Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Identity Crisis

Tore a self portrait to distort it and now it kinda creeps me out!
Lately I feel like I've been having an identity crisis! I mentioned in a previous post that I've felt pulled toward TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) but haven't made the leap. This is partly because I don't know exactly if it would fly in my district and partly because there are practical issues I haven't figured out yet. There is some controversy within Art Education and not all Art teachers can agree on what our main goal should be and how to achieve it. I feel wishy-washy.

I haven't posted much lately because I haven't been super excited about my most recently completed lessons. I fell into trying to stick with a more traditional style and do the sorts of lessons that are more similar to my PLC. There is nothing wrong with how the other K-6 Art teachers in my district teach, they are all wonderful educators, I just feel my philosophy shifting.

So, while I ruminate on all of this, here's my "in the meantime plan". I always feel better when I have a plan.
    Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom
  • Keep asking questions and finding answers. TAB teachers seem to be enthusiastic and willing to answer questions without judging. Utilize resources to learn more.
  • Order some TAB books- especially Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom by Katherine M. Douglas and Diane B. Jaquith
  • Find more TAB blogs to follow!
  • Talk to one of my principals about a trial period with TAB. Maybe try it for a semester and evaluate? 
  • Find out what the new state standards for Visual Arts will look like.
  • Find compromises. Best of both worlds?
  • Quit worrying about being traditional, what everyone else is doing, and how they're doing it. Do what feels right within the structure. Stretch beyond DBAE and incorporate more choices.
  • If it's a "have-to" project, follow up with more freedom.
  • Give choices in materials when subject matter is predetermined or choices in subject matter when materials are predetermined.
  • Work on a tentative plan for stepping into TAB or at least a modified version. Consider how to set up classroom as a studio.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Junky Watercolors and Jasper Johns

Prang watercolor trays are about the only watercolors I use at school. They are easy to pass out and a tray can usually be shared between at least 2 or 3 students. Buuuut, some colors run out faster than others, and some just start looking really dingy when you get a student who is maybe not paying as much attention as they should be. When it comes time to replace the strip with new paint, I pop out any wells that still have color in them and store them in a tub. Later on if a color runs out in a new strip, I may have a replacement. I've also found it useful to make custom trays for the student who for lack of coordination, attention, or any other reason, just cannot handle sharing paint or following directions.

During a recent Kindergarten lesson, the students were working on wax resist paintings inspired by Jasper Johns' work. In the first class period, they used oil pastels to draw letters and numbers in a composition on their paper. In the second class period, the students painted over with watercolors. Since the K-6 Art SMART goal this year was to focus on learning primary and secondary colors with Kindergarten students, I asked the students to only use primary paint colors.

Most students did a good job taking care of our new paints and cleaning brushes before switching colors, as seen below.
Some students, usually about one in each class, struggled. I had one little guy who never really seemed to understand directions on any project. He struggled with keeping the shared paint neat. After more demonstration and several reminders, the students he was sharing with were still complaining of him messing up all the other paints. I pulled down an old empty tray and filled it with just the primary colors and it went more smoothly the rest of class. He was still messy, but the other students were not suffering from messy supplies that were not their fault.
I also have a couple students who just don't want to follow directions out of defiance or stubbornness, and they ended up with the limited palette since they couldn't handle the temptation of the other colors.*
*Typing "the temptation of the other colors" kind of makes me feel bad! I've felt a pull toward TAB the last couple of years but can't quite figure out how to pull it off in my school environment with the expectations we have on us. If I had my own independently run studio for teaching Art, I would totally take a TAB approach.

Here are a few of the finished paintings. It wasn't my favorite lesson of all time, but it hit on Art History, color theory, and painting. It also helped work on my SMART goal and tied in skills that are emphasized in the Kindergarten curriculum with letter recognition and printing.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

6th Grade Manga

The longest project of last semester was my 6th grade Manga lesson. As soon as I found out that Cultural Heritage Week would focus on East Asian cultures, I wanted to teach about Manga. I read a great article that was published in Art Education in 2001 on Manga as part of Visual Culture and was immediately interested. Manga is basically a Japanese comic book, the print form of Anime. 
*Did you know that Manga is read top to bottom but from right to left?
I ordered a couple of books on drawing Manga with some PTO money and also found some video tutorials from Sakura useful. (You can find the videos on my Asian Art Ideas Pinterest board.
I was planning on this project taking 3 classes but it ended up requiring 4. The first day was introduction and explanation of all the choices. The students could choose to tell a whole story in multiple panels on their page, tell part of a story in multiple panels, or focus on one character with a speech or thought bubble. If the students decided to tell a story, I asked them to make a simple list of what would happen in each frame. It's a lot easier to tell a story in comic form if you know what needs to happen! The next class and usually part of the 3rd were spent drawing with pencil. When everything was planned in pencil, the students checked with me and started tracing with sharpie after they were approved. 
TIP- Have the students trace the words inside their bubbles before they trace the bubble itself. Students tend to write small, forgetting that tracing in sharpie makes it spread a bit. If the words end up too big, they can always redraw the bubble.

 Violence is an issue that needs to be addressed with this project. Lots of anime has fighting in it. I told the students if they had people fighting in their story, it could not end with someone getting hurt. I asked them to think of a surprise ending that's more appropriate for school. 
I really, really love this project. It allowed the students to learn about Manga as an important part of Visual Culture, practice a style of drawing different from strict observation, incorporated writing and story telling, and they were able to show their interests. Some of the drawings were funny or silly, some a little, well, shallow, but I found many to be very honest. I had several students tell me their drawing was based on a true story, and several showed insecurities or vulnerabilities. It was nice to see from my 6th graders who are starting to suffer from the elementary school version of Senioritis.

Some of the drawings were a bit puzzling. The following drawing was described as a true story. I think maybe inspired by a true story since anyone old enough to have a married ex would probably not ask their mom for permission to go to the mall. :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sumi-e and Suminagashi

Last year I tried Sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) with my 6th grade students and was pretty frustrated with the results. It was challenging for the students and they had an especially hard time creating value. I tried a different approach with my 5th grade students for our Cultural Heritage Week East Asian focus this fall and I'm much happier with how everything went!
The solution was to actually incorporate a second Sumi technique- Suminagashi. Suminagashi is a Japanese paper marbling technique that involves suspending ink on top of water and printing on paper.
 After watching this video tutorial from Blick, it seemed very doable.
Source: youtube.com via Katie on Pinterest

Source: youtube.com via Katie on Pinterest
I had a small tub of water for each table and poured some Sumi ink in a cup. The students very carefully applied a couple drops of ink to the surface of the water, used the end of their brush to create gentle ripples in the water which creates cool organic patterns in the ink, then dropped their paper on top of the water and lifted to reveal their marbled paper. I have 6 student tables at this school and with one student printing at a time, it only took about 10 minutes. The students were very supportive of each other as they took turns and were just as excited to see each piece of paper. The students lightly blotted their papers on a piece of paper towel and left them there to dry while I demonstrated how to hold a paintbrush for Sumi-e. After my demo, the students had time to start painting landscapes on top of their papers. Some were able to finish this project totally in one 40-minute class period but most needed some time in their next class.
The marbling is a bit hard to see on some of my photos. That's what I get for leaving my camera and having to use my cellphone. :)
When the paintings were dry, I flattened them under some heavy books then the students mounted on red or black construction paper for display.