“Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one, hence this label that was given us… because of me. I had sent a thing done in Le Havre, from my window, sun in the mist and a few masts of boats sticking up in the foreground. … They asked me for a title for the catalogue, it couldn’t really be taken for a view of Le Havre, and I said: ‘Put Impression.’” -Claude Monet

This past week we dived into the world of impressionism! We took a look at the radical roots of modernism and reached the end of our journey backwards through time. We painted with quick and visible brush strokes and tried to capture our impressions! Some of our artists included Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro. But as was true every week we didn’t forget the ladies: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, and Marie Bracquemond. By the end of the week we were able to answer the question: Who and what was Impressionism?


On our first day of Impressionism we read the following article and then students wrote their own definition of Impressionism. I encouraged students to take a good look at all of the photos accompanying the article. We then read the following article and then students found an example of modern art they thought was “radical” and shared it with the class. They also posted a link to their radical art for their fellow classmates to reference later.

For our first mini project students tried to capture the style of the impressionist. They took a piece of paper 7”x11” and created a landscape based on a photograph of their favorite place. (This was a photograph they had taken, and were assigned as homework to bring in) Just like the expressionists the week before, they let their mood and feelings associated with this place guide their brush strokes. However, the impressionist did not use vivid or exaggerated colors like the expressionists and fauvists. They would instead, use color to try and capture the specific time of day, and amount of like they were experiencing in that moment. So students were asked to keep this in mind while making their color choices. As a class we all took a look at the many ways in which Monet painting the exact same cathedral : , and thought about how color can say a lot about the time of day. At the end of class we left 10 minutes to clean up and five for a short critique. Students asked their fellow classmates if they could tell what time of day it is in their painting.




On our second day we read the following article about Plein Air painting: . Then, for the second mini project each student received an 8”x10” canvas and some conveniently tubed paint (i mentioned that paint before the impressionists time hadn’t always been so conveniently tubed) and brought it with us outside! Bringing out water for their brushes was the only real challenge. Students then painted the Hamilton house (a historic part of our gorgeous campus at Stone Ridge) and the surrounding foliage from any angle they liked. They were painting “en plein air.” At the end of class we left 10 minutes to clean up and five for a short critique. Students asked their fellow classmates what they thought were their paintings strengths and weaknesses.



For our final project students had two choices. They could either create a second Plein Air painting outside, a diptych if they wanted, or they could return to painting from a photograph (that they had taken themselves) inside, in the air conditioning. This final painting’s aim was to demonstrate their understanding of the impressionist’s style and approach to painting. We left 10 minutes to clean up and ten for a longer critique. Students asked their fellow classmates what thought were their painting’s strengths and weaknesses. On day four they had a chance to make any improvements they felt necessary to their paintings. (Our week was shortened due to me having to attend a yearbook workshop in Gettysburg Maryland)




Express Yourself (ism)

Expressionism was the name of the game for this unit. It was an exciting week, because it was time to paint bold bright colorful paintings. Below are some of our experiments with expressionistic themes.

First we looked at Kandinsky:


20140721_110622We then moved on to August Macke, my favorite German expressionist.


Then, we were on to our own expressionist paintings. This was especially inspirational because my teenage student’s enthusiasm for expressing themselves and exploring emotions added energy to this assignment. Can you tell what kind of feelings they were trying to express, what mood they were trying to capture?





Museum Visit to SAAM & the NPG

Here are some photos from my summer classes recent trip to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and National Portrait Gallery. It is currently my favorite museum in Washington, DC. I think, no I know, my students had an amazing time and not just because we stopped at a Starbucks beforehand while we waited for it to open. It was a truly amazing and inspiring trip and I was so excited to see each one buzzing with excitement afterwards.

Each student was tasked with finding and sketching four pieces of art that they really enjoyed and wanted to remember. The results were amazing. The trip was amazing, and we were so lucky to have the opportunity to go.















As I’ve mentioned we are moving back in time through the modern movements. In addition to keeping a living timeline in our sketchbooks we are also looking for connections in the philosophies of each movement and their techniques. It has been incredibly rewarding to hear them making connections from pop art to surrealism. This week we explored DADA or Dadaism.

We looked at the mama of dada Beatrice Wood and focused on the elements texture and form. Some important things to consider when creating ceramic work.






Building off of last week we created some not quite automatic poetry inspired by the Dadaist Tristan Tzara:

  • Take a newspaper.
  • Take a pair of scissors.
  • Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
  • Cut out the article.
  • Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
  • Shake it gently.
  • Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
  • Copy conscientiously.
  • The poem will be like you.
  • And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.



We then looked at Duchamp and created our own ready-made art inspired by Duchamp’s Fountain.






It was quite a non-sensical week. DADA! Below are the final products that resulted from our week of dadaism. All of my students had the option to create a ready-made sculpture or a ceramic work, and all of them chose to return to ceramics.




(photo missing)


A Surreal Week

For our second week of summer classes we took a look at the bizarre and the dreamlike art of the surrealists. We focused on the element value and the principal balance. We also looked at Rene Margritte (My favorite surrealist) and a later surrealist Leonora Carrington. Leonora Carrignton has an interesting story that includes leaving home behind, having an affair with a married man and becoming an ex-pat in Mexico. Juicy enough to keep teens interested in her biography and work.

Our first project was to take a surrealist work and make it our own. I did a similar project to this last year which you can see here.







After our studies of the masters students began to create their own surrealist works. These were based on what they understood to be surrealism. They wrote their own definitions, and based their work on some of the automatic writing we had done.


surreal 1

surreal 2

surreal 3

surreal 4

surreal 5





As you can tell some students used photoshop and some painted. We had created small photoshop images based on automatic poems we had written earlier in the week, so they had both materials as an option.

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