Sunday, December 29, 2013

Say Yes to the Mess: my state conference, part 3

me at the NYSATA conference TASK party!
So even though my state conference was back in November, I still have more to tell you.  So this post is NYSATA conference Part Three!  (There is still a Part 4 to come, and I'll certainly mention the TASK party then.)

I taught three workshops at the conference: one on Sheetrock carving, one on tooling foil relief, and the third one, called "Say Yes to the Mess", is the one that I want to tell you about today. This was the workshop that I was most fearful of presenting.  The other two were both hands-on, and we all know how much we art teachers LOVE attending hands-on workshops!
But "Say Yes to the Mess" consisted of a PowerPoint presentation, that was pretty much just images and bullet points, a handout with some more details, and the rest was, well, just me, doing my thing. So I did a dry-run of the presentation to my husband, and he promptly fell asleep.  Needless to say, I was worried.  Turns out, however, my worry was unnecessary.  I had many attendees tell me how much they learned from the workshop, and that it was the best one they attended all weekend.  They hung on every word I said!  Hurray!!  So here are my bullet points and some associated details -

The premise (my rationale for the workshop):   
We have a responsibility as art educators to engage our students in messy, hands-on activities on a regular basis.  In today's world, in particular, where kids type on a keyboard or portable device rather than writing by hand, where so much of what kids do is using electronic media, they have less opportunities for engaging in tactile, kinesthetic experience.  And this is what we were trained to do.  We need to give our students regular opportunities to squeeze wet clay or papier-mache between their fingers, to hold brushes dripping with creamy thick paint, to cut, to glue, to make messes, and to clean them up.
No Complaints/No Excuses: 
There are so many possible excuses for not using messy materials - inadequate (or no) proper facilities, no proper storage, shared workspaces, not enough money for materials, crazy schedules, no time to clean up properly, and on... and on....  But I come back to this: being an art teacher is what you were hired to do.  If you are not engaging your students in hands-on activities on a regular basis, you are not doing what you were hired to do.  Use your creativity to find a way to solve the problems of schedules, supplies, and workspaces.  It can be done.  Make this quote from Maya Angelou an integral part of your program:  "If you don't like something, change it.  If you can't change it, change your attitude.  Don't complain."   (Look closely at bulletin board pictures from my former classroom, and you'll see the #1 rule posted is NO WHINING.  I take this very seriously!  A positive attitude goes a long way!)

  • Positive attitude, as I've mentioned above.
  • Art room 'choreography' - how you plan and schedule your curriculum for optimization of storage and ease of cleanup.
  • Advocate for yourself and your program in the design of the school schedule
  • Organize and improve cleaning procedures
  • Training/enabling the kids - instead of doing all the cleanup yourself, train the students to take ownership over caring for the room and materials.
  • Make effective use of prep time
Making Cleanup Easy:
We discussed painting, papier-mache, plaster bandage, oil pastel, and collage procedures to help with cleanup.   I'll share a few of my favorite tips here.  
  • Paint distribution tricks -  Use limited colors instead of everything at once - warm colors one day, cool the next, for example.  Or a different color at each table and have the kids rotate tables to use a different color.  Or, prepare a large variety of colors of paint and place in a central location.  Students get one color at a time, and return it for a new color.  Put paints in plastic lidded 'solo' cups on trays and stack trays to use another time. 
  •  Best painting trick ever: the frame.  Draw a frame (or have students draw a frame) of about 1/2" inside the edge of the paper.  All painting is done inside the frame.  This way, you will have clean paper edges for carrying, you can lay them on the floor for drying if you don't have a drying rack, the tables will stay cleaner since no painting is done at the edges, and the paper won't curl as much as when it is painting to the edge!  Plus, when you hang them up to display, the artwork has built in picture frames! 
  • The Ugly Sponge and the Three W's - clean paintbrushes mean clean water and clean paint colors.  We use a designated set of old sponges for wiping paintbrushes after finishing with a color, and before washing.  This way, less paint goes into the water when the brush is washed.  Then, the brush is wiped again after washing and before dipping in a new color.  Any leftover paint and water is left on the sponge instead of in the new color!  Hence, the three W's are Wipe, Wash, Wipe.  While I don't have a photo to share here, let me tell you, this works!!
  • Baby Wipes/ Baby Oil!  Did you know oil pastels come off hands and tables with baby wipes, or a paper towel dipped in baby oil?  This can save on traffic jams at the sink at cleanup time! 
  • The Ziploc bag:  Use individual zipper bags for unglued collage materials, and weaving projects.  The kids don't lose parts of their work, and it makes everything so much easier!
And sometimes - just 'let it go' and make a mess!  
  • Try marbling with shaving cream, and use the shaving cream to clean the tables afterward.
  • 'Paint' by drawing with pastel chalks on wet bogus paper.
  • Add papier-mache goo to a bag of shredded paper from the office shredder to make a strong clay.  Want to see pictures of this stuff and what we've done with it?  Click here to see one of many posts using this amazing substance!
  • Jackson Pollock paintings?  Plan ahead for mess management!  It's worth it!  I've blogged about this project more than once; you can see one of the posts by clicking here.
Obviously, there were many more specifics in my workshop, regarding cleanup methods, paintbrush care, project storage, and more, but I think I've given you enough to read about today!  I hope you've found some of this worthwhile.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

A new year, a new look, and some photos to share

Hi friends, if you've visited my blog today, you probably noticed a change in the way it looks.  I enlisted my talented son to overhaul the look of my blog, since I'm not too savvy at this sort of thing.  Since so many of you now read blogs on a mobile device, he's cleaned it up for you.
that's him, in the middle!
You may notice that my dragon Lucy is no longer featured on the head of the blog.  Here's the former top of the blog.
I've told you about Lucy (the dragon in the photo) on several occasions on the blog; you can find them here.  I expect that, down the road, Lucy will make a return, but for now she is busy relaxing in our lakeside cabin.  Luckily she is a dragon and knows how to keep herself warm.
Lucy, in warmer weather
Changes in the blog format?  Everything is still here, just moved a bit.  You'll  now find my archives and labels at the bottom of the blog, rather than the side, where they were difficult to read.  A tab now provides a direct link to my Pinterest page, and my photos all have a 'pin me' button to make it easy for you.  My followers have been moved to the right, above my blogroll, which hasn't moved at all.  I hope you'll find the new layout user-friendly; please let me know.

The new background, by the way, is a photo I took of of autumn leaves.  My camera was on a tripod, and I zoomed in and twirled the camera in a circle during a long exposure. 

So while you are here, I'd love to share a few favorite photos from the past week or two, including the one of my son and step-grandkids in the photo at the top of the post, taken on Christmas Eve.  We are a dual-religion family, so while I am Jewish, we also celebrate Christmas for my husband and his branch of the family tree.
our dancing tree!
Frost on my bedroom window, a couple of days ago
A small selection of my fun with frosting!
 Ice, ice, baby!
Last week's snow!  (that's my car on the right)
Whatever your weather - snow, ice, rain, sunshine... I hope you are having a wonderful holiday!  Happy almost 2014, my friends!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wacky 3-D Weavings Complete!

My DragonWing Arts students completed their crazy 3D weavings last week, and I wanted to share the results.  We've been working on them in bits and pieces over a few weeks, along with several other multi-step projects.
In case you've missed it before, here's what we did:
  • We each painted painted two sheets of 12x18" with various fun processes to create colorful painted paper, using tempera.  These were later sliced apart for  weaving strips (weft).
  • We painted a third and fourth sheet (same size), each with one color of acrylic, that were cut in half lengthwise and twisted into tubes.  These were then glued down at the ends, lengthwise, onto a large rectangle of cardboard in an alternating color pattern to create our warp.  We made sure they were arched upward in the middles, like rainbows.
  • We painted the large cardboard rectangles black so our weaving colors would show up nicely.
  • We weaved our slices of painted paper into our warp, using an alternating color pattern.
  • Finally, we embellished with a bunch of feathers to give our work pizazz!!
I think these weavings turned out kind of fun, don't you?  This was an adaptation of a simpler version of this project that I blogged about previously here and  here.  The simpler version was done with first graders. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

NYSATA part 2 - Sheetrock Carving!!

So, a while back I posted part 1 of my NYSATA conference adventures, and told you about teaching a workshop in tooling foil relief, and I'm back to share part 2 of my conference experience today.  There is still a part 3, and maybe even a part 4 to come! 
'Octopus in a Box' relief carving in Sheetrock
Besides the Tooling Foil, I taught two other workshops at the conference.  One of these was a 'Friday After Dark' workshop, which are intended as extended hands-on workshops, for a fee, after dinner on Friday night (8:30-11pm).   Usually people are looking for a unique experience at this time, and less concerned about classroom relevance.  Also, at this time of night they want freedom, flexibility, and limited lecture, so I planned accordingly.  The topic of my Friday After Dark workshop was Relief Carving in Sheetrock.  (I've previously posted about the work my 6th graders have done with this inexpensive and versatile material, and blogged about the Egyptian cartouche project we've done with this material in several posts over the years.  Here's a link to one of them.)
'Power' relief carving in Sheetrock

Students learned, first of all, when selecting Sheetrock, you'll want to check for fiberglass fibers that look like millions of tiny little pieces of hair sticking out of the cut edges of the Sheetrock.  You do NOT want to use any Sheetrock that has these fibers - it can be itchy and even painful.  Luckily, it is easy to spot once you know what you are looking for, so I made sure to provide material that did not have these fibers.  I pre-cut the Sheetrock into various rectangular and square sizes.  Each Friday After Dark student was able to carve one piece and take two more home with them for continued experimentation!  By the way, all photos in this post (including the two above) are from work done by my art educator students during this workshop.
My Friday night students, selecting their Sheetrock.  That's me on the right.
We used small wet sponges, our  thumbs, and a little patience to peel the paper surface from the front of the Sheetrock.  We left the heavier cardboard backing on the other side.  Here are my students, peeling away..

 Then, once peeled, they could pre-draw a design on pencil, or just dive in!  My many suggestions for ideas included geometric design, landscapes, masks/faces, and more.  I figured, in a room full of 20 art teachers there would be no shortage of fabulous ideas! My exemplars (not pictured here) included a couple of African-inspired masks,  a landscape, and several cartouche samples.
 Oh my goodness, everyone is so hard at work!!

We discussed the options of relief carving, versus simple line engraving.  We also discussed the various options for paint, including watercolor, tempera, acrylic (including metallics) and ink, and how (and why) they could be used both before carving and after; and we discussed how color could be layered to achieve a rich patina; and we discussed how to use black either first or last, and how to rub on a final coat of color or black so that grooves could be filled with black to highlight texture.  Everyone had fun experimenting!  Here's a sampling of what my participants did (work-in-progress).
This design was based on quilt squares.
the beginnings of the octopus-in-a-box
Unfortunately I never got a later photo of this sweet elephant :(
or of this cool abstraction...
A friend stopped in to visit.  She was attending a face-painting Friday-After-Dark workshop.
This person was experimenting with water-soluble oil-pastels.  Interesting!
A final coating of Mod Podge will seal this watercolor treatment and give it a beautiful sheen.
The final (unfinished) example above was being done by a pre-service college student who had been assigned to my room as an assistant.  I really like where she is going with this simple rhythm and texture.

All-in-all, it was a successful workshop, and a fun end to a great day.  Please let me know if you have any questions about Sheetrock carving.  Don't be afraid to give it a try!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A new doodle!

This is an iPad cover that I decorated as a gift for a milestone birthday for my lifelong friend.  

I've written before on this blog about my compulsive doodling.   I've doodled on everything from purses to bowling shoes and an iPad cover for myself.  My friend loved my iPad cover so I thought making one for her, with a few personal touches, would be the perfect gift.  I hope she likes it!  

Next blog post will be part 2 about my state conference and the workshops I taught, so stay tuned!  It's been a busy couple of weeks, but if haven't forgotten you, readers!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and latke trophies!

A belated happy Thanksgiving, and a Happy Chanukah, from my crazy family to you all!

Here's my hubby and son on midday Thanksgiving day, at our Adirondack 'camp' on Loon Lake; it was bitter cold and the lake surface was churning with the whipping icy wind.  We (hubby, son, and myself) were outside for, like maybe 2 minutes before we gave up! Hubs looks cold doesn't he?  But son's new hat was really warm! Here's our partially set mismatched Thanksgiving table, with a Chanukah menorah on it too!
After dinner and family fun, and after the company (stepdaughter, her husband, and two young boys) had left, the three of us spent the night at the lake, and when we woke in the morning, the lake looked like this: 
The whole lake had frozen over during the cold night!  But what is the strange message written in the ice?  We have no idea where it came from, but it is frozen into the ice.  Crazy, huh?
 My husband used the kayak as a sled and rode down to the lake!!
The photo of my son below was taken through the window, from the warmth of the camp.
Today was LatkeFest, a fun, lighthearted cooking competition and fundraiser.  There were 8 people who had signed on as latke chefs, each with totally unique recipes, and attendees got to taste-test them all and vote on their favorite!  The winner receives the Golden Latke trophy, which is made by... drumroll please... ME!  And there's a klezmer band, and dancing, and a dreidel competition for the kids, and more.  Fun day!!  Here's this year's trophy:
And here I am with all my creations:
 Above are the previous two years' creations, and below is the one I made for this year.  I already have a plan for next years' trophy!
So, tomorrow I plan to get back to posting about last week's wonderful conference, and another couple of workshops I taught.  Till then, Happy Chanukah!  And may your latkes always be golden!