Friday, May 3, 2013

Another project

I'm sure we've all been asked to do little artsy things for other staff members, or for organizations, who don't necessarily understand that 1) these projects take TIME, and 2) that sometimes they are WAY out of our area of expertise, out of our comfort zone.

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to use calligraphy to write people's names on certificates (and I've already told you that calligraphy is definitely NOT a lefty art form), when the requester probably has a WAY better handwriting than me. I've been asked to make thank you cards, posters, signs, door displays, play props, and much more. Some of these things I did using students to help, and many were quicker and easier to do myself. Many concert props were requested only a day or two before the concert, but luckily, the concert and play props are usually fun things to create.

I'm sure you've all had similar experiences. I once had a child bring me a note from home, from her agoraphobic mom (that means she NEVER leaves the house), asking me to make Halloween decorations for her home!  That's where I drew the line.  I mean, I hadn't even decorated my OWN house; why would I do hers?  And why didn't her wonderfully artistic children do it with her?  And there's been other times I've said no -

There were a few of favorites over the years, some that unfortunately I didn't photograph.  In particular, there was an enormous papier-mâché roasted turkey for a skit at a holiday concert, and some huge 'stained glass windows' (painted on 6' tall cardboard panels), which were tongue-in-cheek images for the 12 days of Christmas which was being sung at a middle school concert. Kids helped plan the concepts, and I drew them all and did all the black outlines, and students painted them. Some examples: '4 Calling Birds' had some birds with their 'hair' in rollers at the beauty parlor while they gossiped on the phone; '3 French Hens' were wearing berets and visiting the Eiffel Tower,and so on. We finished them just in time for the concert and I swear they were put where nobody could see them. After many late afternoons spent outlining, and the weeks of these things taking up my whole art room, and the mountains of art room paint I had used, you can bet I was livid. So the day after the concert, I wanted to photograph them and make sure they were tucked away to use again, and I was informed they had been discarded! It still, years later, makes me angry to think about it!

For my teacher's union, I designed a logo (at the top of this post) for printed t-shirts, mugs, and letterhead, and subsequently adapted it for embroidered polo shirts and tote bags (below), and am proud to see that these are both still very much in use.

Recently my Temple asked me to do a pen & ink drawing of our building (below), to be printed on cards (thank you, sympathy, etc). I said yes and quietly freaked out. Drawing buildings to represent their architecture correctly is NOT my thing, and neither is working in fine black and white line, unless I am doodling. So I don't think this drawing is too successful, but they seem to love it, and so I'm proud of that. I sat outside at my picnic table to work on it (from photos I had taken) and decided I would not leave until it was done.  I admit that I don't attend services regularly, and I'm not a wealthy donor, but I very much appreciate my little Temple family and when I am asked to do these things (remember those 2 trophies I made for Latke Fest?), I feel like it's my way of contributing.
Do you get asked to do these kinds of things, particularly from other teachers?  What do you do/say?  Do you find yourself, like I did many times, in your classroom, working on their projects, well after they had gone home for the day, when you had not completed your grading, or hanging a display, or prepping the next day's materials?  Calling home to say "I'll be late" because you were making pilgrim hats for the first grade boys?  Or making a sign for the School/Community Garden?  (I actually liked that project - it was large, and I illuminated the lettering with vines.)  My replacement is the type of gal who has trouble saying no to these kinds of requests, so I imagine it has made her first year teaching art pretty busy! Or maybe, like me, you secretly love doing these projects, and happily put aside your own work because making the crazy sign or prop is so much more fun than getting those grades done!!


  1. Yes, many ,many times! I drew a tree for a clean community logo for a fellow colleague years ago that he still uses, I designed (and forgot about) a logo I did for our teachers association many years ago and it re-appeared on our t-shirts and sweatshirts recently. One of the teachers remarked about it being my old design ( I had to look and look again because I had forgotten about it completely!). I drew a cartoon of a dog for our PTO for a math program they run. They actually designed a whole costume around it and still use it to this day! I help out the music teacher for his 2nd grade musical by having the 2nd grades create their props and backdrop in art class but I don't mind because its for a creative arts teacher , We share a room and I figure if he puts up with me and all my crap that he deserves my help. He's also very appreciative. I choose which jobs I am willing to do when asked... if it's someone who will appreciate it /will be there if ever need something then yes if I can. I have said no a lot also, especially if I felt like I was being taken advantage of or it's something I don't feel comfortable doing. I'll say no and recommend someone else if I can.

  2. Yes, this all sounds pretty familiar. I can't even begin to remember all those volunteer projects, but I loved doing them.The only things I said "No" to were the things well beyond my skill or comfort level. I was never asked to go decorate someone else's house, though!! I am chuckling at the thought!!!

  3. I've been asked to do more things than I can count, and my goal for next year is to say "Sorry, I can't help you" a few times more than I did this year. It's hard, but I'll have to do it to keep my sanity!

    A funny story- when I was student teaching at an elementary school in Jersey City, my host teacher was asked to make 10 six-foot tall, ice-skating polar bears wearing glitter hats, scarves and mittens out of gigantic sheets of white paper. It was for their winter choral concert, and she volunteered her time every year to do this stuff- the polar bears pretty much took over my student teaching experience, and she taught me a lot about how when you work in an inner-city school, this extra stuff happened all the time and it was hard to say "no"- but she also told me a hilarious story about how she'd come home covered in glitter, and one night her husband came in from walking the dog and shouted, "THAT'S IT! No more glitter! Holly's poop is sparkling in the moonlight!"

    I think of that story every time I see a bottle of glitter!

    1. Hahaha! My sentiments exactly when it comes to glitter! It always reminded me of that song where the guy tried to get rid of the cat in a variety of (sometimes brutal) ways, but no matter what, the cat came back, the very next day, each time. Glitter comes back like that, I swear! I banned it from my classroom years ago, but the students must be in heaven now because my replacement has brought glitter back into the art room full-force!