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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All My Peeps

Every year, just before Easter, our local candy store has a contest.  Morgan Price Candy Company hosts their annual Peeps contest.  My Art II students always enter.  This is our third or fourth year to do it.

The students love it because they get to choose the topic, and they always have a favorite TV show or movie that they want to do.  The main requirement is that all of the characters must be made from the marshmallow Peeps that are prevalent this time of year.  I also require my students to use 'Peep' in the title, as in 'How I Met Your Peep,' above.

Finding Peepo

Last year, they had a winner overall, and a winner based on the theme 'Movies.'  The contest is open to the whole community, and they bring in independent judges.  Last year's overall winner used all purchased items and stickers.  I think the ladies in charge knew how hard my students worked to make their projects, so they started a 'People's Choice Award' (or PEEP-les Choice Award!).  Last year, my students won in both the Movie category and the People's Choice category.

Peeps & Tiaras

This year, the theme is 'Best Family Activity.'  I have two students who are entering in that category.  One is basing hers on the local Memorial Day Festival that features hot air balloons.

Some students chose to do things besides TV and movies.  For example, one student did a convention, complete with comic-book and movie characters:

One student did Alice in Wonderland:

And another did the Apollo program.  I really love the painted cotton balls for flames and the way he spray painted the planets:

Some students chose music videos or concerts as their inspiration:

And others chose video games:

Super Peep Bros.

Almost all of my kids worked really hard and I am very happy with the results.  Some are obviously still learning how to deal with using three-dimensional space, but they are definitely improving!

Branding and Social Media

I finished our logo!  I brought it in to show our Graphic Design teacher, and she suggested a few little tweaks, but I think it's not bad for someone who's never had a graphic design course.

I started working on it because I want us to be more visible to the public.  That means using social media.  In order to be recognizable across different social media outlets, I wanted a logo to unify everything.  I know branding is important in the business world, so maybe we can use it too.  I have started a Twitter account for our department, but I'm not sure what to do with it.  My personal Twitter I use mainly for communicating with other art educators.

I do have some ideas for what to do with the new Art Department Facebook page I just made - I just don't have the time!  I want to share some of what I post here on the blog, and I also want to use it to promote our department to 7th and 8th graders.  I hate it when an artistically talented high school senior wants to take a class and we realize we have missed out on having this student in the department for three years.

Another teacher once told me that publicity was key to building her art program.  I am hoping that branding and social media will help me do that - if I can only find the time!

I would be interested in hearing how other high school art teachers use social media in or for their programs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Youth Art Month

When I was at the Alabama Art Education Conference, there was some discussion about Youth Art Month reports. I realized that all our school was doing for Youth Art Month was dropping off some art at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center. This year I decided to do a little more. Since one of the things I require my AP Art History students to do is a presentation on the art of a chosen culture, we made it into a YAM activity. Each student made flyers with a cheesy photograph, and that they were presenting a lecture on the art of whichever culture they were doing. The date and time were also on the flyer, so anyone could come. We billed it as the "Youth Art Month Lecture Series."

Also, I had a college or two express interest in speaking to our students. So we had "College Week," where both art schools and nearby colleges with art programs came to speak with our students and show off our school.

Also, we had our Youth Art Month exhibition. The young man shown above is one of my Art II students, but he won for a photograph for another teacher's class. The sculpture of Sadako Sasaki with a paper crane at the top of this post was by this young lady:

She did it in my Ceramics & Crafts class. It started out as a crane, but wound up looking more like a kneeling figure. We haven't done a glaze firing yet, so she painted it with watercolor. Totally different from what she expected, but it looks pretty good.

I also had a winner from my Art II classes. I taught my Pattern Value Drawings lesson for the second year and one student took second place for her Carrie Underwood:

My other entries were a tapestry woven piece:

A 3-D shoe (using an idea from a teacher's Digication e-Portfolio here):

...and a print that I won't show here because I want to enter it in another contest. We were limited to 5 entries and I had a drawing, a print, a weaving, a clay sculpture, and a cardboard sculpture, so we are obviously using a wide variety of media.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Creating Believers

One of the biggest challenges I face in my Art II classes is getting my students to believe me.  To believe me when I say that sighting works but they must lock their elbow.  To believe me when I tell them to squint at their work to evaluate their values..  To believe me when I say, "walk across the room and look at it from a distance and you can see what's wrong."  To believe me when I say that real artists really do think about composition, movement, repetition, a color palette, a focal point.  To believe me when I tell them that the greatest art comes from passion, from feeling strongly about something.

I want them to 'get' art and to understand that art-making is not the end goal; communication is.  Exploration of an idea.  Sharing an opinion in a creative way.  As Shea Hembrey says, it has the 3 H's - Head (ideas), Heart (emotion), and Hands (technical skill).

Shea Hembrey decided that contemporary art had become too esoteric so he decided to create his own Biennale - a body of work created in two years by 100 artists.  These artists were created by Hembrey, as well as their bios, backgrounds, ideas, and working methods.  He created the artists, then he created their works.  There are several examples of "this artist is interested in exploring the idea of _____," along with the resulting artwork.  If someone came across the exhibit, there would be nothing to indicate the works were made by one person.

Check it out; it's pretty cool.  And I think I'm going to show it to my Art II. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Alabama Clay Conference

This past weekend was the Alabama Clay Conference. If you've never been and are into clay, I highly recommend going. I have seen some superstars of ceramics at these over the past 10 years.

I went with a friend who is a retired high school teacher. She now has a ceramics studio downtown here in Decatur. We started the trip with a trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art. A piece by Maria Martinez:

Our Presenters were Gerit Grimm, Kurt Weiner, and Dirk Staschke. Here is one of Dirk's pieces from the BMA:

Thursday night was the Clay Market where artists sell their work. I have been eyeing the work of Larry Allen for a few years now, and I finally bought a piece. It is small, but I love it.

Right before we left, I realized that our school kiln wasn't firing correctly. The kiln-sitter was so far out of whack it would shut off the kiln without the cone even bending. Luckily, the nice guy at the Skutt booth gave me a gauge to calibrate the kiln sitter:

After walking through the vendors, it was time to watch the presenters. Here, Dick Staschke demonstrates how he uses a routed board and a custom-cut rib to make a fancy base for one of his pieces:

Gerit (pronounced "Garrett;" she's German but lives in the US) makes small to life-sized figurative sculpture and she throws all of the pieces. At least, she threw all for the demonstration except for the hands and feet. The heads are made of a couple of egg shapes put together. She does the torso the same way. She likes to keep the throwing lines visible. You can see them in the figures' legs:

I bought a trial kit of Artistic Line Resist with classroom money. I can't wait to show it to my students. You can draw, brush, trail, or screenprint with it and it acts as a glaze resist. You can kind of see from their sample board:

Dirk Staschke's finished sample piece:

Kurt Weiner's sample piece. This is China painting like no little old lady has ever done. One side:

Here is the other side:

Gerit Grimm's piece:

After the conference, we had a teacher workshop using clay and underglazes. I think this is the third year for this. Larry Percy at Troy State started the tradition the year Lana Wilson was one of the presenters.

All in all, I had a great time and it has recharged my batteries enough that I have come home and started cleaning and rearranging / organizing my ceramic studio.

So Little Time

I have so much that I want to blog about, just very little time in which to do it.  I originally planned to post things as the year progressed, but that obviously hasn't worked.  So in this post, I want to create a list of things I want to post about.  These are mostly things that have happened in the past year.  I may update this post periodically to add new things.  If there is something here that you would like to hear about sooner, let me know in the comments (if anyone is out there reading this!) and I will post on it sooner.  If you want me to post on something that I didn't list, you can ask for that as well.

Future blog post topics:

The Shoe Project
The Peeps Project
The Crane Sroject
AP Art History
National Art Honor Society (NAHS)
Field Trips
Student Art Show
Alabama Clay Conference
What do you do when you have a sub?
Portfolio Day
Tapestry Weaving
Value Scale Pattern Portraits
The Leader in Me Symposium
Common Core / College & Career Readiness

Hopefully, I will be able to start this soon.  I am currently working on a new logo for our art department.  I need to take a graphic design class!