Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Area, Perimeter, and Tessellations Art Project

Tessellations are when shapes fit together to create pattern with no gaps and no overlaps. Here's a video of how I like to combined math and art in my tessellation lessons for students.

M.C. Escher was born the same year as my grandmother, 1998. He worked as an illustrator and artist. His ability to create elaborate repeated patterns served him well when designing tapestries but he also used tessellations in his etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts.  Here are some of his more simple tessellations.

Because I teach a wide range of grades and ability levels, student work also ranges from simple to complex.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Fraction Figure: How to Draw a Proportioned Person

Artists need spacial intelligence to know how to convert the 3D world to a 2D surface. They need to know how scale, proportion, and linear perspective work. That's math.  This short video shows how to make a figure that is eight heads high.

Elementary or middle school students who can draw a figure to illustrate their fictional writing, developing a character, making a comic book etc. They can use it to study history and the show the type of clothing people wore during a given time and place. They can represent a specific historical figure. They can design a costume out of recycled garbage for their environmental science class. OR students can just learn this skill to be a better artist. Draw and be happy.

My students' figure drawings for a fashion design assignment

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Fraction Faces

This video gives a step by step explanation of how to introduce your students to fractions and/or portrait drawing.

Susan B. Anthony as portrayed by a 3rd grader. The fractions and support lines were left for this to count as both a math assessment and a social studies assessment.

This student created a self portrait  for an art grade, and so he was able to erase their under-drawing. Sometimes students draw on pink or brown construction paper, or tag board to give a little skin tone to go under their colored pencil, and they can color the background in with marker. He cut out the figure and glued it to a different colored back ground for a little more figure-ground contrast.

 I have had students who were completely blind complete this assignment using Wiki Stix.  One student, also did some graphite drawing on his piece.

Giant Doorknob and Topiaries: Wonderland Style

Please universe, don't let prom be canceled this year. This week and next we were supposed classroom instruction, then a week of spring break. The week we got back was going to be our school's prom. I had a huge list of things I wanted to have students work on, to prepare, these next couple of weeks, but last Friday, (just before we put our students on the bus) it was announced that the next two weeks we would do our part to slow down the spread of Covid-19 by working from home. I handed each student a package or markers, a set of watercolors, paper and watched them leave before scrambling to gather my own supplies before campus closed.
I said goodbye to the unfinished topiaries that we made with long cardboard tubes, foam balls, and squares of tissue paper. This was the 3rd prom we used those free #10 cans. Once to hold branches, adorned with origami cranes, once to hold New York Street Signs, and now to hold the rose bushes of white (and red?) in reference to the part in Alice in Wonderland when the playing cards were painting the roses red.

The school supplies guy was getting rid of a large chipboard panel which is solid as can be, but had 6 holes in it, the size of paper punched holes in notebook paper.  I found some very long, prong fasteners to poke through cardboard and out the back of the wood. Then I glued other cardboard on top of back cardboard, so that I can reuse the board without any risk of messing up the surface.  One student used a plastic hoop topped with a cardboard circle and paper mache for the knob, which I glued onto a very wide cardboard cylinder. (Don't ask where I get this stuff, I don't remember). I cut a key hole (the board underneath was painted black), decorated it all with calk, and had another student spray paint it gold.  Remember when Alice slipped through the key hole?
I had planned on taping a ton of paper flowers on the remainder of the about 4'X4' board, but I'm not sure now. That scrambling Friday, I had made my second trip, in two days, to the frame shop across the street. It is closing and the owners let me haul of piles of mat board and boxes of small frames.  As everyone else was getting in their cars and driving home, I was cutting out light mat to fit into the frames and trying to figure out how to make keys for each frame.  That might be adornment for our doorknob decoration. Or maybe they could go on tables? Or maybe they could hang from above? Or maybe we won't have prom. The senior trip to Pigeon Forge was canceled. Our trip to New York City was canceled. 

One thing that will never be canceled is a chance to enjoy the creative process; so even if there's never a reason to use these decorations, at least my students and I had a chance to look at cans, tubes, cardboard scraps and styrofoam spheres and see them for what they could become. I always take great pleasure in the process of making, and the satisfaction of knowing that if I didn't exist, that thing I made wouldn't exist either.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Mark, Sets, Motown!

8 ft panels with Stevie, Michael, Aretha, and the Marvelettes, let up on stage

Music students have been practicing all semester for a spring concert full of good Motown classics, by musicians such as the Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and the Marvelletes. Our birch sets had been painted over four or five times and I didn't want to risk peeling paint; plus I thought it might be nice to keep some of the naked wood; so students dismantled past sets and flipped it around to use the back. I outlined high contrast images of some focus musicians for the students to paint within the lines.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking our high school students are married to current genres of pop, rap, or country, but in fact, all of my students love Motown in the background when they work. They all start singing when "My Girl" starts playing.

Our  concert was scheduled for next Friday. We have since been closed the school for at least two weeks to slow the spread of COVID 19, but I am hopeful that the concert will still happen one day, and when it does, the sets are set.

Clay Trivets Art Lesson

This fun clay project teaches children the elements of art: line and shape, as well as coil construction ceramic technique. My elementary school kiddos made trivets for their parents (also learning about form and function), by taking a piece of construction paper and cutting out a shape to use as a pattern. Then they rolled out a clay snake (coil) to outline the edge of the shape. Smaller coils were made into little spirals to fill the inside. The top was blended together (with the child's name scratched on) before flipping it over and peeling the paper off to reveal the pattern once again. (The bottom became the new top.) After the bisque firing, students glazed their pieces and they were fired again. It was a  simple project that taught the standards and resulted in the perfect Mother's Day gift.
Circle, heart, and star shaped trivets made with coils of clay by elementary students who are legally blind

Monday, March 16, 2020

Giant Chess Piece Decorations

 I thought it would be fun to include some really big chess pieces for our Wonderland themed prom, but when I looked at the prices online, I knew we'd have to find a way to make theme ourselves. I kept it simple and practically free by drawing a knight and queen silhouette onto a large appliance box. (I think it was an oven box.) Once I cut one side out, I traced it and cut a second to match identically. I flipped the right sides together to trace so the best cardboard would be on the out side of the finished piece.

Then I cut up another box into strips that were 5.5 inches wide, making sure that the corrugation was perpendicular to the length of the strips. Students rolled these up so they could bend around the contour of the horse shape. I used hot glue to trace the edge of the horse, standing the cardboard strips, piece by piece until the contour was complete. Then two students, also with hot glue guns, helped get all of the edges of the strips covered with glue at the same time so we could lay the 2nd horse shape on top while the glue was still hot. It wasn't perfect. We had to trim and caulk to smooth out the edges, before students painted the knight black, and later, the queen white. I love to think of students posing beside or behind these 4.5 foot game pieces.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Thomas College Students Make Tactile Art for the Blind

Richard and I with his class weavings
Richard Curtis, a very nice art professor from Thomas College, created an assignment, for his very nice students, to create enough tactile art for every child at Georgia Academy for the Blind. Today he came to drop it off and ended up having a wonderful visit with my 3rd period class.

Most of the images included craft foam, wall paper, or upholstery samples. Puffy paint was often used to trace edges. Colored sand was glued for lines and large shapes.

bits of cork and fuzz balls add to the texture of this piece
There were large stretcher bars that had a plastic grid from Lowe's stretched across them. This allowed his students to weave fabric, and plastic bags, add zip ties and nylon.  Some hosiery hung from a large woven piece and was filled with things like shredded paper and bubble wrap. This allowed my students to explore and guess what was inside.

My students were eager to share their work too. One put on an impromptu puppet show, while others showed off their pen and ink figurative and graphite perspective drawings.

foam zebra shapes create an organic pattern

 I sent out an email inviting classes to come and "shop" for free art. It was so fun, watching kids get excited, combing through stacks of art and choosing something to keep. All or zero dollars!  Thank you Thomas art students!
Over 90 pieces of art were spread over 3 tables for students to browse

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Georgia Themed Totem Pole

Our Georgia garden totem pole at our Georgia Academy for the Blind

When I asked a student if he'd rather make Vadalia onions or honey bees out of clay, he said, "I don't know how to make those!"  As if this was a skill that everyone else had but him. "I don't know either; I've never done it before. Has anyone in this class ever made onions or bees out of clay?" No one in the class had.  "You're not alone," I explained. "That's why we're here in art class: to figure it out! We can only learn how to make those things by trying to make them."

I'd never made a large, ceramic, garden totem pole either. I figured we would need a metal pole, and that we could slide each totem on like we were beading a necklace.  First things first:  permission from the principal for a student made sculpture to go in the campus sensory garden. Second: find a pole, which was just a matter of asking the horticulture teacher. He had a few, very long metal, fence poles. Third:  Come up with an idea.  The students debated for a day or two before we settled o the theme of Georgia.  Did you know that the gopher turtle was the state reptile and the Cherokee rose was the state flower? We did our research until we 10 symbols of Georgia to divide up between 12 students.
Lastly, the work began.  That's when I realized that I can't trust my Special Ed students to work on a totem completely independently.  So we used the slab roller and worked in small groups on a totem or two at a time.

We used real sea shells pressed into clay to make molds for clay shells to go with the tortoises.

Cardboard hexagons were glued to a larger piece of cardboard and pressed into the clay to make a beehive.

The clay got darker during the glaze firing, so many of the colors were much darker than we'd hoped. The terracotta color of the bisque firing was perfect for our Georgia peach, so we left it unglazed, but when it came out with the glaze fired portion of the pole, it was tomato red, so I painted it back to it's peachy color.

We dug a hole that was about 3.5 feet deep and packed it with soil (most of which was Georgia clay). 

Then we slid each of 5 sections down the top of the pole, caulking between each layer. One hole was slightly small, but a little filing of the edge, and it went on just fine.  Other holes were a little too big, but the caulk helped to make it more stable.

And we sprayed foam inside most of the sections to keep anything from rattling around.

Now we have a very stable 5'4" ceramic totem pole in our sensory garden which can be seen or felt by everyone who comes on campus. The totems include a live oak trees, a large mouth bass, honey bees, Cherokee roses, Vadalia onions, a peach, a map of Georgia, gopher tortoises, tiger swallowtail butterflies, the state motto (wisdom, justice, moderation), and the brown thrasher. We don't have a state invasive speces, but I added some kudzu leaves as a nod to the plant that ate the south.

The names of each student who worked on it go around the bottom totem. I like of them coming back as adults one day to show their children the pole they helped create.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Braille Challenge Binoculars

Every year the emerging Braille readers come to my classroom during the day of Braille Challenge (a state-wide competition) to make a craft. I always try to go with the year's theme, and this year was "Vision" because, you know, it's 2020. So today, I took out my box of empty toilet paper rolls, upholstery fabric scraps, tape, and ribbon to let them glue, wrap, and tape a pair of fake binoculars.  It the world of visual impairment we call telescopes, monocular telescopes, and binoculars, binocular telescopes because....I have no idea why, but it was a good chance to to teach different names for magnifying devices to our students.

They took tiny foam dots to make their initials in Braille. That's their level, but it shows that Braille is cool and useful and hopefully they'll feel good enough about coming to Braille Rookie activities that one day they'll be back to win at Braille Challenge.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Those Who Can, Teach: Balance, Passion, and Career Identity

Me and my Art at Macon Art Alliance
February has been a month for me to reflect on my career and my identity. I come from a long line of teachers, my grandmothers, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, siblings-in-laws, and husband teach in some capacity. We live on academic calendars, share research, and get excited for the success of each other's students.  I didn't start out in education, though. I was a full time student for nearly nine years, studying art, because, even though I knew lesson plans were in my blood, I wasn't going to teach Art until I knew I could get into exhibits and sell art to collectors and interior designers. The cruel saying "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" didn't make sense to me. My dad was a psychology professor but he was also an active clinical psychologist, conducting research and providing therapy. My mom, taught Family and Consumer Science (FACS) after 20 years of sewing everything in our home: from curtains and sofa to her mix-and-match professional wardrobe. She ground wheat for our bread, made yogurt from scratch, and manage a budget like no one's business. I believed that one should not be talking the talk unless they walked the walk; and I knew that only an artist could teach someone else how to be an artist.

So I made and exhibited art for years, while teaching college part time. After my third child was a toddler, I felt impressed to go back to school to get my early childhood teaching certificate.  When she started middle school, I began teaching full time. If you follow this blog, you can trace my last solo art show to the year that I started teaching at Georgia Academy for the Blind. Teaching there has been such an amazing outlet for my creative energy that I came home feeling fulfilled....and pretty tired. I had been pretty busy before adding 45 work hours to my schedule. Something had to go, and it ended up being art, because the last of my waking hours each day belonged mostly to my family: getting everyone to church activities, swim, piano, cross country, track, band, orchestra, and chorus concerts. It wasn't until the last month that I finally found a moment to enter a juried show: Drawn to Macon. All 3 of my pieces got in, and two sold before the opening. They aren't new. They are 8 years old...from that last solo show.

The exhibit's opening night kept the gallery busy all evening

Here's the thing. I became an artist because I need to create. I feel like I'm doing that every day in my classroom. I'm probably never going to be famous. Making a fortune isn't my goal. I just want to use my hands and find creative solutions to problems. 
The most recent PAGE ONE magazine has an article spot lighting me as a 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year finalist
Melanie Thompson and I with State Superintendent
Dr. Woods and GA Teacher of the Year, at the
Teacher Advisory Council meeting this week, before
going to the capitol to see education legislation happening.
I teach because it helps me build relationships and help those around me. My success is the happiness that I find every day. Just today our school tech guy came into my classroom and asked, "How do you get to do fun things every day in here?" and one of my high school students said, "It's Art! That's what we do." The next period a student said, "Thank you for teaching me to work hard, Mrs. Applebee!" Another, without a prompt, bounced up to me and said, "I love you too, Mrs. Applebee!" It's so gratifying to help students have fun, learn to work hard, and feel loved. It's better than gold!
Not that I don't aspire to make my own work again. My youngest is wrapping up her junior year in high school, and can finally drive herself to soccer practice, which means that I can keep my sanity and still find time to work in my sketchbook each day.  Making art is good for the soul. So is teaching. So is motherhood. You don't always have to choose, but you do have to realize that "having it all" doesn't mean "having it all at the same time."

Umbrella Mushrooms & Eight Foot Checkerboards

We are thinking big in my art room these days. My set design class has been making the backdrops for our "Alice in Wonderland" themed prom. We went through a lot of painter's tape to make a checkerboard pattern on two white and two black 8'X4' pieces of birch.

Then, some of my daily art students and I took a couple of broken umbrellas and turned them into giant mushrooms. For the base, we poured cement into coffee cans and stood giant cardboard tubes in them. The umbrellas were inserted into the tops of tubes and from the bottom of the cans to the top of the umbrella handles were wrapped in big cardboard to give it the shape of a mushroom stem.

In order to change the shape of the umbrella top, we kept taping mounds of newspaper to the top, and trying to add poster board to the edges.

 Then we spent a couple of days with papier-mâché. Using strips of newspaper dipped in either fabric starch or a flour-water mixture.  We painted the mushrooms  tan with house paint and finally, we dusted with pink (or blue) and gold spray paint. Prom is still more than a month away, but we've got more ideas and projects to do.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Portrait Painting and Back Ground Activiating

I have been wanting to teach my students how to draw a well proportioned face (from scratch) all year. I mentioned last month that working from photographs or projections was OK, but I'm not going to deny them the skills to work from home with nothing but a sketchbook and pencil. Teaching drawing is my job.
So we start with an oval. Draw a line of symmetry and find the center of that line. We make the line go from one side of the face to the other. The eyes (contrary to popular belief) are in the middle of your head. We divide the horizontal line into fifths with 4 dots and then create a slight arch for an eyelid between the 1st and 2nd dot and the 3rd and 4th dot. The iris of the eye is a perfect circle but you can rarely see the whole thing at once, so I tuck it under the eyelid by making almost a U shape. The pupil is centered on the iris.

The lower half the the line of symmetry is divided in half again. The bottom of the nose is drawn 1/4th of the way from the bottom of the face. It is as wide as one eye, which is also the size of the space between the eye, so use that for a guideline. Of course people have wider and more narrow, longer and shorter noses, but we are just learning the average as a starting point.
The lower 4th of the line of symmetry is divided in half again so that the mouth is 1/8th of the way up from the bottom of the line. It is about 2 eyes wide, so it would go from the center of one eye to the center of the other eye.  The ears are drawn from the the eye height down to the nose position on the side of the head.  It's so funny that people who have looked at millions of faces over the days and years of their lives don't realize that your ears line up with your eyes. And some of them wear glasses.

After my students drawn their faces in pencil or wiki sticks, they paint their back ground color. Then they find or make stencils that they can use to spray paint pattern onto the background. We talk about figure-ground relationships and how important it is to activate the background if you want to add interest.

Everything is painted on the figure and then black paint lines are added to most of the drawings. This flattens the people into almost cartoon characters, but it also covers up all the rough edges and makes it look clean and finished. Plus it is easier for my low vision students to see each others work from a few feet away.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Puppetry Paradise!

I felt at home in Big Bird's nest
Jim Henson is a creative genius who brought happiness to millions. His college degree was not in Art, even though he drew every day. It was not in English, even though he wrote scripts for TV and film; and it wasn't in theatre or performing arts even though he won lots of Emmy and Grammy awards.  He studied Home Economics, and he used his sewing machine the way other artists use a paint brush. I introduced my students to the world of Jim Henson (via documentaries, articles, and performances) as a spring board for students to create their own puppets.  Throughout the lesson, students also did writing assignments to learn things like character development, dialogue/monologue, and voice.
Our puppetry lesson is part of a month long unit about the tie between visual and performing arts. The costume (hat) design project  came before, and set design is is coming after.  I love it all! 
Differentiation (buzz word in education) is a key to puppet making, because it lends itself to a huge range of interests as well as a huge range of ability levels. We had students who did elaborate hand puppets, complete with costume and students who made simple hand puppets from two pieces of fleece and sticky foam shapes to make a face.

Simple rod puppets allow one hand to move the arms, while the other turns the head
Some students made rod puppets from painted foam balls and inserted wooden dowels. Other students made more challenging dowel puppets with sculpted paper mache heads.

One student made a very simple marionette frog with a foam ball body attached to two strings to help it move. Other students made more complicated marionettes such as a long legged, long necked bird, or a unicorn with four moving legs.
Finger puppets made by and for the very young from felt and glue

My youngest students made felt finger puppets with characters that ranged from a pig to an alien. I have a student with an obsession with caterpillars made very simple puppets from a single piece of thick, fuzzy yarn, google eyes, foam nose, and pipe cleaner antennae. Two pieces of wire or pipe cleaner twisted around the body brought the bug to life, causing it to inch along or dance.

caterpillar puppets made from very thick and furry yarn

Students handle an Asian shadow puppet
The two week puppet adventure included a trip to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. It is an amazing place and I couldn't believe how accommodating they were of my students of visual impairments.  Our tour guide allowed my students to handle and try out a variety of types of puppets from around the world: Africa, China, Indonesia and the U.S. The Japanese puppet required three people to work it. The learned about stop animation and tried to assemble puppets from found objects.

We learned even more about Jim Henson with exhibits dedicated to Sesame Street, The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. Students played on a TV set, and handled materials in the workshop.

I have a student who wants to design puppets for a career. I promised her that if she faced her fear of flying to Kentucky last fall to attend the exhibit and awards ceremony, to which she was invited, that I would find a way to take her to the Center for Puppetry Arts. This trip was my keeping a promise, but it was also a huge gift to every student who came to experience a world class collection and learn about this art form.

The lesson included writing components as students began, even before their first sketch, developing a character with a name and attributes. They wrote questions to ask our tour guide for out tour. One student nudged me as his question was being answered before he even asked. They wrote scripts, each with a beginning, middle, and end. And they wrote about the field trip, so although students are making art, they are also learning social studies, language arts, and just adding joy to life. Watching students perform around our classroom table, with their silly voices made the lesson all worthwhile, for me.