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.


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