Monday, June 8, 2015

Middle School Mural, Part Two

Progress continues with my 5th grade Artists of the Week, as we create a new mural for our school. Here we are on Day Two, blocking in solid areas of color. 

  We are copying a masterwork of the contemporary artist Romero Britto.
He is a Brazilian-American and his work is part cubism, pop art and graffiti.
Britto uses vibrant colors and bold patterns as a visual language of hope and happiness, reflecting his optimistic faith in the world around him. What better way to beautify
our school environment than to pay tribute to an artist with such a wonderful way
of looking at the world!
These kinds of projects are so wonderful and accomplish many goals for a school community, including beautification, school spirit, teamwork, and participating a large-scale community artwork.  
Even though students consider this a fun afternoon activity, the are learning how to cooperate, how to paint on an upright surface (not an easy task), and how to scale an image by using the grid method. They are also learning about breaking down an image into stages that help to recreate it in an order that makes sense: large broad flat areas of color, smaller patterns and details, and final outlines and accents.

Please check back for updates and pictures of the finished mural.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Great Art Sites for Kids—Artopia on PBS

On the website for my local PBS station, I recently found Artopia. Here you can watch the pilot episode of the children's cartoon featuring the young artist Nina, and her two best friends/creations named Little and Streak. In this episode, a stained glass king has his crown stolen by a monster, and the trio venture into Artopia to track down the monster and retrieve the crown.

Along the way they meet creations of art from different parts of the world, and from different time periods depicting various monsters and creatures. There is also a game where you can create your own monster using different body parts, colors and patterns, as featured in the show. Here's a monster I created using the head of the demon Arghan, from India, and the body of Skylla, a beast from Greek mythology.

Unfortunately this series didn't take off, so I think that's why the "Share What You Think" section is now defunct. But it's fun to watch the episode and design some monsters. It was great timing for me to find this site, as I am currently working on a lesson with my 5th graders about gargoyles, grotesques, and chimeras! And there's a special place in my heart for red-headed artists! Have a look and create a monster or two.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Middle School Mural, Part One

What happens when water fountains are replaced at your school, and you are left 
with a big gray wall when all is said and done? Well, sometimes you are very lucky 
and your principal thinks of you.

 You are given a blank canvas and the chance to work with some of your students 
on something special to make six square feet of space come to life!

You find just the right image to brighten things up, that will be appropriate for the school environment, give an opportunity for learning, and will be achievable for your students. You plan, sketch up a grid, and transfer your image onto the wall. 

And then you and your kids get to work! Oh, and you remember to bring a better camera to document the rest of the project! More to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Animal Drawings Inspired by Laurel Burch

5th grade students and I recently studied the work of American artist Laurel Burch. 
Her stylized animals and use of pattern, metallic accents and outlines are always a winner with kids! 

Although I don't have a completely choice-based art curriculum, I find that there is usually room for lots of choices within a lesson. For instance, there was a choice of background paper color. We had just created a project on black construction paper, so I gave a choice of burgundy, dark blue, or brown. These colors were still dark enough for colors to pop, but gave each piece a bit of personality.  

Students also chose whether to use a starter template of a few different animal designs inspired by Burch's artwork, or to draw an original animal idea. I also gave them the choice between using construction paper crayons or colored pencil. 
(The one rule here was not to combine the two media. Although they both work well, when used together, the crayon can make the pencil seem dull.)

It seems that freedom of choice was a hit! When it came time to add metallic outlines and accents with gold sharpie, many students asked for a choice in color. I only had gold in my inventory, but told the students that they were helping out my students next year, because I would be mindful of adding other metallic colors to my supplies. They were happy that their requests were taken seriously, and that they would influence a change in the lesson in the future. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Been Blogging? Want to trade links?

Hi fellow art teachers, bloggers, and web friends! As you can see I am reviving this blog of mine, and have noticed some of my links to great art sites and fellow bloggers have expired. Our lives all have an ebb and flow, and sometimes we move on to other things. And sometimes we (by we I mean me) realize how much we need to make time for the things that we love, and which feed us with inspiration, creativity, knowledge, and virtual camaraderie! 

So I'm calling out to you! Been blogging? Want to trade links?

Please, comment here with your blog address and name. Or email me at As long as your blog is current (you have posted in the last month or so, and post at least once a month), its content is about your art teaching experiences, lessons, and examples of the work of yourself and your students, and preferably add free, I will add you to my list of Amazing Art Teacher Blogs. And please add me to yours.

New posts, links to cool art sites and an updated list of Amazing Art Teacher Blogs are all coming soon! I even brought the Feed the Fish app back. I know, I know, it's silly, but it's always been my favorite widget!

Monday, May 18, 2015

My New Favorite TV Commercial

There's a new TV commercial airing sponsored by HGTV, Sherwin-Williams, and Lowe's featuring some very familiar faces. Have you seen it? Take a minute to watch!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mark Crilley Visits NJ! Part Two

So the wheels were in motion to have artist and author Mark Crilley visit with the help of our local PTA. Unfortunately it was too late in the school year to plan for a program, so they suggested that we try for the following school year. This was great news and all went ahead smoothly, even surviving a change in the PTA president. She and the media specialist made plans and room in the budget for a day of author presentations and a drawing workshop at one of the middle schools. 

Success! Right? Well almost. You see, this plan began with my private students who ranged from elementary through high school, and who attended public and parochial schools. And of the students who signed the petition at the one middle school, many of those moved up to the high school the next year. So what about students who didn't necessarily attend the one school that did accept our request? My daughter and I were so happy to be getting Mark Crilley to come see us, but we really wanted one more appearance where anyone who was a fan could come see him locally.

Mark Crilley draws as he talks about his career in the visual arts.

Students attend the drawing workshop.

I had one more idea up my sleeve, and went and asked for help. We are customers and fans of our local comic shop, A Little Shop of Comics right here in town, and the owners are fantastic. Their shop has a room they use for gaming and events, and I asked if they would help host a local Mark Crilley appearance for anyone in town to attend. They agreed and so did Mark. We were set! The shop had its biggest turnout for a comic artist paying a visit, and lots of fans and art students came out to hear him speak and sign autographs.

Mark Crilley and my family at A Little Shop of Comics.

Mark Crilley with Steve and Lena at A Little Shop of Comics.

Mark Crilley titles at A Little Shop of Comics.

Signing autographs.

I hope this helps anyone who may be thinking about or actually in the middle of efforts to have a visiting author or artist come to their town. My students, and my daughter especially proved to me that persistence, flexibility and a positive attitude can make things happen. And I have to say thank you again to Mark Crilley for his communication, his visit and amazing presentations, drawing workshops, and personal attention to his fans. It was indeed a pleasure having him spend the day with us!

My autographed copy of Mastering Manga.
One other thing I have to mention. Mr. Crilley was so appreciative of our efforts, 
and particularly the efforts of my daughter who had sought out her media specialist, 
and circulated petitions to fellow students to sign in favor of having this author visit. 
He gave her a very special gift: one of his pencil drawings featured on his Youtube channel. Thanks again Mark Crilley!
A lovely gift!