Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What we've been up to - busy busy!

I've been doing a little lesson stealing. This layered landscape lesson was taken from a School Arts magazine in ...2003!! My kindergartners have been enjoying it ever since. The kids start with 4 black "landscape lines", and then color in between with chalk pastel, rubbing each color with a finger and tapping the dust off onto newspaper. They are so proud! One little boy kept scratching his face and looked like he was growing a beard. The classroom teacher and I were in stitches - he was just TOO cute, with loopy blond curls, apple cheeks, and a chalk beard and mustache!

And here's another couple of stolen lessons - so many of you have done the "Giraffes Can't Dance" lesson, but I originally "stole" it from the wonderful Patty at This work was done by my first graders.

Meanwhile, I've been making teddy bear chairs with my 2nd graders for years, since they tour the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory every spring. I think the original motivation for this lesson came from School Arts magazine.

These two lessons above were not stolen; they're mine! A couple of weeks ago, my kindergartners made these fingerprint rainbows. In our next art class, the kids colored a sunshine and painted blue skies. While they were drying, they cut out their rainbows and made some clouds out of bumpy Braille paper that was given to me. Then they glued them all together! Ironically, a few days ago I found a similar rainbow project posted here: I guess that's proof that our brains are working in parallel universes!

The ice cream cones, which we are (obviously) just beginning in grade 4, happened for 2 reasons. First of all, our Artist of the Month (officially for May, but we already began) is Wayne Thiebaud. Second of all, I was "gifted" with about a zillion paper cones. So it seemed like fate! The instructions were simple, and we are working with a short time frame to get them done, so the rule was this: build the structure in one class. Some kids put on one scoop, some two, some three, some four...and I think the one on the left was the biggest at 5 scoops plus a cherry on top.

Meanwhile, my 3rd graders still have more work to do to complete their papier-mache masks, 5th graders are loving blind contour drawing and learning about their right brains, and 6th graders are making AWESOME African-inspired masks with tooling foil.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The return of Sunday comics and a blog award, all wrapped up in one post!

Here's 2 Sunday comics, to make up for all the times I haven't posted them. I've saved some more Calvin for next time.
And then, there's this:

I have been awarded a Versatile Blogger Award from If you've never seen this blog, check it out. Her students have been doing AMAZING portraits of presidents! Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Obama, etc. You've go to see these - it takes an amazing teacher to bring this kind of work out of her students. Kudos! Anyhow, I'm going to break the award rules. I've gotten 2 of these awards before, and I don't want to keep naming the same blogs over and over so please forgive me for not passing on the award to 10 more blogs. I hope I don't offend anybody by not doing this. It's just not going to happen... If you want to check out the blogs I like, just look at the ones in my blogroll on the side. I added a couple new ones today, and I'm following a couple other new blogs that I'll add once I see that they are posting again. But I WILL try to tell you 7 more things about me, the other rule of the award:
  1. I'm a fickle artist. I have too many artistic hobbies and so lots of stuff goes unfinished but I like trying new stuff. Someday... I'll finish a new painting, play with the free motion sewing capability of my sewing machine, take that class in making flamework glass beads, begin to build another dragon, add more dragonflies to my car, learn to use Photoshop, etc. You get the idea.
  2. I'm neurotic in cars. I don't like driving over bridges, or in heavy traffic, and I feel a HUGE sense of accomplishment when I make it over the Tappan Zee Bridge which is 2 miles long. (It's sort of a gateway to the NYC area.)
  3. My favorite color is alizarin crimson.
  4. My favorite flower is the pansy. I love that they are so colorful.
  5. I adore my goofy cat Isis. She is a house cat that spends a great deal of time outside on a harness & rope tied to the porch, and is happy. We call her "dope on a rope".
  6. I have tiny fat feet with structural weirdness. It's hard to find shoes to fit and I get upset about finding shoes for special occasions. I wear athletic shoes to school most days.
  7. I like to shamelessly promote stuff having to do with my son. (Anyone know of any good creative job opportunities in the Boston area for a new college grad with a degree in Entrepreneurship and an interest in PR, event organization/management, and the live music scene?) His college band recently released a CD - but don't listen in your classroom (2 obscenities). The irony is that itunes labeled these 2 songs 'explicit', but there is NOTHING on the CD relating to sex, drugs, or promoting violent behavior, or anything else of the sort, as you hear in a lot of music the kids listen to these days. The song lyrics, while a bit cryptic, are all about social or political issues. There's not a love song among them. Anyhow, the boys felt those two words were necessary. Here's their website:
This is their CD.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Art Shows - plans, thoughts, questions, ideas?

We're going to have an art show. (These images above and below are from a show last spring in our local library.) Right now it's vacation week and I'm thinking about it, hoping it goes well. I want to tell you about what we have planned, but I also want your thoughts/opinions/input. So I hope you will bear with reading a long post, to my questions near the end. *

Let me start by going backwards and explaining some history. Our school district used to be in 3 buildings, in 3 tiny towns, and every spring we had a big K-12 art show in either the middle or high school. Our display flats were nailed togeth
er hunks of plywood, dangerously unstable and difficult to hang on. We would spend a whole day hanging the show, invite parents to come that evening, and then spend a couple of hours afterward to take it back down. If we didn't get a good turnout, it was heartbreaking, after all the time spent. It especially drove me crazy to have students (who's parents didn't bring them back in the evening) ask the next day "How was the art show?" *

Anyhow - eleven years ago, we moved our whole school district into one brand-new building, housing pre-K through grade 12. During the move, the dangerous display flats were discarded, and we believed that new display flats would be built or purchased. But it never happened. So, over the years, I've consistently displayed on bulletin boards in the halls, changing displays regularly. I've also displayed annually in the local library, and one year I had an elementary show with a company that brings in displays and provides frames for all the work (I won't do that again. But there's never again been a district-wide show (our whole district is about 600 kids). Over the years, the secondary art teacher and I often discussed holding a show together, but without a good way to display, and with very different styles and teaching philosophies, and with schedules with no common unscheduled time, nothing ever came together. *

But this year, we had a change of art teachers. If you've read my blog since the summer, you would remember that we hired a new secondary art teacher when the former teacher moved away. And from the moment she was hired, we agreed we wanted to hold a show. A technology teacher and his students are building us display flats, with a composition board surface that will enable us to staple on it easily, so we're pretty excited.

I didn't like the idea of spending so much time assembling a show and not having everyone see it, so I came up with an idea. On Tuesday, May 17th, there's a statewide school budget vote day. Our local teachers union does a big basket raffle for a scholarship fund, and there's a high school concert that night. We decided to have the art show that day as well, closing the doors before 7pm when the concert begins. So we decided to set up the show (in 1/2 the gym) on Monday the 16th, and leave the doors open for community members to take a look when they come to vote. Then we'll have an "artists' reception" from 4:30-6:30pm. The other part of my idea is to leave the show hanging for 2 more days, so that classroom teachers can take their students through the show (mini- 'field trips'), maybe even using the artwork for writing prompts! Then we can take the show down Thursday after school. Hopefully the weather will be OK, because we're counting on gym classes being able to meet outside that week. On the day of the show, the kindergarten teachers, unbeknown to us, had also scheduled an event for the gym. Luckily, we had cleared our event with the district office (they hadn't), because there was a potential for it to be a big foul-up. So they'll use 1 side of the gym, we'll be in the other (there's a heavy curtain divider). I don't think the phys. ed. teachers are too thrilled about the art show, but luckily the superintendent is very pro-arts. *

So I'm curious about a number of things about your art shows:

  • Do you have an annual show?
  • Where is the display held? Can it/is it left up or is it just on display for one evening? If you do leave it up, for how long is it on display?
  • Do you have conflicts over the space used?
  • Are you given release time to hang the show? To take it down?
  • What surface do you hang on? Display flats of some sort? Walls?
  • What do you use to hang the work? Staples? Tape? Sticky-tack? (Nothing stays on our walls with tape or sticky tack. It's a royal pain.)
  • Do you mount/mat/name tag all the work yourself? On your own time?
  • Do you get a good turn-out at the show?
  • Do you serve refreshments? (Our PTSA is helping with this.)
  • Do you have art-related activities or other events at the same time?
  • Do you try to display the work of every elementary student?
  • Some of you have indicated that your students "enter" the show. I keep explaining to the kids who ask if they will be the winner "It's not a contest, it's a display. There's no prizes." Is your show juried in any way? Prizes? Ribbons?
  • What do you do for advance PR? Send notices home? Contact local newspaper? Other ideas?
  • Anything else you'd like to share about your show(s)?
Thanks in advance for your input!

We have a winner!


The winner of my Picasso puzzle give-away is Paper Pear, at

She wrote: "The blogging world has saved me from pulling my hair out of my head my first 2 years of teaching!" Now hopefully you won't be pulling out your hair trying to put together a deceivingly challenging Picasso puzzle, because you are the give-away winner!

Thanks to those of you who entered the drawing. I'm amazed at having now 202 followers. I almost hope it doesn't keep growing quite so fast, because I relish the friendly conversations that we've been having, and I don't want to get to the point where I can't keep up with it all. Happy Blogging everyone!

Monday, April 18, 2011

a place that defies description

Artisan Works, in Rochester NY is hard to describe - it's a museum, a gallery, a trip through an uber-art & craft marketplace, a space to hold an event or celebration, home to artists-in-residence and working artists' studios, and over 500,00 works of the most creative original artwork I've ever seen. It's almost 40,000 ft of sheer creative zing, and from what I've been told, the brainchild and creative genius of one man. If you live or find your self anywhere near Rochester, this is a place to be seen. Every inch from floor to ceiling, heck, even INCLUDING the ceiling, is covered with something you want to see, paintings, painted glass, assemblages, full-size wooden cars and motorcycles, giraffes, zebras, lions & elephants, furniture, and more. There's theme rooms, including a Frank Lloyd Wright room, a Marilyn Monroe room, a room filled with Kodak cameras of every sort imaginable (remember Rochester is Kodak's home), a retro room, a frightening dental office, a triangular movie theater room, and more more more......

This past weekend, as you may know, we were in Rochester for ArtAwake and to see our soon-to-graduate-college son Ben. On Sunday, with the event over, he had some time to spend with us before we went home, so I had previously suggested the University's Memorial Art Gallery. Ben isn't a big fan of 'boring' art museums, and while we understand that the MAG is a very nice museum, he suggested we visit Artisan Works instead and we went willingly. Wise choice, Ben.
Here, Ben becomes part of a Dali-esque setting.

Below is a great place to host a dinner party, or event of some sort. There's also a large room where you could hold a wedding, and various other event spaces scattered throughout the facility.

The image on the left (below) is part of an assemblage called "The Information Highway", and the wall lamp on the right-hand image is in the Marilyn Monroe theme room. The painting below that was hanging in the movie theater.

That's Dan with a Civil War chess set that he found upstairs in the firehouse theme room. It's on a really cool table/chair set. The door below is one of many in the building that are works of art.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

200 Followers!! Time for another give-away!

I started my blog early last May. Here I am, one year and 216 posts later, and today I opened my laptop to see that 200 people are now reading what I write!! Huh???!!! WOW!!!
I'm amazed by the power of the blog. For many of us, particularly those of us who teach in small or geographically isolated districts, we do most of our planning independently, rarely getting the chance to share ideas with others in similar positions. Blogging has changed that. We share ideas back and forth, we make suggestions, we find ways to change up or improve our lessons, we offer pats on the back (that often don't happen in our home district), and I believe we find some true friends. It takes away the isolation, and I believe makes us better as teachers! Yeah blogging!!!
So back to the give-away - the photo above is the cover of a Picasso painting puzzle, which I am sending to one lucky follower! The puzzle was purchased used, from
Piece Time Puzzles in Northwood, NH, but we recently assembled it and therefore I can guarantee that no pieces are missing. (They sell a lot of used puzzles and they are always just like new, nice and clean, and I've never gotten one with a piece missing. Great store!) Anyhow, it's a 500 piece puzzle and more challenging than I predicted.
So - if you want to be entered in a drawing for this puzzle, leave a comment to this post, with an email address so that I can contact you if you win. Please leave your comment by midnight on Wednesday April 20th; a winner will be selected by random drawing on Thursday the 21st.

And a big thank you to all of YOU, my readers, who put up with my brags about my kid and my occasional rants!

ArtAwake 2011

Proud mama here. For two years now, my son is a co-director of this amazing event in Rochester NY! The concept of ArtAwake, now in its 4th year, is to find an abandoned or unused urban space and bring it to life for a day with music and arts (the event is put on by college students). They've been planning for a year, and today was the big day. My husband and I spent over 5 hours there, listening to an assortment of live music performances, looking at a broad variety of artwork, participating in interactive art experiences, mingling with people of all ages, eating cupcakes, tasting wine...

One interactive exhibit consists of people dressed in white, with assorted paints and brushes for those who pass by. *I admit I have no idea what the person dressed in fairy-garb is doing there, though she (and a male counterpart) were at the event all day and evening. Anyhow, I had fun with painting the people last year, and again this year, painting a face, some lizards, and a little bit of a dragon. The gal in charge of this exhibit remembered me from last year! Note that I was NOT responsible for getting one of the models to lie on the floor or for pouring whole cups of paint on her. The other model pictured is the one I painted.

Here's my son Ben and "Art"

The guy on the left painted people's portraits, one after another, all day, for free. The man on the right was from the mbira quartet Mbira dzeMugomo Guru.

Then there was an opportunity to complete a spontaneous 6" work of art for a show coming later this spring. This is my contribution.

Some of my favorite art pieces, above and below-

Altered book below :Oregon Trail

The space used was a former bank. The vault was used as a bar. I like the door.

Here's a tiny sampling of the music performances (2 stages, 20 different performing groups, including rock, classical chamber music, folk, percussion groups, etc):

Oh my gosh, these guys were AMAZING!!!