Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tempera Cakes

I used tempera cakes with my Kindergarten classes for the first time yesterday.  I had never used cake tempera before and found that I really like it!  It is obviously easier than using liquid tempera, the students don't put it on so thick that it cracks and falls off the paper, and the setup seemed to be a little hardier than watercolor trays.  I wasn't paying much attention as I passed out the trays until a student said that it looked funny.  I took a peak and found that one of the cakes had molded.  I started to look through the others and found 5 or 6 trays that had a moldy cake in them.  I am guessing that they were covered and stored while still damp?  It seemed like the dark blue cake was the most common color.  I was interested in the different kinds of mold I found and thought they were kinda pretty.

I ended up just taking the cakes that were still good and putting them in a container for storage.  I threw out the tray that the mold was in because I wasn't sure how safe it was.  I left the trays uncovered to dry but I'm wondering if there is anything else I should know about using tempera cakes...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

(Kansas) Jr. Duck Stamp Program

I am all about ducks.  I first learned about the Jr. Duck Stamp program when I was a freshman in high school.  I wish I had known about the contest when I was younger because I definitely would have participated!  I only had it as an assignment in 9th grade but I enjoyed it so much that I elected to make a drawing for the contest in each of my remaining high school years.  (Photos of my duck drawings at end of post!)

Duck stamps have been around since 1934 with the first duck stamps designed by J. N. "Ding" Darling. Waterfowl hunters aged 16 or older are required to purchase a duck stamp.  The stamps cost $15 and 98 cents out of every dollar is used to either purchase or lease wetlands which become protected by the National Wildlife Refuge System.  Since the beginning of the program, more than $750 million have been raised to conserve over 5.3 million acres of wetlands.  (Questions about Duck Stamps?)

The Jr. Duck Stamp Program started in 1989 as an educational program with the goal of teaching "Conservation through the Arts."  Artwork created for the program must be 9x12 inches and in a horizontal format.  There can be no writing on the front of the artwork and the artwork should realistically represent a bird species from the list of eligible ducks, geese, and swans.  Each state has a contest with four age groups, the Best in Show is sent on to the national competition.  Click here for info on how to participate in the Jr. Duck Stamp Program or here to find information specific to your state.

I am so excited to have the opportunity to do the program with my students.  My 1-3 students are all finishing their duck drawings and my 4-6 students have the choice or birds or bugs (for Kansas Critters: Bugs.)

Here is my Jr. Duck Stamp Program Motivation Kit List!

  • Real duck stamps- My dad saves his old duck stamps for me.  I have one that was on his hunting license from a couple years ago and the students were really excited about it.
  • Jr. Duck Stamp Poster- If you can get ahold of one!
  • Feathers- I recently added some feathers to my bulletin board display, the curled feathers from a mallard's tail.  Students very excited, of course.
  • Examples- I brought my high school JDS drawings and a duck drawing from a couple months ago.  I showed each drawing and talked about the different duck species I drew which got the students excited.
  • Reference photos- the guidelines for what reference photos can be used are getting a bit stricter as an attempt to teach students about copyright and plagiarism.  About 90% of the photos I put out as reference are photos that I have taken of ducks and geese at zoos, parks, and the wetlands near the school where I student taught.  I have a couple of photos from a calendar and pictures of decoys as well.  I talked to the students about trying to get the shape and markings accurate but changing the background.  I told them as long as the background was an appropriate habitat for the bird, it would work in their drawing.  (I think that middle and high school students have to cite their source photos now.)

Freshman Year- Harlequin Ducks

Sophomore Year- Hen Mallard

Junior Year- Canada Geese

Senior Year- Fulvous Whistling Duck

Monday, January 25, 2010

Project 365

If anybody is interested, here is the link to my Project 365:

I first learned about the concept last year when I had a couple of friends participating.  The concept is simple, a photo a day for a year.  One of my friends took the photography route and another chose a photo or drawing a day.  I am posting one photograph a day, though some are photos of artwork.  I thought it would be a nice record of my year and something I could tell my students about to prove that art is part of my everyday life and not just part of my job.

I started on January 1st- it was the easiest way for me to start the project.  My sequential learning style means I don't like to start "in the middle" of anything.  If you feel moved to do so, start today!  Start tomorrow!  Just do it!

Here are some of my favorite photos of the year so far:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Everyone Knows Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

The saying "money doesn't grow on trees" and Gustav Klimt's Cartoon for the frieze of the Villa Stoclet in Brussels: central  part of the tree of life. 1905-1909 were the inspiration for this lesson. I thought that this would be a good way to find out what my students were interested in and give them some choices while still having structure.
The students discussed Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's "Tree of Life". Klimt was very interested in creating patterns and visual texture using shape. We discussed how the tree was abstracted and stylized with the lines of the branches forming spirals. I also showed the students "the Kiss" and a couple other paintings of trees but I left it at that since it is not uncommon to find nudity in Klimt's artwork. When discussing the artwork, I asked for initial reactions and then we went through each of the elements of art. I have the poster series posted on one of the classroom walls so we just covered one at a time. My students are still getting used to critiquing art but they did pretty good with the structure of each element. I reminded them of what each element means and then called on random students to try and describe how each was used by the artist.
First, the students drew a stylized tree with something unusual growing on it- something that THEY wish would grow on trees. The thing growing on trees could be a real object or an idea. "Love" was a popular choice with the girls and I think the most common choice with the boys was video games. Next, the students traced over all of their pencil lines with crayon and finally, watercolor paint was applied to create a wax-resist painting.
My SMART goal this year is basically about color theory so I decided instead of just painting trees, I also wanted to teach the students about warm and cool colors. Either warm or cool colors were chosen for crayon and the opposite was used to paint creating more contrast.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kindergarten Views on Family

I am starting a new project with Kindergarten (pictures to come later) and to get them prepared for it, I was asking them questions about family.  For some reason in the first class I worded my question as "What makes a family?" but I changed it to "What is a family?" for the next class.  Here are a few of my answers that I had to share before I lose the piece of paper I wrote them on:

"A man and a woman get together and the woman has the baby.  And then the baby grows up and it's a family."

"A whole lot of people... and love... and stuff."

"Someone who lives together."

"When they come together like at Thanksgiving.  Sometimes they're married, sometimes not.  Sometimes they live together, sometimes not."

I also asked the students if all families are the same and they knew that "NO" was the right answer.  Several of my students live with a grandparent or other guardian so I mentioned that.  I also asked if they knew what adoption is.  I had a little girl in my second class say that she knows because she was adopted so I asked her to tell the class.  Her answer was so sweet.  She said "If you have a mom or dad and they can't take care of you and they want you to have a better life, then they give you away."  I asked her if she had any brothers or sisters and if she minded telling how old she was when she was adopted.  She said no on the siblings and that she doesn't remember when she was adopted and never got to meet her "real" parents.  Then she started to look sad so I just told the other students that adoption shows love and when you are adopted you get to be a part of a new family, and of course every family is special.

Then other students started to add "Yeah!  And you DON'T know them!" and "Being adopted is like going to a new school" and the moment was over.  We thanked the little girl for sharing her story and started the project. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reason #65 I LOVE Glee

Glee won at the Golden Globes last night for 'Best TV Series - Comedy Or Musical' and during the acceptance speech, Ryan Murphy said that the show was about "the importance of Arts education".
Three cheers for Ryan Murphy and Glee!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Follow the Leader Duck or Goose Drawing

Right now my 4-6th grade students are working on either the Jr. Duck Stamp program or a drawing for Kansas Critters: Bugs.  All of my 1-3rd grade students are working on Duck Stamp drawings.  After talking to the other elementary art teachers in my district, I decided to do a follow the leader drawing with my Kindergarten students to give them some confidence in their drawing abilities and good practice for Duck Stamp drawings next year.

I let each class vote on learning to draw either a Mallard Duck or a Canada Goose.  I taped a large piece of paper to the wall where all the students could see and used a sharpie for my drawing.  Each student was given a 9x6 inch piece of paper and a pencil to start with.  The papers were turned horizontally.  I always like to start with the head when I draw a duck or a goose and encourage the students to do the same.  Of course when they are drawing totally on their own, a few will always start with the feet and run out of room for the head.

After the outline of the bird, the beak/bill and eye, and a few lines were drawn for the wings and tail, I had the students put their pencils away and find one color of crayon at a time.  We all finished the body of the bird together with crayon to make them look realistic.  As realistic as Kindergarten drawings get anyway!

While I went around the room and wrote names on papers, I let the students add water or any other details they wanted to.

My philosophy of Art Education is still developing.  I try to give the students a lot of different experiences.  While part of me wants to just let them be free and make everything on their own, no limits to their creativity, I know that there are other skills I want to help them develop.  I guess I'm just trying to balance everything right now.  I want to help the students develop their observational skills and paying attention to details and I still give them as many opportunities for "free draw" as I can.
Daniel Pink was the Key Note Speaker at the Kansas Art Education Association fall conference this year.  Something he mentioned during his talk was that some universities have been taking their Med students to Art Museums where they discuss paintings to develop their observational skills.  I like to tell this to my students as a way to point out skills they learn in art class will serve them for the rest of their lives.

2nd Grade Painting with Scissors (Matisse Inspired Project)

I always like to try to get my students excited about Art History with new projects.  Ordering supplies has been a longer process than I expected so I decided to make use of the construction paper scraps the previous art teacher had wisely saved by designing a Matisse project.  My goal was for the students to learn about organic and geometric shapes, color, composition, and Art History.
I spent most of the first 40 minute class period on an Art History PowerPoint.  I found great information and images of Matisse's paper pictures and even a photo of the artist working in his studio at  I told the students that Henri Matisse was a French painter and leader of the Fauvist movement.  He was interested in the expressive qualities of color.  Toward the end of his life Matisse was too weak to stand at an easel so he started using painted paper and making cutout designs which he called "Painting with Scissors".  (This also made me want to literally paint with scissors!)
The title slide of my PowerPoint showed Matisse working in his studio.
Next, I showed an image of Woman Reading from 1894 followed by the Woman with a Hat (Madame Matisse) from 1905 followed by the Red Room (Harmony in Red) from 1908 to show how he progressed from a pretty realistic representation to more abstract paintings which showed his increasing interest in color and shape.  All of the students agreed that Woman Reading looked real and at first seemed a bit confused by making things look progressively less-real.  I remembered everything I could about Harmony in Red from my Art History II class (thank you, Monica!) and talked my student through the elements and principles of the painting.
After the paintings, I showed the students about a dozen of Matisse's paper cutouts.  We spent time critiquing a couple of the cut outs in each class with Describe, Analyze, Interpret, and Judge.  I pointed out how Matisse made his compositions more interesting by overlapping shapes and by using both organic and geometric shapes.  When talking to students about shapes, I try to keep it pretty simple by explaining that organic shapes are shapes inspired by nature and geometric shapes have regular edges like the shapes they learn about in Math class.  I told the students what their project requirements were and modeled the process with my example below.  The students were supposed to use many colors, have overlapping, and use both organic and geometric shapes.
I added to my example with each class.  I told the students not to draw the shapes with pencil before cutting, just to draw with the scissors.  I only had bottle glue available so I showed the students MANY times how little glue it takes to hold the cutouts in place.  One of the students chanted "just a dot, not a lot" and I really liked the ring of it!  I showed them how you hardly have to squeeze the bottle just to do tiny dots.  I turned my paper upside down and said if the glue drips, you used too much.  The students finished their projects in one class period.  Some students just made abstract compositions while others created illustrations.  I did not tell them which to do.

This student is so fun, she ALWAYS tells a story with her artwork, regardless of the assignment.
There's a cool mask going on in this picture.
I love the green rectangles in this one.
This was a fun landscape.  Very symmetrical.
View the entire Artsonia exhibit HERE!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wax Resist Color Wheels

 This project was done with my third grade students.  I had already talked to my students about different kinds of lines and after studying organic and geometric shapes, I decided to do a color wheel project in wax resist so that the students could apply what they know about lines and shapes while learning color theory.  I showed the students how to split their 9x12 inch paper into six sections and said that the division could either be random or more symmetrical.

Of course I prefer the more random one. :)  I wish I would have remembered to teach the students "asymmetrical".  Don't know what I was thinking!  I'll have to point that out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Van Gogh Double- Art History Meets Pop Culture

So I was just sitting on my couch if anyone else had noticed that Kevin McKidd from Grey's Anatomy looks like Vincent van Gogh.  I found the two pictures above, a still of McKidd on the left and van Gogh's Self Portrait from 1887 on the left.

Then just for the heck of it, I searched for Kevin McKidd+Vincent van Gogh and found the following pictures that paired:

If someone ever makes a feature film about the life of Vincent van Gogh, my vote goes to Kevin McKidd for the lead!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Self Portrait Lessons from Art Lessons for Kids

I just came across this website on another Art Ed blog:
The name tells you what it's all about and I was impressed right away with the photos of colorful student artwork!  The featured lessons right now are all about self portraits- you can buy an ebook with the lessons or have a chance to win it for free!  Check it out!