Archive for the ‘art class’ Category

Quilting Designs and Illustrator – and a GIVEAWAY!

The high school I work at is the arts magnet high school for the city. The kids have some amazing opportunities in both performing and visual arts. Imagine taking a class three times a week in all the Adobe programs – all updated, where you don’t have to worry about buying the programs, getting updates, and making sure your computer always works, plus hands-on instruction rather than learning yourself. Can you say “jealous?”

I think back to learning Pagemill waaaaayyyyy back when I was just starting my website in 1998…I still know a little code from teaching myself. Everything I’ve done has been self-taught, so I love the opportunities the kids have. About two weeks ago I walked to the end of the hallway to discover a new exhibit of student work, using Illustrator – a program I just haven’t had time to explore. The kids had to recreate some organic shapes (the pen tool makes me nuts….) and use some filters to develop their piece even further. All I could think of was what cool quilts these would make. There is glare (and the remains of some graffiti) on the showcase window, but I think you can get a good idea of what the kids are doing.

What I like about this is the blossoms. I am thinking they would look good in free-motion on a solid area of a quilt. See my dilemma below the pictures…….

Now, speaking of quilting designs….I need some help. I have two “older” quilts that I am requilting. I took the stitches out of one while in the hospital, and I’m working on the other one. I need suggestions as to quilting. I have grown beyond stippling, but I am still having trouble with actual designs that will work with the patterns. Here’s the first – four traditional blocks with marbled stars in a neon paint.

You can see all the old quilting. When I get all the invisible thread out, I’m going to soak it in warm water to see if I can make the lines disappear. But what should I do for quilting?

Here’s the other – a log cabin table runner done with marbled fabrics. What do you think? Just stitch in the ditch??

Leave me comments on the blog, and I’ll do a giveaway for the best suggestions for each – some digital note cards based on marbled patterns. Come on, help me out!!

Perspective, Part 3

Some samples of the rooms from the perspective assignment – this first is an incomplete kitchen – this will be fabulous when finished!

This next will be absolutely amazing when finished!

This next room has one of those fancy bead curtains – and you can tell this young lady really is treated like a princess.

This next is part of the assignment on creating and shading boxes – a combination of perspective and texture. You can find the lesson here.


When I was a teen and drawing, my two favorite media were pen and ink (the kind you actually had to fill the nib) and charcoal. I still have a framed drawing I gave my dad one year for Christmas, done in pen and ink. Not bad some 40-plus years later. Most of my charcoal is still in an old sketchpad.

I always used charcoal pencils where you could peel off some of the pencil layer and expose more charcoal. And now I own a bunch of pencils of different hardnesses for drawing. I haven’t gone back to pen and ink, although the new supplies now would be wonderful.

I am reminded of Janet at MMU who created some amazing calligraphers, before the calligraphy fonts were so popular. She really worked at the details for serif and sans serif, along with the many styles, and kids were picking up side work doing calligraphy for others. I did a couple of lessons with the kids, and good hand-calligraphy is an art in itself.

In introducing the kids to charcoal I had them do some shading by pencil to get the feel of the different types of shading. Then I gave them charcoal sticks (the boys all wanted to know if they would “light up.”) and showed them how to hold and use them. One of the most interesting things in this lesson was trying to convey pressure – light and heavy – for my English-language learners. Overall, not an easy thing to do!

Some of the kids really got into the charcoal, and a couple discovered the rubbing for shading on the different layers. Some didn’t like it at all – too messy, and they had trouble adjusting the amount of pressure.

A successful lesson for all, and now the kids have another tool they can use when it comes to shading for one of the next assignments.

Perspective, Part 2

The “dream rooms” as part of the perspective project have gone really well. I have learned so much from this assignment in how to kick my right brain into gear to break down art tasks into elements the kids can follow. Ironic, isn’t it, that since I am nearly done with art class I am figuring out how to actually teach it!

The use of the math vocabulary has been so extensive – I really had no idea just how much you use the vocabulary of math in art. If these kids don’t know “parallel” by now, they never will! It has been so interesting to see how parallel lines play such an important part in creating perspective drawings. I showed a few of the dream rooms to my eighth graders, and they really kicked the assignment into gear. I have found it also helps if I work at a table with a few of the kids, on my own drawing, and then answer questions and give suggestions.

This was really funny Thursday with some of my eighth grade boys. We had a great time – we were working on rooms together, and the “hard-core” guys were asking me to add stuff – like a Playboy Bunny logo on their full-ceiling plasma TV (hey, these are dream rooms) – so I sketched the logo – very lightly so that they would have to go over it and make it their own. You should have seen their eyes bug out when they realized I knew how to do that!

Next week I should be able to get pictures of rough drafts and their final copies – quite impressive, for a teacher who doesn’t have a clue!

That said, we started working with texture Friday. Again, thanks to a great website,
Intro to Art I had a good way to get the kids started. I worked up a PowerPoint on tonal, crosshatch, and linear textures, and made a worksheet with guidelines for them to follow. Then I had them repeat that exercise using charcoal…and that’s another story….

Makin’ T-Shirts

We are getting ready with our panels for the opening of our Contemporary Issues museum with my GATE class in May. Two of the girls want to do t-shirts about their project on landfills. One of the things with art class this time around has been having the paints out and available any time someone wants to use watercolors. Well, one day a few weeks ago they just started painting lots of water color about landfills. Friday they chose one and started to work on a t-shirt design. Here’s their original watercolor and their t-shirt one.

I anticipate a run on Photoshop as the rest of the class gets ready!

Illuminated Letters

I had a great time with the kids on Friday, taking pics of their letters, their mandalas, and in some cases, original work for their t-shirts for the upcoming museum. Remember, we also “aged” the paper to get a more realistic look. You will see some original letters, including a couple of students who went through several drafts before settling on their design. Most of the students opted to copy a letter, but I don’t think that detracted from the affective part of the assignment – taking care and really working at the letter until satisfied.

This first letter by Michael shows some incredible shading. Take a careful look at the inside of the M. He also worked to add a few extra flourishes on the bottom corner.

New Projects

I did remember the camera, but not until almost the end of art class. I snapped a few finished projects, but none of the “in progress.” The kids have started some serious work with embellishing their illuminated letters – those will be great pics. The next couple are from our color studies.

Each design (from a book on optical illusions) is either with the three primary or three secondary colors. They are arranged along one of the walls, and it is really interesting to see the variety among so many students. All the pieces had to have a line of symmetry, either horizontal or vertical, as a way of reinforcing math symmetry.

These next are some of our mandalas. The first is from my student artist who is amazing – he just draws whatever comes out of his head – I watch him in wonder! The second is from one of my girls who got really in to doing a series of lines inside each of her circles.

The next is from my young lady from last semester, now my aide, who has a nickname of Fudders (actually it’s Mother Fudders, but I made her clean it up for class). She loves Minnie!

This next is the young man I was talking about in an earlier post – really well done.

This next is one of my Somali girls who spent a huge amount of time on the lines. And another one with a lot of detail inside and very choosy on color.

When Art Class Works

There are times when art class just doesn’t work. For example, this past Monday. I had planned a time in the computer lab for the kids to browse a variety of sites and see some other potential areas of art they might like. One great site is the Frank Lloyd Wright Architect Studio 3D by the FLW Preservation Trust. This site takes the students on a tour of homes and information about the architect, but the best part of the site is the design studio, where kids can actually design a house. Sounds great, right?

Well, only if you are on a certain web browser, have updated computers, and have mice that work. Otherwise, you have 30 minutes of random clicking and shouts of “Miss, it’s not working.” By the end of the 90 minute period (and needless to say, no one had listened earlier to log-in instructions), I was so frustrated. Some kids stayed on the cartoon site the whole time (with some really great instructions for them), and some stayed on the Shadow Puppet site, building their own show (this is a fabulous site!). You can access my art class sites here.

I was both frustrated with the kids and with the computer lab. But on Wednesday the 8th grade class was wonderful – worked hard on mandalas and created and completed some great stuff. Thursday I started the illuminated letter project, with making “parchment” paper to start. After 45 minutes of no one listening to me, I took the kids out of the room and to my math class and proceeded to yell at them – which I never do. They had been horrible.

On Friday I tried the same assignment with my seventh grade, most of whom I have in math class. This is when it works…..

I was able to work with nearly evry student on some aspect of their art. I got all kids making the water color wash for their “parchment.” There were some great questions (can I use another blend?) and lots of creative ways of covering the paper. But the best part was helping the kids finish and mount their mandalas (I promise pictures soon). I would take their work and rotate the design, helping them to make decisions about orientation (not a word they knew). One student actually said, “You can do that?” I can so relate, because there were times when I thought the same thing.
The students were able to articulate which orientation they liked, explaining that it “moved” better. So I introduced the word “flow.”

Some students wanted to be creative in their framing – they wanted their circles kept whole on the white background, but wanted to play with the shape of the background construction paper. The biggest issue for me was trying to just suggest ideas, but still keep their work as the artist as much theirs as possible.

This really was a problem when it came to color. Some of the kids got very involved in the line drawings inside the circles that they had seen me do. They would occasionally moan about not being finished, but they also weren’t ready to quit until it was just the way they liked it. All designs were then gone over with a thin black marker – made the shapes really show, and also let the kids work with the idea of a draft.Then so many of them needed color.

I didn’t want to “instruct,” I wanted to lead. This was tough. I had some colors speak to me immediately, but I didn’t want to force anything. For one, he had some shapes that looked like arrows, and I suggested he look at just those – put his focus only on one area. What color would he like there? He chose red – just the color I was thinking of. So he did just those. We looked at it from a distance, and he decided he wanted to do the part on top in yellow to emphasize some of his lines. Looked fabulous. Then I suggested he do the same thing on the bottom, and introduced the idea of balance. When he finished, he looked at it again and pronounced it finished. He was happy with how it looked. (I would have added blue, but he’s the artist.)

Even better was the fact that I had several students who usually rush through assignments take three class periods to do their line work, and now they are just considering color. At the end, I was able to sit with one of my somewhat “energetic” group of boys and use their five entirely different mandalas to do a brief lesson in art critique.

That’s a class that works. The high from that 90 minutes will stay with me for several weeks.

Random Thoughts 2

I decided to skip finishing lesson plans. I get very resentful when I end up spending almost an entire day trying to get ready for the week. I would much rather go and work out – which I did this morning. Here’s my saga – since joining the new spa at the beginning of January, I have really gotten into doing cardio on the elliptical. I have gone from 11 minutes at level 1 to 30 minutes regularly, today almost all of it at levels 4, 5, and 6. I have been feeling great – I went shopping yesterday, and not only did everything fit,my whole profile has changed and I was in to smaller sizes – by one. I am almost ready to move over to the other side of the store, out of women’s.

Physically I have been feeling really good, and I am even enjoying spending more time making myself look better – who knew? All these years I never really did the exercises correctly. Now I am – and loving it. Three new tops and a new pair of pants – just need to hem them. If I could only manage the stress as well….

Art class this week will focus on the kids making Valentine’s cards. We worked on water colors last week, and the kids had a ball. I am pulling out a lot of supplies, and I’ve searched the web for sites related to Valentine’s Day – found a couple of cute projects, how to say “I love you” in 50 languages, and an Arabic love story to read. Should be an easy couple of days.

My Somali girls are so into color – they are so free with the tools and supplies – they just want to create and use color! Most of my eighth graders don’t want to be in the class – they would rather cook – and are resisting trying anything. My seventh graders, on the other hand, are doing really well.

We did the edible color wheels last week – everyone enjoyed them, and I sent them on to other classes (including mine) on a bit of a sugar high! Got some good looking color wheels, and definitely an understanding of mixing colors. Again the Somali girls loved seeing what happened.

Art seems to be the only thing keeping me focused and sane….

Geometric Drawings

The kids are finishing up another line assignment – filling a sheet with nothing but geometric shapes until they have something they like, then adding color to the shapes.

It is really interesting to see where the kids decide to put color. Some go all out, and some do just touches. Some really get into it, and some just want to be done with the assignment. The framing was interesting – I decided to do that after each assignment, to value their work ahead of time. One or two of the kids really get creative with the framing!


I got some pictures of the kids’ doodles. This has been a really successful assignment, getting the kids able to let go a little bit with their pencils and actually create a work of art. First they spend 20-30 minutes just doodling on a sheet of paper. Then they have to use their math skills to create a small frame. They move the frame around until they find a spot they really like, glue the frame in place, and then add color to their doodle.

You can see the variety of doodles the kids have done. This first one shows the whole process.

The display area isn’t great – all the left-over lockers – but the work looks very good – and the kids are proud of what they have done.

This next is a doodle by my really great art student – I gave him some supplies today – he has an incredible natural talent.

Room with a View

I finally remembered the digital camera today, so I could document some of the kids’ work, as well as take pictures of my art room. We still have a lot of work to do, with finishing cleaning and storing, but we are making progress! You can see all the windows, with some really great northern light – this is this morning about 9 AM.

You can see the clay room, with the wheel and kiln. I don’t know how to use either of them, so I have incentive to learn how to throw a pot.

Doodle Art

My eighth graders finished their first art assignment, doodling, then creating a small frame to move around the doodle and decide on an area they would like to frame. Then they colored inside the doodle and we posted them. The kids kept sneaking outside the classroom to see the artwork. They were all really pleased at how they did. And – I got more of the work in from this group of eighth graders. The only issue this group has is horrible language – had to deal with the F word several times in that class….

And then in my enrichment class the kids wanted to know if the true meaning of “bitch” was a female dog. So I said yes and used the word correctly in a sentence – which about made them shocked that I would. Ah, adolescents….

But the kids seem to be settling in well to art – with a good dose of the optical illusions as a way of looking at basic line. They are entranced. As we look at the use of color in the illusions, I noticed for the first time that most of them tend to use complementary colors to create the idea of movement. Tomorrow the seventh graders will have a chance to look at the paper artist – they loved the pencil lady!

No more education rants – I have a new blog just for that!

Starting New Art Classes

In the midst of everything yesterday, I forgot that I had started new art classes. Yesterday’s group, especially, really resisted the first sketching. “I can’t draw” was the constant refrain. I didn’t push the first sketch, but when we came to the doodle, there was a little more freedom that I could sense. As I walked around, I made positive comments about everything I saw, and more and more kids started filling up their papers with doodles. Funny – they can doodle in class, but not when it’s an assignment. The eighth graders in particular were very difficult. Tomorrow when I see them they will use some math skills and create a small frame to isolate one part of their doodle, add color, and frame it for their first piece of art.

I introduced them to Photoshop as we started looking at line as an element. We were short of time yesterday, but today with the seventh graders I was able to show them a few web pictures – sent to me and I don’t know where – of some interesting advertising. I want the kids early on to think that art is much more than drawing. What follows is just two of them….

We still aren’t in the art room – the large tables are set up, but regular chairs – so trying to draw or paint would put a horrible strain on the back. Figures – and it’s a good thing I checked before class started. I will still need to bring computer cords back and forth if I want to use internet – which I do. Too many good things to see on line!

Kinda Mellow….

It has been a very nice two weeks of vacation. I finished up my lesson plans last night, knowing full well if I didn’t I would hate myself today. So by 9 PM last night I had everything packed to go for Monday morning. A tradition for the last couple of years has been to have dinner with Ali so I don’t stew about going back to school. We didn’t do it this August because I thought I was okay, but I really missed our getting together for dinner.

I met with Yvonna today for breakfast. It is worse other places. We started teaming together almost 7 years ago in the sixth grade. We hit it off right away – two intellectual, smart women with the same approach to kids and teaching. We don’t see each other as often, so we always have lots to catch up on. Both of us are having a hard time coping with the changes in education and what we are being forced to do as a result of district demands. One thing I said to her, and again to Sam who is so depressed about going back, is that we have to remember at this time in education we have a mission to try and do what is right by our students, regardless of the roadblocks. This is a battle I am choosing to fight. Right now the most creative thing I can do is attempt to reach my kids despite teaching to a flawed test.

I took care of a lot of loose ends today, left over from my list-making on Thursday. I did very well. I have a huge list of loose ends for tomorrow and the rest of the week, but these are mostly so I don’t have to remember them and worry about forgetting and not having what I need for class. I ordered the 100 free postcards from VistaPrint – took me an hour to work through all the sizing and the problems with downloading. But – should be on the way in a couple of weeks. I chose the Cosmos piece, since it shows both the marbling and the digital manipulation.

I had a bit of an epiphany concerning my art classes, and I am going to dwell on this to get me through the remaining 92 days till summer. Maybe Fate decided it would be good for me to have art classes, as now I have a chance to feed children’s souls, beyond the testing situations. I have a chance to show them art, to explore ideas, to give them a taste of what they can do by following their artistic side.

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