Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jackson Pollock - day 1 of the mess


This is just the beginning...
My students learned about Jackson Pollock and his painting process. They've been talking about improvisation in music class, so this spontaneous painting process really ties it together.

The kids were required to have their art shirts on to participate. They knew the would be making a mess and would be responsible for cleanup, and they did great today. We didn't bother to protect the tables, since I knew there'd be so much cleaning to do anyhow. I prepped a bunch of containers of paint, and put sticks in them, and put one large sheet of Kraft paper on each table. (The kids also had the opportunity to use old large house paint brushes if they chose.) I pulled student names from a bucket to form work groups, and then the groups rotated turns choosing colors until all the colors were taken and everyone had one to use. They were allowed to trade colors during class. I put on some fun music and everyone started dripping and drizzling and flinging paint, directing the colors toward the inside of the paper and away from the edges!

Here we are at work: Sorry I can't get them to rotate, so you'll have to rotate your head!
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I realize this isn't something everyone can do. I have about 16 or 17 kids in each of two 4th grades. If I had larger classes or more 4th grade classes I would NOT attempt this. As a matter of fact, this is a project that I have done a few times, always at least 3 or 4 years apart. Enough time to develop amnesia about the challenges! I have chosen to do the project only on years when the kids were a group that I thought could handle the challenge.

The biggest challenge: drying the artwork! I had prep time after today's 4th grade, and so the paintings stayed on the tables to dry a while, and then I took them out in the hallway. At the end of the day they were still drying (4 paintings) and I put them on top of the chairs on top of the tables to dry. Tomorrow the other 4th grade class starts their paintings the same way, and then on Monday and Tuesday each class will have their turn at a second chance to add more layers to the paintings. I'll be adding leftovers of metallic paints to the paint selections.

I'll show you the paintings when they are complete!

Tried and true


Who doesn't like ice cream? The challenge to my 1st graders was to make their ice cream pictures with construction paper scraps and glue sticks and NO SCISSORS. They had to use their little fingers to tear the paper. It was a challenge!! In their next art class, we jazzed them up with black and white tempera (slightly thinned) and leftover glitter glue for 'bling'.

Meanwhile, just like so many of you, the 'falling backwards' project is great for the end of the year when the kids aren't very focused any more. I'm not giving 'credit' for this project to any other blogger, because, honestly, I found this idea in a book of easy lesson ideas when I first began teaching elementary students 27 years ago. The book was already quite old and dusty when I discovered it!

And how about this? I've seen lots of bloggers posting various fingerprint lessons, so I can't say where I found this first. Sorry I can't give credit. :(
Here's how we did it: The jar was a directed drawing - a smile, straight lines up, angle in, another smile, little straight lines up, another smile, and then a rainbow. Easy peasy. Then I put fingerpaint in the wells of a muffin-tin size container, and then put little sponges in each color and flipped them over. The kids dabbed their fingers on the sponges to ink their fingers for the fingerprints. At this point it looked like our jars were filled with jellybeans!
In the next art class we added all the bug details, colored the cover, and cut and pasted it on construction paper.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Celebrity crushes and music on vinyl


During a quiet moment at our lakeside cabin this weekend, when the crowds had cleared and the charcoal was glowing embers, my son went inside and put on a couple of records. RECORDS, you say? YES! On Saturday nights at the cabin, we tun to our favorite programming on North Country Public Radio, starting with A Prairie Home Companion, then Riverwalk Jazz, and then even more wonderful jazz into the night. But on other nights, it's fun to dig into my old vinyl collection that goes back to my childhood. It's arranged alphabetically, and goes from A & B (Joan Armatrading & Jackson Browne) to Y & Z (Neil Young & Warren Zevon) and contains treasures including the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, Van Morrison, and many more.

My son is a music lover, and enjoys exploring the collection. For his first pick, he selected The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers, which brought me back to my college days. We would go a popular bar in town, where you'd pay $1 to get in, and get tickets for 4 draft beers (the drinking age then was 18). Late into the night there, we'd dance to Eric Clapton (Layla), Don McClean (American Pie), old Beatles music, and especially the Stones.

For my son's second pick, he surprised me and put on my oldest record, pictured at the top of this post. Oh my! My very first celebrity crush! I broke into a huge smile as the music started to play, because in my preteen days, when music's British Invasion hit the USA, I was madly smitten wit the adorable Peter Noone, the lead singer of Herman's Hermits. The music is still catchy to hear today. Looking at his photo now, I think Peter Noone had a little of the same type of look as Justin Bieber, which helps to explain why some of my female preteen students like him so much.

In my younger days, my crushes were usually different from those of my friends. During Beatlemania, when everyone else went nuts over Paul McCartney, the "cute" Beatle, I secretly adored the darkly mysterious Beatle, George Harrison. I think it was the eyes.

Then, in high school, I had an unusual crush: the talk show host Dick Cavett. He had gone to Yale and I was very impressed. He was smart, cute, and had a sense of humor with an 'edge', and I loved listening to his voice.

Then of course there was Sweet Baby James (which is in my vinyl collection) James Taylor. Those eyes! And a rock icon with intense eyes: Jim Morrison (The Doors) also in my vinyl collection.

And the 'Z' in my alphabetical record collection, Warren Zevon, reminded me of a boy I dated for a bit in college, and I liked his music too, so I guess he gets on my oddball 'crush' list.

Then there's vampires - long before it was 'cool' to love vampires, I had a bit of a crush on Brad Pitt as the vampire Louis in Interview with a Vampire. I admit I liked the long hair. And more recently, I had a HUGE crush on Alex O'Loughlin as the conflicted vampire/private eye Mick St. John in the terrific TV series Moonlight, which unfortunately didn't last. You may recognize him from Hawaii 5-0, but I personally liked him better as a reluctant vampire.

My celebrity crush with the longest duration was another actor - the magnificent Christopher Reeve. Be still, my heart. Just LOOK at this photo! Another celebrity with intense eyes - do you see a pattern in my choices?

I first fell in love with him watching Superman, and then discovered the most romantic movie EVER: Somewhere in Time. I could watch either of those films over and over, just to see him, so luckily they are both good movies!

Since then other celebrity crushes have come and gone - Johnny Depp for example, but nobody has swept me away quite like Christopher Reeve, who died too young.

Who are your celebrity crushes? Do you have a vinyl collection? What's in it?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A little Adirondack wildlife


I discovered this grass snake slithering through the kindling in the outdoor barbeque pit. He went to this rock to model for my photos, then flicked his red tongue at me and *POOF!* he disappeared.

Water life - momma ducky and her babes, and my own water baby.

A gaggle of geese!

Some not-so-wild life...

Lovely night, lovely morning, lovely day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Coil pots with air dry clay


Here's a sample of this year's batch of 4th grade air-dry coil pots, painted with acrylics.


And I forgot to post this year's batch of 1st grade lilac paintings, so before they come down off the wall, here's a quickie look.

Here's a new look at our Chihuly Rainbow Tower, currently at rest in our school's central atrium. The prom was last Saturday night, and their theme was "candy & sweets" or something like that, and they were quite happy to have the tower there as it went with the bright cheerful color scheme of the prom. If you've made some sort of collaborative project like this, what did you do with it after-the-fact?.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Retirement suprises!


Last night was my school district's retirement party. The basket above was filled, and I mean FILLED with drawings, cards, letters, and more from almost all of the kids I work with now, and also some kids in 7th grade and high school. WOW. And you may notice some gift cards tucked in there too. Double wow.

The photo on the right above is North Warren Central School's art department: past (me, center); present (the wonderful secondary art teacher, right); and future (my replacement and friend, current elementary computer teacher and more, and also the creator of that remarkable basket, left). Sorry about the poor focus on some of these photos. Camera problems :(

Beautiful blood red roses (my favorite color) from my lovely stepdaughter and her adorable husband; and a fabulous cake made by the sister of a staff member who really went the extra mile planning a great party for me and the other two retirees.


Left above, that's the stepdaughter and hubby, and my sweet hubby behind me who surprised me with the red rose corsage (which was really lucky, because I had been making a necklace to wear, and it was almost done and I "oopsied" after school yesterday trimming the excess wire and cut the wrong wire and now need to do damage control and so obviously I couldn't wear it).

The center photo is the presentation about ME. You already know the two ladies at the podium are the present and future art department. On the left is a dear friend/high school social studies teacher who worked closely with me during my 10 years as union president and more. He "roasted" me, in particular about the way I ran the union (I think he used the word "bulldog" more than once, and he called me bossy, but also said I made the union professional and gave us clout and always did my darnedest to protect the rights of my members no matter the situation.) I'm proud to say that everything he said was true, and I was tickled that he knew nothing he said would offend me.

The drawings below came from the many in my basket. Hopefully in the coming days I'll have the chance to scan some of the others to share. I particularly liked these because of the way I was represented, with an apron and red shoes and glasses, my hair white and wild on the left and gray and pony-tailed on the right. Simply fabulous. Thank you Caitlin and Cassie! (Speaking of my hair: I tried to French-braid my hair for the party, and then I got a phone call from my son and got sidetracked and ran out of time. Oh well.)

A couple more things about the presentation about ME:
My replacement spoke about my years of teaching, and the wonderful things kids said. I loved in particular that so many of them said I always smiled, and that I'm funny and creative, and that I don't mind if they make a mess. One quote that I love: "Mrs. Brown is the best art teacher I ever had. Well actually, she's the ONLY art teacher I ever had but she's still pretty good." Smiles.

She had asked me earlier last week what the hardest thing is about being an art teacher, and I had replied "working in isolation - art teachers in small schools are often islands unto themselves and have nobody with whom they can share ideas". I had mentioned how that had changed in the past 2 years for me, partly because of my wonderful young colleague (it is the first time in years that I really feel like part of a team and not a solo operation), and also because of the supportive community that has formed from blogging. She evidently really heard me during that conversation, because, much to my surprise, she contacted some of YOU. Holy guacamole! At the podium she shared remarks from several of you and I must say I was blown away by what you said. You must know, though, that whatever you have gotten from me, I have received back tenfold from my associations with you. Thank you for what you give me by your willingness to share on your blogs, and thank you for taking the time to respond to a request from a stranger! Hopefully you'll get to know her more, since I think she's already discovering the value of our art teacher blog network. Art Project Girl, I should mention, lest you feel left out, that she knew of our friendship but couldn't find an email address to contact you. She couldn't leave a comment on your blog because she knew I'd find it and the secret would have been out!

All in all, it was a fabulous evening, with some wonderful hugs and comments from staff members that I didn't even know cared about what I do. It was also nice to see some previously retired friends who came back to celebrate with us. You may wonder why my adorable son is not in the photos. He's been on his new job barely a month and was not ready to ask for time off. I saw him last week for Mother's Day, and will see him again for Memorial Day, so I told him not to worry about missing this evening - I adore him and know he loves us too!

Anyhow, it's way past bedtime, and it is supposed to be a beautiful day tomorrow, so I'd better get some sleep so I can get in some kayak time! Thanks so much everyone.