Sunday, September 13, 2015

I'm just gonna blow a little steam...

Let me start by saying this.  Please do not be offended by this post.  I am about to express my own personal opinions, and that's all they are.  I don't expect you to agree with me, and that's fine.  Maybe you'll agree with some points; maybe not.  It's all OK!  Wouldn't it would be boring if we all had the same tastes and opinions?  This isn't a rant; it's just me blowing a little steam as I express my opinions on a bunch of random, some art education related topics. I'm just in the mood for getting these pet peeves, things that I am just "over", off my chest and I want to share them.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might even notice me saying something I've said before in one or more of these points (such as #5).  If some of the things in my list annoy YOU, that's OK; nothing here is intended as a personal attack and again, I don't expect you to agree with me.  
So here we go:

1) Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night. I'm so beyond bored by lesson plans based on the painting, clothing with the trademark swirly sky, you name it.  I am just SO over Starry Night (And YES, I have taught Starry Night lessons in the past, but not for a number of years now.)  This isn't a slam about van Gogh.  There's a lot of van Gogh paintings that I think are stunningly gorgeous.  And fun to teach with - the rich texture, the vibrant use of color!!  But Starry Night?  Not my favorite.  First of all, if you've ever seen the real painting, in MoMA in NYC, you know it is very small.  Sort of a disappointment.  But mostly, I feel the painting is overrated and dreadfully overused.  There's just so much better!  Here's one of the many goofy parodies of the painting:

2) While I'm on the case of paintings that are smaller than you hoped, there's also Dali's The Persistence of Memory.  The real painting, also in MoMA, is positively tiny!!  Don't get me wrong; I'm actually a Dali/surrealism fan; it's fun to teach.  But this painting is a grand disappointment compared to other works by Dali and other surrealists. This is me and the painting, I think last winter, at MoMA.

3) Being asked to vote for or "like" artwork by kids I don't know so that they can win prizes on Artsonia or elsewhere.  Sometimes I really don't think the piece I've been asked to "like" is the best one, and it is kind of awkward to be expected to vote for it just because I know you from Facebook or somewhere.  If there's a contest, and you'd like me to vote, fine.  Just don't tell me what to pick.  I'm rebellious, and if you tell me who to vote for, I guarantee that I'll always pick the other guy. 

4) While I'm at it: being asked to play games on Facebook.  Do I ever play games?  Yes: Words with Friends, and Word Streak/Scramble with Friends; I like word games.  But I do not link those games to Facebook in any way.  I'm happy to play them with you if you need someone who will be competitive, but  please don't ask me, on Facebook, to play other silly games.  I have enough to do. 

5) Lessons on using repetitive design and pattern that are called Zentangle lessons.  The word Zentangle doesn't appear in the National Art Standards, or in the Common Core, or in the Elements of Art or Principles of DesignZentangle is a prescribed method of drawing repetitive designs using specific techniques and patterns and materials, and has become big business.  Every repetitive design is not a Zentangle.  Do you think that when Laurel Burch filled her fantastic felines with rich pattern and design that she was Zentangling?  Do you think that the incredible artists of Oaxaca who make carved wooden animals and other figures and then paint them with detailed and colorful repetitive pattern have even heard the word "Zentangle"?  Please, folks!  Lessons on pattern and repetitive design are just that!  You may be incorporating various E's and P's, such as line, movement, rhthym, and so on, but you are not necessarily doing a Zentangle every time you fill a shape with smaller shapes and then fill them with repeating patterns.  NO NO NO. (By the way, on the left below is an image of some patterned Laurel Burch cats.  The two other images are of carved pieces hand-painted by the talented Oaxacan artist Agustin Cruz Prudencio.) 

6) Annoying brainless pop music ear worms (music that you can't get out of your head) of songs that you don't like.  The other night I was watching the Jimmy Fallon show and he and Ellen DeGeneres did a lip sync contest, and two of the songs they did (and the two that got stuck in my head for a full day) were the Whip/Nae-Nae song (I don't know the real title) and Bitch Better Have My Money.  WHAT????  What ever happened to songs with lyrics that I wouldn't be embarrassed to sing along to?  Good grief.  Dear younger generation, is this the best that you can come up with??

7) T-Shirts and posters that tell me to "Keep Calm and...".  I do NOT always WANT to stay calm!  I am not a yoga sort of gal.  I like to get excited by stuff!!

8) And since I've mentioned T-shirts, how about this: being expected to want to wear a logo T-shirt to match a bunch of other people in a group of some sort.  Sorry, folks.  I wear T-shirts to the gym, or cleaning the house, or when I'm in the kayak or in the yard.  I do not consider logo T-shirts to be fashion.  And, as an art teacher, I like to be unique in the clothes and jewelry I wear.  I want to be an individual.  Wearing matching T-shirts makes me feel like a kid in day camp or  camp counselor.  Where's my whistle?

9) Still in the T-shirt department - just because a T-shirt has an art print on it, doesn't make it fashion!  Why are so many people so excited to wear a T-shirt with a Keith Haring (or any other artist) work of art printed on the front?  It is STILL JUST A T-SHIRT!!  Now, if you are making something awesome with fabric that has artwork printed on it, that's a different story.  Just please, let go of the T-shirt as a fashion choice!

10) Facebook posts of coloring book pages in the Facebook Art Teacher group.  Listen, if coloring books are your thing, if they are therapeutic for you, I've got absolutely no gripe.  I do know people who adore coloring books for relaxation, and I know adult coloring books are the rage right now.  So go ahead and color!  But sharing your coloring sheets on Instagram or Facebook?  I just don't understand why anyone thinks I'd want to see them, and I don't understand why they are they clogging up the feed, making me miss more useful and interesting posts.  By the way, when I searched for an image to put here, I was pretty stunned at some of the 'edgy' coloring books available for adults.   I chose to post something relatively safe...

11) Lately, again in the Art Teacher Facebook group, I see lots of posts of people asking for links to videos they can show a certain grade level on a certain topic.  I think kids spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME looking at stuff on screens.  I don't understand the need to have a video in order to introduce a new topic.  Kids need less screen time, not more.   

12) And finally, there's this - the way I see people teaching the drawing of cylinders.  It makes me absolutely CRAZY when people draw the tops of cylinders as an almond, with two curved lines ending in points where they meet at the ends, rather than an oval.  It makes the cylinder look like a crushed can.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at my quickie illustrations below.  The first shows using ovals to create cylinders, which is correct.  The depth of the oval will depend on where your eye level is.  The second illustration shows a drawing where the top curve and the bottom curve meet in points on either edge, like an almond shape.  This is NOT correct.  I always had students, when learning to draw solid shapes, practice using their entire arm to make ovals.  And we used lots of cylinders and looked at them carefully to see if there were ever points on the ends.  And unless the cylinder was squashed or crushed, there was not. 

13) I have a concern about the many lessons I see posted, incorporating sweet foods to make them fun, such as mixing colors of frosting for cupcakes to teach color theory, or using cupcakes for incentives, and so on.  I have three concerns about this: first, the kid who is gluten-sensitive and can't participate, second, the diabetic child who can't have the sugar, and third, the obese child who doesn't need to be fed candy or cupcakes in art class.  I have a close relationship with someone who has a child that is struggling with obesity, and is trying to maintain a doctor recommended diet, but everywhere he goes, someone is offering an ice cream or a cupcake, it seems.  It's hard for a second grader to have the will power to say no, and even harder if it is part of a class experience.  When I was teaching, I did sometimes reward a class with a "pop-pop" party.  The refreshments, popcorn and fruit ice pops, were chosen specifically to avoid food allergies and diet concerns. 

14) And finally, something I think you should all be able to agree with.  It absolutely kills me how many school districts have art teachers, and art programs, and then have no budget to support them.  It breaks my heart to see the constant posts in the Facebook Art Teacher group about the incredible amount of money people spend from their own pockets to supply their programs.  Everyone is always posting bargains they find at Target or other stores that they are scooping up for their classrooms.  Bargains are great, and certainly when I was teaching, I spent some pocket money to buy oddball things to enhance my lessons and my classroom, but I didn't totally supply my art program out of my own pocket.  No other teachers are expected to do this!  Phys ed teachers don't use their own money to buy the basketballs and other equipment for their programs.  And certainly the academic teachers aren't buying the textbooks for their classes!  It's ridiculous!  I'm blown away by how disrespected (by lack of financial support) so many art teachers are by their districts, rather than being given the resources needed to be successful. 

There.  I've said all I want to, and I'm done.  I'm curious to hear whether I've touched any nerves with this post, whether you agree, or have a totally different perspective on my points.  Let me know!

41 comments:

  1. Oh my god I am so sick of Starry Night. I am also sick of "Glitter is the herpes of the classroom" jokes. I enthusiastically agree with almost everything on here.

    But I love my tee shirts, ha ha

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    1. Oh my goodness I didn't even THINK to mention glitter. So totally vile; it comes back even after you think you've cleaned up, and refuses to leave completely, ever. I "loaned" glitter to anyone who asked when I was still teaching, with one rule: you cannot return it to me. You borrow; you keep. My replacement, however, LOVES glitter and uses it frequently.

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  2. Girl PREACH!! Amen, Amen, Amen to all your points. Though I have been guilty of the Zentangle one, until I read your last blog post about it. Made sense.

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    1. Thanks! Honestly I was expecting a lot more anger about my post than agreement!

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    2. I have agreed with most of your thoughts here. I do the Starry night piece but as a brightly colored cut paper piece. It looks nothing like the painting. I am glad that I am on the right path. I would love to hear your's and anyone else's opinion on painting w a twist. I have a problem w everyone's painting looking the same.

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    3. I agree! I like I to use famous works as inspiration for my students, not something to try to replicate. So, using Van Gogh for example, we might create landscapes with windy skies, using thickly textured swirling or choppy lines or strokes to show the movement. Or for another example, we might use Matisse's cutouts as inspiration for collages using organic and geometric shapes, and using the Principles of Design to guide the compositions.

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  3. Love ya, lady. Nothing wrong with a thoughtful/downright awesome t-shirt choice tho;)

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    1. Thanks Don! Though the t-shirts look WAY better on you than made. See, that's part of the whole t-shirt thing: most of them are cut to fit men, not women with hips. To get a t-shirt that fits my 'womanly' hips, the shoulders are halfway to my little elbows...

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    2. ha! true enough, phyl, true enough:)

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  4. Feel better, Phyl? You hit the nail on my peevish head on most of your points. I will defend my love of, The Starry Night, till my dying breath and if you took my artsy fartsy t-shirts away, I wouldn't have anything to wear!! The whole time I was reading your observations, I was imagining you in your "studio" ( formerly Ben's bedroom) with a peeve list up on the wall! That was a lot of peeves for one post! Tee hee........

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    1. Haha! No peeve list on the wall. And yeah, a lot for one post, but a burden has been lifted! Though I did leave out the way I feel about Keith Haring art. I do not get excited about radiant babies...

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  5. I actually agree on most of them.
    I do like to doodle and that is what it is... doodling.
    I had the same feeling you did about the size of the Mona Lisa.
    I must say I get most of my supplies I ask for now.
    The previous principal had me working on unstable tables on a floor with big holes - (it's just art) - my new principal gave me a new floor, new tables and chairs in tree colors (the way I asked).

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    1. I've never seen the real Mona Lisa, but honest,y, I could have added another point about all the people who use a call and response "Mona Lisa" to get their students' attention. I will admit that I never took to that one; maybe because I never once played "Marco Polo" in the swimming pool when I was a kid, and just never really got excited about the painting. But I do absolutely understand using the pose as a way to get students to sit calmly, so I guess I'd still prefer it to Starry Night or Radiant Babies.

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  6. Oh by the way: My new blog is "tekenlesje.be" it just got moved and I'm working to translate all the old post into English :)

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    1. Can you give us the actual blog address so we can check it out? Thanks!

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  7. Totally agree on "zentangles," bad budgets, and that whole Keep Calm business. Not a fan of The Scream or much of Dali's work, but not because of the size - I like small, personal art. I also like t-shirts and will forever love Starry Night. So funny how one person's pet peeve is another's joy. My pet peeve is claiming absolutes in art - I think anything can be possible when creating so I never say never to some things that bug other people, like the possibility of a corner sun, a smiley face or even a sprinkle of glitter! :)

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    1. Yes! I agree! (Except for the glitter.) I have, in this blog, previously expressed my opinion on the "no-no board". I mean, who doesn't love a happy sunshine? I had one that I made on the window shade in my art room! And I've seen birds in the distance that look like letter v's, and I've seen stick figures in works of art by Miro or Klee for example. Never say never! (Except for glitter, wink wink!)

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  8. I should add another point: those trees that are shaped like letter Y's. That is NOT how most trees are shaped and I refuse to teach that method of to drawing trees to my students!

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    1. I have to tell you that although there were few "y" trees in the Adirondacks (former home of 30+ years), they are plentiful here in the Smokies of TN. I take pictures!

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  9. I'm with you! I do like starry night and I use it with 4th grade and weather but it is one of many not solo.
    T shirts..ugh!!!!
    Zentangle..I just call it pattern and repition.
    No arguments just kudos! !!

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  10. Love this post! I do like Haring's work as it is good to use with the littles to get a very basic sense of proportion/shape of the human body. My pet peeve with people are smiley faces, hair that magically grows only from the very top center, and hands that look like they stabbed oranges with toothpicks. My blog is www.wildwithmrsheigl@blogspot.com

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    1. Interesting pet peeves! I've checked out your blog, and already pinned a couple of your projects!

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  11. Wonderful post! I often think (as I am buying the supplies for a lesson) wow- here I go again spending my money to teach children something I think would be a great art lesson.....what's wrong with this picture?!?

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    1. Yup! But we all will probably continue to do it, anyhow. Because in the end it's really about the kids, isn't it?

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  12. Unfortunately you missed the point of the Zentangle method. There is a meditative component you have missed completely. Get the facts lady, take a class.

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    1. No need to be rude. I haven't missed that component, and I've done a lot of reading on Zentangle before writing about it. My point is that a lot of people do basic line design projects and CALL them Zentangles. Since they are NOT including the meditative component, nor are they using the prescribed patterns, they are NOT Zentangles. I simply want people to call what they are doing what it actually is, a structured repetitive design, unless they have taken a Zentangle class and are using the prescribed methods. I'll repeat what I said in the post: "you are not necessarily doing a Zentangle every time you fill a shape with smaller shapes and then fill them with repeating patterns."

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  13. I so agree with about the Zentangle thing! I taught "Line Designs' for many many years! Then someone started calling something like it Zentangles? Well, I wish I had thought of that! Haha! Then we started adding color to them! I wish that I started calling them 'Coloring Pages'! I guess we just need to name our lessons and patent the names! Then we could use that money to pay for art supplies for everyone! :)

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    1. Haha! I've never been very business savvy...

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  16. I realize this is your blog and your personal opinion and I am not offended by your post. But I would like the chance to set the record straight on Zentangle or at least express my opinion on the subject.

    To be totally transparent here, I am a Certified Zentangle teacher or CZT. And yes the way you describe Zentangle in your blog post it can and is being used incorrectly. Teachers are throwing together patterns and saying "it's Zentangle" when it really isn’t. Zentangle is much more than just repetitive patterns of any kind put together. It is a structured method of drawing and it has much more to do with a meditative process than teachers are tapping into in their classrooms.

    Zentangle is it’s own style of drawing just as stippling is it’s own style of drawing.
    No Zentangle is not in the national standards but you can absolutely teach the national standards using the Zentangle Method. Zentangle is not an element of art or principle of design but neither is acrylic paint.

    One commenter said "Zentangle..I just call it pattern and repition". If you are doing a lesson on patterns and repetition you are not doing Zentangle. Yes I am a CZT so I am very passionate about this subject but I also specialize in teaching art teachers how to use the Zentangle method in the classroom correctly. And you are wrong about Zentangle being a big business. The creators of Zentangle, Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas run Zentangle out of their house with a handful of staff, two of which are Maria's daughters. When you see "ZENTANGLE" on something it does not mean it is actually a Zentangle product, just like seeing "Starry Night" on an umbrella does not mean van Gogh put it there. You absolutely do not have to buy any Zentangle products to create with the Zentangle method. It is a method of drawing more than it is a product. If classroom teachers had the opportunity to learn more about Zentangle before they taught it they would understand the difference.

    In saying “every repetitive design is not a Zentangle” you are correct. Zentangle can be used to teach so many other things as well, such as organic vs. geometric designs or positive and negative space. No Laurel Burch’s cats are most differently not Zentangle; they do not exhibit any of the over 200 tangle patterns of the Zentangle method. No the Oaxaca carved animals with their ornate designs are not Zentanlges; they also do not possess any of the tangle patterns as well. I teach a Laura Burch lesson using the cats with patterns to second grade, I teach a paper mache class on Oaxaca animals based on regional culture and design to 5th grade and I teach Zentangle as an individual lesson on it’s own to all grade levels…including adults.

    Zentangle and CZTs have helped may sick people including children. CZTs go to hospitals, VA centers and nursing homes all over this country to help PTSD, cancer patients, aging and many thing things people are going through by teaching the Zentangle Method as a form of meditation and most of us do these type classes for free.


    My point here is just to simply say Zentangle is it’s own art form and when taught correctly is a relaxing and vibrant art form that truly should be celebrated and enjoyed.

    In the end I agree with you Phly--calling anything you do with patterns and repetition Zentangle is highly annoying and also incorrect. You have a huge voice in the art teacher blog world so I hope you will help set the record straight on the correct use of Zentangle Method in the classroom.
    Lee Darter

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    1. Lee, I don't think I can say it better than you! Thank you for your well-written response to my post. I'm not sure what else I can add!

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  17. I'm so sorry that you have steam to blow off about some of these items you list. Maybe your next blog post can be some positive attributes about how for those of us who never considered ourselves artist, are doing many of the things that you are blowing steam about.

    It's some of these items that have brought some of us to feel like an artist by doing the best we can and learning from others in classes like "painting with a twist" or the Zentangel Method. And wanting us to become better artists.

    I was told by my 8th grade teacher I could not draw and was not an artist. I never touched anything artistically again until my second bout with a different cancer five years ago through my arts in medicine department at my cancer center. And it's many of the things that you state above that have helped me to feel I am an imperfectly, perfect artist. I can't hold your steam, but I hope my posts helps you to not have so much steam about the things that some of us have come to art through... Peace
    A newbie, proud Artist.

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    1. Congratulations to you! As I said in the opening of the post, I am just expressing my opinions and nothing more. I would never tell a student that they couldn't draw, and I was and still am always positive and enthusiastic in my teaching process. But I'm not teaching here; I'm writing a blog post. A blog is like a journal that is open to the public, and every so often, journal writers should be able to say what they think. If I can't express my opinion here, where can I? I'm not attempting to make money from my blog, so if someone chooses not to read what I've written, or decides not to like me because of my opinions, that won't harm me. So I will continue to say what I think. And the steam? I'm not really angry. I was just looking for a fun way to start the post (one of my personal blogging rules is to always start with an image) and I dug up this stock image I had saved many years ago because, simply, I like dragons.

      More often on this blog, you'll find me writing about things that excite me - for example, a new papier-mache project, a kayak sojourn in a marsh, a workshop that I taught, or something new crafty project I've made. I think if you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll find these opinionated posts scattered now and then, but you'll find that more often, I'm posting about things that have excited me. Keep on making art!

      .

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    2. No worries, I was just expressing my opinion too based on your choice of the word steam, the dragon and "blowing some of it off."

      That's the beauty of America and a blog. You cam blog your opinion and I can respond to your opinion.

      Peace. 🌎🌎

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  18. Oh my goodness, Miss Phyl. I think you might benefit from the advice from my 16-year old, "Don't yuk someone's yum".
    Other than that, keep blogging girlfriend!

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    1. Haha! Patty, that's a phrase that I've never heard before! But sorry, I've always been one to say what I think, and I probably won't change this late in the game. And honestly, even if they disagree with my opinions, if I've made even one person think a little bit differently about something, then that's good! Of course, I may get a little angry if someone chooses to speak badly about Matisse ;)

      Thanks to your daughter to giving me a new fun phrase! I hope I haven't spoken too badly about something that is YOUR "yum"!!

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  19. Heaven help us when we blow off steam! It becomes a big pot of stew, maybe for good or bad, but sometimes it makes us feel better. Each person has the right to their opinion. Art is a technical term, a personal touch of ones heart. We can be critical, tear down or build up. We can teach others to the best of our ability and hopefully it can bring joy to others. Zentangle as defined by Lee Darter brings joy and excitement to many people that would have never considered themselves an artist. It has been a relief to many people that are suffering with pain. Do I consider Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts artists? Absolutely! I guess I consider them more than that, they teach people that there are no mistakes in Zentangle, just opportunities. Life is much like that, we can take what we consider to be mistakes and turn them into something beautiful. We just need to change our perspective and we will see something in a different way. I enjoyed reading your blog because sometimes I let off steam as well!

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    1. Thanks for visiting the blog, and taking the time to leave a comment! It is much appreciated. And yes, I like what you said about turning our mistakes info something beautiful. That's something I always stressed with my students. It's just a piece of paper, not something to panic over. If something goes wrong, turn it into something else and you might be totally surprised!

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