Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Middle School Mural, Part One

What happens when water fountains are replaced at your school, and you are left 
with a big gray wall when all is said and done? Well, sometimes you are very lucky 
and your principal thinks of you.

 You are given a blank canvas and the chance to work with some of your students 
on something special to make six square feet of space come to life!

You find just the right image to brighten things up, that will be appropriate for the school environment, give an opportunity for learning, and will be achievable for your students. You plan, sketch up a grid, and transfer your image onto the wall. 

And then you and your kids get to work! Oh, and you remember to bring a better camera to document the rest of the project! More to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Animal Drawings Inspired by Laurel Burch

5th grade students and I recently studied the work of American artist Laurel Burch. 
Her stylized animals and use of pattern, metallic accents and outlines are always a winner with kids! 

Although I don't have a completely choice-based art curriculum, I find that there is usually room for lots of choices within a lesson. For instance, there was a choice of background paper color. We had just created a project on black construction paper, so I gave a choice of burgundy, dark blue, or brown. These colors were still dark enough for colors to pop, but gave each piece a bit of personality.  

Students also chose whether to use a starter template of a few different animal designs inspired by Burch's artwork, or to draw an original animal idea. I also gave them the choice between using construction paper crayons or colored pencil. 
(The one rule here was not to combine the two media. Although they both work well, when used together, the crayon can make the pencil seem dull.)

It seems that freedom of choice was a hit! When it came time to add metallic outlines and accents with gold sharpie, many students asked for a choice in color. I only had gold in my inventory, but told the students that they were helping out my students next year, because I would be mindful of adding other metallic colors to my supplies. They were happy that their requests were taken seriously, and that they would influence a change in the lesson in the future. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Been Blogging? Want to trade links?

Hi fellow art teachers, bloggers, and web friends! As you can see I am reviving this blog of mine, and have noticed some of my links to great art sites and fellow bloggers have expired. Our lives all have an ebb and flow, and sometimes we move on to other things. And sometimes we (by we I mean me) realize how much we need to make time for the things that we love, and which feed us with inspiration, creativity, knowledge, and virtual camaraderie! 

So I'm calling out to you! Been blogging? Want to trade links?

Please, comment here with your blog address and name. Or email me at As long as your blog is current (you have posted in the last month or so, and post at least once a month), its content is about your art teaching experiences, lessons, and examples of the work of yourself and your students, and preferably add free, I will add you to my list of Amazing Art Teacher Blogs. And please add me to yours.

New posts, links to cool art sites and an updated list of Amazing Art Teacher Blogs are all coming soon! I even brought the Feed the Fish app back. I know, I know, it's silly, but it's always been my favorite widget!

Monday, May 18, 2015

My New Favorite TV Commercial

There's a new TV commercial airing sponsored by HGTV, Sherwin-Williams, and Lowe's featuring some very familiar faces. Have you seen it? Take a minute to watch!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mark Crilley Visits NJ! Part Two

So the wheels were in motion to have artist and author Mark Crilley visit with the help of our local PTA. Unfortunately it was too late in the school year to plan for a program, so they suggested that we try for the following school year. This was great news and all went ahead smoothly, even surviving a change in the PTA president. She and the media specialist made plans and room in the budget for a day of author presentations and a drawing workshop at one of the middle schools. 

Success! Right? Well almost. You see, this plan began with my private students who ranged from elementary through high school, and who attended public and parochial schools. And of the students who signed the petition at the one middle school, many of those moved up to the high school the next year. So what about students who didn't necessarily attend the one school that did accept our request? My daughter and I were so happy to be getting Mark Crilley to come see us, but we really wanted one more appearance where anyone who was a fan could come see him locally.

Mark Crilley draws as he talks about his career in the visual arts.

Students attend the drawing workshop.

I had one more idea up my sleeve, and went and asked for help. We are customers and fans of our local comic shop, A Little Shop of Comics right here in town, and the owners are fantastic. Their shop has a room they use for gaming and events, and I asked if they would help host a local Mark Crilley appearance for anyone in town to attend. They agreed and so did Mark. We were set! The shop had its biggest turnout for a comic artist paying a visit, and lots of fans and art students came out to hear him speak and sign autographs.

Mark Crilley and my family at A Little Shop of Comics.

Mark Crilley with Steve and Lena at A Little Shop of Comics.

Mark Crilley titles at A Little Shop of Comics.

Signing autographs.

I hope this helps anyone who may be thinking about or actually in the middle of efforts to have a visiting author or artist come to their town. My students, and my daughter especially proved to me that persistence, flexibility and a positive attitude can make things happen. And I have to say thank you again to Mark Crilley for his communication, his visit and amazing presentations, drawing workshops, and personal attention to his fans. It was indeed a pleasure having him spend the day with us!

My autographed copy of Mastering Manga.
One other thing I have to mention. Mr. Crilley was so appreciative of our efforts, 
and particularly the efforts of my daughter who had sought out her media specialist, 
and circulated petitions to fellow students to sign in favor of having this author visit. 
He gave her a very special gift: one of his pencil drawings featured on his Youtube channel. Thanks again Mark Crilley!
A lovely gift!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Notan Collages

My fifth graders learned about the light/dark principle of Notan and worked to make these wonderful Notan-inspired collages. We worked on 12x18 black construction paper using 3 inch squares of colored paper. To help students have a frame of reference, we folded the background paper in half twice to give us creases to plot our designs. Each square makes two on the project, the pieces you cut, and what is left of the original square you cut from. A single cut will make a bolder design scheme, whereas multiple cuts will create a more intricate design.

Some of my students focused on the Elements of Art for my SGO, and so these projects were great opportunities for positive and negative space, organic and geometric shapes, and color. Other students focused on color theory and the Color Wheel, so along with the concepts mentioned, they had to select a specific color scheme for their designs.

Cool Colors

Complementary Colors

Warm Colors 

Monochromatic Colors

This collage was my absolute favorite! 
Once in a while a student will take a project and make it more than even you as a teacher thought it could be. This is one of those instances. The conception of the idea, visual planning and persistence were lovely to watch and nurture. 

Great job to all of my young artists! The inspiration for this project came from a blogger who is no longer blogging. Which reminds me, I need to update my blog roll!
Did I mention glue sponges??? I decided to try to make them for this project and they worked like a dream! Perhaps I will post on these soon as well.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mark Crilley Visits NJ! Part One

For over a year I have been working to have a wonderful artist and author visit my students here in NJ. His name is Mark Crilley, and if you don't know who he is, I bet your students do. He is a graphic novelist with lots of titles for children and young adults, a series of How to Draw Manga books, not to mention his YouTube channel which has over one million subscribers who visit to see his many how-to-draw videos.
So it all began with my private students who were joining me for Manga Club. I had run quite a few of these classes and they were very popular. As we went along I decided to show a tutorial or two from Mr. Crilley's YouTube channel on my computer in the studio. The kids loved his style and we began reading his series Miki Falls, Brody's Ghost, and Akiko. I also purchased his How to Draw books for the lending library in the studio.

During one of his videos he discussed his visiting author presentations, and how from time to time students worked with their local library or school to arrange one. My students were excited and determined to give it their all, so I said I would help them. How hard could it be? Libraries and schools have visiting authors and educational programs all the time, right? To say our efforts were not immediately rewarded is an understatement. Our first step was a letter writing campaign. We wrote to all of our local libraries, and to the principal and media specialist of every school that my students were attending. All of my students signed them with me and off they went in the mail. Nothing. After a few weeks we tried again, all of the kids signing and helping me to mail our requests for a second round. No response.

A few days later I stopped at the local library to return some books, and decided to ask for the director. She saw me only to tell me that she never gets her mail and that she didn't have any money. Frankly I was shocked. I said it was unfortunate that she never gets any mail, because her youngest patrons took the time to write and sign letters addressed to her on two different occasions. I asked her if she would be willing to let us have a fundraiser, or would she at least let us use the library as the venue if and when we were able to arrange the visit on our own. She declined. Unfortunately we did not pursue the public library route any further. This particular library even had copies of Mark Crilley's works on the shelves! It was so disheartening, and I wasn't sure what more I could do to make this happen for the kids.

My oldest daughter and two school media specialists finally gave us the power and direction we needed! One media specialist let me know that our local PTA usually fund programs like the one we were hoping for and suggested that we contact them. My daughter who attends middle school had mentioned to some classmates that she was trying to get Mark Crilley to visit our town, and was surprised to find out how many kids knew who he was and that they wanted the same thing! A few days later, she had a petition with a couple of hundred signatures on it requesting that he visit! She submitted it to her media specialist who was excited to give it a try! Hurray! The wheels were in motion! 

Did we manage a visit from Mark Crilley? 
Look for my next entry to read the rest of the story!