New York Snow

Today, up in Hudson Heights, my “Let’s look in our favorite book!” class had our second in-home lesson. In honor of the snow we read The Mitten, by Jan Brett. (My favorite winter time children’s book.) And then Painted the snow. I brought brown and red paper so that our white and blue tempera paint would have contrast. Even though brown is more of a ground-like color everybody choose red. I am happy to give the children choices when it comes to their projects. Because I already pick the material and give a general topic, it is important that they also have the opportunity to make artistic choices.

After painting snow for a while we looked at Eloise, by Kay Thompson. We didn’t read the whole story, but we did look at her messy room. And then we made our own messy rooms. For the younger boys I included squiggles and curly curves to show how my shoes flew when I kicked them off my feet, and my coat soared through the air when I shucked it off. I wanted to emphasize that this did not have to be a representational drawing. For the older girls I drew a bed and some boots. After we drew these with oil pastels it was important that we talk about how drawing with oil pastels was different from chalk, crayons, and colored pencils. We decided that they were very soft and very oily. Last, we used watercolor to finish up our awesome, messy bedrooms.

After class I took this picture of the amazing view from the 190th St. A train station.

Yellow, Jaune, Amarillo!

Second week in the in-home Triangles, Circles, and Squares class in DUMBO. The 2 year olds were more focused on playing with toys this week than making art, but we still made some very good yellow art.

Our color this week was yellow, and every 2 year old came in today with a yellow toy of their own. One girl didn’t come because of the weather and I do not blame her. Aparently there were 19 inches in Central Park today! Here is a shot of DUMBO on my way to work.

Sibling Revelry

Yes, sibling revelry. A bad pun, but a great class this past Sunday up in Hudson Heights. This class had three sets of older sister younger brother duos. All of these families live in Hudson Heights, in the same building or close by. It is a beautiful neighborhood.

Now, even those of you who live here in New York, you might not have heard of Hudson Heights. In fact, one friend even claimed that I really went to a made-up neighborhood and that I was just in a fancy part of Washington Heights… well. Hudson Heights, according to Wikipedia, is a “sub-neighborhood of Washington Heights“. So I guess he might have been a little bit right. Hudson Heights is home to the Cloisters and Fort Washington Park. It also has the most gorgeous view right at the entrance to the 190th St. station on the A train.

We started out this semester-long class titled “Let’s Look In Our Favorite Book” with Harold’s Trip to the Sky by Crockett Johnson. Each week in the class we will create work inspired by a classic work of children’s literature. Here is some of our artwork from the first class:

Pirates and the Caribbean

So last week I had told students that we were going to Spain, and making pottery. Turns out I didn’t actually have any clay and wasn’t going to get to place the order for a while. “They’ll KILL me!” I thought. (I am not actually scared of children and I do not cater to the whims of my students, I am just being dramatic here for effect.) So in order to save myself from the angry mob of 20 something students in my two Art Around the World classes, I decided to tell them all that we were boarding a cruise ship to Spain. A ridiculous idea because that would take forever, but it bought me a way out of the Spain promise. The students came in put their coats away and sat on the carpet as per usual. “Close your eyes,” I said, “and imagine you are sipping a smoothie and taking in the sun. Lean your head back and imagine you can feel the sun on your face… WHAM! BAM!” I made a few other dramatic noises and then explained that pirates were attacking our ship.

I have to admit this got everyone a little loud, but I wasn’t surprised and I was mostly flattered that I was successful in getting them involved. We also had three 5th graders as volunteers this week, because after weeks of badgering the school for an assistant I had finally gotten my wish, along with a second class because apparently, as they explained it, the class had been so popular that there was a long waiting list. Would I mind teaching a second class, for twice the price? Would I ever! So, as a result I had three volunteers, which solved my problem of not having time to set up, and a second class.

As I quieted the class down I informed them that unfortunately the pirates had stolen all of our food and we were going to have to dock the ship, but what they hadn’t managed to steal was our treasure. The 5th graders were actually expert swordsmen and they had fought off the pirates. I had the three 5th graders stand up at this point and introduce themselves to the class. We read a story about a girl who lived on an island and could hear the ocean in her sea shell and then it was time to make art.

Because the Pirates hadn’t stolen our treasure we still had it, but we knew they would return soon to try again. It was best if we all made out own treasure chests and buried them ASAP! Each student got one treasure box (cardboard jewelry boxes I had taken from the recycling at an old job) and six pieces of treasure (assorted junk including old fabric and beads from my apartment). The 5th graders were absolutely wonderful in helping my little kindergarten/first grade artists find six pieces each of “treasure,” and what would normally be seen as junk became very special stuff. On the table I had old broken popsicle sticks, among other things, and one 5th grader declared them to be “pieces of a sunken ship”. This made them very popular items, as you can imagine.

After we made out treasure chests it was time to bury them. So we did. We “buried” them in our backpacks. It was important that we were able to get back and find them again once it was safe. So obviously we wrapped up the class by making treasure maps.

Studio/Classroom Space

Studio space can be something that either limits or enhances my lessons. Take, for example, the studio space that I have for my ceramics class. There is a double sink big enough for 4 students at a time, several huge table, 15 pottery wheels, and a slab roller for rolling slabs. This enables me to teach both slab building and throwing pottery. It allows me to let the students all clean up their own mess, without me having to do it afterwards.

However, a bad studio space or classroom can be extremely limiting. My classroom at P.S. 154 is small and it is also a fully functional kindergarten classroom that is occupied up until exactly 5 minutes before I get there. This is the least ideal situation I have ever had to work in and it presents many problems. Of the many, I don’t have time to set up. Additionally I have to stay afterward and re-stack chairs, move back the tables I’ve moved and sweep. Earlier I talked about the importance of having students clean up their own mess. In my Art Around the World class at P.S. 154 I do have students clean up their materials at the end of the lesson, but I never have them re-organize the room. It is not that I don’t want to make them it is that I already have them involved in setting up the room when they arrive that if I were to also have them re-set everything it would eat up all of our work time. So I stay after and that is that. It is what the space calls for. One positive thing I have discovered is that collabrative drawing are an excellent way to keep my students busy while I set out their materials.

The Color Red

This week, Thursday January 20th, I began my first in-home class for a group of 4 two and three year old artists, and their parents. The class was held in the very beautiful apartment of one of the mothers in DUMBO. When I arrived I got to meet all of my miniature artists and their parents. All of them lived in the same apartment building, and all of the little artists had red hair! Once I was able to tear myself away from the view out of the apartments floor to ceiling windows I set up our three project for the day. We read Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell then worked together on a collaborative drawing using red chalk, crayons, colored pencils and oil pastels. then we used glue to decorate and collage a frisbee so that we could play with Clifford. After than it was time for the piece de resistance: Model Magic dog houses for Clifford! We had a great time and thanks to my plastic table cloth clean-up was easy-peasy.

Starting Our Adventure

On Thursday January 13th, 2011, we began a new adventure around the world in my Art Around the World class. I decided that the best place to begin, since we were picking up some new travelers this semester, would be the good ol’ USA. USA! USA! And what better place to be in the USA than New York City? Well we all know the answer, and the answer is no-where. We read The Adventures of Taxi Dog, by Sal and Debra Barracca, and imagined we were taking a taxi all around New York City, weaving in and out of traffic. (It is important to point out that these students of mine live in a sleepy part of Brooklyn called Windsor Terrace, where they¬† likely take gypsy cabs and car services and hardly ever get to ride in the yellow taxis. The ones with cabbies who have a conniption if they even hear the name of an outer borough.) So there we were, swerving through traffic, whizzing by the Chrysler , the Flat Iron, the Empire State building, past Central Park, up the West Side, past the Museum of Natural History, and there we were in Harlem. Where the Harlem Renesance happened, and home to the great Apollo Theater. Also the place where an Artist named Romare Bearden lived in the 60’s and 70’s. Romare Bearden being my favorite collage artist.

At this point we watched a quick slide show I had put together in iPhoto, of Romare Bearden’s work accompanied by some Miles Davis, because I thought it might set the mood. After the slide show, I had a few students share with the class one of their past experiences with collage. Then we all set out to create out own New York city, using a mix of paper and fabric scraps. Below are some photos of the work:

Trompe l’oeil

Here is a Christmas gift that I made for my friend Michael. (He was nice enough to take a picture of it and send it to me.) My idea in making this object was to make a funny and cute sculpture that looked like an actual distortion pedal, because I certainly wasn’t going to buy him one. This gave me an idea for a possible lesson plan for maybe middle school, or high school students. I think it could be an amazing adventure to just have students re-make their favorite electronics using cardboard and paint. It would bring their own interests into the classroom and also give them a chance to reflect on the digital world we live in.

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