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:

IMG_7111 IMG_3110 IMG_0717 IMG_0264 image

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!

And So It Begins…

I know, I know, it’s October, but September is a busy month for teachers, especially this one. I have been very busy adjusting for the exciting new changes that came with this year. To begin with, we have two new teachers in our upper school visual  art department. That makes four of us. We have yours truly, our foundations of studio art teacher, and Katya our photography teacher, and new this year are Tom, our ceramics teacher, and Lee, our advanced studio art teacher. Second thing that’s new this year is that I’m teaching not only Foundations of Studio Art and Yearbook, but I am adding a section of Studio II. This means I’m dropping one of my four Foundations of Studio Art classes and handing it over to Tom, our new ceramics teacher. I am thrilled to be adding a class, but it has kept me busy with syllabus planning, and making sure to communicate my lesson plans and objectives with another teacher. This also means that the classroom is now being shared by not two, but three teachers at a time. This has kept us very busy, since I saw this as a great time for total classroom re-organization! Finally, LaShonda the Physics teacher and I have been collaborating and lining up our curriculum for the sake of cross-disciplinary learning for two years now. This summer we presented our development of this program at the NCGS conference. However, this year, for the first time, we have to share our initiative with an additional physics teacher and a new foundations teacher. (More on that later.) So big changes, but good changes, and all bode well for the fantastic year ahead.

So Lets begin with Foundations of Studio Art. A wonderful place to begin. We are once again starting slow and steady with our unit on Light and Color. We began with Color Wheels and are going to work our way up to single object still life paintings.


In Studio II we began our year with a unit on line. Line is a fine place to start. Our plan is to  move on to book-making as a short break from drawing as well as a focus on craftsmanship, and then re-visit drawing through value, and eventually paint!


And Finally, in Yearbook we are charging into the year full steam! Our three student Editors, and our staff are running the show. They have already chosen our theme for the year (TOP SECRET) and our color scheme, fonts, and many other pieces. We’ve even started designing the senior pages. These are entire pages of the book, one dedicated to each senior, with photos and quotes selected by them.

Screenshot 2015-10-06 16.05.32


Blossom Festival!



IMG_20150411_114309So I work two jobs. It’s great to earn extra money when you are saving for a house!

My weekend work involves being a teaching artist at Glen Echo Park Partnership Park for the Arts and Culture, at Glen Echo National Park, in Glen Echo Maryland. (long enough?) I occasionally gallery sit and manage events, but every Saturday, from 10am-12pm I set up a family art activity in the Candy Corner. The Candy Corner used to be a candy store way back when Glen Echo was an amusement park. Now it is a small classroom and art studio meant for younger children.

This past weekend and the one before, I designed a lesson inspired by the Washington DC cherry blossom festival, and just the range of blossoms we have blooming in the DC Metro area.

For this project I decided I would collect sticks, and have children paint them and then glue on bits of white and pink paper. My ideal age range for this art activity was 14 months-14 years old. Art has a way of differentiating itself based on the child’s needs and age.

It was totally fun and fabulous, and if you are around the DC area May 2nd, and you have a small child I highly recommend you join me for a day of family fun at Glen Echo! More information here:







Four Weeks with Sound

Fall has finally really begun, and the leaves are beginning to change. In Foundations of Studio Art, for the past two weeks, and the next two weeks, we are dedicating our time to creating sound art. We defined sound art as “a term for a diverse set of art practices which utilize sound and listening as the subject matter and material… Among the wide variety of forms that might be grouped within the category of sound art are: kinetic sounding sculpture, automatons, experimental radio, sound installations , guided sound-walks, instrument making, graphic scores, sound poetry, and video art,”  as defined by experimental sound artist Chris Reider. This project is titled Sound collage: A Garage Band and iMovie project. 

This project was 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. Art and Design are the key to STEAM, and I will write more on this later. But for now, check out Rhode Island School of Design’s website on this fantastic initiative here: But, our project wasn’t just inspired by the goings on in science class. We also had a little art history, and examined some of the works of John Cage, the famous sound artist and composer. He was very avant garde for his time and I wasn’t exposed to him until half way through collage, but these girls are incredibly intelligent. I saw no reason to not give their soon to be avant garde projects some real context. (Below is one of the videos we watched in class.)

As far as limitations and guidelines I was very specific in how I would grade each project. However, after each of these guidelines were met the students were encouraged to take their sound art in any direction they wanted. My expectations were as follows. Each group of two or three students had to create a 2-5 minute long video with their sound art as the soundtrack. The were expected to use garage band, itunes, and imovie to create their works of art. (These are all programs pre-loaded on their mac laptops) They were expected to focus on the elements texture, and space, and include at least one example of how sound can create the feeling of texture and how sound can create the illusion of space. They were also asked to focus on the principles variety and harmony. Variety so that it had audible interest, and harmony between two separate sounds. They were asked to include a moment of silence or meaningful silence as well as one found sound, and one sound they created themselves: a womanmade noise. Within these boundaries they were free to focus on whatever theme they liked. Although, with Halloween coming up, I’m afraid (literally) that many of these works of art might be scary.

Alternately, the fact that my students are connecting the power of sound with horror movies, just warms my heart. It means they are really paying attention and diving into this project head-on! I can’t wait to see the final results.






Here are some more of the videos we watched in class (John Cage) (John Cage) (Caught a Ghost) (Sound Art Instilation) (Sound Art Instilations)

Pop! Goes the Summer

I am taking on a summer course at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. It is called Multi-Dimensional Studio. My explanation of the course for our school website goes as follows:

“An exploration in the decorative and fine art, Multi-Dimensional Studio will challenge students to find new meaning in art through studio work and museum visits.  The course is designed to introduce various art mediums, techniques and styles including acrylic paint on canvas, soft sculptures, mixed media collage, recycled/upcycled art, charcoal drawing, digital photography and film.  Multi-Dimensional students will study the basic elements and principles of art and design, and use these elements and principles to guide and assess their work.  There will also be multiple field trips to area museums including the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, as well as the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshorn.  Students will develop their critical thinking skills while they assess their own artwork as well as famous works of art.”


As I suspected things have started off brilliantly! I am teaching to a small class of three young women, and they are a lovely and quiet bunch so far. However, if years as a summer camp counselor has taught me anything, they wont be quite for long…

To begin with we are taking a look at Pop Art from Great Britain and the United states. We will be exploring art through the movements and working our way back in time. This backwards investigation will find each movement and it’s inspirations and origins. This will guide our backwards travel through time. And what better place to start than Pop Art?

On our first day we took a look at the “father” of pop art Richard Hamilton and his famous definition of Pop Art,



and some of his early ironic social commentary collages. We then used his work as inspiration to make our own ironic collages, inspired by social commentary. I say “we” because I made one along with them. While irony and social commentary were our themes, I challenged my students to focus on two elements and two principles of art. In this case I asked them to think about shape and color (elements) as well as movement and unity (principles).

20140617_104025^ “America the Brave”

20140617_104044< “Every Girls Dream”

20140617_104006^ “Experience the Wild”

20140617_103950< “Fighting for Peace”

The Final Concept(ualism)

Continued from last week:

After we created our concept maps last week students begin sketches of their own Frank Stella inspired piece. They were asked first to answer the following questions after looking at Frank Stella’s artwork: 1. What kind of shapes represent you title? 2. What kind of textures represent you title? 3.What kind of colors represent you title? 4. What makes Frank Stella’s art unusual? When they were done they created THREE sketches in their sketchbooks of potential designs for their artwork. Each student was encouraged to focus on our three main elements: shape, texture and color.

On Day three we used our foam core and careful cutting skills to create our shapes. I reminded students that shape was an important element of this project. We also began to prepare these shapes for painting by covering them in gesso. This was because our foam core supply (left over from this years art show) is mostly black and is hard to paint over without a white base coat. On day four and five students were painting, decorating, and putting together their final pieces, and on day six students presented their works of art. Their presentation consisted of a description of why and how they chose each element of their work of art (shape, texture and color), and what principles helped to guide them. I also reminded students that in conceptual art the main idea is the most important aspect of their work of art. So they were required to explain their thinking behind each choice.

Check out some pictures of the projects below.













The Harlem Renaissance



For one module, to coincide with African American History’s curriculum, we studied the art of the Harlem Renaissance. The first artist we looked at was Aaron Douglas. We studied his paintings and focused on the key vocabulary that is important when looking at his work: silhouette, skylines, and symbolism. The students were then challenged to paint a Philadelphia skyline, similar to how Aaron Douglas would have painted the New York skyline. They would paint the skylines as silhouettes and then add symbolism the same way that Aaron Douglas would have included symbolism about African American daily life in his paintings. Back in the Harlem Renaissance things were different for African Americans so my students were asked to think about things in their everyday life that they could use symbols to represent. These paintings came out very nice.

Next we looked at Romare Bearden who was not a Harlem Renaissance artist, but an artist who had grown up and experienced the Harlem Renaissance. We looked at his collages and students were challenged to make collages of their own neighborhoods. They had to focus on creating their own people out of many pictures of people, just like Romare Bearden, and try to represent their neighborhood using symbolism, just like in our Aaron Douglas projects.

Our Final project was a combination of everything we had learned over the course of the module. Students could pick paint or collage and they could take themes from both artists. In order to turn in final products my students had to do presentations of their own work. They told us about their techniques, their symbolism, and themes, and finally answered questions about their work of art from their fellow students. This was by far one of the most challenging aspects of their assignment, but I was very very pleased at the high level of respect and kindness I saw during these presentations. I cannot wait to teach this curriculum again.

2012-11-16 14.14.06

2012-11-16 14.14.59

2012-11-16 14.16.00

2012-11-29 10.28.02

2012-11-29 11.04.39

2012-11-29 11.57.40-2





More trains this week as Art Around the World landed in Russia. Once I had everyone’s attention we thought about our castles from last week and looked at the type of castles they had in Russia. Then we looked at the Russian flag and thought of other flags that had the same colors. “The Britain Flag!” is what one of my male students yelled immediately. I was little disappointed with how long it took for someone to point out that the American flag was red white and blue…

The pictures of trains are what google images claimed to be Russian trains.

This is an abstract approach. Here two trains are whizzing past each other:

Obviously I LOVE this one.

Blog at

Up ↑