Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I missed blogging last week. I am trying to do once a week. The only reason I am able to post now is because I have a study hall. Between getting fundraisers ready to raise money for a trip to New York and National Art Honor Society invitation letters needing to go out, I am behind.

In art news, my Ceramics II students are hard at work on their NCECA projects. My Ceramics I students are almost done with their bookbinding project - they make their own sketchbooks each year.

The cover is being prepared for this sketchbook.

My Art II students are in the middle of their value scale projects. I keep remembering to take pictures on B day, so none of my A day students are on here or on Facebook. I must do better.

Edgar Allen Poe in progress, upside-down.

These look better in real life than they do in photos.

It is so quiet when they are working. Some are listening to music.

It's hard to take a photo from this end of the room.

Animation & Video Game Design I students have learned about the history of animation and made thaumatropes. They were thrilled when they were successful. Animation & Video Game Design II are working on storyboards for an animation to illustrate a concept taught in one of their core subjects.

Some of the Animation I students with their thaumatropes, and one Animation II student with his storyboards.

We are all about New York here in the art department. We are planning a five day trip through EF. Our meeting is in a week, so we will find out then if we have enough interest to pull it off!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Getting Into the Routine

This year our middle school and high school times shifted from 7:50 - 3:00 to 8:30 - 3:30. Last year, the husband drove our daughter to elementary school because it was way out of my way. This year, I will drive her to middle school. So I can leave the house at the same time as last year but still get to school on time. The students seem to like the new schedule.

We are in full swing. Animation & Video Game Design I have done thaumatropes and are about to do a strip of 12 frames for a zoetrope.  II is about to start creating an animation illustrating a concept from one of their core classes. One student has chosen the planets, one chose electricity, and one chose Napoleon.

Ceramics I is in the middle of a bookbinding unit making their sketchbooks. They each get to choose their method of binding, and we have students choosing coptic binding, Japanese stab binding, and more. Ceramics II is working on their entry to the NCECA K-12 art competition.

Art II students have done value scales in preparation for their big gridded portrait. Before they made their value scales, I had them play around with the charcoal for a little bit and see how many different values they could create.

Most of the students had never worked with charcoal.

This is the second and smaller of my two Art II classes.  They were so quiet!

And there's always the student who draws all the time and already knows what you are teaching - she is hanging out and watching everyone else because she's already done!
The only kink in my system is that normally I stay after school anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to catch up on things. My daughter used to be dropped off at my school from the bus. This year, she gets out at the same time as our students, and I have to stay another 15 minutes before I can leave, and it's another 15 in school traffic to get to her school. So she's left sitting from 3:30 - 4:00 pm, and then we have to rush to get to drum lessons, voice lessons, art teacher meetings, and anything else. So I have lost about 3-5 hours a week in planning and paperwork time. I am still trying to figure that out!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

First Two Days

The first two days of school went great. I have been feeling unprepared but I am not sure why - there is no reason. It may be because I have so many new faces. My classes are bigger than last year, but still a good size for art. They range from 13 - 21 students. I have a half size classroom, with seating for 18 if we are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder at the tables. I do have some counter space to spread out my large Art II class, so that will be good. I also have a study hall with 24, but I have made arrangements to send students who need quiet to work to another teacher's room, so that I can fit the rest in my room.

Since we are on a modified block schedule, I meet with each class every other day. I have first block planning, second is Art II both days, third is Ceramics I & II both days, and fourth block is Animation & Video Game Design on A days and Study Hall on B days. We do team building and getting to know each other activities on the first day, so I have done that for two days nonstop!

Our school is starting its second year of a mentoring program. We call it Connect. It is similar to what some schools call Advisory. I have 15 sophomores that will be mine for the year. Only one is an art student (last year I lucked out with three). Since we meet every day, I needed a different activity for day two.  I pulled out bamboo skewers, string, tin foil, aluminum pans, and scissors. With three tables of kids, I told each table to build the tallest tower they could in 15 minutes.

This team (with the Boy Scout who had experience) eventually won.
All but two of the 15 kids participated, and the two that didn't participate made lots of comments (mostly negative or funny, but at least they were a little involved).
This group used the tin foil to add height once their structure was stable.
We gave a round of applause to the winner, but they were all taller than I expected, so they all earned a prize. Now I just have to figure out what to get them - I had better think fast, because I'm supposed to give them their prize tomorrow. Unfortunately, it has to come from my pocketbook.
This team did well despite having two of their group not participate.
Now to spend the rest of the afternoon planning and gathering some supplies from home.  One week down, 38 (I think) to go!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back to School!

Mr. Mac and I before ziplining at our faculty retreat.
Well, it's almost 2 pm on the day before students arrive, and instead of working on syllabi, I'm dredging up this blog from the depths of neglected social media.  I have such good intentions, but so little time!  I am hoping to have more time this year because I have so much to share.  I should have a little more time since I did not have enough students to teach AP Art History this year, despite the fact that my students all scored a 4 or a 5 on the AP Art History exam!!!

The picture above is from our faculty retreat this summer - Camp Black Bear.  We did some great planning for the year but also had time for some fun and some bonding.  Two of our three art teachers went.

I am planning to do some posting about how we are handling some lower numbers since losing the MYP program and since the state no longer requires 1/2 credit of fine art to graduate.  I also want to share some of my summer learning experiences.  Finally, I want to share some of the big plans we have for visual arts this year at my school.  How are you planning to make this year the best ever?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

TASK Presentation at AAEA Conference

It happens - you start a blog and then you get busy.

Not sure what the sculpture is supposed to be.
The Alabama Art Education Association's conference is this weekend.  I will be presenting for the first time.  Because of many things, I am not quite ready.  I do not have a handout to send or print - I will be preparing that at the hotel tomorrow.  So when trying to decide how to give everyone links to the websites I will be discussing, I decided to share the information here.  I recently printed business cards with the url to this site, so I can hand them out at the conference instead of killing a bunch of trees with handouts people might not even want or use.

Cows and a tombstone?

The presentation is on art parties - and while I mention things like a dirty Santa party at Christmas or our end-of-the-year picnic (complete with watercolor waterguns and tempera Twister), the focus of the presentation is on TASK.

Our TASK box
This will be the third year I have run a TASK party for my National Art Honor Society students.  They love it.  I tell them not to tell the new members what happens at TASK (but I am sure they do, anyway).  Seriously, my face hurts the next day from smiling and laughing so much.

NAHS students interpret Munch
Oliver Herring held the first TASK event.  Basically, you draw a slip of paper out of a box and do what it says.  Then you make up a new task and write it down and put it in the box.  Draw another task, and repeat.  You can read more, plus see what kind of tasks wound up in TASK boxes at various events, at his website here.  Please note that these were parties for adults, and many of the tasks are inappropriate for students.

A hideout

Instead of having students make up tasks, I create a list of several hundred.  This way, I know all of the tasks will be appropriate, safe, and not hurt anyone's feelings.  I do have some tasks that are "create 5 tasks for the TASK box."

A student's take on van Gogh
I hand out the first task because they are prep for future tasks - make an art gallery for people to put their work in, make a cow pen, etc.  Later tasks will have people filling the art gallery or making cows for the cow pen.  The last batch that I dump in the box will have people trying to sell art from the gallery, taking the cows on a zipline trip, or dressing a cow in armor and filming a commercial to try and sell cow armor.

This cow was in an armor commercial during the 2012 TASK party.
There is some preparation involved for TASK.  We start a few weeks ahead of time, putting up flyers that say "TASK is coming!"  No further information.  TASK participants are sworn to secrecy.  It seems to make things more exciting.  A few days before, I start gathering supplies.  I go through the list of tasks to make sure we have everything we need.

My mannequin got a head and a fashionable new dress.
We tape up brown paper over the lockers and walls, and put a layer down on the floor.  We move tables out into the halls to hold supplies, and fill buckets with water for dirty brushes.

The hall will be trashed by the time we are done.

To clean up, we rinse out brushes, put away the supplies, and grab any art that is exceptionally cool to hang up in the art rooms.  Then we pull down the brown paper, roll it up, and take it to the dumpster.

The supply table gets messy by the end of the event.
Not only do my NAHS kids enjoy it, but other students see some of the resulting artwork and the signs and hear talk about it and I think it motivates some of the younger students to keep their art grade up so they can join.

Students wind up wearing all kinds of strange things.
Here is a link to the tasks I use - I update it every year, adding new ones I have thought of and deleting old ones that didn't work particularly well.  The starred ones are the ones I hand out at the beginning.  For video of a TASK event in action, check this out:

Keep in mind, this one was designed for adults.

TASK is a lot of work, but a lot of fun, and it's great letting the students create without rubrics, assignments, or grades.  I hope my presentation will encourage other educators to try TASK with their kids!

I miss my former students!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Digital Image Editing

I don't know what I was looking for when I ran across the Apex High School Art blog. But I really enjoyed it. It was earlier this semester, when I had just started teaching a new semester course, Digital Image Editing. It is basically the same content as a course some other schools call "Photoshop," but we use the free, open-source equivalent, GIMP. I didn't want to put "GIMP" as the course title, because most of the kids didn't know what GIMP was; and I felt like calling it "Photoshop" when we couldn't afford Photoshop was too much of a bait-and-switch. Plus, it's cool to abbreviate Digital Image Editing as DIE.

Anyhow, the students had mastered most of the basic functions: layers, text, layer masks, transformations, etc. I was looking for some more creative assignments to give them so they could practice their skills and have a little fun. So when I ran across Mr. Sand's blog post Interactive Self Portrait with a Cartoon, I was thrilled. What a great idea! I immediately left a comment on his blog post letting him know that I am now officially stalking him, and that I hoped he wouldn't mind that I was stealing his idea. He did put it out there on the Internet for all the world to see.

Anyhow, my students seemed to really enjoy the project (especially compared to the identical tutorials that they had done previously). Check out some of the results!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Structure of the High School Art Department

Our art department has gone through several changes over the past few years. When I was hired, it was because our system (an International Baccalaureate system) needed someone to teach a half-day of semester Art Appreciation classes so students could fulfill their IB MYP (Middle Years Program) requirements in 9th and 10th grade. My first year I worked half days, my second and third I got sent to an elementary school for the other half of the day, but my fourth year through now (my sixth) I have been full time at the high school, and I love it.

We have always had Art I, II, III, and IV. Since I've been here, we've always had Graphic Design, AP Studio, Photography, and Film & Video Production. I have been fortunate enough to get to teach AP Art History and Ceramics & Crafts for the second year now. But things are changing.

Alabama State Diplomas through the Class of 2013 require one semester of fine art - visual art, drama, music, or dance. Yet another reason we have kept the one semester Art Appreciation class these past few years. But the new requirements will be two years of a fine art or career/technical prep class. It is suggested (but not required) that both classes are in the same 'track,' or subject area.

We also have new course descriptions from the state. Anything we teach that is not an explicitly listed course under Art cannot get Arts credit, only general elective credit. This includes my Ceramics and Crafts class. It also includes my Animation class, which is listed, but is under 'technology,' which I'm not certified in, so again it counts as general elective credit.

This has led us to reevaluate the whole structure of our department. Visual Arts Levels I-IV are listed, but so are 2-D Design and 3-D design. We are sure we need to keep Art I, but should we then move students to 2-D or 3-D instead of Art II? We have always liked the Art I-IV way of doing it because we are free to do any type media with our students. We have flexibility to change what we are doing based on donations, contests, or our budget. Someone donates a bunch of wire? New lesson plan: wire sculptures! But if all of your kids are in 2-D design, forget it.

That is how the high school across town does it. They teach Art I and then send the students to Drawing/Painting, Ceramics, Photography, or Graphic Design. I don't know that their way is any better. I do believe that students interested in art for college need two years of drawing/2D and some 3-D.

Basically, we are trying to figure out how to set it up so that we can maximize the number of students taking classes in our department and give them the classes they want to take while adequately preparing them for college. I would love to hear from any other schools who have done this or are in the process of doing this. We hope to have it figured out in the next few months in order to get some good information out next year to students to help them plan their years in our department (this year we are beginning with some slight changes). We are mulling things over now, and will take another look at it in a few weeks when we get our numbers for next year - how many students enrolled for each of the classes offered.