New School Year!

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.

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A Little Cross-Curicular to End The Year

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.

En Plein Air

When it was safe to say that spring had sprung my Studio II class so we escaped the confines of the classroom and explored a small bike path and creek by our school. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to finish our paintings, but the experience was worthwhile and something I highly recommend.

*One disclaimer is that in order to paint outside with acrylics, which is what we did, a painter needs to add a significant amount of slow-dry acrylic medium, as well as have some extra on the palette.  This will keep your paint from drying up immediately.

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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: https://emmateachesart.com/2015/03/21/planet-saved/

Enjoy!

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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.

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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!

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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…

Sketches:

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Process:

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Testing them out:

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And our final display:

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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!

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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: emmateachesart.com/2014/12/02/interior-design/ 

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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. 

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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: https://www.youtube.com/user/StoneRidgeStudioOne/videos

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: https://www.youtube.com/user/StoneRidgeStudioOne/videos. Enjoy!

Bookmaking with Studio II

“For our last unit, Ms. Cowan introduced our Studio Art II class to the craft of bookmaking. Not only were we creating books to physically use, but our creations were something I had never associated with books before: sculptural works of art. Well-crafted books serve their practical purposes well, but in this unit, we stressed the importance of craftsmanship. We were taught two different kinds of bookmaking through accordion books and binding books with thread.
The theme we focused on when creating was “duality”, which is also the theme of Callithump (our school’s literary/art magazine) this year. Some of my classmates used their newfound knowledge of bookmaking to express duality through the physical books themselves. Others, like me, confined the theme to the pages of the books we created.
In all, it was quite a unique experience! I don’t think anyone who signed up for this course thought that it would include bookmaking. At least, I didn’t, but I’m so very glad we were able to do this unit. Not only was it creative, but also educational in how books are typically traditionally made. I’ve got to say, I have a newfound appreciation for the work that went into any hand-bound book.”
-Hannah
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