work in Progress, by "M," Grade 8

We sometimes look at artmaking in the CBMS studio through the lens of 8 Studio Habits of Mind (Hetland et al, 2007). This project is a good example of (at least) 3 of these:
• Envision
• Develop Craft
• Engage and Persist

The Invention of Color

Custom Colors by "K"

“Can we mix colors?” 5th graders at CBMS who are starting art this quarter are intrigued with the idea of inventing (and naming) new colors. The possibilities, it turns out, are endless!

"I want to learn to draw better"

At the start of each quarter, I ask students: “What are your hopes and dreams for art? What do you plan to make? What do you hope to get better at?” Many students respond: “I want to learn to draw more realistically.”

"J" employs several strategies to improve her skills

This is a common wish for middle school students – but it takes more than wishing to learn to draw well. Mostly, it takes practice. And close observation. And then some more practice. People who draw well typically draw every day.
Students at Crossett Brook Middle School know that when they arrive for class, they will be able to choose where they will work, and what they will work on. In the art studio, students choose between the Drawing Center, Painting Center, Clay Center, Sculpture Center, Printmaking Center, Digital Art Center and the Collage Center.
Students who choose to work to improve their drawing skills often choose simple tools and materials; pencil, paper, mirror, maybe a drawing book or a seat by the window. Add quiet concentration to the list of needed ingredients and the results can be very impressive!