Monday, December 31, 2018

My New Mat Cutter!

This is a quickie post to share about my brand new 'toy' - a Logan Compact Mat Cutter.  I was gifting a doodle drawing to my stepdaughter, and I had purchased a frame but needed a mat.  I couldn't find the right size/color mat anywhere locally, I didn't have time to have a mat professionally cut, and anyhow after buying the frame, I really didn't want to pay for a custom mat. 
So instead, I purchased myself a Logan Mat Cutter.  I had one in my classroom before I retired, but it wasn't mine so I had to leave it behind.  But I was adept at using it.
 My favorite framer retired, and gave me a bunch of mat board scraps when she closed her shop, in particular, metallic mat board scraps.  The metallic was going to be perfect for the artwork I was matting.  I cut the mat, put it in the frame, and then proceeded to cut another 29 mats before the afternoon was over.  So in one day, I think I used the mat cutter enough to make the investment totally worthwhile!  I'll be cutting more mats whenever I need one, rather than spending money to have someone else do the cutting for me.  Yay!
By the way, here she is with the gift!  She loved it!
 And while I was into making gifts, I also sewed together random scraps of fleece to make goofy hats and a scarf for my step-grandchildren!

Friday, December 21, 2018

I'm on a podcast!!!

This is a quickie post, to share my exciting news.  Back in the early fall, I was interviewed by Cindy Ingram of the Art Class Curator, for her podcast series.  In the whirlwind of my son's September wedding, Thanksgiving, and various other events, time whizzed by and I totally forgot about it.  Well, it turns out the podcast went live about a month ago!  Whoops!  How did I miss that???? 

Anyhow, if you want to hear my squeaky little voice talk about all things art education, here's a link to the podcast.  It's episode # 27, and I hope you'll give it a listen!  We focused quite a bit on art teacher longevity, which, after a public school career of 36 years (and another 6 with my private business) is something I guess I know a little about.  The namesake of this blog, my dragon Lucy (in the sky with diamonds) is mentioned early in our discussion, so above you can see a photo of Lucy and her baby Sparkle on a table in my former art room.  She is not wearing her wings in this photo (they are removable), because, with a 5' wingspan, she takes up a LOT of space.  So her wings were neatly stored on top of a cabinet until she had cause to wear them. 

Late in the episode, you'll hear Cindy ask me about an artwork that was pivotal in my life.  I respond by talking about a drawing done by my late grandfather Harry Levine, who I've blogged about on several occasions, here, here, here, here, and here.  I unfortunately never met my grandfather; he died before I was born.  You can't see a drawing when you are listening to a podcast, so here it is, below.  The drawing currently hangs in my nephew's home.  In the corner of the framed drawing is a photo of my nephew's father, who is my oldest brother, sitting under the drawing as a little boy.  If you listen to the podcast, you'll hear me try to explain why it is important to me.

Weirdly, while we discussed my preference for doing hands-on, tactile art projects with kids, there's so much we didn't discuss.  I didn't talk about toothpaste batik, or building papier-mache masks or cats or whatever, or painting procedures, or any other specifics about my teaching methods or projects.  But I suppose that's all stuff you can find here on the blog, right?

Anyhow, I hope you'll take some time to listen to the podcast, and hopefully get something out of it!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Rizzi-Inspired Papier-Mache Vehicles!

In DragonWing Arts, our theme for the fall was "Let's Get Moving!", and I developed a brand-new papier-mache project, building a prototype to make sure it was going to work. Above is the that prototype.

I introduced my small class to the charming work of James Rizzi.  I don't always have internet access, so I purchased a Rizzi calendar and shared his work with my students through the images on the calendar.  We especially noted the goofy vehicles with passengers and drivers with big smiles, wide eyes, and lots of personality.  And birds, too!  We noted the black outlines on all the bright colors.  And the students set out to make their own happy goofy vehicles.

They began with an assortment of boxes and other odds and ends.  Students taped parts together to create the basic desired shape of their vehicle, (and tested them with CDs to see how they'd look with wheels).   

Then they were covered with a couple of coats of papier-mache.

Meanwhile, CDs were decorated with colored Sharpies to become happy wheels, and we determined wheel placement on the vehicles.  I marked the location of the centers of the wheels and used a drill to cut holes for axles (wooden dowels).

Students painted a coat of gesso on the dry papier-mache.  The bright white gesso makes paint colors show up more brightly, essential for the James Rizzi theme.

Then, the vehicles were painted with cheerful colors.  

When the paint dried, we used oil-based paint markers to add people in the windows, and to outline the people and the areas of color on the vehicles with black.  The wheels were assembled with a slice of pool noodle between two CDs.  The axle was inserted in the vehicle, with a wheel placed on the dowel on each side, and a bottle cap hubcap was glued on each end of the dowel, not attached to the wheel.  This meant the wheels could each turn independently.   You can see the wheel construction on these photos below of my prototype.  I still need to add my headlights!
We used various 'gems' as lights and other embellishments on the vehicles.  Here's the box of gems after the lid popped off while I was putting it away.  Oops....

Here's an adorable finished train car made by my youngest student, a 3rd grade boy.

And a funky race car made by a 4th grade girl.

The wackiest shaped vehicle was this, which was some sort of camper trailer contraption, made by a delightful 5th grade girl.  She missed one class out of our 7 classes, and tends to work slowly, so I'm glad she was able to get this project complete. With more time, she could have spent more time on her windows and people.

I wish we'd had more time for more details, but we did the best we could with the time we had. We had one emergency class cancellation, not a snow day, but a squirrel day!  Yes, we  had a squirrel invader making himself at home in our classroom, and making quite a mess.  Once he was trapped (and released far away, I hope) we were able to get back to class.  I'm pretty terrified of rodents so this was a traumatic incident!

I only had three students this fall; they are three of the nicest kids ever.  There was zero arguing or fighting, and they were so kind to each other.  They go to different schools and hadn't met before, but instantly formed friendships and by the end of the session, they often left class arm-in-arm and with hugs, and had exchanged digits and were planning play dates!  So the projects were successful, but there was this additional success as well!

By the way - this was, as I said, a very small class.  If you attempt this project with a larger class, there's one important adaptation I'd make.  I'd use a base box of the same size for each student, that then could be added to.  If the bottom footprint of each vehicle, whether a train, a taxi, a school bus, a fire engine, a taxi cab, a truck, or an airplane, was the same size, all the axles could be cut to the same size and save a LOT of trouble!! Otherwise, this project can be done pretty easily.  Have fun!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

NYSATA convention, 2018

The week before Thanksgiving, I attended the annual NYSATA (NY State Art Teachers Association) convention.  It's NYSATA's 70th anniversary year, so the convention was held in the city where the organization originated: Buffalo, which is on the opposite side of the state from where I live.  There's so much I would have liked to visit in or near Buffalo, including the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Niagara Falls, and more, but with the combo of a busy convention, teaching two workshops, and winter weather, I never left the convention hotel until it was time for the long drive home.  Hopefully I'll be able to return in better weather to see everything that I missed! 
My first job at the convention was to set up the Bling Your Badge table, that our Region sponsors.  This table was my idea about 1/2 dozen years ago, and I've been in charge of it ever since.  It's a favorite pit stop for attendees at the convention.  I mean, who doesn't like to play with hot glue, rhinestones, pipe cleaners, beads, buttons, sequins, feathers, and more???

I taught two hands-on workshops at the convention.  One, Roofing Felt, was a repeat of a workshop I've taught before at both my state convention and at a regional workshop.  The topic of the other workshop was Kumihimo, which I'll talk about later in this post.

Forty people attended the Roofing Felt workshop, and it was fast, lively, and fun, and everyone did a great job.  I've talked about the roofing felt technique several times before on the blog, HERE, HERE, and HERE, so in today's post I'll mostly just share pictures of the creations of my workshop attendees after a quick explanation.  Participants drew in either chalk (chalkboard or sidewalk chalk) or soap, and then painted around their lines with acrylic paints, under-painting with white when brilliant color was desired.  The final step will be to wash off the chalk lines, so in these photos the lines are still very much visible.
 Here's everyone lined up to get their paints!
 Look at this roomful of people!  I think every seat was full!
This is me, showing samples, and explaining the paint options.  
Yup, my hair is sort of flame-colored this year. (It's also been turquoise and purple.)
 Thanks to this smiley friend who took many photos for me!
And here's some more images of work-in-progress from participants.

 Underpainting with white to make the colors show up more brightly:

On to the next workshop, Kumihimo:  Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding technique, that creates a spiral braid.  The basic materials are a simple circular loom (we used cardboard cake circles) with a hole in the center, and slits around the side, either 16 or 32, and yarn.  Participants learned the simple technique quickly and then dove right in.
One of the workshop attendees looked familiar. It turned out that she was a former elementary student of mine, at least a decade ago, who was attending the convention as one of the college art ed student volunteers.  How cool is that?!  I saw her later in the convention, and she was still working on her kumihimo. It had grown a lot!!
I also briefly shared a quickie method for making a rope, that can be done WAY faster than kumihimo or a traditional braid. This  technique will work great if, for example, your students have worked for weeks making woven pouches, and want to quickly make a handle.  The method was taught to me by my mother, who was an avid knitter and crocheter, and used this technique to make drawstrings or ties for sweaters.  Use two or more colors of yarn, cut to more than twice the length you need.  Have someone hold the other end, and twist the yarn as tightly as possible.  Don't let go, or it will un-twist!  When it is nice and tight, fold it in half and hold the two ends together.  The yarn will twist up into a rope.  Knot the ends you are holding so that it doesn't come untwisted.  Try it out!

When I wasn't teaching workshops, I was attending workshops!  My favorite was an almost 3-hour Intuitive Painting workshop.  It was a fabulous way to get rid of the stress from the previous day, and put everything aside to simply create.  I found it restorative.  If you ever have an opportunity to attend an Intuitive Painting workshop, give it a try!!  We painted with acrylics, with no pre-planned outcome, without talking, listening to (and responding to) music, responding to simple prompts, turning our paintings as we worked.  Here's my painting at various steps in the process.
I'm not sure of which way to show the final product. Here it is again, below, turned 90 degrees. Actually, I liked it better earlier in the process.  I think I might go back into the painting with oil paints and see what happens.
 Here's some paintings from other workshop participants.
There's much more I could say about the convention - the Friday Art Party, the student show, the 10x10 Member Show to benefit the scholarship fund, the vendors, the giveaways, and so on.  But the best part, of course, is the people, and the camaraderie of  interacting with other like-minded art educators.  It's worth the energy and stress of a long drive in bad road conditions in a loaner car, and having to clean up the mess of a popular activity.  Below, the Bling Your Badge table during cleanup. Thanks to the lovely folks who stepped up to help with the cleanup!