Monday, March 12, 2018

What's In YOUR Closet?

For those who think that Art has nothing to do with their life, I'd invite them to look around them.  Every piece of junk mail, every web site visited, every bill board, every board game, every movie, T.V. show, theater production, every pieces clothing has involved a person with a visual art back ground. Graphic designers, industrial designers, fashion designers-all use the same tools: line, shape, color, value, texture, etc. They use the same rules: balance, emphasis, repetition, proportion etc.

And so my students looked at sketches from designers such as Ralph Lauren.  They learned the proportions of the human figure (or at least the idealized, 8 head high figure), and then they came up with their own fashion plate. Art isn't just for the galleries, it also
for the runways.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

If I Were Pharoah For Just One Day

For a fresh look at an ancient civilization, my students used technology to print photographs of themselves for a mixed media "self portrait as pharaoh" assignment. We watched videos about Ancient Egypt before discussing the mummification process, what life was like along the Nile, and how tomb raiders were tricked by pyramid architects. Then we looked at traditional head-dresses, before each student picked one for their two dimensional self. They used collage and oil pastel for their costume, boarder, and background. Then they embossed their name in foil for a cartouche using hieroglyphs.
We ended our lesson with a Venn Diagram to compare what we'd learned about Egypt with our previous week's study of ancient Greek's culture, religion, architecture, and mythology. It's just matter of time before some fashion designer brings headdresses like these back into fashion. Hey-it could happen!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Stellar Stella Relief Project

I have always been partial to Frank Stella's hard edged minimalist artwork of the late 1950's and 60's. But that's not to say his maximalist pieces done as recently as this decade, don't have some exciting things happening in them too, including relief elements, which are so helpful for my students who have visual impairments. Our Stella inspired, maximalist cardboard relief sculptures were made to go all out in terms of patterns, shapes, and brush strokes popping out.

Minimalism whispers to us that that less is more, where the maximalism philosophy shouts more is more! And when my students finished these projects, they were shouting for more!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Matisse, The Beast

Fauvism, as an art movement, only lasted a couple of years, but it left quite a Post-Impressionism impression. In French "fauve" means "wild beast," and although it was meant as an insult by a critic of a salon exhibition, the name was embraced by painters like Braque and Henri Matisse who enjoyed wild brush strokes and arbitrary color usage.  The painting of Madam Matisse was called, "The Green Stripe" because of the green that runs down the middle of her half yellow, and half pink face. Her hair his blue.

My students were given the task to make a portrait in the style of Henri Matisse, and they really enjoyed the freedom of color play.  And I really enjoyed seeing what they could do.

Matisse made art for the last 64 years of his life. Once he was wheel chair, and then bed ridden, his painting days were over, but his paper cut outs were just as exciting. My paper cut out lesson plan can be found here:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Let It Show! Let It Show! Let it Show!

There is much to be said for the process of art making as a means to itself.  It is therapeutic. It is a way to learn, grow and observe the world more carefully. But good art, like good ice cream should be shared with others. And I find that when my students know that their work will be displayed, they are more likely to work hard and make something worth displaying.
My students have an art exhibit right now at our local Good Will. Participation perks for them have included a field trip to an opening reception with live music, tasty refreshments, and interaction with members of the community. They were mentioned us on local TV and we got a write up in the local paper.  Four pieces sold at opening night.  Fifteen more students got paid this week for work they submitted to The American Printing House for the Blind Insights Art Contest last year.

We had a school wide exhibit in December and will have another in the Spring to coincide with the school concerts.  But there's something extra satisfying to step outside our little family of students and teachers into the real world. This spring we will have another exhibition of student work at Georgia College about an hour away. I'm not likely to have many students go on to art careers, but as long as they stick with me, they get a chance to feel like a pro.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Roy Lichtenstein, Pop Art Star, Assignment

As an art teacher, I get my inspiration for assignments anywhere I can. I got my Roy Lichtenstein/ Pop Art project from Roy Lichtenstein himself, even though he'd taught in the Ohio State art department long before I was a student there, and has been dead for years.  He was famous for creating large, comic inspired paintings, using primary colors and Benday dots, as though they were printed in a newspaper.  In collecting images of his work for a slide show, I stumbled across a painting he did based on Van Gough's painting of his room.  It seemed like the perfect solution for my students who only had four class periods (minus time for lecture and research) to complete a large painting. I had them pick a famous masterpiece from art history. Once a painting was chosen, the subject matter and composition were already in place, freeing the student a chance to use his or her time to focus on colors and mark making. They could create shapes of solid color, as Lichtenstein did, but were also required to create a Benday dot pattern, using the back of a large pencil to stamp out the paint.

I wish we'd had time for to have the students get a pop art make-over, but it was all we could do to get through with the painting.  I did, however, try some Lichtenstein cosplay with left-over Halloween make up on my own.

Through the week, old masterpieces became new. Rembrandt's burnt sienna became saturated and Cassat's modeled furniture became flattened. Everything felt more commercial, mass produced, and! That's the point of Pop Art. Make it, sell it, love it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Monster Mash-up Mania

If you had told me 10 years ago that I'd end up teaching children with multiple complex needs how to design monsters, I wouldn't have believed you. Yet here I am, and  I'm loving it! A normal art teacher at a normal elementary school might model how to think through each part of "building" a monster before opening the gate to let students run wild with their imagination. They might make 20 arms, or eyes on elbows, or create fuzzy tentacles.  But I have a couple dozen art students who aren't able to function on that level. All of them are legally blind, some are in wheel chairs, and many of them are non-verbal.

Inviting participation is a matter of giving them choices, often only two choices.  So in our make-a-monster assignment I walk these students through each step by asking questions.
"Do you want your monster to be on a yellow or blue piece of paper?"
"Do you want your monster to be tall or short?" (vertical or horizontal paper orientation)
"Do you want the body to be soft or rough?" (felt or upholstery fabric or burlap)
"Do you want the body to be purple or green?"
"Do you want the body to be a circle or a square?"
Questions continue about head, hair, arms, legs, feet, eyes, mouth, etc. until the entire figure is completed.

When I have a student with echoalia (who always repeats the second choice back to me), I ask the question a couple times changing the order.  For a nonverbal child with no sight, I move their hand from one option to the other, and then have them touch their choice. One of my students carries a communication device with preprogramed buttons, so I ask only yes or no questions.  "We have ribbons and tape. Do you want to use ribbons for legs?" If she pushes the "no" audio button, then I ask, "Do you want to use tape for legs?"

Every student is expected to help me squeeze the glue, position and pat down every collage piece. The most important thing to me is that each student takes ownership in the finished piece and does as much work as they can possibly do on their own. Progress is very slow, but when I see one of these students use a pair of scissors, or learn the word, "collage" I feel like I'm Anne Sullivan, living a scene from "The Miracle Worker"!