Friday, June 8, 2018

Three projects, all complete!

This spring, my DragonWing Arts students completed three projects in a 7-week after-school session.  There were toothpaste batik pillows and puzzle paintings (one of each, pictured above), and stocking sculptures, which you'll see later in this post! 

 I've done toothpaste batik with my students many times before, but this time I think we lost a little more color than usual on the final products.  But still, the kids were happy with them. I gave them lots of ideas, encouraging them to add borders, to use full-strength vibrant colors, and suggesting abstract designs.  But they had their own minds and because this isn't 'school', I feel like I have to let them do what will ultimately be what they want.  If you want to know more about the toothpaste batik process, and see some other student toothpaste batik projects, you can find posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. (And HERE, for my toothpaste batik shirt!)  Above are pictured the painted fabric, mostly complete, before washing out the resist.  Below, finished pillows.  Due to time considerations, I sewed the pillows on my machine, and the kids stuffed them and sewed up the openings. 
Here's my painted sample, ready to wash.  Sorry no pic of the finished product.

For the puzzle paintings, I was given a bunch of wooden frames, each inset with 9 wooden squares.  I made an example that was a design where the pieces were interchangeable and matched up no matter what.  I thought they'd want to do that, too.  Both of the boys in the class did.  But three of the four girls had different ideas, and again, I let them roll with it! 
 We started by priming all the parts with gesso.  Here's a picture to help you understand what it looked like prior to painting.
 Here's 4 of the finished products.  There's one more in the pic at the top of the post, and I'm missing a pic of the 6th project.  I still have LOTS more of these boards and I'm going to experiment with other ideas for how to use them.

 Many of you have made the stocking sculptures, so I'll give just a very brief explanation.  You can read more about this project in a prior blog post, HERE.
The sculpture structure is a nylon sock, which has been pulled over bent and twisted pieces of wire that are inserted at both ends into a wood block.  We primed them all with gesso before painting. White house paint works well, too.  Basically, the paint stiffens up the nylon sock, making them easy to paint (we use acrylics).
 Here's some of the finished products.  I'm again missing a pic of one of them. I had several finished samples to show the kids, but I let them choose how they wanted to paint theirs. I painted a demo piece with organic faces that fit onto each side.  Sorry, no pic of it!

 One more toothpaste batik pillow before I end this post. 
OOPS the pic is upside down...

DragonWing Arts is now on summer break, but the blog is not.  Still more art stuff to share, including my own artwork!  But when I'm not blogging, I can be found paddling in my kayak with my camera in my lap, or sitting on the dock with a good book, or with my easel set up outdoors for some painting!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A few weeks of nature photos and such

Ugh.  I'm failing at blogging.  Here's a bit of an update on life since my last blog post.
We made a visit to Boston to visit our son and his fiance on Mother's Day.  Behind our hotel was a nature park where there was a pair of nesting swans!
On Mother's Day, we strolled around "Porchfest" in Somerville (where our son lives).  Lots of live music of all genres on porches and front yards all through the neighborhoods.  Free and fun. 
We took a leisurely drive home (ever since our car accident on the Mass Pike two years ago, we prefer the 'scenic route'.)  This time we made a pit stop at the lovely Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls MA.
Since then, I've been in my kayak a few times, and of course brought my camera with me.  I've seen loons, both real and wooden, and a brand new dragonfly emerged from it's nymph casing on my kayak.  That's the dragonfly below, and also at the top of the post.  It is brand new!
And I happened on a nest of redwing blackbird eggs, when I was rescuing bottles and cans I saw in the reeds near the lake shore.  I hope mama comes back to these eggs!
 On a walk near our camp, I came across this oddity, below.
I've taken some strolls around Hovey Pond, a mile from my home.  
And a few days ago, my husband discovered a baby bird living in a tree in the abandoned house next to our home.
We saw it's mama feeding it.  But as of today, it appears the baby has spread its wings.  The tree is vacant.  I hope the fledgling is doing well!
Moose sighting in North Bennington Vermont....
Meanwhile, I set up my easel in the backyard where I've been experimenting with my oil paints, trying to get to know the properties of my colors better.  It isn't done.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Student Engagement and Participation!

It is time for this month's Art Ed Blogger's Network post!  
This month's topic is Student Engagement and Participation.

Here's the thing.  I think students are engaged when you give them stuff to do that excites them, that they don't get to do every day, where they have significant personal input in their final product, and where they will be proud of their final product.  So often, I see former students, many years after they've graduated from high school, and then tell me they still have the papier-mache project they made in 3rd grade, or 5th grade, perhaps.  That's when I feel like I've done something right!
I think that's why I love papier-mache so much.  It's not something kids do every day, and they are excited to create a structure that will be unlike anyone else's, and they are excited to dip their hands into slimy goo.  Kids are engaged when they are busy, and when they are busy and engaged, they forget to misbehave, so it's a win-win situation.   For people who are afraid to do papier-mache with their classes with the most behavior problems, I say to give it a try, because kids misbehave when they are bored, and nobody is bored when their hands are busy with papier-mache!!!
Especially when they are given lots of personal choice.  For example, for these 5th grade cats pictured above, the basic structures were all built the same way, but the particular way each cat was posed, and how they were painted and embellished, make them uniquely original.
Same thing with these 3rd grade tikis above.  The basic structure began with a tennis ball container, but then each became totally original as the features were added, and and embellishments were added.

But papier-mache is not the only way to engage kids.  Any time we do a project that involves rummaging through trays and boxes of 'stuff', I find the kids get very enthused.  I find students especially love the opportunity to create collages that use a lot of random textural objects.  Above, are two first grade pieces, based on the story of the Princess and the Pea.  Can you find the pea hiding under each mattress?  Below, and at the top of this post, 2nd graders created wild beasts using assorted collage materials. 

In the school where I taught, the 6th graders were sort of balanced precariously between elementary and middle school, but still came to elementary for art.  They didn't want to feel like babies, and therefore could be harder to engage than the always-enthusiastic little kids.  My method to keep them engaged was to give them tools and materials they didn't use when they were younger, and challenge them with long-term projects with basic parameters but also a lot of personal choice.  Here's some examples:  First, a cartouche design carved out of Sheetrock. Next, two examples from 6th grade altered books. 
 Below are two examples from a "people in motion" plaster bandage project. 
And below, a plate design based on the story of Blue Willow dishes.  Rather than having students decorate paper plates, likely to be discarded after they were done, I bought a selection of white plates at yard sales and flea markets.  It didn't cost much, and everyone was proud to take home their plates when they were complete!
I've been talking about a lot of personal choice in student projects.  Let me be clear, I am not a TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) teacher, but I do believe that projects I do with my students will be more successful and meaningful if there is ample opportunity for personal choice within the parameters of the assignment.  If this is scary for you, take baby steps.  Maybe the choice will be to simply let students select the color paper they will use for a collage or painting surface.  Or maybe the choice is to put different selections of paint at each table, and letting students choose which table to go to. 
When you set your parameters for a project, don't forget that your students will be more engaged, and therefore less inclined to disruptive behavior, if they have been allowed to make some decisions about their finally product and thus are more personally invested.

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.
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