Re-Visiting Collage Portraits

This year I revisited my theory that my foundations students should collage for paints sake. You can read more about it here. This is also my diversity piece. And this year I got some incredibly thoughtful responses to the National Geographic article that we read. Below are some quotes from their responses.

“My partner is a mix of hispanic and white. She has beautiful tan skin, brown hair, and brown eyes. When I first started this project, I presumed that it would be easy to find these colors in magazines. However, as I began working, I realized that I could find almost no tan skin tones because most of the models in the magazines had blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. Thus I began looking through magazines that featured african american women to find a skin tone that could pass for my partner’s hispanic complexion.  “


“My partner is Hispanic and she has beautiful brown eyes and dark hair, but most of the models I find are the classic blonde barbies making it difficult to capture her unique beauty.”




“This article is interesting in exploring the recent acceptance of “multiracial” people. It also raises an interesting question, in that it asks, is defining races at all inherently racist? Or is assigning meaning to those meaningless categories  the problem? My partner [has] brown-haired, hazel-eyed and of European descent. There’s a veritable plethora of similar models in the magazines I was looking through. I can see how it might be a problem for other races, hair colors, and eye colors though. “


“While looking through magazines, I notice that it is very rare to see any POC (Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc.). If I do stumble across a black person, they are of a lighter shade, and my partner has beautiful dark skin. This is not only frustrating as a black women, but it is disheartening to see that my people are not vastly represented in the popular magazines of our culture.”


“In the article at one part it was listing the many different ways the industry has been trying to make diversity a bigger focus. I think the industry actually has been doing a better job, though people have different opinions. We have a lot of progress to make but it is a start. I noticed that in the magazines there are a majority of white models. My partner is white so it was not a problem for me but it could be for others. There are so many beautiful people out there but the magazines i have looked in only have a majority of white and black people. My partner is white but of a darker shade, she is tanner than the models i have seen so it has been hard to match her skin tone.”


Oh and one more thing. This year, thanks to snapchat, we were able to see if we could fool the snapchat face finding algorithm into thinking our collages were actual faces. The results were a barrel of laughs, but also kind of terrifying:

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Art Show

Any art teacher who has the opportunity to host an art show at the end of the year knows, its both a blessing and a burden. It’s an amazing opportunity to display your students artwork. This way of celebrating and recognizing their efforts can give a big boost to your students self esteem. It say to them, “I, your teacher, am proud of you. I love what you’ve done and you should be proud, too.” Of course an art show also means weeks of hoarding artwork with little place to store it, mountains of labels to make and a billion item to frame and hang. Oh and we have to hammer into mortar here… we have no real gallery, but what a first world problem.  Right?

I am so grateful for how all our hard work panned out. Between all of us art teachers here I’m sure we put in about 40 hours just into the hanging, alone. It was a monumental success with wonderful attendance and plenty of fun festivities. We had live drawings being done by students and even some brave students doing throwing demos on the wheel. My favorite piece was all of the wonderful music performances peppered through-out the event. 
20160422_142503Another thrilling aspect was the fashion! My freshman who chose to make outfits for their recycled art project had to wear them to the event, and they looked fabulous!











National Gallery of Art

On April 11th my Studio II class and I  headed down to the National Gallery of Art. It was an amazing day full of wonder and inspiration. As many of you know the majority of the east wing is currently closed for construction which means there was only a very small amount of modern art on display. I think my girls were a tad disappointed, but not dispirited in what they could see.

We have just finished a long unit of self portraits and looked to many of the great masters for inspiration. While we were at the museum I divided my class into two groups: Those students whom I knew to have an affinity for visible brush strokes (my impressionists) and those whom I knew to be very focused on smooth representational, precisely proportioned painting (my renaissance painters).


My impressionist were asked to find Young Girl Reading, by Fragonard, Jean-Honoré. I asked them to think about what they had learned about the French revolution, and its connected art history. I also wanted them to really connect with the brush strokes. In addition to this my amazing principal who was my co-chaperone reminded them that an image of a women holding a book would have been revolutionary back then. She even helped them make a connection with our founding mothers, who had wanted to create an education for young women. Living through the French Revolution “Sophie Barat was awake to the social, political, economic and religious currents operating in Europe and in the wider world of her time. By her awareness of their impact on the world of education Sophie Barat ensured the Society’s contribution to the education and the promotion of women in her time and into the future,” according to the Society of the Sacred Heart.




My renaissance painters were asked to find Da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci. I asked them to think about why Leonardo Da Vinci chose to portray Ginevra from the front instead of at a profile view, like was popular at that time. I also told them that art historians do not know exactly who commissioned the portrait. I asked them if they could guess who it might have been, based on the brief history I had given them. A lover? Husband? Family member?
















At the end of the day we convened in the cascade cafe and a few of us had gelato while we waited for everyone to appear. Then it was back to school to reflect on the day we had had. It was an amazing outing.



There I am in the stripped shirt! Look at these beautiful smiling faces!


Finished Recycled Projects

We finally finished our wonderful recycled art projects. This is my second year teaching this unit and it was so wonderful to see what a variety of results we got just this year alone.

To learn more about this project you can take a look back at what some of my artists did last year here:































Back to Recycling!

Just like last year, my Foundations of Studio Art classes are saving the planet with recycled art projects!

Here you can see what we have begun calling our “trash island”. It is an ever-growing pile of stuff that has potential as art supplies. However it kind of explodes each class, and has to be re-sorted at the end of each class period. Thank goodness for 80 minute class periods!20160224_125520

This time around we have expanded the number of attachment materials available to the girls. My classroom has recently gotten more basic tools, including an electric drill and a hand saw, as well as a sewing machine. This has opened up more possibilities for my students.













Here is my classroom at the end of a crazy whirlwind day of creating and making. You can see examples of Louise Nevelson, our inspiration for the day, on my television screen. I know you can’t tell much from our progress photos, but just wait! These recycled art sculptures are going to be amazing!



Deco vs. Nouveau

What is the difference between Art Nouveau and Art Deco you ask? Think Titanic vs. Gatsby. (The Leonardo DiCaprio movies obviously.)

This was the aim of our ceramics jewelry unit. I wanted all of my students to know the difference between Deco and Nouveau. As we travel back in time through the movements I want my students to have some exposure, not only to fine art, but to the decorative arts as well.

This was a new unit this year, I decided to replace our unit on vessels with  a jewelry unit. For this project I purchased porcelain clay so that our results could be smaller and more fine. I also showed our students work from the beginnings of the Tiffany Company and a particular designer named Clara Driscoll.  (Louis Comfort Tiffany had claimed some of her designs as his own, but thanks to the discovery of some personal letters Clara has now been recognized posthumously.) We also looked at beautiful examples of these two schools in architecture, furniture, and of course jewelry.

Once the differences, similarities and influences had been totally explored each student chose which style they liked best. They then had to use our engineering design process to create a piece of jewelry that embodies that particular style. It could be a necklace, a bracelet, earrings or a ring. I brought in all of the jewelry making supplies they would need and did a few demonstrations so that they could get a grasp of the possibilities and limitations. Then we began…
















Testing them out:













And our final display:





Figuring out the Figure

It has been an amazing journey so far this year watching my superb Studio II students develop and grow in their drawing skills, and more importantly in their drawing confidence!

Here you can see some of my example drawings. This was a day of drawing the stars! Below are Adele, Kylie Jenner, and Taylor swift. Can you tell who’s who?


Here is some of my students work. They are drawing one of the biggest stars… me! You can see in these students were encouraged to use a mix of both ink and charcoal.















Many Perspectives

This Year Interior design projects have become a somewhat permanent addition to my curriculum. While I am always tweaking and changing my lesson plans each year, this one feels fully developed and I think it’s here to stay. What I might change next year would be small things like what artists I introduced during this unit, and what examples of their work we looked at. I am also open to suggestions as to how this unit in particular might relate to physics. While other units have a direct connection, this one feels like it’s missing a potential cross-curricular element. Maybe it isn’t Physics, maybe I need to look at the math or English curriculum?

Last year I debuted our new and improved interior design project. I decided that a simple one point perspective study of a bedroom was not a dynamic enough assignment for my brilliant young women. So I created a two piece project. The first piece was a focus on one point perspective as a drawing technique. (This can be a tedious and painfully slow drawing technique for some young high schoolers.) The second piece was a focus on interior design. This involved choosing a theme, fabric samples, a color scheme (color theory!!), and creating a Pinterest board. In the end the final product was a mood board with a rendering of the proposed room. Something like what a real interior designer might bring to a pitch in order to show the client.

Like So:

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Either way the results this year were fantastic!







My thought process here was that if I could alternate between beginning or ending each class with a formulaic drawing technique, and begin or end with open ended design, it would keep students more engaged. This proved successful when I received far fewer groans and moans about one point perspective drawing than I have in years past. Everyone was so excited about creating an imaginary room, with a limitless budget, that I think they hardly noticed they were learning. I was even more impressed with how confidently my young women asserted their individual tastes and styles, without any apparent hesitation of being judged by their peers. However, it shouldn’t surprise me that much since self confidence and industriousness are definitive traits of Stone Ridge girls.

You can read more about the assignment from last years post here: 




























Getting Wavy

I became fascinated (briefly) with movie making in college after documenting a trip that my friend Katelyn and I took from Brooklyn, New York down to DC. During this trip I took my good friend to see the National Gallery, the newly completed National Museum of the American Indian, and the HirshhornWhile at the Hirshhorn, I think this was March 2010, I saw a“Play Dead; Real Time” by Scottish artist Douglas Gordon. It was a double sided panel in the middle of a large room with an elephant being projected onto both sides and eerie ambient sound playing. After this I made a series of abstract video art pieces where I focused more intentionally on sound then I ever had. This led me to research the history of the video art movement, and discover artists like Joan Jonas and John Cage. 

Below is a glimpse of my college years. I now know that blonde works much better for me…

Unfortunately, my last school did not have the resources to have any sort of video program. We barely had working laptops. So passing this interest on to my students would have to wait. Since I have been at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart I have experimented and tweaked this assignment, landing on what I now call our “Soundscape Unit”.

For this unit we focused on sound and then video. We used GarageBand and iMovie to create short “soundscapes”. Each student worked together with two of their peers, chosen by me. To begin, we took a look at sound art, and video art as an artistic medium and vehicle of expression. We found inspiration in the artist John Cage, who relies on chance for his art-making, and composing. This lead us to the term Fluxus, an art movement largely inspired by John Cage and some of his contemporaries. 


For this assignment I asked students to use both their cell phones and laptops as tools. This was one of the reasons that group work was important to me. I did not want to exclude students who did not have a cell phone that was video capable. Luckily we have a one to one laptop program at our school, so everyone had access to the same software.GarageBand and iMovie are both programs that come standard on the MacBook Pros that our girls have. The girls then used these tools to capture sound and video simultaneously and separately. They recorded and composed a two minute composition of just sounds using GarageBand. They then brought this composition into iMovie where they added visuals.

Did I mention this was due on Halloween?

At the end of this assignment presented their video to the class along with an explanation of their process, and intentions. They replayed moments for us where they used the element of texture, the principle of harmony and the three examples of physics concepts. Finaly, their videos ended up here:

This project was also designed to be a follow up to their most recent unit on sound waves in Physics, a class all freshman take. It is a built in part of our STEAM initiative to connect art with other Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes. Because they had just learned about sound waves in Physics I added the additional challenge of including one example of each of the following to their project:

  1. A change in sound wave frequencies, or the “Doppler effect”.
  2. A reflected sound, or an echo.
  3. A sound wave transmitted through something other than a gas.

Finally, I asked my students not to forget what we had just learned in the previous unit. I reminded them to compose their shots, just like they had composed their paintings, and think about color and contrast. 

I hope you have time to watch more of our videos here: Enjoy!



At Stone Ridge we strive to teach our students the importance of helping those in need. Whether it is our community’s elderly, homeless, children, our animals friends, or the environment, serving is treated as an opportunity to make the world a better place. In fact, the social action program at Stone Ridge was one of the first and most significant factors that attracted me to the school. I was brought up in the Quaker tradition, and had a similar program at my high school that ended up exposing me to my future career. Through serving children in my local community I found a love of teaching that has impacted the rest of my life. The opportunity to potentially offer the same meaningful experience to my students at Stone Ridge is monumental.

Sacred Heart Schools are a connected network of Catholic schools with institutions stretching around the world. Over 41 countries. Each of these schools is united by one set of five goals. Simply put these goals are Faith, Intellect, Social Awareness, Community, and Wisdom. Goal three, Social Awareness, is the one I want to celebrate here today.

An outline of Goal Three as published by the Society of the Sacred Heart:

Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a social awareness which impels to action. The Society of the Sacred Heart developed the following criteria for this Goal:

1. The School educates to a critical consciousness that leads its total community to analyze and reflect on the values of society and to act for justice.

2. The School offers all its members opportunities for direct service and advocacy and instills a life-long commitment to service.

3. The School is linked in a reciprocal manner with ministries among people who are poor, marginalized and suffering from injustice.

4. In our multicultural world, the School prepares and inspires students to be active, informed, and responsible citizens locally, nationally, and globally.

5. The School teaches respect for creation and prepares students to be stewards of the earth’s resources.

It really impresses me that I work at a place that recognizes the need for such a truly well rounded education. I feel like some Catholic schools might just stop after the first two goals, faith and intellect. According to the Sacred Heart Network, “While five goals and their criterion unite the twenty-four member schools of the Network in the United States and Canada, the schools enjoy an even wider affiliation with the people and institutions associated with the Society of the Sacred Heart in forty-one countries around the globe. This truly international character of Sacred Heart education helps to foster an important global awareness in our students as we strive to build a more just world.” I think a more just world is just fantastic!


Here I have captured only one of many acts of kindness and service I have witnessed in my time at Stone Ridge. Below are photos of the four girls I chaperone on social action days. Every other Wednesday we head down to a local organization called Mary House DC, that serves families. From their website: “The philosophy at Mary House has always been to help others as we ourselves would want to be helped, while providing a safe haven that allows families to reclaim their dignity”

My students help out in the education center. They organize crafting activities, and help maintain the space. The education center serves as the Mary House summer camp and after school program location. Because of this, for our first few months of service my students had never actually seen the children they were serving. (They arrive after school, we leave by 2pm) However, with special permission from our school, and this was no small feet, actually a scheduling nightmare, we were able to stay late one Wednesday, and my students were able to meet the adorable and amazing children they had been preparing crafts for. We threw a little cookie decorating party and it was a hit. My students were touched, and it was an amazing experience for everyone involved. However, most of the time they are working diligently to create lessons and fun that they themselves won’t participate in or see, and I think that is what is truly impressive.

Below, you can see pictures of these compassionate young women doing their best to create a decorative tree for the education center. Each leaf has a helpful and kind behavior and is meant to serve as motivation and positive reinforcement for the children in the after school program. You can also see my students holding up two Thanksgiving themed bags of food they put together to donate to one specific family, as a holiday gift.

Social Action days are truly one of the best parts of my job. I am not just an art teacher I am a witness to the incredible compassion and caring acts of my students.









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