Final Exams

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!


Van Gogh on chucks.


Work in progress.
Andy Warhol homage.


K-Pop fan art.
A dyptich on wood pannels.
A glorious acrylic sunset.
Photo realism exploration.


School sports.


A vacation memory.
A storyboard for an animated version of Pet Cemetary.
Social justice commentary.



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.









Collaging for Paint’s Sake!

In Foundations of Studio Art we have started our portrait studies in collage. The main objective behind this project is to teach my students the importance of value in creating depth, basic proportions of the human face, and creating thoughtful artwork from observation. The idea was that this would make their future painting endeavors easier. I was inspired by one of my high school painting teachers who taught me how to see in a way that has influenced my painting style ever since. That way of seeing light and color was helpful for me as a high school student struggling to paint representationally. It was a comparison he used, he said something along the lines of, “think of the figure as a collage of different colors and values.” (paraphrasing because it has been 10 years or more since I heard this!) And I remember thinking, “WOW! A collage… that makes so much sense!” So I forwent blending and in an impressionist style all my own I was able to create depth and value, and model the paint in a way that made sense to me, and made my figures make sense.








So to help my students to see the world as painters, I decided to finish out the school year with a collage. The project began with a simple study of the proportions of the human face. We spoke about ratios and proportion. Each student drew a “Generic Jane” before we moved on to drawing each other from observation. At that point each girl used the generic features and proportions as a starting point and made adjustments until our their resembled their partner. This took a while, but since we were going to be collaging on top of these the drawing needed to be simply and not detailed.

Then we began to collage. First, with a base color, and medium value, clipped from many many faces. Then, many more moments of highlights and shadows. We used the natural lighting in the class, which was downward lighting, caused by our ceiling of skylights. It is almost impossible to create raking light in this class. Then, since it was impossible to find large areas of a single color, students would build value by layering many colors. The same way you would in painting. At the end of the lesson, I asked each student what they would do if I were to snap my fingers and each of these cut pieces turned into paint, and in every class at least one person would say, “blend them!” and I’d hear exclamations of understanding.










Finally, we reflected on the experience of creating a portrait of one of our peers. I had everyone read a national geographic article about the Changing Face of America and looked at the portraiture work of an artist called Martin Schoeller. Afterwards my students wrote how they felt about the article, the project, or whatever else they learned during this assignment. One student wrote:

“This article was very eye-opening because it made me more aware of how many people in America identify as more than one race. It was interesting how it said we register a person’s race before even their gender. It made me realize how under represented multi-racial people are in our society. You rarely see multi-racial people in TV or media, and especially not in magazines. Though diversity is increasing in magazines, we still have a long way to go until they represent the entire population.”

Another student reflected on working from mostly women’s magazines:

In the magazines, I see that some of my partners facial features are similar to the models in the ads, such as eye color and skin shade. It has been easy to replicate my person because her skin tone resembles many of the models.”

Another student wrote:

“I think it is normal to see someone with a multiracial background and think they are just black or just white. I think that is what the article is trying to inform. It does not matter what the outside appearance of someone is; it is the inside that matters (sounds corny but true). It has been sort of hard finding the exact skin tone to Caroline, but no one has the exact same. That is what is told in the article.”

As a result of the article as a follow up to this project, many students wanted to discuss how they feel women’s magazines still aren’t doing enough to represent their viewers. Other girls pointed out that they hadn’t noticed a lack of black and brown models until now, when they had been asked to represent their partner who was a woman of color. Even girls who had white partners had found the exercise frustrating saying that most of the skin they found was so airbrushed and over-lit they couldn’t find shadows. It was great to see a group of young women comfortable talking about race, beauty standards and identity in a meaningful way.




It was important to me that my class at least discuss and acknowledge the content of the magazines we were using. I don’t ever want my students to think I condone the unhealthy and unrealistic beauty standards of magazines like VOGUE and ELLE. So I think it’s important to point out, instead of ignore, or say nothing about. However, I do get them for free from my local nail salon, and I absolutely love magazines as an art material. You get beautiful colors that are good for the environment!

In the end, I enjoyed this assignment. I believe I will be returning to it again next year. I mean just look at them. They turned out so cool! I also firmly believe that they might be able to benefit from this exercise in their painting.


Finished Ceramics

Finally we got what we had be waiting for… OUR FINISHED PLATES AND CLOCKS. Those girls who had requested the clock mechanisms got the chance to instal them in their clocks, and they actually worked! Also, a lot of careful and hard work with the new glaze payed off. Our plates and clocks turned out beautiful.

Our final step in this long process was to write about our process and have a class critique. Bellow our pictures there is an example of the worksheet that my students filled out and turned in for their final grade. It is a rubric along with some written responses about their piece. I give them the final grade but our rubric acts as a way for them to evaluate their own work, before I do.








Click here for an example of our Project Rubric.


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