Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cyanotype Mural

A couple of months ago, my art students made a giant cyanotype mural which served as a backdrop for our Spring Art Show, and remains on the school lobby wall.  Emily Gomez, photography professor at Georgia College, introduced them to this process.  To make a cyanotype, a photosensitive solution of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate are added to a piece of fabric or paper. The dried surface is than placed in the sun with something on top to make a silhouette. After about 10 minutes, the surface is rinsed and the shape of the object blocking the sun remains light while the rest turns a beautiful dark, Prussian blue.

When I was a kid, my mom had us make cyanotype prints using paper snowflakes for Christmas cards.  Small pieces of fabric (that can be purchased at art stores like Dick Blick) were used by students to make hand prints. Several of the students, however, got to lie on the treated king-sized sheet and make prints of their bodies, canes, wheel chair, and large cut out letters. They'll never forget sun bathing, fully clothed in the middle of a busy college campus. And neither will I.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Botanical Illustrations

Botanical Illustrations are a perfect marriage of science and art. Accurate detail for each part of the plant is essential for a good illustration.

My school's horticulture teacher, Keith Blackwell, let me bring students to the green house at the beginning of the week and  allowed them to borrow a plant to illustrate. They were responsible for learning the name and characteristics. 
Some of these include: Cuban Oregano, Hen and Chick, Azalea, Rosemary, Fern, Jade Plant, Snake Plant, and Confederate Rose

Some of my low vision students used the iPad to photograph and magnify (zoomed in on) the image. This student is using a magnifying glass with a special light for the drawing itself. People who are legally blind work from parts to a whole, rather than starting with the big picture and than moving to individual parts.
A couple of my students described how the plant felt, and then painted the drawing I did of their plant in hot glue.
Other students were able to complete the assignment without any help or special equipment.  But I think each student felt a sense of accomplishment. I asked Mr. Blackwell to look at each finished piece and name the plant that was represented to ensure that they met the assignment criteria. I am so thankful for great colleagues who are happy to collaborate on interdisciplinary lessons.  This is how our students grow!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Paper Bead and Paper Clip Jewelry


Paper Beads

With Mother's Day a week away, I thought my students would enjoy making a their moms gifts, so we made paper beaded jewelry.   I got out old wall-paper books and we cut long triangular strips, about 15"-18" long, and 1/2"-3/4" wide). The longer the strip, the fatter the bead, and the width of the strip will be the width of the bead.  Be sure to use an X-acto knife or paper cutter for smooth edges. We started wrapping the wide end (not the two very long sides), around thin paint brushes, thick plastic needles, or toothpicks, and once it was about 1/4th of the way wrapped, we used a glue stick on the back (non decorated) side of the rest of the strip.  This can be done before winding begins too. I found it easier to pull the paper strip out from under the glue stick rather than run the glue down the paper. It used less glue and made less of a mess on the scrap paper protecting the table.

If you don't have big wall paper books, no worries. I almost liked using colored copy paper better. It is only 11" long and a lighter weight, so the beads aren't as thick, but they don't tend to unwind and you can be more intentional with color.  I used purple and blue marker to create a simple and somewhat uniform pattern on mine.  12"X12" patterned scrap book paper is another good option.

 To add a shimmer, I used glitter nail polish.  First I strung the beads on old wire hangers and placed that over a bin, that way the polish wouldn't get on anything.  Some people dip their beads in wood hardener several times. Others, roll their beads on an embossing pad, sprinkle with embossing powder and then use a heat gun to melt the powder. This can be done several times too if you want your beads to look glass like.  Once the beads are dry, it is easy to string on wire or thin elastic for a necklace or bracelet. Store bought beads can be mixed in for some fun.

Paper Clip Jewelry

For my elementary school students, we began making bracelets by stringing paper clips. I got this idea from my brother's cub scout den mother, Cathy Breuninger. Kevin came home from his cub scout meeting one night with a beautiful necklace with extra fringe for my mother. I think they used fancy blue & white contact paper, but I wanted to make sure each student left with something that shows their mark. They each chose a color of paper, and color of makers, and the pattern they wanted to make.  Since most of these students are blind, most of the marks look like scribbles, but I did have a few who carefully made zig-zag patterns or tiny hearts.  We cut rectangles from the decorated paper.  The width should be slightly less than the width of the paper clip (about 1"), and the length is about 1/2-2" so it can be wrapped around the paper clip several times.  We used a glue stick and covered each paper clip with the decorated rectangles. Nine worked pretty well per bracelet. It would be prettier with tiny metal jump rings between each clip, and fewer paper clips, but these worked just fine for a 30 minute project. And we used the half of the decorated paper that didn't get put into the bracelet, as wrapping paper for their gift.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cinco de Mayo Decorations

Cinco de Mayo is upon us. I celebrated by teaching my students to make two inexpensive and easy crafts: papel picado and sombrero decorations. For the sombreros I hot glued upside-down Styrofoam cups to plates. The students decorated these by spray painting, and gluing ribbon, and pompoms.  The bulk of the lesson came from my dramatic telling of France and Mexico's battle at Puebla on the 5th of May, 1862.

Older students cut rectangles of tissue paper, either by folding it like a snowflake (for a radial composition) or an accordion and in half again for a crystallographic balance. The word "papel" means paper in Spanish, and "picado" means cut or chopped. I hope when at least one of my children gets married, they will let me make them a bunch of white papel picado decorations because I can imagine a large room (or garden) transformed for $20 worth of tissue paper and a week's worth of evenings spent watching movies and cutting.  Until then, I'll continue to find little projects to honor Mexican culture and history. If you are going to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, why not do it with a taco and a craft?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hooray for May Day!

May 1st is May Day is International Workers Day to celebrate rights of laborers, but it is also an a spring celebration dating back at least four hundred years, complete with music and May Poles. The May basket tradition that I remember as a child, is one in which a paper basket is made, filled with treats and/ or flowers, and then left anonymously on someone's door.  My students spent last week making paper flowers for May baskets.

One day they made lilies, which required them to trace a circle inside a circle and divide it into 8 sections like pizza slices. A dot in the center of each section on the outer ring would be the point of each petal and then where the straight line (slice edge) intersected with the smaller circle would be where the petal ended. Templates were drawn and cut. One of the petals was removed completely down to the center point of the circle (an entire pizza slice removed.)  The template allowed students to trace and cut several more matching lilies. Dots were drawn towards the center of one side, then the flower was flipped and the petals were curled with a pencil.  A cone is made with the dots on the inside, and glue used for overlapping petals.  A pipe cleaner with a little roll on the top is placed on the center just before gluing.

For hyacinth, half a sheet of construction paper (lengthwise), gets folded up 1/2-3/4" before cutting slits down to the fold.  Each slit (about 1/3" apart) is curled. Some of my students used a toothpick for a nice tight curl. We ran a bead of glue on the edge and used that to wrap down the stem.  Stems were made from green paper rolled tightly. I started cutting the paper in half diagonally and rolling from the right angle corner towards the longest side of the triangle, and then twisting to tighten before gluing the last little flap in place.  We even taped our shortened lily pipe cleaners to the top of the paper stems because they looked better and were easier to bundle or stand in a vase. Basically 2 half sheets of paper and a few drops of glue will get you a beautiful hyacinth!

Tulips were easier than I thought they would be and ended up looking almost real!  To make, we cut 4 rectangles of the same color, each 2 inches wide and 5 or 6 inches long.  The center was pinched like a bow tie and then twisted twice and folded back on itself.  We placed our thumbs in the center to pull the tissue around like a little spoon and then pinched the bottom before gluing each petal to the stem. First two are across from each other (like a clam top and bottom) and then the next two filled in the sides.  These look best with long thing green leaves glued to the stem.

Day four, we made carnation or chrysanthemum type flowers with tissue paper. See last year's Cinco de Mayo decorations for instructions.

May baskets are made by forming a cone of paper and stapling and gluing before trimming the pointy edges on top. We stapled ribbon to hang on a door, and lined each cone basket with a larger piece of tissue paper before placing 5 or 6 flowers in each.  My students are not as stealthy as I'd hoped but they still had fun pretending no one saw them as they knocked on the doors of our administrators and scurrying away.  And they have enough left over for a Mother's Day surprise.  Happy May Day!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Value Drawing of Geometric Forms

Observational Drawing is probably the greatest challenge for students with visual impairments. If they can't really see what they are supposed to draw, how are they supposed to draw it? And it is especially tricky when the visual illusion of a 3D form is so different from the form itself. Take a cube, which is made up of six squares each with four right angles, but is drawn using three diamonds-no right angles. A cylinder is made with a circle on each end, but the illusion of cylinder requires the only circle included, to be replaced with an eclipse. 

For those who are completely blind, it became more of a lesson in following directions and learning about how sighted people see the three dimensional world with illusions rather than necessarily truth. They could measure size relations between objects with their hands and then try to replicate that with wikisticks.  Then it was a matter of explaining light sources and have them draw with charcoal on one side and smudging on the other.

My students may not become wealthy artists years from now, but they will be able to tell you the difference between a shape and a form (even many adults make the mistake of saying "3D shapes"), that the medium of charcoal is essentially burnt wood, and explain what value is and why it is important. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Paper Moon Project

The minute I found out that this year's prom was going to be at the Museum of Aviation with a "Fly Me to the Moon!" theme, I knew I wanted to build a paper moon photo booth.  These were popular in the 1920's when people would pay 5 cents to get a picture of themselves sitting on top of the moon.

 I started with an 8' X 4' piece of birch plywood, which costs about $20.  Then I taped a piece of string (about 4' long) to the middle of the board's side, and the other end of the string to a pencil. The string served as a radius, which I used to draw a semi circle.  I moved the tape off the board and changed the length of the string for the inside of the moon.  This took several tries. I added a nose and lips with my pencil.  The moon leaves a lot of empty space on the board, on the inside of the moon, and the corners. I used as much as possible to make various sized clouds and a star.  Then I got busy with a jig saw, cutting out each piece.

I painted the moon and clouds using house paint samples and acrylic. Then I cut small (3"- 5") pieces from a 2X4 piece of lumber, and nailed one or two wood blocks to the front (from the back) of a large cloud, before covering the front of the wood piece with a smaller cloud. This allowed for the clouds to stand on their own and give some dimension. Because I used finishing nails, touch up with white paint was very easy.  The moon was drilled to the front of a backless bench with 2 screws!

We covered cushions with black fabric and set them on top of the bench.  The moon was thick enough to stand on it's own, but we drilled the left over 2X4 to the side of the bench and tacked the top of the moon to it with a finishing nail, just for good measure. 7 ' long black fabric hung from a railing (we stapled it to itself) and then strings of paper stars spray painted gold hung down for bling.

If I had to do it again, I'd probably raise the bench on a little platform, so feet would dangle. I'd paint the support bar black, in case the photographer gets a bad angle and it shows. And I'd find a second light source (we used a shop light) so that there weren't such dark shadows coming form one side.

I used a 2nd piece of 4 X 8 plywood to make two more photo booth type areas, based on the hundred year old French film, "A Trip to the Moon."  I wanted the dance to have a vintage feel. The large man in the moon didn't work as well as I'd thought because people stood in front of it and all you could see was the eyebrows of the face. But the I cut holes for the rocket windows and people peeked out of those for some cute pictures.

For the dance floor I made 6 PVC pipe 8' X 8' squares, with cross bars at the bottom (2' legs coming out each side). We tied tulle around the middle, and strung it with lights. These frames weren't as strong as I would have liked and the logistics of hanging the lights was more complicated than I thought it would be, but it did add a nice visual to the dance floor and since nobody sneezed, they stood all the night.

I was given a decorating budget of $350, including the helium tank and balloons (which took about $100 from the budget).

As a teen, I lived for dances! I was happy with a gym, a handful of friends, good music, and maybe a package of cookies on a table. Although, I still believe that you shouldn't need much to have a good time, every once in awhile it pays to go the second mile and have a little fun with the process. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Story Quilt

The thing about quilting projects is that they can be used to teach a wide variety of subjects from Math to Art History and American history.  I grew up in the heart Amish country, Pennsylvania where the quilting tradition runs deep. Here in the south, it seems logical to talk about Freedom Quilts and the role they played in the Underground Railroad, with quilt squares that acted as a secret code to tell slaves follow the geese, the North Star, and pointed out safe houses. Slaves made quilts from flour sacks and used clothes to keep warm, and some times they sold enough quilts to buy freedom. I also taught about quilter Harriet Powers, a Georgian, a freed slave and self-taught artist whose quilt is in the Smithsonian.
We watched videos of the Gee's Bend Quilters and discussed the social and family history aspects of quilting traditions. We talked about how many of these celebrated women artists had the same name (Pettway) because they were descendants of slaves of Mark Pettway.  Pettway bought the plantation from original settler, Joseph Gee, for whom Gee's Bend, Alabama is named.

And since it was Black History Month, and we were on a roll, celebrating quilts by African Americans, we looked at the story quilts of Faith Ringgold, and the impact she had on the New York Art scene in the 1960's and 70's. Ringgold fought for the rights of black artists and women artists who were (and still are) under-represented in major museums and galleries. Her story quilts illustrate aspects of her life as a young girl in New York.

For the art production aspect of this lesson, each student came up with a story from their own life and illustrated it on fabric using fabric markers, liquid watercolor and puffy paint. Oh, did I neglect to mention that language arts was also part of the lesson? Students shared the stories with the class, and we used each block to make a class quilt, creating swatches of patterned fabric to use as boarders-Faith Ringgold style.

For more ideas on quilting projects, see what I've done in the past:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Signed, Sealed, Recycled, He's Ours! Trash Collage of Stevie Wonder

It may not look like diaper box and cookie bag at first glance, but look past the surface of this portrait of a star and you'll see hair made from spiral binding and foam, and sunglasses made from comb binding and plastic bag.  This project was born out of my friend and colleague's environmental science unit. Melanie Thompson wanted to show her students how garbage could be reused or repurposed into art, so she asked me to collaborate.  I had a large box, that I cut to make the background. We decided to do a portrait of Stevie Wonder, because all year Melanie has been sending out flat, paper Stevie dolls to friends who traveled to different countries and send pictures back. This has given students an opportunity to study the geography and environment of each place "Flat Stevie" has been. And he has been everywhere!

I printed a photo of the real Stevie Wonder and traced it onto an overhead sheet to project onto the cardboard.  Two low vision students did the bulk of the work, tracing the projection and painting in the general shapes to make the contrast between shapes easier to see.

Then they filled in each shape with pieces of clean garbage. and enjoyed figuring out what food package or discarded book material would work best for which part. I hope the real Stevie Wonder knows how much we admire him and I hope the students will think twice before throwing away something that could be turned into a piece of art.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Field Trip: Printmaking Workshop

Georgia College and State University treated my students like royalty on our recent field trip to their Art Department. We observed a sculpture and painting classes, did a workshop with photography, relief prints and screen prints. When I asked if we could visit, I never dreamed they'd walk away with 3 completed works of art. I am grateful to Matt Forrest for forming a partnership with me and my students. Here's an article and a video where you can see us hard at play:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mask Making Mania

Mask making projects cover many important art standards. Through last week's lesson, we touched on the relationship between form and function, with a slide discussion on the purposes of masks (surgeonis mask, ski mask, catcher's mask, masquerade mask etc.). Then my students learned about various cultures as I let them handle masks from Africa, Tonga, Fiji, and Chile and discuss the purposes, characteristics and medium for each.

They learn about contemporary art. I met wonderful artist, Jill Foote-Hutton at her solo show at Wesleyan College. She was generous enough to leave some of the masks from the interactive part of her monster exhibition for me to share with my students. (Shown here). As a class, we discussed her aesthetics and paper mache technique.

My students also relearned to generate ideas through sketching. This student is completely blind and so he used wiki-sticks to convey his ideas.

They learned to build an under-structure, making their sketches into a 3D reality, using old cereal boxes, discarded foam, cardboard, and plastic bottles taped together. This teaches creative problem solving AND environmental issues such as how to reduce waste and reuse clean trash.
They learned the sculptural technique of paper mache. This is done by tearing newspaper strips with the paper grain, and using liquid starch to dip the strips. My elementary school students used pre-made plastic masks as a mold. Some high school students tried using paper pulp (paper in the blender with water) and glue. If liquid starch is hard to find, a mixture of water and glue or even water and flour will work. About five layers of paper should be enough.
Students learned to paint a 3D object. Most of them used black acrylic or latex underpainting like Jill Foote-Hutton, which sealed, strengthened, and smoothed the surface.  Then they added the color layer, leaving some areas intentionally black. Wiki sticks or tape helped create a barrier for my blind students to know where to paint.

A few of them learned about performance and how to scare other teachers in my hall. So between the interdisciplinary take or the aesthetic take, or the skills and techniques take on this lesson, there's no question that a lot is being learned.

I had two high school boys tell me day one, "This is going to be my favorite project this year!" By the third day, they were going to take zeros because things just weren't working out. But in the end, it was, in fact, their favorite project, which tells me they are learning one of art's most important lessons- perseverance pays.