Student Teacher Blog
My Art III students were working with ceramics, so while their pieces were being fired, we had a little mini lesson about blind contours. They partnered with their table mates and practiced a couple times in pencil on smaller paper first. A lot of students had to get comfortable with the idea of blind contour drawing; that it is a drawing practice using hand-eye coordination that also forces us to focus on the small details, and that it is not necessarily concerned with the final product (or how “good” it looks). They also had to get comfortable with that actual process of not looking at the paper and not lifting up their pencil.
After they practiced a few times, they moved on to a bigger paper and used black water-resistant marker. Then with a pre-made drawing of a face, they practiced where shadows hit the face using deeper watercolors, and where highlights hit using lighter oil pastels. They practiced the watercolor shadows and oil pastel highlights on their practices before moving on to their final pieces.
Ultimately, their choice of colors, patterns, and designs were up to them. While they attempted to create “realistic” shadows and highlights (as in where the shadows and highlights are placed on the face), they added their own style and color choices.
My Art III students worked with ceramics. The idea of the project was to design a tile and create a vessel that not only relates to the tile, but is also built with the tile. First, they sketched ideas for their piece. They thought about what they would want to hold in their vessel, and designed their tile based off what they want their vessel to hold. They also designed the shape of their vessel to continue with their theme. To create a tile that they can use as a mold to produce multiple tiles, they made one tile with clay. By the time we saw them next, the tiles were either leather hard or bone dry, and we made little cells out of cardboard for each tile to fill with plaster. We let the plaster cure over the weekend, so when they had class again, the plaster mold was ready to be used. You cannot use a bone dry clay tile as your mold. It is so brittle that it will easily break while you try to press fresh clay into it!
We covered different ways to build a vessel; slab, coiling, or pinch pots. The choice of which method to use was up to the student. They built a vessel, or at least parts of a vessel to start with, and added on their clay tiles they made from their plaster mold.
After their pieces were fired, we went over how to properly glaze them. Color choices were up to the students.
My Art I students explored the impact that public art can have on a space by looking at different statues, monuments, etc. We discussed local public sculptures, like the history and effects of Monument Avenue, the Connecticut statue, and the Virginia LOVE sign marketing itself for Pride. They brainstormed a public sculpture that they could either replace an old statue with, or add to a public/community space that they felt needed public art. Their ideas for their sculptures were either to memorialize someone/something, or to bring awareness to a social issue (thinking about the effect that accessible public art can have on a public space – what message do you want to communicate with everyone who sees your piece?).
After they brainstormed and sketched, they “proposed” their sculpture with a drawing of it in the chosen space, along with a short statement, written as if they needed permission/funding to build their sculpture, to argue why their sculpture idea is strong enough to be built.
From these drawings and planning, we moved on to building our actual sculptures (or “maquettes”, since we imaged these sculptures bigger and in a specific public space). The first step was to build an armature, which we did through castings using saran wrap and packaging tape. Students chose how they wanted to build their armature — ex; if their idea was a statue of a person, they could cast a mannequin. They were really creative in making their armature, utilizing anything in the room they could find, including their own bodies. If what they casted wasn’t the exact shape they wanted, they manipulated the armature by building onto it or cutting into it. After their armatures were built, they covered it in paper maché. The final paper maché layer was a solid brown paper, so they could choose to either keep it that solid color (to mimic solid bronze/other metal statues), or, if they had time, they could paint it. Those students that did chose to paint it was given a little demo to review how to paint with acrylic.
Many of the concepts for the sculptures were strong, personal, and ambitious. Social concepts ranged from LGBT discrimination, exploitation of natural resources from other countries, racism, mental illness, and police brutality. More personal concepts were usually about a family member, or a public figure who they admired.
Mural design is a great project for Art one students. Students get an opportunity to design a mural using mixed media. In this case, it is important to center the project on a theme. For example I focused the prompt around eras and decades. Students were to design a mural centered around all of the elements that define that era. It is important to allow students to go as far back in time as they would like. As a result, students get an opportunity to research a time period in human history and the cultural elements that defined that era. This presents a creative challenge for students. Therefore they have to think about what made those eras unique.
Murals by the Decade
In my art one class we started a long term mural design project. First students drafted their murals. They had to think about different approaches to design and composition in terms of layering and assembling the different components. I centered the focus of the project on eras. As a result, students were challenged to communicate the elements they believe defined that era. For example I had one student make a well-designed mural on the eighties. She included elements of the eighties that defined that decade as well as pop culture that was relevant to her life.
Extra Credit Opportunity:
Richmond is known for its wonderful murals. These murals can range from themes like Jazz, love, to history. A great extra credit opportunity is to have students explore Richmond’s murals using Google Earth. First, have students discover two to three murals around Richmond. The Richmond Murals Project is a great source that provides information on the many mural locations. After students have found the murals, have them re imagine the way they would make the mural. Ask the students what they would do differently. Above all students will discover beautiful murals that are located within their community.
Students in 3D Design created a plan to decorate blown-out chicken eggs using a wax-resist process introduced to the art world by a Ukranian tradition called Pysanky. Students used traditional and contemporary designs and symbols to create a decorated egg symbolic of a person or relationship in their lives.
The process of dying these eggs is pretty involved, but repetitive. Students used a kitsky filled with beeswax to plug the hole (where the egg was blown out) so that dye did not seep into the inside of the egg. Then, they covered up any part of the egg that they wanted to keep white. If there was no part of their design that was white, they dyed their egg the lightest color in their design (for example, yellow). This process repeats as the student applies darker and darker dyes to the egg.
For the egg pictured on the left, for example, the lightest color in the design is white. The artist covered the hole with beeswax, and then covered all areas they desired to keep white. Then, they dipped the egg in the next lightest color of their design, in this case yellow. Beeswax was then applied to all the areas the artist desired to keep yellow, and the egg was dipped in the next lightest color, gold. The gold dye covered the yellow dye, and the wax protected the areas the student desired to keep yellow and white. These steps were repeated for the next color, turquoise, and then finally black. After the egg was dyed black, the artist melted all of the wax off of the egg (unplugging the hole first so that pressure did not build up inside of the egg) and the design was revealed.
To display the eggs, we put shellac on the eggs to archive the dye, used a metal cap to cover the hole, and hung the eggs with ribbon. We put small tags with numbers on the ribbon and a corresponding sign that showed which numbered egg was created by which student artist.
A handy tip: A kitsky needs to be hot to be used. Each student had their own tea light candle that they passed their kitsky over to heat it up. The tea light candle was placed in a foil muffin tin with a little water on the bottom so that if it was knocked over, the water would put the candle out. It is especially important to warn girls who have oil or hairspray in their hair not to lean too close to the flame. I’m happy to report that we did not cause any fire alarms during this unit!
Art II students are required to do a printmaking lesson. In the past, these students have done mostly block printing, which the Art II and IV students (who are combined in a class with the Art II students, therefore also having to do printmaking) actually begged me not to do. So, instead of linocuts which they are more used to, we experimented with kitchen lithography and then used the aluminum plates leftover to create dry point etchings.
In class we discussed the types of printmaking and the history of its use, with an emphasis on the fact that the bourgeoisie commissioned prints to make fun of the working and lower classes. Less expensive processes that developed later on gave working and lower classes chances to bite back at the bourgeoisie.
For example, lithography is a process of printmaking that takes advantage of the resistance that oil and water have to each other. Acid burns an oil drawing into a limestone (which are rare and expensive) or a metal plate, the artist gets the plate wet with water, and then oil-based ink is rubbed onto the plate. Because the plate is soaked in water and the ink is oil-based, the ink only sticks to the drawing and cannot secure itself to any other part of the plate. Kitchen lithography is an inexpensive way to create lithographs using items you would find in your kitchen (with the exception of the oil based printing ink). You can watch a great tutorial on this process here.
However, it is difficult to get perfect results without exhausting the plate or the artist, so we only experimented with this process for one class period. After that, we used the aluminum metal sheets (which we used in place of plexiglass to keep the aluminum foil flat) to create drypoint etchings because the students would certainly have more success with that process. Below are some of the final prints these students created. They learned how to create identical prints with a consistent register, plate tone, and inking pattern, and then signed the prints appropriately (edition number, optional title, signature and date).
An Alternative to Perspective
Teaching perspective is very challenging. Consequently students are intimidated by one point and two point perspective. Therefore it is hard to teach perspective in the art one classes. This is due to varying skill levels. Perspective follows a set of rules that requires meticulous measurement. As a result, we risk a drop in engagement when we press the techniques needed for an advanced unit. However a great project to try with the art one classes is the outside the border project. In conclusion, it teaches depth and composition. Both are key components of perspective.
Outside the Border
The border project is a great lesson for teaching composition and depth. First, students choose a subject matter and incorporate depth. Second, the students need elements from the subject matter to emerge from the rectangle. Therefore the challenge is for students to find a subject they are interested in while incorporating depth. The students really enjoyed this project in my class. They created a whole variety of pictures. One student drew religious iconography emerging from the rectangle. Afterwards they created a relationship between what is inside of the rectangle and what is outside. Students focused on their interests. However they needed to incorporate depth through the rectangle.
A great artist to reference for this project is Norman Rockwell. He would use a circle behind all of his Saturday Evening Post covers. He would often include diagonal lines to indicate movement or a circle to focus on a point in the subject. Most importantly this indicates layers, depth, and movement. It demonstrates essential components of perspective.
3D Design I students (mostly freshmen) had a blast with this project because it gave them an opportunity to connect with their community in a comical way. Students were introduced to the concept of animorphism – the process of applying human characteristics to animals. Then they looked at artists like Zoe Williams, Victor Dubrovsky, and Midori Nakayama, who all create needle-felted animals in different styles, different parts of the world, and for different reasons.
Students then discussed how animorphism can be used for comedy, critique, or a combination of the two (satire). They picked a person in real life, whether that was a celebrity, friend, family member, athlete, or otherwise, and made a plan to turn said person into an animal. The animal would be identifiable as the person through accessories. Once a student’s plan was approved (to make sure their idea was appropriate, not discriminatory, and not targeting a classmate), the student learned needle felting techniques to create their animal. The body was made out of polyester polyfil (less expensive than wool) and a wire armature. Then the student covered their animal with wool and created accessories out of wool, wire, paper, sculpey, and other materials.
Exceptional Education students had a good time with this project. One of them made the Cardi B. bird pictured below, which was a fan favorite at the Student Teacher Art Show. Push pins helped them hold the polyester down while they felted the polyester, and some hand-over-hand assistance helped them build the wire armature if they so needed.
A handy tip: Students soaked their needles in rubbing alcohol if they pricked themselves, and at times got frustrated with how much they were doing so. Providing fun bandaids for them was a nice treat that helped lighten the mood when the stuck themselves with the felting needle.
“Guy Fierret” – Guy Fiere as a ferret, sporting his flaming shirt, a menu, and a hamburger.
This student is depicting his brother as a gorilla, sitting on the toilet and taking his time reading the paper.
“Cardi B.ird” – This student chose to depict Cardi B. (a singer) as a bird because of the cooing noise she makes in many of her songs. She’s sporting her hood wrap, colorful feathers, and hoop earrings.
Each week students are tasked with a sketchbook assignment due the following week. Usually these sketchbook assignments are conceptual and have to do with drawing skills. However, this week I wanted to challenge students to break free and let loose a little in their sketchbooks. Most students are used to making their sketchbook assignments a “finished product.” I introduced this sketchbook assignment by showing students examples of sketchbooks from artists that use their sketchbook more like journals and pages for experimentation. I also showed students my personal sketchbook and they really enjoyed seeing my work!
I then had students gather around and demonstrated how to do a blind contour drawing. Students were then give the rest of the 20 minutes in the block to fill up a page with blind contours. They really had a lot of fun with this assignment, and they felt they could be more free since I stressed I wasn’t grading on how they look. This was the first time that I had full engagement from the class, and I think it was due to the fact that this project was more freeing and students didn’t feel held back.