Foundations Unit One: Light and Color

In Foundations of Studio art we are beginning the year with a unit on Light and color, as you’ve seen the past two years. This year I would like to do something different and break down my units by day. Please feel free to use the comments section and let me know what you think.

Our Light and Color unit is a study of the color wheel, color families, color mixing, light vs. pigment, an introduction to the elements and principles of art and design. Students start by making a color wheel poster in small groups, and then a logo in Adobe illustrator. Finally, they use their color mixing techniques and color theory to create a beautiful still life painting. We also take a closer look at Photorealism from 1968 to the present, and artists like Mary Pratt, Robert Bechtel, Charles Bell, and Chuck Close. We focus on the elements of color and value specifically, and work with the principle of contrast. 

At the end of this unit students present their still lifes and are asked to reflect on how they have used their color wheel skills, captured light, and how light is interacting with their object. The final piece here hopes to connect this project with the study of the electromagnetic spectrum and the study of visible light that they are beginning in their Physics classes.

Also, just so you can get an idea, the classroom time is broken down into four or five parts depending. We begin each class with some form of quiet reflection in the form of a Visio Divina, a method of meditation I picked up this summer at a catholic teachers conference. Or we have another form of warm up. Then I move into a demonstration and explanation period. Afterwards we usually have work time, which is followed by a reflection period on days when time allows, or we have finished a project and are presenting. Finally I allow at least ten minutes for clean up. It is important to keep our room neat and organized so that our students feel empowered to find and use the art materials. This structure also helps students monitor their own use of time.

Breakdown of Warm-Up and Daily Activities:

Day 1

-We reviewed the Syllabus, wrote down the Elements and Principals in our brand new Sketchbooks! Which I also handed out that day.

Day 2

-I introduced Visio Divina, a method of meditation I picked up this summer at a catholic teachers conference. 

-We also began our color wheel assignment 







Day 3

-Visio Divina

-Color Wheel Assignment was finished and presented. See google doc for presentation questions. 



Day 4

-Visio Divina

-Introduced Color in Design:

-Invented imaginary companies and begin logo design with colored pencils.

-Reminded students to bring in special objects for still life paintings.


Day 5

Reviewed color contrasts

-Began Logo Designs (Emphasize meaning in color, list adjectives)

-Began designing logo on illustrator.


Bouquettes for Ballet

Caroline Tangang


Cecilia Hornyak Logo


Jillian Perry

Logo Beyer Bulard

Day 6

-Warm-Up: Drew Nats Logo from memory, then revealed. Many students were suprised at how accurate theirs were.

-Finished Logo design, and present.



Shira Nash

Day 7

-Visio Divino of Mary Blair

-Quick, fun, simple collage on bristol board folded in half. (This is a ONE DAY assignment) Created  collages on cards, employing color schemes or groups, and color contrasts, inspired by the work of Mary Blair. (Los Colores de Mary Blair, video)

-Reminded students to bring in Special Objects!


Day 8

-Visio Divino Mary Pratt

-Intro to painting (How much, what brush, from where, what colors)

-Painted Ground on canvases

-Constructed light boxes

-Begin backgrounds

-Ended early for introduction to clean-up (Brush cleaning, storage etc.)




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Day 9

-Short Visio Divino (Robert Bechtle) w/ reflection in sketchbook (an example of analogous color scheme)

-Intro to photo realism w/ article (

-Began sketching objects in charcoal


Day 10

-Visio Divino (Charles Bell)

-Intro to acrylic mediums: Slow Dry, Glazing, Gel etc.

-Began painting objects.

Day 11

-Article on Chuck Close w/ reflection in sketchbook

-Worked on Paintings






Day 12

-Visio Divino (Chuck Close)

-Finished Paintings


Day 13

-First half hour for finishing touches

-Presentations (*see requirements below)

-Rubrics Graded

-Homework for the semester handed out: 

*Below are the final works of art hung up and on display in our school gallery space. You can see some of my new colleague Tom’s student work from his section of Foundations of Studio art. Notice that they used pastels and more than one object. It is nice to see another art teachers perspective on this assignment, and the variety adds to the look of the show. (You can also see a few Ceramics 1 pieces in this first photo.)












Final Presentation Requirements: Did your color wheel influence your final painting? How? How has your understanding of color changed, or has it? What color scheme or group did you use in your painting? What color contrasts did you use? Did you use value to create the illusion of a 3D object? Finally, since you are learning about light in physics, please explain how the light is interacting with your object. For example, is it going through your object? Reflecting? Being absorbed by your object?


Physics Connection: Electromagnetic Spectrum, Light Interacting with Objects. 

More Blossoms

I had my last day teaching at the Family Art Studio at Glen Echo this past Saturday. It was an amazing final day. My youngest brothers even came to visit me! I will miss working at Glen Echo, but I cannot sustain a 6-7 day work week forever, so I decided to ask if I could transition to occasional substitute.

However, the classes will still take place without me, so if you have little ones in the DC area, and you want an amazing weekend art activity that is infant, toddler, and kid friendly, visit the Candy Corner at Glen Echo from 10-12:30 every Saturday. It’s $10 per child, and there is no sign up necessary, just drop in! More info at pgip.org20150509_141939



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:







Working Weekends: My Second (Third and Fourth) Job(s)

If you’ve known me for a while then you know I’ve worked at Glen Echo Park in Maryland for eight of the past nine summers now, and about nine weeks each summer. I took off one summer to travel to Salamanca Spain, where my father re-married and I studied Spanish at the Universidad de Salamanca. I also took many many painting and sculpture classes at Glen Echo Park as a high school student, which is how I got my summer job many years ago. It is also where I discovered my love of painting and clay sculpture. Two forms of art I still practice today. I took painting with the famous Bartman’s and sculpture classes with Sinclair Hamilton, who owned a summer camp as well and hired me when he heard I was off to Pratt to study art education.

So if you can’t already tell, I am very fond of this place, Glen Echo. So you won’t be surprised to find out that I have taken up a second/third/fourth job here as a part time administrator for a drop-in family art studio run by PGiP, an occasional sales-person/gift shop duties for the Popcorn Gallery, and an Art Party facilitator, where a birthday party of six year olds and I made mosaics, and learned about Antoni Gaudi. It’s not that I desperately need the money, I don’t, but it helps. I am planning to get married this October and if I am going to have all the little extras I want, I need a bit more wiggle room. Also, I believe that before I have kids, and need to dedicate entire weekends to them, and before I get too bogged down with all of the extra work of keeping a house, I see no good reason not to work an occasional weekend. I have always thrived on a full schedule anyways. It’s the same reasn I find work each summer.

Unfortunately, I wont be returning to the Decorative Fine Arts Camp this summer. I will instead be teaching a summer art program called Multi-Dimensional Studio at my current and fantastic school: Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. Below is the description I wrote for this course:

An exploration in the decorative and fine arts, Multi-Dimensional Studio will challenge students to find new meaning in art through studio work and museum visits.   Materials explored will include acrylic paint on canvas, soft sculptures, mixed media collage, recycled/upcycled art, charcoal drawing, digital photography and film.  Multi-Dimensional Studio is designed to introduce various art mediums, techniques and styles. 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 mart museums like 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. 

It is open to all area high school students and I am really excited about being able to offer a summer course. I will, of course, miss Glen Echo and the Decorative Fine Arts Camp terribly. What summer is complete without the sound of the carousel pumping out its barrel organ tunes, filling up the park with an air of excitement. I will miss counting down from three to a room full of twenty-five campers wiggling in their seats, excited for the next demonstration. Most of all I will miss the raw, fearless art of young children, lacking all that self-doubt and un-necessary modesty that teenage girls impose on theirs. However, I am also thrilled at the prospect of teaching a museum, and self-discovery based summer program for teens that will have ideal hours for both travel and studio time that a regular school year schedule just cannot provide.

Moving backwards a bit…

Below are some photographs I took of the Candy Corner building at glen echo where these drop-in family art studio run by PGiP are happening. My colleague Meredith, an inspired  PGiP educator, has been constructing amazing and lovely art activities for families that surprisingly accessible to all ages and vary each week. The space is amazing and Meredith does a fantastic job setting up a welcoming environment for the families each Saturday. I love getting to see what’s new and happening each time I go!











Flashback/Flash Forward

It is getting close to summertime and I am experiencing nostalgia.  I have now worked for 8 years as a summer art teacher at one of the most beautiful national park cites in the US, Glen Echo Park in Maryland. Here are a few gems from last year.






Sometimes Things Get Messy.

This summer I have the distinct advantage at my art camp that a school teacher does not have: A captive audience of 22 children and 6 hours of nothing but art activities. Kids come clothed for art-making, wearing smocks and old clothes. There are no worries about sending them home messy. This gives me the freedom to let my students work independently, and at their own pace. I have open ended work sessions where students can work on each of the activities at their own pace with occasional assistance from me or one of my amazing 13-15 year old assistant counselors. (I have an average of 3 or 4)

The thing about letting young 5-12 year old children work on their own is that sometimes things get paint crazy! Sometimes I look away and two seconds later there is a shiny puddle of paint where there wasn’t one before. Fortunately with my smock, and their smocks combined, everything usually works out alright.

Psychedelic Toddler Art

In our second to final “Triangles, Circles and Squares Oh My!” class we used all of the colors we had previously explored in all of the classes leding up to this one. Once again we drew, then collaged, then painted and then folded and smooshed our paintings to make beautiful butterflies!

Next week we will wrap up our 10 weeks with black and white.

Rainbows Ahoy!

Rainbows are wonderful when you see them after a rain storm, and anyone who has seen one will remember it clearly. Where they were, what they were doing. Unless maybe you live in Seattle or somewhere where it always rains and you see them all the time.

Unfortunately, according to my most recent toddler survey, not many little people have seen or remember seeing a rainbow in real life. So this week in Triangles, Circles and Squares Oh My! my in-home class in DUMBO, we made our very own rainbows. This weeks lesson was mixed media, but as it turned out most of my 2-3 year old students don’t like to combine materials on one piece. So most of my students drew on one piece of paper then did collage on the next and then painted on the next and then glued tissue to the next, with the exception of one student. Allison was fascinated by the layering of different materials. She was happy to combine. Allison still hates getting paint on her hands but she worked very quietly and steadily through the entire class.

Here is Allison breaking into the fridge after class was over. Apparently she wanted something called “monster crunch.” I don’t think they had that when I was a kid.

The Color Red

This week, Thursday January 20th, I began my first in-home class for a group of 4 two and three year old artists, and their parents. The class was held in the very beautiful apartment of one of the mothers in DUMBO. When I arrived I got to meet all of my miniature artists and their parents. All of them lived in the same apartment building, and all of the little artists had red hair! Once I was able to tear myself away from the view out of the apartments floor to ceiling windows I set up our three project for the day. We read Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell then worked together on a collaborative drawing using red chalk, crayons, colored pencils and oil pastels. then we used glue to decorate and collage a frisbee so that we could play with Clifford. After than it was time for the piece de resistance: Model Magic dog houses for Clifford! We had a great time and thanks to my plastic table cloth clean-up was easy-peasy.

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