Friday, March 30, 2012

Last Day

I'm a contracted teaching artist which means I don't have a school that I am attached to.  I'm kind of a gypsy art teacher going from residency to residency and grant to grant, not knowing when or if I'll be employed once a residency is over.  I had a long stretch in a single district a few years back and was able to teach a pool of students four years in a row (what a treat).  But that was before the economy tanked. Unfortunately art is almost always one of the first things to go so that was the end of that.

For the past several months I have had an art residency at a K-3 elementary school where I worked in conjunction with a drama teacher.  She taught drama to half of the school for 8 weeks while I taught visual arts to the other half and then we swapped. We were fortunate to be able to teach at the school for 2 years in a row.   Eight weeks is not a lot of time to build a foundation in any discipline but being able to return each year at least reinforces whatever learning occurred.  Next year due to the uncertainty of school funding the grant will probably not be renewed.   Today will likely be my last day at Kemble,  not just for the this year but probably ever.  Sadly this will likely be the end of any real art exposure these kids will have.

So another teaching phase is over with and I have mixed emotions.  Because the schools that are eligible to receive grants are usually the ones that need the most help, teaching can sometimes be difficult.  Some days were really frustrating and it was hard to keep a positive attitude but other days were rewarding enough to make it all worth it. I was gratified to see that most of the kids seemed genuinely sad that art was over with.....even some of the ones that were the most difficult to work with.   I get a week off to catch up on my own stuff and then it's off to a new school. With school funding the way it is now my job is like a series of one night stands......

Fossils Part Two


The second graders finished the fossil unit this week.  Last week we made black glue outlines of fossils and this week they used pastels to finish them.  They look fabulous.  Who knew fossils could be so beautiful!

Next they channeled their inner paleontologist by "excavating" their fossils.  It was a fun way to tie into their fossil unit and learn a little about casting and three dimensional art at the same time.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Georgia O'Keefe Inspired Watercolors

Today the first graders created gorgeous, Georgia O'Keefe inspired flowers using watercolors, watercolor pencils and black glue outlines.  I am so happy with the way these turned out.  I've done this project with first, third and sixth graders and I think these first graders rivaled some of the sixth graders!  It took some pushing and prodding but I finally got them to draw their flowers BIG so they filled the page. The kids usually have a hard time grasping the idea of keeping the paint wet and try to use it like tempera paint.  They also tend to blend everything into a not so lovely shade of gray but his group got the concept down in one lesson.  I love the black outlines contrasting with the vibrant washes of color.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Red, White and Blue

 My  kindergarteners have a unit called "Red, White and Blue".  They've been learning about patriotism and the American flag.  I wanted to tie into what the students were learning in their classroom without literally recreating a flag.  I decided it would be fun to use the colors, lines and shapes found in the flag to make a paper collage.

After talking about the symbolism and art elements found in the flag the students painted "flag" paper to use to create a collage the following week.  In the next class the kids cut up the papers and then pasted them to a piece of black paper.  They were also given stars that could be used as accents.  The finished art work evoked the flag without being a literal representation. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Torn Paper Flower Collage

It's feeling like spring in the art room!  My Special Ed students have been focusing on the element of art "shape".  Last week we made geometric collages using only black, white and gray pre-cut squares, triangles and circles.  This week the students learned about organic shapes which are found in nature.  When I told the class they would be creating artwork out of paper and they had to tear, not cut their shapes, their initial reaction was negative. 
They really don't like the idea of giving up that control.

After demonstrating how to tear paper in a controlled
manner we discussed how they could use these rough, irregular shapes to create beautiful, abstract flowers.  Although they got off to a tentative start they were soon ripping and tearing paper with wild abandon.  I was worried we would end up with a huge pile of confetti. Everyone had a good time and each student was able to create some very lively looking flowers. 

I like torn paper collage.  When you tear paper you have less control and sometimes that's a good thing.  It's easy to get tight and controlling when creating art, obsessing over every little line and shape.  The finished work can end up being well done technically, but boring.  When tearing paper you have to work with what you get and the end result can be very dynamic and sometimes even more interesting than a similar work with smooth, perfectly cut and spaced elements.  It works especially well for younger students or when you would like bold, organic shapes and painting is not a good option.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Newest Artwork

"Disconnect"   mixed media/ceramic/steel/acrylic

I love teaching but when I spend the bulk of my time teaching or prepping for classes it makes it hard to find time for my own artwork.  I'm trying to get a few pieces finished in time for an show at American River College.  This is a piece I've been working on for awhile that I plan to call "Disconnect".   It is inspired by my love/hate relationship with technology.  I love technology and the way it has made our lives so much easier but I worry about the negative role it plays in our relationships, especially with the up coming generation.  We are becoming more and more focused on our gadgets and there is a growing disconnect between the real people and things in our lives and our virtual experiences.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fossils Part One

My second grade classes are currently learning about fossils so I am using fossils as the inspiration for two art projects.  For the first project the students are creating abstract pastel drawings using the lines and shapes they observed in pictures of fossils.  They used black glue to make thick outlines on black or grey paper.  Next week when the glue is dry they will use brightly colored pastels to create colorful abstract shapes and patterns inside the black lines.

For the second project they are sand casting their own "fossils" by making impressions in sand and then using plaster to fill in the negative space.  The students picked shells and leaves and arranged them carefully in the sand before mixing pre-measured plaster in plastic cups.  They carefully poured the plaster into the sand trying not to ruin the impressions.  The hardest thing for them is waiting until next week when they can "excavate" their creations.  This is a fun and relatively inexpensive 3D project.  It's messy but worth it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Newspaper Sculpture Week Two

Week two of newspaper sculpting. With their bundles of tubes rolled and ready to go the students got busy figuring out how to turn them into geometric forms. Some stuck to the basics creating cubes and pyramids. Others were a bit more adventurous tapping into their inner engineer designing houses, chairs and robots. And then there were the students who, though still unsure what to make or how to make it, thoroughly enjoyed cutting and taping while they waited for their work of art to emerge.

 One more week to go. Hopefully the newspaper lasts.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Newspaper Sculpture Week One

In addition to my own artwork I teach art residencies in schools around Sacramento. I am currently working at Edward Kemble Elementary School. Unfortunately funding is hard to come by and as a result I work on a spare budget. The students really enjoy sculpture but the cost of materials is usually prohibitive. Fortunately newspaper is a cheap and versatile material that works well for paper sculpture. This week the 3rd graders started working on a 3D project that will tie into what they are learning in math. Today we rolled the newspaper into sturdy tubes. At first there was a lot of "I can't do this, it's too hard!" comments but eventually everyone was making tubes and competing to see who could make the most and who could make the tightest tubes. It was nice to see many of the kids work together and try to help those who were having a tough time getting the technique figured out. Some even shared with those who weren't able to make as many. As a teacher I always hope for a fabulous finished product but sometimes seeing kids get excited about something as simple as rolling paper into tubes and helping each other is the most rewarding part of this gig.

Next week the students will use the tubes to create abstract, geometric sculptures. They can choose to create something on their own or team up and make a larger, collaborative sculpture.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ready, Set, Go......

Never blogged before but I'm going to give it a go. This is my maiden post. Looks like I'll be messing with this template trying to figure out how this all works. Stay tuned for postings and pictures....hopefully soon. The problem is, I either spend my time on my blog or I spend the time working on some art to put on it. Decisions, decisions......