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.