Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Clay Houses

Clay play was a fun way to start a new quarter. Students had one day to explore all the qualities of clay before we looked at slides of various types of architecture, from huts to castles. I described each slide in detail to the students are completely blind. Those with partial vision sat inches away from the screen. Their assignment was to describe their dream house and try to capture it in clay. Once I demonstrated how to use the slab roller and we were off and running.

My colleague is married to an architect, so she brought me all his plans for a beautiful public library to share with the students.

I was so eager for students to spend every second of each class period working on their houses, that I about wore myself out by frantically cleaning up and setting up between groups. Exhaustion is a small price to pay for good art.

This flat-topped, Flintstones-style skyscraper (left) is one of the only house that does not have a removable roof. Most students wanted their artwork to be able to function as a box.

One student decided to take her inspiration from North Carolina's Biltmore House. The 18-inch slabs broke several times from uneven drying, and so she had to start over more than once. Every art project teaches more than just art. This time the lesson was in perseverance.

If I do this again, I think I'll have the unit last three weeks instead of two and allot more time at the beginning for planning, sketching, listing adjectives, and picking surface textures such stone, brick, stucco or siding. I'd also spent more time on the vocabulary of architecture (such as arch, balcony, column)  and quiz them on those terms so that they could make more informed decisions. Most of the students worked intuitively. But I'm still pretty tickled by their efforts and how charming their houses are turning out.

Monochromatic Mobiles

I have a goal to make my life as beautiful, uncomplicated, and perfectly balanced as a Alexander Calder mobile.

I taught my students about Calder and mobiles as a way to unite the shape and line themes we'd been learning in art class. I also wanted to add "monochrome" to their list of color theory vocabulary terms. Each student created shapes of various sizes from paper, cardboard, or whatever they wanted. Then they chose a color, which they could mix with either white to tint it, or black to shade it.

The younger students worked collaboratively, painting tints and shades of a chosen color on cards, and later gluing the cards to strings. Although the installation as a whole isn't monochromatic, I think they still learned how to create multiple values from one color by working on their part.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writing and Illustrating for Kids 2014

Another October, another wonderful Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference put on by the Southern Breeze region of  Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators (SCBWI). About 150 people met in Birmingham a week ago to hear keynote speaker and author of 130 books, Candice Ransom tell us to "keep calm and carry on!" in our creative endeavors. There were four breakout sessions and then a panel discussion. I am always amazed at how humble and approachable children's book people tend to be. Speaking of whom…
Prescott Hill has just stepped into Elizabeth O. Delumba's giant shoes to be our Illustrator Coordinator. Here he is talking to Beth Rommel after his helpful workshop on digital art.

And here I am, looking and feeling very blurry in my role as Writing and Illustrating Contest Coordinator. We had some great entries this year in every category. Congratulations to first place winners: Michele Phillips (illustration), Jessica Vitalis (novels), and Ginger Garrett Arias (Illustrated fiction/non-fiction).

I was also a conference "Angel" to R. Gregory Christie who is an amazing painter. He's illustrated thirty books, including an Ezra Jack Keats Book Award recipient, Yesterday I Had the Blues. I can't wait to read this book to my blind students to help them understand color through metaphor.