Musings about the importance and impact of art and art education in the 21st century.

Musings about the importance of art and art education

Returning from maternity

♠ Posted by ArtMuse

I'm not gonna lie, returning from maternity is hard...After 5 months of being home with my little one, getting back to the hustle and bustle of the art room takes some serious adjustment.  Truthfully despite the exhaustion of the first week, I"m surprised at how easily I was able to get back into "teacher mode", but finding the balance between home life and work life is proving to be a bit harder.  The biggest change I"m struggling with is simply having patience and realizing that there will always be things that need to get done as a teacher, and that it's o.k. for those things to take a little longer to happen.  Before a baby it's not such a big deal to get in a little early or stay a little late as needed to tie up the seemingly never ending "loose ends" but with a baby at home, it's not so convenient any more.
On the upside, working in an elementary school means working with predominantly women, almost all of whom are mom's (and coincidentally, many of whom happen to be new moms) and hearing the same struggles from them!  Regardless of the challenges I'm facing now and am sure I will face in the future as I raise my son, I'm happy to be back, happy to see my students smiling faces, and be back to doing what I really love.  The fact that I'm lucky enough to have a job that I"m so passionate about and am grateful for makes all the difference.  As long as the learning is happening, everything else will fall into place.  As the librarian, and my friend, said to me when I first began my teaching career; "if it all seems overwhelming, just take it one day at a time, and if that seems too much, then take it one hour at a time."

* The image above is from the site Talented Ladies Club. It has a cute article on getting back to work after maternity leave: 'Back to Work with a Bang After Maternity'

The lost post-5th Grade Ton Schulten Landscapes

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in
Folliwing a project on Tiffany lamps, (Post HeRe) I introduced my students to the work of Dutch artist Ton Schultn. I got the idea for this project from the blog Mary Making 

Sculten was born in Holland in 1938.  He is alive and is still working today.  His work centers on shape and color and borders on abstraction.  A quote I had the children read about his work:
"My goal is to bring people joy, love and peace, and to show them harmony. My intention is for my pictures to stimulate people to think positively. I hope that they will let themselves be inspired by the colors I use, and derive new strength as a result."

 To begin the lesson we compared and contrasted stained glass to Schulten's work.  We discussed the use of color to create mood and the different effects using organic or geometric shapes has on the overall look of an artwork.  I showed the student a SmartBoard file that contained a variety of objects seen in a landscape/seascape/cityscape. and how those objects are comprised of simple shapes.
  Using the slide as a reference, students sketched their landscape idea on 6x9" newsprint and when ready, transferred their drawing onto 14x17" black paper using pencil or white oil pastel (based on their comfort level).  Before color could be added, the drawn lines had to be thickly traced over with Elmer's glue.  *Note: the transferring of the drawing and the glue need to be completed in one period that way it is dry and ready to be colored the following art class.*

I demonstrated how to blend colors using chalk pastels and gave the students some scrap paper to practice on.  We discussed "overblending", and how the colors become muted if they are mixed too much.  If students wanted to create that effect, it was fine with me, as long as it was done intentionally.  I also always teach "2-finger blending" to prevent them from using their entire hand, which someone always inevitably does anyway, to attempt to keep them from getting covered in chalk pastel. 

I encouraged the students to blend more than 3 colors in each shape and use the colors purposely and thoughtfully.  They did a fantastic job! There's something magical about chalk pastels...if you can instill a little self control using the material, the results are always great.  

Best Non-Essential Art Supplies

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in
Yesterday I posted a list of some of my "essential art supplies, my staple items that get ordered yearly.  In that post I said I'd mention some of my favorite "non-essential", or specialty art supplies.  These are going to be the items that get ordered based on special projects that I don't necessarily do every year or are materials that look particularly fun.  Sometimes I order supplies that look really good and then plan a lesson around them and sometimes the lesson idea comes first.  Here's a few of my fav's:

Crayola Model Magic
If you have a kiln, clay takes precedence over model magic, but this is still a great tool either for early childhood or as a center item.  If kept in a container the stuff lasts pretty long, and if you order the primary colored model magic you can mix them to create a neat marble-like effect, or blend them completely to get the secondary colors. When I student taught, the classroom was kiln-less and so my cooperating teacher ordered tons of this stuff as part of her sculpture curriculum.  It's way better than most air-dry clays, the only downside being that it's a bit pricey.

 "Specialty Papers"
Sold in scrap packages, themed packages or specific patterns/textures/styles in the bookmaking section of your supply catalog, specialty or fancy papers are the type of supply that once you have  you wonder how you ever taught art without them. I've used them in story quilts, as decorative collage frames, in collage lessons, for pattern, texture, and repetition components in my lesson and a bunch of other ways.  I love this stuff.

Liquid Watercolors
Some art teachers use liquid watercolors exclusively.  I like to have palettes as well as the liquids but these are really great.  Nasco's 'Country School Washable Watercolors' are cost friendly and really bright, they last a long time and can even be watered down to extend their life while retaining most of their brightness.

Acetate paper (clear and colored)
I've used this to create stained glass lessons,  It's pretty versatile and coupled with foil and some colored Sharpies and you've got yourself some effects the kids will drool over. If you don't have money in the budget for them, use the clear paper sleeves from the main office, they work exactly the same.

Velour or Velvet Paper 
The kids think this stuff is magic. Use it with chalk pastels and voila! Gorgeous results every single time!

Alphacolor brand Neon Chalk Pastels
In my opinion you can't teach elementary art without busting out the neon's on a regular basis. I LOVE neon.  Whether its, paint, paper, highlighters, or chalk pastels I try to use them on a regular basis.  I've also ordered neon watercolors and neon tempera cakes, (so-so) but the alphacolor brand chalk pastels are fantastic, they're so vivid and yet again, the kids love using them.

Scratch Foam
All you need is a ball point pen or pencil and some paints and brushes.  Scratch foam is a great introductory on printmaking and can pretty much be used for all grades. 

Crystaltex Glazes (or any specialty glaze)
What's the best and easiest way to add pizazz to pinch pots or simple clay projects?   Use a specialty glaze! Whether it's opalescent, textures, speckled, spotted, or mulit-tonal, using specialty glazes makes EVERY project look amazing.

Well, there it is folks. I could probably dedicate a whole blog to art supplies...Art teachers are so lucky to get to use all these stellar materials on a daily basis :)

Art Supplies for the New Year

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in ,
In response to a post about art supplies from Cassie Stehphens, I thought I'd post a few things I particularly like to order for my students. 

Here's a link to her post: 

 "In the Art Room: The Dreaded Art Supply Order"

Now, even though I'll be missing the first two months of this school year, I placed my supply order some time in early May.  Let me just tell you that I LOVE planning my supplies, browsing through the catalog and deciding which materials I'm going to re-order, scrap, or try out.  For me, the process is like Christmas, and I'm equally delighted when I get my supplies shipped to me and I walk into an art room filled with boxes of "goodies". In all likelihood, I spend too much time fussing over which supplies I'm going to order for the year, but I just can't help it, it's only done once a year, so its gotta be done right!

I keep a master binder that has everything I need for the year in it.  Part of the binder is sectioned off for supplies, and throughout the year, I write down the things that have been recommended to me, that I've read about or seen at conferences or in magazines, or items that are new that I particularly like or dislike.  I also write down the supplies that are almost used up so that by the end of the year I'm not running around inventorying everything in the room frantically trying to make sure I don't forget or miss anything.  I also have a word document that I've created to record all the supplies that I've ordered.

Here's a snapshot of how I organize what I order.  It's divided into 10 categories: 

Paints/Paint Accessories/Brushes
Paper/Construction Paper
Office Supplies/Organization/Furniture
Center Items/Teacher Resources
Miscellaneous/ Crafts
Ideas for Next Year

The list helps me inventory the items after they get shipped to me in August so I make sure that I've received everything I've ordered. Now, onto the good part! 

I'm always trying new things,  I have a few "staple" items that get ordered every year but probably about half of my order changes year to year based on the projects I plan on teaching and new techniques/materials I want to try with the kids. Here are some of the staples: 

Ticonderoga # 2 pencils.  My opinion?  Don't skimp on the quality of the pencils you use.  I've ordered "School Specialty" brand and they sharpen terribly and the point breaks easily.  I've gone through twice as many of the cheapie pencils as the good ones. So you end up not saving money in the long run. 

 Blick Essentials Tempera Paint (and if you read Cassie's post...Yessss, I too am glad they dropped the dick, lol)
I used to use Crayola brand, and found that these are just as good, if not better, and are 1/3 the price!  I order quart size. I find that the gallon pumps waste a lot once you get to the very bottom and I can't possible lug around all those gallons of paint!

Crayola Watercolor Paints  
There's always been a debate, Prang vs. Crayola...I've found them to be equally good, I just had some crayola already in my room when I started working there, so I stuck with em'.  Oh and also, ORDER EXTRA YELLOW REFILLS (you'll need them!)

Mr. Sketch UNSCENTED Markers: Don't get scented unless you want all your kiddos to walk out with colored dots on their nose, either that or spend more time sniffing them and discussing  their odors than actually coloring with them.  Oh and by the by, has anyone else noticed that they stopped making the super helpful plastic trays they used to come in! Super annoying! I really liked those trays. Now the ones I have left are all duck taped up!

Colored Sharpies (24 color pack) Some art teachers don't feel comfortable letting children use Sharpies, but I've found if you take some time and go over the rules for using them that you won't have a problem.  Plus, you can't beat the precision and colors you get from them.  Just an fyi though, if you're sensitive to smells, don't use these bad boys on a hot days, you'll want to pass out!

Amaco "25m" White Art Clay. It's durable,is light beige when "green", has no grog, stays moist pretty long for clay, and fires to an almost pure white.  It's really receptive to all sorts of glazes as well. It's a must. 

Pinky Erasers  I believe these are made using latex so be aware of kids that have latex allergies.  That being said, I've been teaching for six years and have yet to have a student with an allergic reaction to them.Also, the cheap ones work just as well as the "Pearl Pink" name brand.

Tru-Ray Construction Paper And Sunworks Pacon  Tru-Ray really is the best but hear me out on this...I have over 600 children to teach and if I ordered Tru-Ray brand I'd blow my entire budget.  Sooooo, I order blue and black of the good brand because when blue and black paper fade they just look awful, and Pacon for the rest.  Yes they fade, but I'd rather that then cut out other supplies elsewhere. Oh, I also order all my construction paper in 18x24, I can always cut it down, but I can't make it any bigger.

Sax brand Extra White Sulphite Drawing Paper (500 sheet reams of 18x24) I order, no joke, about 6 reams of this stuff, it's great for ALL types of media and considering the quality and quantity, well worth it!

Yikes this turned into a longer post than I thought it'd be, so tomorrow I'll post my favorite non-essential supplies then. 

Maternity Leave

♠ Posted by ArtMuse
The past 2 months have been a whirlwind of excitement.  Last month I gave birth to my first child, a healthy baby boy, and am officially out on maternity leave until November!  
When I've been able to get a few minutes to myself, which has become a precious commodity these days, I have been keeping myself busy with some creative projects.  I'm going to try and post them until I start back and work and can return to posting my usual project pictures.  In the meantime, here's a wreath I made for my front door.  I realize that the colors I chose are Christmas ones, but I wanted the wreath to match the flowers in my flower boxes.

Here was the inspiration:

Wax begonia's, sweet potato vine, ornamental fern, and king coleus. 

Here's the wreath:

I used a minimal amount of hot glue, my door faces south and gets pretty intense sunlight for most of the day. I used hot glue to assemble the very first door wreath I made last year and it pretty much melted apart and was irreparable!  Now I either sew on the parts or use t-pins.   I can get away with a little hot glue but it has to be so sparse so it doesn't run and glob up on the wreath.  I got everything from Micheal's craft store and it cost me about $15, Make sure you either print or take a snapshot of the weekly coupon and use your teacher discount when you purchase anything from a Micheal's or A.C.Moore stores.  I stop there so often it's amazing they don't know me by know (plus it doesn't help that I have them both about a mile away from my house!)

Here are some of the steps I used to assemble it: 

The flowers had silver twist-tie like fasteners on the back so I used those to attach them to the wreath.  The silver flowers were old hair clips I recycled, and the strawberries I cut and stitched and then attached with a wee bit of hot glue.  Viola my Christmas-looking summer flower inspired wreath, lol! :)

And here is my best creation yet: my lil' boy!!!

Last Project Post of the School Year...Laurel Burch Cats and Dogs

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in

I must've changed this project 4 times before finally settling on this as the final project. Initially I wanted the project to be a tissue paper collage with a black foam printed cat/dog drawing over it but upon realizing I didn't have any black printing ink (and not wanting to use tempera), I then decided to have the kids print in a color.  I tried it out first, thankfully, didn't like the fact that there was no contrast between the background and the print, and then changed the project again.
I decided to go with bubble wrap over the tissue paper to give the kids some type of exposure to the printing process and then gave them 6x9" paper to practice drawing cats or dogs in the style of Laurel Burch. After a session or two of practice drawings, I was so impressed at how cute they were coming out I had the kids use them as their final pictures.  The drawings were then cut and glued onto the background and voila the project was complete.  The overall size is 9x12", which is a little smaller than I usually have the kids work, but the results came out cute nonetheless.

Sunflowers in 4 Mediums

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in ,
 This lesson was taken from the blog "Kid's Artist's".  It was originally posted as a 5th grade lesson done in 5 mediums, but I adapted it for my first and second graders in 4 mediums.  The paper is 9x24" folded in half, and then in quarters.  I had the kiddies use crayon, marker, watercolor, and oil pastel.  This was a great end of year tie-in to the planting they had done in their classrooms for our brand new school greenhouse using sunflower seeds. We also learned a little bit about van Gogh and his sunflower still-life paintings.

4th and 5th grade perspective cities

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in ,

A special shout-out to the blog: "SmArt Class" for sharing this lesson and inspiring me to try it!  This ended up being the last project before my maternity leave and it was a great way to end the school year for my fourth and fifth graders.  The technical aspect of the project kept them engaged and the setup and cleanup was minimal.  The kids also really loved the idea of using the markers with water and a paintbrush as a kind of watercolor paint.  I really pushed them to make these as creative as possible, whether they were creating a fictional or realistic landscape, I wanted them to add as many personal details as possible.  Here's a few pictures from in progress works and finished ones.