Ending the Semester

29 11 2014

We only have a few more weeks left to this semester and we are sitting with a deadline issue.  Most of my students are completing projects and will end at varying points.  My courses are only one semester so the work has to finish at the end and not carry over into another semester.  I have opened up my courses to full choice and modified choice projects so the work will always end at different points.  I’m sure this is a common issue for all studio classes but especially around full choice projects.  



There is a lot of art teachers that are dipping their toes into the full choice or modified choice so the more we publish how we are transitioning the more we will all learn from our studio practice. This break has been a great time to reflect and plan on how I can wrap it up for the semester.  I’m working up a concept that will be able to be reflect each students skills and voice.  The piece can be completed in a week or less.  I hoping it will become a conversation piece for all students at the school to participate in when viewing the work.  It’s a bit to bite off…but my students are pretty remarkable and they never disappoint.  

As always I fill you in while we work it all out.

Batik in the Studio

16 11 2014

IMG_5882Here is the post many of you have been waiting for.  I am almost done with the batik project with my Painting I class.  This is a mixed grade level semester course.  My current population of students is very talented and will take to any process I introduce to them so my choice to select batik for this class was an easy one.  Last year I worked with my Sculpture Class on a Balinese Street Puppet Project.  We happened to have special guests visit my art studio who are familiar with the art form and were impressed with our work.  One of the visitors asked if I had ever taught batik to students.  I replied “yes” and explained that I had not had the tools at this school but I do know the process and technique.  About two weeks later a package arrived at the school for me from Indonesia, it was filled with dye, tjanting tools, wax, silk, and a book about great batik motifs.  I was so thrilled.  I knew I needed to explore this next but the year came to a close quickly and I didn’t have time to teach it.  This year I put it into my budget to purchase wax melting units, more dye, muslin, and a few more tjuanting tools.  Once I got to know my students and the groups personality, I made the selection of which group could handle the process.


It started with a large piece of paper with a border approx. 2.5 inches with a larger central motif space.  I shared a YouTube video on the process and gave a framework for the design motif.  Once the students created a design and drew the motif clearly on white sulphite, I cut the muslin to fit the designs.  I prewashed the muslin at home to prepare the material for the addition of wax for the start of the project. I borrowed a heating unit from the science department to heat our soy-based wax.  Maintaining heat without smoking the wax we started to practice using the tjanting wax tool.  The drawing was taped down to a large piece of cardboard to keep the fabric rigid to avoid cracking the wax lines.  The design was outlined with a black sharpie to be able to see through the muslin while applying the wax.


Traditionally the fabric is pinned or stretched onto wood frames so the material is elevated and suspended off a surface.  I did not have framework for the large pieces of muslin we planned on using for our project so this was my solution.  When applying the wax we had a piece of paper towel in our hand to help move the tool from line to line.  Most of our lines connected one to another so it was easy to control.  Drips and drops do happen and the artists had to learn to adapt to the inherent imperfections.  I encouraged the students to start with the straight lines that helped form the borders to get a feel for the tjaunting tool.

After the artist completed the wax layer, we removed the tape from the ends of the muslin and removed the drawing from underneath.  The muslin is now free to be flipped over to check for wax saturation.  If the wax did not penetrate all the way through we reapplied the wax to the backside of the design.  Once all wax has been set we mixed our dye colors.  We are using Procion dyes in capped bottles.  Small batches are mixed and small dishes are available to mix colors together and to thin with water for lighter values.  We brushed on the dye to the muslin.  The method of watercolor techniques we learned on an earlier lesson was a helpful reference to mix and apply the dye.  If students applied dye to a wet area close by the dye would bleed into each other in unpredictable ways.  I encourage the students to mix original values and to play with the saturation of the dye for detailed designs.


Students completed the dyeing process and heated up a clothes iron.  We placed newsprint under the muslin and on top of the muslin.  Rubbed the hot iron over the paper to heat the wax to see it saturate the newsprint.  This was done a few times on the front, changing the newsprint once saturated.  The muslin was flipped over and heated again until all the wax is removed.


Students have the option to rewax areas for an all over dye process with crackle or to just touch up areas where drips interrupted the artist’s vision.  Most students are opting for the touch up with the original wax lines remaining white outlines.  The batik design has extra material on the sides to allow for a finishing.  The finishing includes trimming excess muslin and either stitching or gluing the folded over edges.  We are adding a wooden dowel for hanging and trim is selected from our donated box of materials.  I was gifted a several boxes of upholstery trimmings so this works out beautifully for this project.

Our final pieces are now on display in the Upper School foyer, hanging in the windows to allow viewing from both sides and allowing the light to punctuate the luminescent colors of the dye.  The pieces are beautiful.  I will do this project again…I have no fear to do this process again even if I don’t have all the stretchers or other fancy set up materials.  Artists always find away to be successful.

Sarah batik

Tools and Materials for Batik





Harris batikhttp://www.dickblick.com/products/jacquard-urea-organic-nitrogen/






Working beyond Modified TAB into Full Choice

16 11 2014

Halyee blue eyes etchI have been watching, learning, and researching choice based studio teaching for a year now.  I discovered, through the research that I have always been a modified choice art instructor and didn’t know it.  I always tried to do what I felt was best for my artists to learn and to challenge them.  It was a pretty natural transition for me.  There were days before I knew there was a name for TAB, I knew I wasn’t doing things the way I learned how to in my methods class.  I had moved away from strict formulaic lessons with an art history component, strong emphasis on elements and principles of design, and moved into what was happening now in the art world with a range of skills all mixed into one lesson.  I was allowing more freedom of choice in the size of the surface or the media for the lesson.  I was focusing more on the technique and skills, plus trying to have the artist connect to the artwork in a new way.  I wanted my students to be open to work in a way I may not have been able to teach them but could encourage them to explore.  I am more in tune with what my students want to know, teaching them how to do it, and demonstrating what skills or materials they want to learn more about.  I feel I am a modified TAB art specialists because I feel the need to continue to filter in art history in pieces and to push my students through specific skills and techniques.  I feel it is very  important to have building blocks of skill sets and artistic knowledge to be a better artist. I like teaching the beginning skills sets so my students are prepared to make good choices and have confidence to explore new media.

Yumi bridge color

My Printmaking class was given specific instructions on how to do a series of prints for the first quarter into the second quarter.  I wanted to establish a knowledge of what is Printmaking and what and how to do different print techniques. I wasn’t worried about anything while letting my students explore the printmaking processes, because I gave them the knowledge and experience for each process.  We repeated the process several times and added new techniques from process to process.  We explored monoprints: additive, reductive, layered, and stencil. We also created a collagraph plate to print and we just completed an etching print series. The students were getting more independent on what to do with each print.  So I made the decision to let them decide what print process they wanted to explore again.  They can pick the motif, scale, and process… full choice.  Since this class is only offered once a year for a semester and often is every other school year, I thought this was an opportunity to see what can these students do?

Sam colored etch

How will they respond to making choices?  Can they handle being given all of the choices?  I handed out a paper with a few questions on it to lead them to think, research, sketch, and plan a composition.  We discuss the concept and when I feel the student can handle it, I push them to do more research, dig deeper for a more meaningful connection to the motif.  So far I am pleased with the group…they are excited to do a print technique again with full control.  I will monitor the quality and I will push them to achieve their very best.  It’s going to be exciting to see what is the outcome.


My Painting II class is in the process of a full choice project, I have students who wanted to create a surface in three dimensions to paint on for the project and others who wanted to try a series of works and others who wanted to try different materials.  I am pleased with all of their choices,  the great thing is they were asking for the opportunity to be able choose. I figured I should give this a go.  Now is a good time to try it in my studio, I did my homework; I was on this pathway to make the adjustment.



My students filled out similar paper work to get approval for the materials and I staggered my students planning process so I could give one on one attention when they started each project.  I have two students exploring sculpture, two doing a series on canvas, one working with oils on metal, and one doing tempera resists with a twist.





So far the more traditional materials are going smoothly, while the sculpture in plaster is taking on a life of it’s own.  The artist had one sculpture in mind and it has turned into two sculptures. If you work in a artists studio the work often dictates the direction.  We need to follow the process to the end.  It will all work out in the end but it has been a much longer process.


It is enjoyable to witness each artist work through the process and to see them gauge if what they have completed so far is successful.  Since I do not have exemplars to share with them, we are reflecting on their past works or finding artists in our research to help guide our decisions.  We are also critiquing each other’s works in progress to propel our works forward.





I cannot say I have it all perfected but I am getting a handle on how I would take this full choice work for a full time option into my art studio.  I have been organizing my lessons, PowerPoint’s, handouts, and rubrics on Blendspace.  I have my materials organized for easy student access so I feel I am getting ready.  I need a new system for storing work for individuals, so I am sorting that all out.  I even proposed a new way to align my courses to best utilize my energy and benefit my artists in the studio more.  I am hoping I can get this all set for the next school year.  Meanwhile, I will keep modifying my course work and organizing, learning, and researching the best practices.


Creating works of art from all kinds of materials and inspirations

29 10 2014


Getting our copper tooling on in the studio.  It was something my students had no idea how to do and few had ever seen it before.  We just completed a scratchboard lesson that ties into a repousse design.  Both require a design concept and a closer analysis of line.  Value is in reverse with a scratchboard and repousse is the actual use of depth to create values.  My students in both lessons struggled with the idea of how is this drawing?



I get that they don’t see how this is drawing.  

The tools and surfaces are very different.  Don’t worry I will be doing some traditional drawing; in fact we will be doing self-portraits.  I am challenging my students to do a 3/4th view of them for the drawing and merging three layers in different phases of line development.  One will be developed in color in a small or larger area to the degree the students want to go.  It will be demonstrating line, modified contour line, and line with value.  I have a talented bunch of students who are often reluctant or do not have the confidence to push their skills so this will take them to the next level.

Anna T.ToolingMargo toolingAllie cooper toolingKahry copper tooling


My other class is working with a traditional art technique of batik.  I did a batik many years ago so it is exciting to see my students learning and exploring an art form I really like.  We had guests visit our school last year and they loved seeing me teaching about the Bali Street puppets and they asked if I taught batik.  I told them I did not have the tools but it was something I would love to teach again.  Little did I know they would be mailing me all the tools and materials I needed to teach the lesson.  I felt blessed to have an art guardian passing along a wonderful package to share with my students.  My students are loving the process and are doing a wonderful job.

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My Printmaking class completed a series of collagraph prints and is now exploring the plexi glass etching and how the depth of the etched lines and the closeness of the lines will influence the darkness of the image.  We are working with sharp scratched points and varied kinds of sandpaper to create our values.  

FullSizeRender (3)FullSizeRender (4)


The common strand it seems between all the different class lessons is line and how line and what you do with the chosen surface and type of surface creates the image.  It is great to watch the students share and tell eachother about what they are doing and how the process works.  I get great joy from seeing my students teach and share what they are doing in the studio.

First Quarter is Closing

14 10 2014

Julianna Golden Ratio

I really don’t mind when a grading period comes to a close.  It let’s my students and me look back and reflect on what have we accomplished and what can we build on for improvement.  Grading…. Yes it is not a favorite of mine but a necessary existence for all educators.  I follow and comment on several Facebook pages and Twitter Feeds about art education.  I read my favorite blogs about the adventures my fellow art teachers are doing in all kinds of schools at all levels.  I find this helpful to keep my situation in perspective.  I learn some new concepts and get inspired all the time.  I am as much an artist and an art educator.  I am also evolving into a community builder of sorts too.  

Topics of note for me is the whole business of TAB VS Traditional classrooms.  I have discovered that I am a modified TAB educator with a unique story about what I do, how I do it, and whom I teach.  My situation is not similar to many of the educators that I follow so I do take parts and pieces of what will work in my environment and try to adapt it to my studio.  

My first experiment is with my Painting II class.  I am opening up full choice for the next assignment but of course it needs to be a painting.  What surface, motif, style, and type of paint are up to the individual artist?  I have a handout for the art student to document their ideas and I also ask that they research for some inspirational pieces so I can have a greater grasp of what they are striving to accomplish.  I have different responses from each student.  One student had an idea before I had time to complete my explanation, while a couple of other students struggled for direction.  I even had one student ask me to assign him a project.  My next effort to open up full choice is with my Printmaking class.  I spent the first quarter having them learn and create works of art based on specific prints, inks, styles, and themes.  Now, after we complete our etching print, I will have students complete a print series on one or more of the printmaking processes of the artist’s choice.  I can offer themes but I am leaving most of the decisions up to the students.  So since I am in the early stages of this process, I can only share that I am out of my comfort zone.  I find myself needing to give more direction and keep the students on forward momentum.  I do feel too much time is spent with students in free fall or thought. I view it as inefficient use of studio time and I want to see more progress.

I am going to give it a whirl but I already know I have some “twitching” that causes me stress.  I am always trying to do a better job and to support my students where they are and to move them to new levels.  I have been successful most of the time so I am keeping an open mind about my efforts with TAB.

Next month, I am presenting at our State Art Educators Conference.  I have presented at the National Art Convention so I am not too worried about it but I am still creating my presentation.   My presentation idea was created based on some of the information I read on the art teachers groups and blogs.  I am presenting on successful beginning of the year or semester assessment lessons, icebreakers to reinforce class rules, and ways to improve class communications.  I am sifting through my best warm-ups and modifying them for the presentation.  I need to create a creative and helpful handout to pass out, plus prep materials to successfully present.  Fingers crossed.


Positive Art News this quarter- my art students sold Homes for Haiti at a street festival and raised over $700.00 for Haiti.  We got another venue to sell during the Christmas season and the Public Library will be adopting Homes for Haiti for all the teen and tween groups.  The more people involved means more impact for Haiti.  Win, Win!  We also have three outdoor downtown murals waiting for approval and gearing up for our recycle fashion show- Curbside Couture.  I tell you it is never a dull moment.  I am feeling much better and looking forward to the last half of this semester.


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Getting drawing started in the studio

14 09 2014
ally ink drawing

Start of the line drawing

The lesson started as a warm up to getting my students ready for the start of the school year.  The students in this class may have had middle school art classes or not.  All students had a semester of our required semester of Foundations of Art.  I wanted to assess where this group of students were starting, so I can modify my lessons to accelerate the skills of each student.  I work with a modified TAB classroom setting.  I am focused on being student centered with room to support and engage my students.  It is my goal to help them feel successful and challenged with each lesson.  I have high expectations but I know the building blocks need to be there so my students can achieve.  This lesson started with Line.  Some of my students did not work with ink well and quill so a tutorial was needed along with how to build up values with ink.  I demonstrated and shared with them examples of depth with ink: cross-hatching, hatching, stippling, and scribbling.  I have students use invented application of values as well.  The expectations were to create a panoramic drawing demonstrating foreground, middle, and background.  The theme was to share what they did over the summer.  Where did they go?  Who did they visit?  What did they eat?  What activities did they experience?  If ink spills happened and they do, the students needed to problem solve the ink blobs.  Some students did very rich layered scenes and others had very controlled defined imagery.  I was thrilled that the students felt free to express themselves as individuals and not to conform to the piece next to them.

Studio Kids201408290400040

Creating the viewing window

Anna T line drawing


Next piece of the finished composition involved cutting into a heavy weight black paper page.  The length of the black paper was about three inches longer to allow for the piece to arch in front of the drawing to create a 3-D viewing window.  The theme of the cut outs had to relate to the line drawing theme.  So students had to decide what would be the motif for the viewing spaces and where did the spaces need to be placed to focus on particular areas of the drawing.  This is a challenge for some students because you need to design a shape to remove without having the whole window falling a part.  The art of Notan applies here as well as an understanding of a stencil. Some students wanted to de-emphasize areas of their drawings so they selected not to reveal it through the cut out window area.  This allowed students to decide what the viewer would focus on when viewing the art piece.  We did have to do a few repairs with scrap pieces of black paper but the majority of the students did a great job.  Students layered the black cut out over the drawing and made decisions on how much more did they need to cut out and what would that shape be that would still maintain the integrity of the black window and stick to the over all design theme.


Down at the Shore

Down at the Shore

Studio Kids201311220600060

View into the window

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College visits and basketball

Kahry line 2


Jack Line warm up

Out West

The final display of the class works engaged the viewers in a new way and the verbal responses encouraged my artists even more.

We are on a roll!

30 08 2014

It has been a warm start to the school year in two ways.  One the temperatures here are very hot and the warmth and kindness I have received this past week has been heart warming.  One week into school and I had a terrible kidney stone attack that resulted in my first ambulance ride to the emergency room.  My students who attended to me were incredible at getting me help quickly.  Only a few short days later, Back to School Night was here and I was embraced in even more warmth for my healthy recovery from the parents of my students.  I have to say it was a nice feeling after a pretty painful experience.


Photo Booth getting finished for Watermelon Festival

This is the first school year that I am teaching advanced level studio art classes and it feels very different from my usual routine of teaching Foundations of Art.  I was able to skip some of the formalities due to the fact that most of my students know me, know the studio, and they were more than ready to create something.  And that is exactly was we did, on the first day.  I wanted to get into the deep end and swim about with only a few guiding ideas.  This serves as a warm-up for my students and an assessment for me.  Most students haven’t drawn or painted all summer so they needed to shake off the rust.  I wanted to see if some new students offered up a few surprises for me and it allowed me to do a general assessment on how the group may function together in the studio.


Chris m line drawing 

I am teaching Drawing I, Painting I and II, Printmaking, and AP Studio Art.  I have created a very flexible studio space with most of my furniture on wheels and smaller tables that I can quickly move about to accommodate the course materials.  I love teaching the basics for the Foundations class but I am learning I also really like having advanced classes too.  

Drawing started with a simple lesson on a long piece of paper and I asked them to draw images related to what they did this summer.  Criteria:  Imagery is based on what you did, ate, saw, and experienced.  Ink drawing using a quill and ink well.  Utilizing a range of values using dots, lines, scribbling, cross-hatching, etc.  I also wanted the students to merge the imagery in a compositional layout that demonstrates the understanding of a foreground, middle, and background.  Once the student accomplished that problem, I wanted them to create a positive/negative space; viewing window for an interactive experience for the display.  The artist had to select a motif that supported the concept that they already created in ink.  All of this allowed me to see how they handle directions and compositional layout.  Plus other terms and techniques I feel students should already have a fairly good grasp of for this class.






Alisha flower pattern


Next on the list is Painting I and II- Both of these classes are of a moderate size so it will allows me to work with individuals as the work evolves and push the artists to express a clearer personal voice in the works of art this semester. Painting I began with a simple concept of a grid layout with a limited color palette of two colors.  We reviewed color schemes, watercolor mixing, and tints and shades.  I wanted the students to demonstrate their comfort level with watercolors and color mixing.  We discussed the qualities of watercolor paper and watercolor pigments.  Next I wanted to assess the student’s ability to draw from direct observation by looking at a silk flower of their choice.  Students then redrew the modified contour line drawing on the grid watercolor painting.  I gave them options of compositional layout with asymmetrical or symmetrical balance.  I feel the results not only helped me review important basics with the students but I was able to gauge where I needed to reteach, introduce, and review.  The final outcome of the lesson turned out a beautiful painting that the artists were very proud to display.

 Alyssa silhouette panel

Painting II began with a panel board and acrylic paint.  I gave the students a selection of colors, tape, brushes, sponges, and other tools to manipulate the paint.  I wanted them to show texture, value, movement, and fill the picture plane.  Next the students looked at all the panels and discussed what they saw and how it was created.  Some students over painted and kept layering while other students saw a motif emerge.  I assigned that they create a silhouette to interplay with the color field.  I did not limit the student to any level of details.  I wanted to see where the artists would go, see their methods of exploration and questioning, and how they resolved the solution.  After the student felt they completed the project we discussed why they made the decisions they made.

This fits perfectly in line with teaching ARTISTIC BEHAVIORS.  It also fits in with my idea of an artist studio.  My method of teaching art is very focused on the students experience and development.  I want them to be excited to try and explore all the possibilities.  I want them to have time for self-discovery and time to discuss their thoughts and ideas too.


Sally stencil chicken in pink



Stencil Monotype

Printmaking is very close to my heart because you can be a great printmaker without being a great drawing student or a great painting student.  It’s an equalizer for all due to the possibilities inherit in the process.  

Mono prints are how I start.  Reductive, Additive, Stencil, Trace, and Chine-colle. This is the order I explore at the beginning to get the students comfortable with all the tools, soaking of the paper, mixing of the inks, application of inks, and how to use the press.  I have been so busy with a studio full of students.  Everyone is beginning to get the hang of things and the room is full of all variations of the above processes to create original works.


Michael resist Scotty resist


AP Studio Art began with reviewing the summer assignments and watching the students present the artist research PowerPoint’s of a selected artist related to their own body of work.  I asked the students to pull out the worst summer drawing and to crop a section to divide the picture plane to see divisions of the space.  We then began the process of a tempera resist.  I like this process to break down the tension of the expectation of the course and to complete a Breadth piece, right away.  Breaking the “ice” and working with loose unpredictable outcomes will open up the students to the possibilities.  As the semester progresses the AP artists will run into artist blocks so this is also a great method to use at anytime to “work” through the artist block.  




Our current “big idea” is the Golden Ratio, Golden Mean, etc.  The scale, media, and motif are in the student’s hands.  I present a PowerPoint and a Pinterest board on the concept but most of my students already know a lot about this concept through their history class or math classes.  We have a few risk takers who are exploring non-traditional materials so I am already impressed and excited with the progress.

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I hope you are having a great start to your school year. I am feeling very blessed to be healthy and happy to be celebrating my 25th year of doing what I love everyday.



Watermelon Festival- Face Painting Booth



Wildcat Photo Booth


Face Painting- Watermelon Festival


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