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.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Alexa Meade Art Project

Years ago, my sister, Sharon, took family pictures in the style of artist, Alexa Mead. (Sharon's image is to the right.) I was so impressed with the results that I swore if my Art students and I would one day tackle a project like that ourselves.



One of my beautiful students with the black bar to provide anonymity

Last week, week three of our photography unit, we  did it! I gave each student a t-shirt to paint. They were tasked of making the brushstrokes visible, barely blending several related colors.  Then they painted large pieces of paper to serve as a back drop. Again, the goal was to make it painterly with loose brush strokes.

Finally, we added the most essential element. The students themselves. Each one took a turn painting their own face or having someone else do it. They picked their colors and poses, trying out various backdrops.

Occasionall, a fresh brush stroke or two would be added to the t-shirt or covering or backdrop to help tie the whole piece together.

A lot of learning came out of looking at the finished images and trying to select the strongest ones. The discussions bring about what makes a one composition better than other? How do the colors in the foreground and background go together? What is the mood presented in the expression, pose, and color combination? This student was pleased to see that the yellow stripe that went across her face at eye level, aligned with the yellow stipe in the back drop. She became the sunset that she was hoping to represent.
My new para pro playing with me

a free period gave me a chance to paint my own face
It was a physically exhausting week, running back and forth from sink to wall with the back drops. Fresh tape, swapped back drops, different color paint, twenty minutes at the sink trying to scrub faces clean. In the end, we were all thrilled with the results. I was so obsessed with the finished products that I ran around school showing my coworkers images of our masterpieces. A couple people asked what kind of filter we used. This was an old school way of working with brush and paint to let our colors show. No filter required.

Baldessari Art Project

John Baldessari is a huge name in the world of conceptual Art. He's most famous for putting sticker dots on the heads of black and white film stills. It deals with anonymity, emphasis, color, and shape. We had so many pictures from our week of walking around campus and documenting what we saw with a camera, that it was easy for my students to find ways to bring Baldessari's work to life in our classroom.

He died last year but his influence lives on.


Photo College Self-Portrait Project

Last week, my high schoolers elevated the idea of "selfie" to abstracted self-portraits. They took printed images of themselves, cut them into strips and created photo collages. The sky was the limit.

Some students used a mix of color and black and white, either by tearing or cutting out parts of of one and gluing it to the other.

Others wove the strips of two photographs together.

It's such a fun and easy project. I always like to demonstrate how to use a glue stick by having a scrap piece of paper for glue application. It helps to drag a strip under a glue stick held in the same place, that way there's not glue all over the place. Another piece of scrap paper can go on top of the collage between each newly added strip to rub the piece down without marring the surface of the image. It is a project that teaches craftsmanship, medium, and techniques. Everyone was so excited with the final results.