Final Recycled Projects

We finally finished our recycled art projects and what wonderful sculptures they turned out to be! Each group really did a phenomenal job this year finding a unique way to solve a problem: How do you give a second life to an old box? Some transformations were more extreme than others. Some students preserved their original box while others disguised and incorporated their box into a larger sculpture as a material. The breadth of materials used this year was inspiring. One group even visited a few restaurants asking for corks, because they had their heart set on using them as “stones”. Some kind business owner happily gave them two trash bags full! Another group took a more direct approach to the assignment and created a garden exploding out of a box. All were really impressive. Take a look at the results!

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While I was Gone

While I was away my students created beautiful acrylic paint and pastel landscapes based on their own photographs with my substitute. Lucky for me, my maternity leave sub was the wonderful woman who taught in my position at Stone Ridge for 25 years before I came along. So needless to say she knows a thing or two. Check these out!

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Painting With Light

This year I altered my single object still life project by adding more unstructured painting at the beginning of the unit. Students were given more time to experiment with creating value and just enjoy the medium. What I have learned in my 6 years at Stone Ridge is that most of my students won’t get very much time or any time at all to paint outside of this unit. (except in French class! Where more cross-curricular work is happening!) Some of them did not even have art in their middle schools previous to Stone Ridge. If they went to Stone Ridge they have a wonderful experience with paint, but either way I just want them to experience the joy of painting before I enforce an attempt at painting from life, which can feel very intimidating. I think a lot of the intimidation comes from my students admiration of representational art and misconception that their abilities to create representational art directly reflect their artistic abilities. I want them to see value in the process, or at least experience joy in the process, and take some pressure off the final product being realistic. This is also reenforced in my rubric where there are grading categories for different steps in the process.

So this year we started by painting gradients, and spent time using pallet knives to just mix colors and experiment with the color mixing process. Just like last year, I held a competition to mix the grayest gray and they did a phenomenal job. I love the low stakes of this competition and also that it has the opportunity to highlight the talents of a student that might not have confidence in their representational art but has wonderful eye for color.

In the pictures below you can see that this year’s paintings have a slightly more relaxed style from previous years and I think the best color comprehension I’ve seen from my classes to date! You can also see one of our pre-assignment assignments where my students painted solid objects cast in raking light.

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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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Summer Fun

I have the wonderful gift of being able to stay home with my daughter during the summer and we had an amazing time going down to the museums and making art together at home. However, I did let grandma take her for a week so that I could substitute for an old friend at the Decorative Fine Arts summer camp at Glen Echo. This is an art camp I worked at for many years during college and my early teaching years. It’s projects are dynamic, engaging, and colorful!

You can see in the pictures below that children get to work with a variety of media through-out the week.

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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.

Finally Finals

We wrapped up this amazing school year with another round of independent art projects. Each student filled out a contract that outlined their plan of action, their research goals, and their three most important overall goals for the project. It was their three overall goals that I used as a measure for how I would grade them. This was, after all, their final exam.

Check them out:

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A small street in Puerto Rico.

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The four seasons.

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Lily Pulitzer inspired.

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A Maggie O’Neal reproduction done by another Maggie.

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Hamilton anyone?

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Endangered animals, made with real life cut-outs, and some photoshop skills.

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Love.

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Everyones faces.

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My students did an amazing job embracing their own strengths and interests in these finals. They were aware of their limitations an abilities and strived to create works of art they could be proud of. As a result I am very proud of all of them. Obviously I could not picture all of them here, so you can imagine there are some really impressive works you are missing out on.

Education in Other Words, and Other Worlds

It has been a long time since I have been a high school student, and an even longer time since I have read a high schoolers personal essay. I have read plenty of artist statements, and reflections on growth  as an artist, but none of these give me a real and tangible glimpse at the student perspective like a personal essay, or a creative writing piece. (Note to self: Talk to the creative writing teacher ASAP) Now I have to. I suppose I don’t HAVE to, but I am going to because another teacher (^Creative Writing Teacher) at Stone Ridge and I are now advising the “Calithump.” It’s our schools magazine, and it is full of student submissions. We have poems and photographs and essays and paintings.

An interesting fact about this publication was that it was once an award winning one, a few years back. What award I’m not sure but there is definitely a plaque next to the entrance to our auditorium. Unfortunately, in its recent years it was acquired by other teachers, who then left our school for other opportunities and in that transition it was left abandoned and almost forgotten. (*By abandonded I mean by faculty, and for only a few months) It wasn’t until about two weeks ago that my colleague in the English Department suggested we both take it on. So we took a look into what was left of this publication and we found something amazing. In the absence of teachers, two seniors had taken on the role of editors and had been quietly organizing a team of student staff members in collecting and organizing this publication. So really we were just joining them to offer our support. I contacted the printer to get specific details and suggested a few organizational strategies for the content, while our fearless English teacher offered to look over, edit and advise them on all of the thirty-something written entires they had received. It was kind of like we had stumbled upon a hidden factory. I was, once again, impressed with the self-motivated students we cultivate at Stone Ridge.

So the voice of the student, or the student perspective is what I will focus on in the coming weeks. I read this amazing article about a school in South Carolina that is a public boarding school for the arts and humanities. It looks like a wonderful place to be a creative high school student. From this article I discovered three essays from three different students who attend this school. Each essay was “whatever perspective the students wanted to offer about their experience at the school.” They were all different, but equally inspiring, and they reminded me that I should take into account not only what it is I’m teaching my students, but what it is like to be a student in my class, at this school, and in this area. (I highly recommend the essays which can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/what-my-school-means-to-me-essays-from-3-high-schoolers/284317/)

In this same line of thinking, I have taken an interest in what is going on in some of my students other classrooms. I want to share some artwork that is not a product of my classroom, but a response to an English assignment that required artwork. I was told by a student that I should, “go check out the stuff [they] made in English,” and that it was “pretty cool.” So I did. And is was “pretty cool.”

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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!

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