Saturday, November 6, 2021

Ceramic Food Shaped Boxes


Ceramic pie slices are secret boxes that nod to Wayne Thiebaud dessert paintings

From photography to claymation to clay. It's been nothing but smooth transitions between units this year in my art class and hopefully it will continue as I move the students into sculpture in other media. This was a project week because there is almost nothing high school students love more than food. 

The assignment was to use the slab roller and the score and slip technique,  to create a box with a lid, that looks like food. So students are getting a feel for the medium and the processes, while exercising their creative problem solving skills.

Pop Artist, Claus Oldenburg, is the perfect Art History tie in. And I even included snacks as a real world connection (as if they needed one.)

Teaching special needs means I get to hear a student squeal with glee each time they make a chocolate chip and add it to her pie. Just goes to show that big kids need to play too.

Festival of Trees Clay Ornaments: Peace, Love and Braille

Claymation is as natural a segue into ceramics, as a school-wide event is to a community event. So my art students went from having our mini animation film fest to the festival of trees. This is our 3rd year to participate in the Festival of Trees exhibit at Macon Georgia's Museum of Art and Science. It is a way for us to have a presence in the community, support the museum's fundraiser, and to subtly advocate and inform. We titled this tree: Peace, Love, and Braille.

Most terracotta ornaments were dry brushed with paint, while most porcelain were glazed 

My students love working in clay because it is such a tactile experience. For this tree, they rolled slabs, cut shapes, pressed textures, and stamped words into the clay ornaments. If we didn't have cookie cutters or cups to cut the shapes we wanted, we made our own templates out of Braille book cover plastic. 

 Many of the students at the school read Braille, which is a code created by Louis Braille in France about 200 years ago, using raised dots to represent letters. Other students have some vision and can read print if it is large enough. Peace, Love Hope, andJoy are the words represented in many of the ornaments (in print and/or Braille) because that is what we wish for each of you this holiday season, and always.

While at the museum decorating the tree, we explored what the museum had to offer: mini zoo, art galleries, bat cave, artist's loft, and science floor. We met the museum's director and the director of education, who is hopeful about working with us at some point in the future. We topped off the trip by stopping for ice cream on the way back to the school. 
Whether in Large Print or Braille, what better way to usher in the holiday season than with peace, love, hope, joy, and a morning to explore  the museum?


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Pinch Pot Sculptures

 Pinch pots are the perfect clay project for little hands. And while some students insisted that their little pot was a pot or a cup or a mug, encouraging a little personification really brings that object to life.

It's easy to find a favorite animal and have students to name body parts of that animal, this fish has fins and a tale, while the parrot has wings and a beak. It's OK to turn the pot on its side to make a monster or frog mouth or turn it upside down. 

Students are also making a choice between whether they want to do a whole body or just a head. Most of them don't realizing their making choices until you start asking questions, like tell me how you decided to have the opening of the pot facing up? I don't want my students to think that default mode is the only mode. I want them to get so used to being asked questions that they ask themselves questions and open up possibilities for future projects.

Friday, October 15, 2021

World Premiere of the Art Student's Animated Shorts

Trying to rewrite the curriculum every year, means that by now (year 9) I am stepping way outside my comfort zone and doing things I've never done before. But that's what being an artist means, making something that has never been made before. I got a Stop Motion app, made a make shift tripod for the iPad from a bag of clay, and my art students just started moving things around in front of the camera. Bottle caps, magnets, and lumps of clay. Animation takes 12 pictures to make every second of film, which means we needed over 1,000 photos for a 90 second film. At first students came up with the ideas as they went along. This was just practice. We went back to find back ground music and sound effects to reinforce the motions.

After we got familiar with the app, we started with the end in mind. A couple of students who improvised some pretty fun songs that we used for content. Students brainstormed ways to illustrate the song lyrics, created original claymation characters and built little sets.

We edited the films by adding titles and voice-over for all of the students who are legally blind (100% of the student body). I wanted to make a very big deal about the fact that animation had never been done before in the 170 year history of our school. Just sending links out in one of the hundred emails wasn't going to cut the mustard. I got a teacher to help me find gowns for my girls. I spent a week ironing brand new $135-225 donated white shirts. I learned to tie bow ties. I dusted off the big popcorn machine, bought drinks and chocolate bars for a mini film festival.  My students took turns at the podium introducing  the next film, the way they would introduce a winner at the Academy Awards. I really wanted them to feel like it was a red carpet event and they were each a star.

A claymation project by the Academy for the Blind's high school Art students

We printed and posted fliers around the school that read "The World Premiere of GAB Animated Shorts: Art Class Boogie, The Secret Life of Bottle Caps, Come Fix your Plate. Starring: Blurb, Bob, Awesome Possum, and the Neck Bones."

At the Assembly, we started with the film by the little kids in self contained classes, and worked our way up to the the Art Class Boogie. We also included a film of puppet jokes by the middle schoolers.

Elementary and Middle School art students from the GA Academy for the Blind try their hand at animation

High School Art students from the Ga Academy for the Blind try their hand at animation.

A student's improv song about food inspires an art class claymation video.

From moving magnets on a whiteboard to moving pictures on the big screen It was really fun to see these little iPad films get to be seen by the entire student body in the auditorium. We couldn't have asked for a more supportive audience. The school laughed when Bentlee said his named, clapped when Jordan spelled his name, and clapped along with the music.  Our World Premiere/ mini film fest/ animation celebration was totally worth the effort! Not too shabby for two weeks of animation experience in the classroom.

Tactile Sand Portraits for Students with Visual Impairments

While the finished project of this sand image may look like it was inspired by street artists and their stencils, we were actually studying photographer, Vik Muniz. Muniz is a Brazilian artist who makes images (often based on master paintings) using non traditional materials such as recyclable items or chocolate syrup or sugar. When we discussed his sugar portraits of children whose parents work on sugar plantations, one of my students was excited about the possibilities.
There were a few challenges however, one, sugar ants are really hard to get rid of once they find your sugar stash, and two, my student has zero vision and couldn't make a value drawing with sugar on black paper from observation. So we started with the same place we've started all month, with photographs of the student. I had traced this student's photo in hot glue for her water color assignment, so she already had a tactile place to start. She used a separate piece of paper to do a crayon rubbing of the hot glue image. I cut out the shapes and lines made by the rubbing. Then she used the stencil, a foam brush and glue to get a flat, even layer of glue onto another piece of paper, in the shape of her profile. She sprinkled with her favorite color (pink) sand, shook off the access and was thrilled to have a tactile self portrait to share with her family.  When it comes to making art history relevant: where there's a will, there's a way.


Watercolor Self Portraits

We really got as much as possible out of our photography unit, and have been trying to find as many ways as possible to make self portraits. We documented, photo collaged, painted ourselves, painted our photos, and now we are moving further and further away from the actual photograph, but only using paint and marker...but working from photos.

These portraits were created by tracing photographs on light tables or on the window. We used Sharpie markers so that they wouldn't bleed once they got wet. And then students were able to be as conservative or crazy with the color as they chose. It was a quick enough assignment that it was just done in a day by those who had worked ahead. I traced the photographs for those who couldn't see well enough to do it themselves, and I hot glued the lines for those who were completely blind. But everyone was able to paint independently once they could at least feel the boundaries, and the examples in this post were done without help.  Everyone was pleased enough with the results that we may be revisiting this assignment when we find some extra time in the future.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Painted Photo Project

One week, my students were painting themselves, the next week they were painting photographs of themselves. 

Observational drawing is tough enough for people with perfect vision, but it is especially difficult for my students, all of whom are legally blind. We are using every trick we can to help them make quality artwork, so I don't think using technology as cheating.

Each student, got a print out of a photograph and they were able to fill it in with realistic or arbitrary colors. 

They were also encouraged to find ways to transform themselves.  This week we were studying photographer and artist, Cindy Sherman and learning how she transforms herself with costumes and photography to become different people. Painting offers a chance for students to become something other than themselves, including animals such as the bird and cat below.