Friday, October 23, 2015

Observational Still Life Drawings

One of the major skills I have picked to focus on with my students this year has been observational drawing. If you have been following my blog then you know that I have been focusing on observation with all grades K-5. Over the last two years, my first two years teaching, I noticed that students really struggle with making observations, when drawing, painting, looking at art works, pretty much anywhere and everywhere. So this year I have challenged myself with finding opportunities for every grade level to develop their observational skills.

I knew this would take some time so I had to buy some fake flowers. After I shoved the flowers into paint cups to hold them and placed them in the middle of my classroom tables I noticed an immediate transformation of my room. We now had centerpieces and looked like we were out to lunch. We did some practice drawings first, but still had plenty of propeller flowers, even when the students were looking at roses. But despite the students that no matter how you teach them want to draw propeller flowers there were still plenty of gems. Most students did try to focus on the shapes and lines that they saw. The student whose work is to the right here was the one that blew my mind. He actually listened to my pleas to slow down. Much slower than any other student, his drawing was on the level of college students I have worked with to draw from observation.

As a hint, I take tons of pictures while my students are working. Having Mr. Fleming take a picture of their work seems to be the greatest motivation in the world, even batter than my student gallery in the classroom.

We did use markers to color our entire artworks. This was yet another way to try and get the students to slow down and focus on craftsmanship. Still a hard thing for 2nd graders to do. We did wear out some markers, mostly blue and red, but the students seemed very pleased with their work. I am excited to see how this will affect their future work. This was only the first assignment this year for 2nd grade. A lot of time was spent with effective ways to use markers. We had many conversations about coloring slow enough that the marker has time to saturate the paper, and taking the time to fill in the white holes if we had any. Lots of marker demonstrations.

I hope that throughout the year their will be a significant difference in their drawing skills as we pay a bit more attention to technique and observational skills.
Enjoy the images.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Professional Develpment Training

Columbus Day was a teacher work day for us. I am lucky enough to be in a district so large that we get to spend these kinds of days in professional development with other art teachers from our district. This past Monday, another teacher from the district and myself lead a group of mostly new teachers in training focused on classroom management for elementary art teachers. We shared a lot of good things, and have already heard from some of the teachers that attended, telling us that they put some of the things they learned in practice and are already seeing great results.
 I am writing this post because I wanted to share some of the pictures of work the teachers did when I shared with them two lessons that I have great success with. One is a 4th grade lesson on Emphasis, Value, and Texture. This lesson uses Chuck Close as inspiration, showing the students that they can overcome obstacles by breaking big jobs down into small pieces and working together. It is one of my favorite lessons. We used a picture of our District Art Supervisor. The final piece is 32"x40" enlarged from an original 8"x10" that was cut into 1"x1" pieces.

The second project I shared with them is a color wheel made with Model Magic. I make these with my 3rd graders each year. We start only with the primary colors and then they have to mix to create the secondary colors. After that, we organize them into a color wheel and then they get to sculpt them into pretty much whatever shapes they want. Finally they are glued down onto black construction paper.

It was a totally different experience teaching teacher instead of elementary school students. I really do think that the results were not too much different than the kids. Enjoy.


Saturday, October 10, 2015


For three weeks now, my 1st graders have looked at the artwork of Frank Stella. I do feel that these are a little more "in the style of" Frank Stella than I would like. But hey, they gave us an opportunity to focus on some skills that I have noticed over the past two years students need a bit more practice in; placement, coloring with markers, and cutting with scissors.

During this first grading cycle (6 weeks) in my district, 1st graders focus only on lines, and start to move toward shapes. We started this year practicing using a ruler to make straight lines. Next we were to explore curved lines. Since we
looked at Gene Davis for straight lines, I decided we would stay in a similar vein and discover Frank Stella.

I shared with my students the first time I saw a Frank Stella painting in person at the Saint Louis Art Museum, and how I was blown away by the huge wall of color that stood in front of me with its big swooping curved lines. We looked at some images of his works taking note of what kinds of lines we could find, and how they made shapes.

For this assignment, we used clear protractors.
Once we were done looking through them like sunglasses, we talked about placement. I encouraged students to lay their protractors on their paper and experiment with where they wanted to place the shape of it, changing their idea several times and selecting the best placement. We did this three times, purposely overlapping a bit each time to create new shapes. I learned after the first class that did this not to trace our shape more than three times. Way too many lines after three. After tracing our semicircle shapes, we used an eraser and selected a few areas only that we wanted to edit, removing lines that would create small spaces of color, or helping make some shapes more interesting.

After editing our drawing, students used markers to fill in the newly created shapes with color. We put a lot of effort into slowing down and allowing the marker enough time to soak into the paper so that we could not see through it. 1st graders want to color so fast with markers that it looks like they are drying out even when they are not. A lot of attention was given to slowing down during the coloring of this project. We also had demonstrations on ways to color to without having white holes in our color. Many students were directed to go back and put more attention on filling the shapes with color and slowing down to look for areas that needed more work. The opportunity to really focus on quality and not subject matter was one of the main reasons for creating this project.

 Our final step was to carefully cut out our designs and glue them on black construction paper. Glue and  scissor use are some of the skills that I feel 1st graders need a bit more practice with so that they can have more confidence as the move through school. This assignment allowed us to follow our scissor rules, turn our paper while cutting, and listen carefully to directions such as "do not cut your design into more than one piece." This was also a great first opportunity this year to practice "dot dot not a lot", which I was surprised how well my students did this year. In the past, it has been a challenge to keep their dots small, and not have "puddle, puddle, a lot".

Friday, October 2, 2015

Space Invader Hand Design

 Alright, I know I have put a bunch of pictures on this post, but this was a challenging assignment for my third graders, and they persevered, surprising even themselves with how well it turned out.

We started out looking at artwork by the artist Space Invader, and talking about how he creates his images by putting squares together. I felt inspired to share this artist with my students after reading about him on another art teacher's blog. The third graders immediately related to the artwork, drawing connections of course to video games. Their favorite being Minecraft, which we will do something with later this year.

The first step I gave them in this assignment turned out to be the most challenging; tracing our hands and then pixelating them using the grid. The students honestly struggled with this for days. I almost decided to toss this assignment aside and start something new. It seemed that only about 10% of them were able to do this, no matter how I explained it.

I decided not to run away from this, but let them finish no matter how they turned out. Somewhere along the way things turned around and the students started getting it.

Having decided to stick it out, our next step was to fill the negative space with any kind of pattern they chose. One student decided he would make a pattern of space aliens. This idea spread like wild fire, and students all over the class were creating their own alien patterns. A similar thing happened with the girls in the classes and flowers. I really tried to get involved as little as possible, letting them teach each other. It was great to see a project that previously had them frustrated and wanting to give up, now being driven by self motivation.
We spent some time talking about good colored pencil techniques, with focus on coloring neatly and dark. One thing I encouraged them to do toward the end that brought smiles to their faces as it transformed their artwork, was to outline every shape in a dark color. Some time was also spent discussing geometric and organic shapes.

This lesson was done to prepare them for our next assignment which will deal with mosaic. The goal is that they will be able to create organic shapes using smaller geometric shapes. This turned out to be a great lesson on craftsmanship as well.


A Day I Saw A Rainbow

 This was a rather simple one day project with my Kindergartners. In keeping with my goals this year of focusing on skills with my Kindergartners and 1st graders, this was an assignment made to teach three things; drawing big, drawing curved lines, and marker skills (including listening to the cap click when closing the markers). For some gross motor skills, we practiced making the biggest curved lines we could while standing next to our seats starting as far as we could to one side, touching the floor, then stretching toward the ceiling lights as we came across to touch the floor on our other sides. We also did the reverse, the biggest happy faces we could draw in the air with our fingers.

We discussed times that we had seen a rainbow, and what kinds of weather we have on days when we see rainbows. To my surprise, some students claimed they had never seen a rainbow. While that is believable, it still made me just a bit sad. After discussing times we had seen a rainbow then created our drawings of "A Day I Saw A Rainbow." The kindergartners as always were super excited for the first time to use markers in the art room. Being the first time they had used markers with me, I demonstrated ways to take our time, to fill in areas with color, to fill our pages with color leaving no white, and not let our marker caps get away from us. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the Kindergartners did for only their 3rd assignment in art, and one that focused on slowing down and really filling our pages with color.