I love making cultural connections in my art room! One of the holidays I love to bring attention to is Dia De Los Muertos. Students start to see decorations of sugar skulls around this time of year but not everyone knows why. This beautiful tradition in Mexican culture honors the lives of their loved ones who have passed away with a celebration. Altars are created in their honor. Food, costumes and dance are utilized in the tradition as well. While I personally do not celebrate this tradition, I find it to be really beautiful and special. It's a great way to discuss themes of life and death with younger students, to set them up for discussions about future works they will encounter in art history (life and death=huge themes throughout art history!).
With this project, technology is incorporated. Students take a digital photo of themselves first. They need to utilize good lighting, a facial expression and use of a filter to express something about themselves in their portrait. They utilized apps like Artisto on the iPad, or Prisma on their smartphone. Some used Snapseed to filter their work further or just the regular filters on the iPad/iphone photos app.
Students decide how they want to cut their portrait, because one part of their portrait will be a skull anatomy drawing. Once they've determined what they want to do, they cut it out and paste it on their drawing paper. They watch a video about how to set up the proportions of their skull based on their portrait photo. They also have a shading tutorial video that they can watch too. Demonstrations are made for them via the videos. I also pause the videos to further explain tips.
Once the drawing is done, it's cut out and pasted on larger paper where students decide where to place it. They create designs inspired by Mexican Folk art, Dia De Los Muertos motifs found in sugar skulls, papel picado, etc. They also look up patterns and designs associated with their cultures.
The result is a mixed media art work that incorporates balance as a compositional element. I love this project because it utilizes drawing and shading, along with an extension of positive/negative space and abstract designs from their previous project.
If you'd like to check out the how-to video for this project check it out here! The video starts after the portrait/skull drawing has already been created and fully shaded.
As I expected, September was a blur. I had good intentions of posting weekly updates to the blog, but documenting classroom life here has been difficult. The last few weeks have sort of been a whirlwind, anyone who is in education will know the feeling. New students and some 150+ names to learn, adjusting to the new sleep/work pattern after coming off of summer break, updating lessons/keynotes, seating charts, planning field trips, getting the National Art Honor Society up and running, PD sessions, faculty meetings, coordinating fundraisers with other clubs, covering classes, contacting parents, setting up grades, doing progress reports....and it's ONLY October 3rd. Needless to say, even though I'm in year 11, I'm still doing tons of work outside of school and on the weekend. I also teach my AP Drawing class this year, which means free periods also include meeting with students to ensure they are each getting the best guidance on their concentration work. I am not complaining, but when you list everything out like that...it sounds insane. The physical work day can make you feel like you don't even have time to come up for air: there's a kid or a teacher or someone knocking (or not even knocking) at your door, or handing you a permission slip, having you sign on something, needing....something.
So what do we do? We don't let interruptions throw us off track, we lend our hand, we offer a smile, and we keep an open door because..That's. What. We. Do. We are teachers. We superhero-multitasking-amazing-humans. We live for this. And that's why after a crazy day, here I am. Finding some time to share these thoughts and lessons with anyone who may stumble upon this. If you are a teacher reading this, new to the profession or seasoned veteran, I hope you've given yourself a pat on the back today. Chances are you've dealt with a lot already, you may already feel overwhelmed but you're not alone. It's part of the gig. Everyday is different and that's what keeps it interesting. Keep doing your thing in the classroom, don't be afraid to find a co-worker to vent to, and make sure you do something nice for yourself (you deserve it and you do have time for it...just look around and see for yourself).
OK! Here are some project's that we wrapped up so far:
What's happening with...Studio Art
Studio art started off the year with our Tile Design project. In this project students grid out an 8x8 in paper with a 2 inch grid. Each box is filled in with a positive/negative space design based on an observational drawing. Students use viewfinders and their phones or iPads to draw observationally but focusing on the details, so they are creating abstract images from real life objects and spaces. They use sharpie techniques to create pattern and movement in their designs. Next up will be our Dia De Los Muertos inspired project about the design principle of Balance.
What's happening with...Drawing and Painting
Drawing and Painting students spent 3 weeks in Sept. studying the forms found on a bike. I introduced with lesson with a mashup of videos from Pop culture that were connected by kids and bikes (I.e E.T, The Goonies, Stranger Things, Napoleon Dynamite) and we discussed what a right of passage is, what a shared experience is and why is a bike important to teenage life. They did blind contour studies of the bike, along with longer contour drawings. They utilized their iPad with the brushes app to create gesture studies from unique points of view. They also completed a design based color study where they transferred a positive/negative space design onto tracing paper and on to a map. The negative spaces were painted in with monochromatic color schemes. We based these off of artist Leslie DeRose who was kind enough to give us permission to work in her style. For homework assignments students had to create a fully shaded pencil drawing of the bike plus a prop. They created their own reference photos to work from. These students did an awesome job working independently and building their skills through these creative projects.
What's happening with... AP Drawing
AP Drawing spent their summer working on 3 assignments: A bike with charcoal, a natural object still life with graphite and a portrait using their choice of medium. Upon returning to school, we spent time discussing the other parts of the exam and then did a critique of their summer work. This really helps me look for their strengths and start to get an idea of where their skills are. Sometimes the summer work also leads them into their concentration study. We started our first breadth, but it's actually their 4th. We do a newspaper still life with ink based on artist Stephanie Lange's studies. This project is based on current events, and students construct their own newspaper form and photograph it with strong lighting. String is used to create tension in the structure and to ultimately break up the composition, create more space through overlapping and eventually create emphasis in their drawing. Students build up layers of light ink wash to achieve a range of values then accent edges to create line with marker as needed. They can render their own parts of headlines to create content in their work and highlight topics that are important. I find that by starting with this project, students are able to see what they're capable of. It's usually a level playing field because not every student has manipulated ink in such a way, so they may feel uneasy approaching it. However, in doing so, more often than not, students rise to the occasion and are way more focused on the challenge and end up creating something really excellent. Our 5th breadth will be underway soon, and I'm excited to share that one!
Students have also started on their second concentration pieces, which usually start to show a better sense of the direction they want to go in. If you teach this course, it's important to be patient and flexible. Time is needed to really cultivate an idea that is going to work over 12 artworks, and to start to think like an artist. For most students it's the first time they're given full creative control and they get super lost. You might notice they create amazing breath work, but concentration work looks like a completely different kid did it. They need to get their own control back and remember to rely on the same things that may make their breadth work strong. I find individual meetings very helpful at the very beginning but I encourage an open ended approach and try to keep grades as place holders (low grades for unfinished work, which usually change at the end of the marking period).
October is the start of another busy month but that's not a bad thing. There are a lot of great events we do to fundraise for breast cancer awareness month, like I get to host Pink Pumpkin painting with my national art honor society members. We also have our first field trip to the MET coming up! Several contests for students are underway as well. Lots of great opportunities for the kids to take advantage of. I hope you had a great start to your school year!