Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Every day, for 30 minutes we have 'PRIDE' time.  This is a time were teachers can work with students on concepts that need to be revisited and students can catch up on work and get the extra help that they need.  Mrs. Nelson, the band director and I are so lucky to be able to work with a group of 8th graders that don't need remediation as much as enriching activities that push them to think outside the box, work together as teams and get to do activities that they normally wouldn't get to do during the school day.

This week, we are making STAR BOOKS. For this challenge they were given instructions to create the book. There are 7 'pages' and each page is made up of 3 different parts. Part 1 is twice the length of the cover. Part 2 is 75% of the length of part 1 and part 3 is 2/3s the length of part 2. They could choose the size of their book, but it had to be within the confines of the size paper that we gave them. They had to figure out all the proportions of the pages to make the books work. These students have restored my faith in rulering.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Fauves and Blue Bulldogs

Well, it’s been a while since I have posted.  I didn’t realize that it had been since the beginning of the school year since I shared anything with you and here it is almost Thanksgiving.  Do you ever do things like compose things in your head and think that you might have sent it (as in a text or email) or posted it (as in this here blog)?  I think that is what may have happened. I’ve been taking pictures of students working and their completed projects and I could have sworn that I posted about some of the projects that we have done but...I guess I’ll just chalk that up to being a tired teacher.

For our most recent project we studied The Fauves and their use of arbitrary colors in their artwork.  We looked at the work of Andre’ Derain and Henri Matisse, among others, and tried to understand the way that they felt about color.  While we were planning our paintings, we tried to understand what they meant when they said “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.” (Matisse) and "We were always intoxicated with colour, with words that speak of colour, and with the sun that makes colours live." (Derain)

We also took some time and looked at the work of American painter George Rodrigue and his ‘Blue Dogs’.  We learned that while Rodrigue wasn’t technically a fauvist painter, his work has many similar elements.  I always like to start off my projects with a little bit of art history. I feel like we can learn so much from looking at the work of artists, both contemporary and in the past.  I also try to take the time to explain to my students the difference between being inspired by something and plagiarism. I think that in exploring different styles of art, students have the opportunity to see where their strengths lie and perhaps learn something that they didn’t know before.

I’ve done the ‘How to Draw a Bulldog’ step by step lesson before.   The last time, if I recall correctly, we drew them and colored them in to look like the work of Romero Britto.  It’s always a fun lesson and the kids LOVE to draw along with me, step by step and realize what they can do when  they listen and learn how to break things down into smaller lines and shapes. This time, we worked really large and I think that their bulldogs turned out wonderfully.

Here’s a few for your enjoyment.

Friday, September 7, 2018

It's a New Year!

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year in the AMS Art Studio.  We are about
2 weeks into the new school year and it has been an exciting, whirlwind time!

With every new year comes change and this year has been no different.  Our
schedule is different this year than it has been in years past and I feel like the
day goes by in a blur.  We are fortunate enough to be able to create our classes
during the summer and I think that we did an amazing job putting the right
personalities together.  So far, knock on wood, my classes have been great.
It’s always so much fun coming back from the long summer vacation and seeing
all the new faces and familiar friends.

We are working on our first project big project right now.  To start out, we looked
at big city skylines from all over the world and we are now working on drawing
famous skyscrapers and making up our own buildings. When we are done,
I’ll be sure to post some of our work.

In the meantime, here are some of our mini-masterpieces that we created on
day one.  Students were given a 3 x 3 piece of card stock and were asked to
create a mini-masterpiece of their own choice.  

Monday, May 28, 2018

This is the End

In the words of Jim Morrison, "This is the end, beautiful friend, the end, my only friend the end.
I can’t believe that another school year is almost over.  Why is it that when you want the time to speed
up it seems to drag, but when you need more time, you blink your eyes and it’s gone?  Don’t get me
wrong, I am looking forward to summer vacation. I have a long list of things that I need to get done,
places that I want to visit, and people that I want to spend time with. I’m ready for a few weeks of down
time.  My niece, who loves art is going to spend some time with me this summer. I'm a little nervous,
since she informed me last night that she 'prefers first class' and things at my house are decidedly 'coach'.
That and she pretty much eats nothing but carbs and I haven't let them in my house since sometime in
early 2017. If I can keep another young hooman alive, we'll spend some time painting and being crafty.
I really am looking forward to it. I have a lot of fond memories of spending time with my Aunt Loree in
the summertime and I hope she can look back at our time together in the same way.

Like so many other teachers, I am just exhausted right now and summer vacation promises
some me time and renewal. It just seems that I really over-planned this school year and just didn’t
have time to get things done that I thought I would be able to do.  I wanted to try out sewing with my
students and that didn’t work out and I am really disappointed with that. I didn’t feel confident that the
personalities in my classroom could handle working with sharp objects (needles) and there is no way
to get around that when you are sewing.  I might try to do it as an extension activity next year where
students that are done with their main projects can try new things if they want to in my make-shift
Maker Space in a little corner of my room.

I’ve already started thinking about the next school year.  I’m not going crazy but I am thinking of themes.
This year, we focused on ‘The Jobs that Artists Do’  and looked at professions beyond what middle
schoolers think about artists. They aren’t just old, dead guys that have paintings hanging in museums,
but that nearly everything that we come in contact with has been designed or somehow touched by an
artist.  For next year, I am thinking of focusing on ‘Artists and Social Issues’ where we will focus on the
impact that artists have on certain issues, movements and the world. We’ll look at how artists inform us
about their culture, tell stories and create inspiration.  I also want to expand my maker space and offer
more free studio time in my classroom where students can explore and try things on their own terms.

But that is next year.

In the meantime, here’s a sort of gallery round up of a few things that we have been working on this
semester that I don’t think I’ve shared:

This was one of my favorite projects. We were inspired by my little Bob Ross Funko Pop figurine. I
took some ideas that I had seen on Pinterest and a couple of art teacher groups that I belong to,
changed them around to work for my needs and lo and behold, we had an artist biography project that
was actually fun to do.


I found some old scratch board in a drawer and I didn't have enough big sheets to go around
so I cut them down and we did a sort of positive-negative space examination of bugs.
This was not as successful as I would have liked. The styluses that we used for scratching the
designs were breaking left and right and we all got frustrated. In the end, I quit asking them for as
much detail as they were originally going to put into their work but these turned our pretty nice.

You know how an art teacher knows when a project is successful? The kids start asking if they can
take the project home before they've even finished it. (I usually hang on to their work until the end of
the year) AND they ask if they can do another one. I called this one 'Draw Me a Song' and my
intention was to give them some freedom to pick a song lyric OR a poem (original, or one that they've
studied in their ELA classes) in hopes that the subject matter would keep them interested and
motivated. I gave them a week to bring in a song or poem that they wanted to do.
ART HOMEWORK! OMG! MizzzzzSmiffffff! I told them that it had to be appropriate for school and
if they didn't bring one in, then they would have to do one of MY songs. Which were all Disney lyrics.
We talked about how to alter your everyday handwriting to make into a more interesting font and
how the layout and placement of words can create a more visually appealing art work. We talked
about emphasis and space and even replacing words with symbols. Which came in handy when you
ran out of room because you didn't plan for space very well. I particularly love that one of my students,
who speaks limited English, did a song in Spanish. Thank goodness for Google Translate.

Sometime this year, I really don't remember when, all the art teachers got together and met with the
Sax/School Specialty rep and did some fun projects and learned a lot of new fun things that we can
try out with our kiddos. It's one of those professional development days that I am so grateful to be an
art teacher. What did you do during your PD day? Ummm, we looked at data and blah, blah blah,
ZZZzzzzzzz. What did we do during our PD day? We made stuff and did a paint pour. I've had a
couple of examples of what we did on a shelf in my classroom all year and my kiddos were begging
me to let them do it. So, we did.

We have just one class day left until testing starts and then the 2017-2018 school year will be over.
This was the day that I lost control of my 8th graders.  They were trying on all my hats and hula hooping in my classroom.  Sigh.  I guess they were making memories.  

Sydney often draws my portrait but this is one of my favorites.  Me and a bulldog.  I guess that sums me up pretty well!
Hopefully after a couple of weeks of rest, I'll look back on this school year fondly. Until then, I hope everyone's end of year goes smoothly and successfully. I wish you all a wonderfully restful summer and I look forward to sharing my classroom with you next year. See you in August!