CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

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).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Interactive Art

This scrambled-face sculpture was created by a group of three 7th grade students, in response to a prompt to "use the human face or figure in an artwork."  

They tell me the idea came from an online search. The result is a sculpture that invites viewers to arrange, and re-arrange, the components, for an ever-changing viewing experience. 
I noticed that the sculpture was static for about two weeks before it started to get altered by passers-by. 

Now that our learning community has caught on to the possibilities, the sculpture is rearranged several times a day!
 Congratulations sculptors, for engaging our school community with your artwork!

Animals as Models

Where's my camera!

Animal week emerged in the art studio this week, but I keep forgetting to take pictures! It's pretty exciting having a chicken  hanging out on a table in the studio, or a praying mantis clinging to a clay pear...I guess it makes me forget to reach for my camera when I am helping to keep our subject from escape!

I missed photos of Tuesday's chicken visitor, "Siesta", who is a very patient model, and neglected to snap a shot of yesterday's praying mantis (Chinese mantis, to be precise) -at least I remembered to take a picture of "Daisy," the Russian tortoise who tolerated a make-shift block fortress-enclosure. 

The chickens live out in the school yard, and are an itergral part of the Sustainability program.  The praying mantis is a beloved pet of a sixth-grader who knows just about everything about raising manti.  Daisy lives in a 5th/6th grade  classroom on the "Wizards"wing.
This revolving-door menagerie is a result of student interest and initiative, not my planning or procurement.  

We are in the second week of "Drawing Boot Camp" which meets for a half-hour "iblock" each day. Student-directed learning is evident in the initiative taken by this group of young artists. 

iblock is the perfect place to for drawing practice. In this setting, the focused attention drawing takes does not have to compete with all the other options available during regular studio-time.

I'm hoping "Brian," the bearded lizard, shows up tomorrow. 

(Brian came through!)

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Draw a Face

By 7th grade, art students usually start to show me that they are really struggling to make their people "look real." That is my signal to teach about "correct" proportions. I put correct in quotes, because as I teach about where things are placed anatomically, I stress that my lesson is not intended to tell students "how to make a face." There are as many ways to do that as there are artists. The same goes with the "correct proportions" of a human figure. 

For some, this information is useful, for others, less so. And that got me thinking - It might be interesting for students, and help drive home my point, if they saw a variety of approaches used by artists to depict a human face or figure. Here is what greeted students the next day:

This sorting game is one I learned from Professor John Crowe, at the Summer Teaching for Artistic Behavior Institute in Boston. We later agreed to change the categories to "Realistic," "Less Realistic," and "Not Realistic," to avoid confusion (and thwart the clever ringleader who put all in images in the "real" pile, because, you know, they are all '"real" art...."

The following day, I swapped out the word "Realistic" for Realism, "Less Real" became Impressionism or Expressionism, and "Not Real" became Abstract. (Using abstract in this context helped to convey the information that "abstract" is artwork based on a subject, as opposed to "non-objective, or "non-subjective" artwork, which is not. 
(I also pulled out a lot of drawing books for students to use for more information, or for those interested in going deeper or practicing.)
At work at the easel is "N," Grade 7
I am curious to see how, when, where, or if, students use the information shared over the last few days in their own work going forward. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

How could we resist?

There is something irresistable about a sunny day in Vermont  - We just had to get outside!
5th-graders drawing at the pond
The two artists above have selected a set of drawing pencils and are comparing the numbers and letters on the pencils with resulting marks. "B for bold," one told me - "H" for hard. 

On nice days like this, it is a wonderful treat to open the studio door and expand into the great outdoors. Students take drawing boards and their preferred drawing tools to draw from observation, imagination, memory, or simply explore mark making with different tools.
The rules are:
1.  Stay where I can see you and you can see me
2. When I check, I will find you working
Two rules are enough.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ready for Art

These artists are all suited up and ready to use the clay center, starting on day 2! After a day of portfolio-making, we are ready to roll. 
7th-graders are starting their year with a challenge: Choose one of "100 Artistic Behaviors" and make an artwork by using, interpreting, illustrating, or responding to, that behavior. 
The list was compiled by art teachers at the 2107 Summer Teaching for Artistic Behavior Institute in Boston, and added to by my students (so now it is more like 118 Artistic Behaviors)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


The Important Thing
5th-graders considered "what is important about art" today in preparation for tomorrow's reflection and share day. Every two weeks we stop the making to consider both artwork and creative process. So today, to get ready for reflecting tomorrow, I asked "What is the important thing about art?" Can you read the responses above?
     I'TS ODD
     IT'S YOU
     IT'S LIFE

I think this is the most unique list students have generated over the years that I have been asking this question. Are kids getting more creative?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

6th Grade Animation Project

A team of 6th graders is working on the whiteboard to create stop-action animation. The whiteboard is a good solution for easily making changes in their progressive drawing. 

Today we had a world premier to share their work with the class. Enjoy.