As in years past, our final exam for the Foundations of Studio Art class consists of an independent project designed by the students themselves. My goal is that each student sets out to explore their personal art interests. This means they can re-visit any of the materials, techniques, and themes we have explored during the school year. They do not need to revisit an entire project, just pieces of it. This way they already know set-up and clean up processes, as well as basic techniques with their chosen material and I can focus on guiding them through their though process, and perfecting their (mostly painting) technique.
They are graded using a contract filled out by each student and signed by me before they begin. I absolutely love the results this year, take a look!
We finally finished our recycled art projects and what wonderful sculptures they turned out to be! Each group really did a phenomenal job this year finding a unique way to solve a problem: How do you give a second life to an old box? Some transformations were more extreme than others. Some students preserved their original box while others disguised and incorporated their box into a larger sculpture as a material. The breadth of materials used this year was inspiring. One group even visited a few restaurants asking for corks, because they had their heart set on using them as “stones”. Some kind business owner happily gave them two trash bags full! Another group took a more direct approach to the assignment and created a garden exploding out of a box. All were really impressive. Take a look at the results!
What better time of year than the day after the annual art show! It’s like, phew we made it! Below you can see some of the wonderful artwork, not only my students but my wonderful colleagues’ students as well! Also, you can see the beautiful floral arrangements and decorations done by one of our parent volunteers. She has a background in interior design, and is truly incredible!
While I was away my students created beautiful acrylic paint and pastel landscapes based on their own photographs with my substitute. Lucky for me, my maternity leave sub was the wonderful woman who taught in my position at Stone Ridge for 25 years before I came along. So needless to say she knows a thing or two. Check these out!
We have begun our well established recycled unit. This year I have revamped the assignment by restructuring our project around a recycled amazon box. Each group has to bring in an amazon box, or use one of mine, as their jumping off point. My hope is that this constraint will encourage even more creative solutions to this problem. We will see.
Also, before I let everyone start we re-organized and reset the classroom, just so that we could mess it all up again. #artteacherlife
This year I altered my single object still life project by adding more unstructured painting at the beginning of the unit. Students were given more time to experiment with creating value and just enjoy the medium. What I have learned in my 6 years at Stone Ridge is that most of my students won’t get very much time or any time at all to paint outside of this unit. (except in French class! Where more cross-curricular work is happening!) Some of them did not even have art in their middle schools previous to Stone Ridge. If they went to Stone Ridge they have a wonderful experience with paint, but either way I just want them to experience the joy of painting before I enforce an attempt at painting from life, which can feel very intimidating. I think a lot of the intimidation comes from my students admiration of representational art and misconception that their abilities to create representational art directly reflect their artistic abilities. I want them to see value in the process, or at least experience joy in the process, and take some pressure off the final product being realistic. This is also reenforced in my rubric where there are grading categories for different steps in the process.
So this year we started by painting gradients, and spent time using pallet knives to just mix colors and experiment with the color mixing process. Just like last year, I held a competition to mix the grayest gray and they did a phenomenal job. I love the low stakes of this competition and also that it has the opportunity to highlight the talents of a student that might not have confidence in their representational art but has wonderful eye for color.
In the pictures below you can see that this year’s paintings have a slightly more relaxed style from previous years and I think the best color comprehension I’ve seen from my classes to date! You can also see one of our pre-assignment assignments where my students painted solid objects cast in raking light.
I love the beginning of the school year. Not just because I get a fresh order of art supplies, (and who doesn’t love that smell!) but because I love the air of optimism. I get so much planning and organizing done. The end of the school year is always a powerful time for reflection, but often my energy is not focused on organization. I did do a surprising amount last year, and I’m very thankful for it this fall. Still, in the fall I’m readjusting my lesson plans and setting up all of my plans for the year ahead. I can make adjustments from last year, and tweak lesson plans based on successes and failures.
I also just love teaching color theory. Something I intentionally start the year off with because it is just such a good base for the rest of the year, but also because by October all of my freshman will be learning about the visible light spectrum in their Physics classes. Today a student asked me if I knew that they were starting to learn about light in physics and it made me so happy to say, “Yes! Isnt it awesome!” I am hoping we have more of those moments this year!
Below you can see some quick snapshots of our work so far. We made unique color wheel posters, logos on Adobe Illustrator, we mixed our very own gray, and are using this gray to start learning about value ahead of our still life painting project. You can read about this unit in more detail here.
I do not teach print-making to my freshman. I have found that with my ambitious goal of trying to expose my students to everything from ceramics to painting to photography, as well as instilling the elements and principles or art and design, I just run out of time. I might re-evaluate this in years to come, it’s not like my curriculum is a done deal never to be worked on again, but for now, sadly, print-making doesn’t fit. So it was absolutely perfect when one of our world history teachers approached me with the idea of doing prints to compliment her content and add a little visual pizazz to the end of the year. I was happy to help! I believe in cross-curricular work and it’s benefits. You can see some of my cross-curricular work with the science department here.
So as part of the Renaissance and Reformation Unit, 9th graders analyze a series of Protestant woodblock prints criticizing what Protestants perceived were the corrupt practices of the 16th century Catholic Church. The lesson also asks them to consider the impact the printing press and printmaking had in general on the spread and impact of Reformation ideas. So that students gain a better understanding of the process of printmaking, I visited their history class and taught them how to design, carve, and then print “wood cuts,” (we used EZ-Cut synthetic blocks, not wood) protesting social and environmental issues that students cared about. As part of my lesson, I also reviewed the history of printmaking in the Renaissance, ranging from woodblock printing to engraving to etching. Students made three to four prints, one of which they glued into their Interactive History Notebooks. Their Interactive History Notebooks are these wonderful sketchbooks filled with notes, article clippings and art heavy history projects they do in class and for homework through-out the year. They are gorgeous objects, but anyways the block cuts were a success! Please take a look at the photos below.