Expressive Self Portraits

Quite possibly one of my favorite lesson plans that I do all year. When students hear that I am making them do ANOTHER self portraits, after we just finished up a realistic one, they ask WHY. Once we start working on these, their attitudes typically change and they are a lot more excited.

I like giving the students the option to explore symbolism a little bit further and consider what imagery they can use to show the world more about themselves, rather than just their appearances. The PowerPoint that I created for this lesson can be found here, https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Expressive-Self-Portrait-PowerPoint-3161112

I can thank the wonders of Pinterest for many of those photo examples, but I also chose to incorporate Frida Kahlo into this lesson. Frida has so many amazing examples of symbolism and she is truly such an inspiring artist and person, that I wanted my students to learn more about her. We had discussions about The Two Fridas, and also about one of her self portraits. We discussed the symbolism and imagery in her artwork and how it reflects her personality and mood.

Students found this to be very interesting. We also discussed more in depth realism, abstract, and non objective. I told students to consider how realistic they wanted this to be. They had the option to be more symbolism and do a silhouette rather than a realistic approach that would require them to do eyes, nose, mouth, etc. This allowed my students of all different skill levels to choose a way that would be successful for them.

I also gave them an option in what art mediums they wanted to use. They had the options of graphite, colored pencil, pastel, watercolor, or mixed media. After the presentation, I had students write 5-10 things about themselves in their sketchbooks. These could be interests, personality, mood, appearance, home life, friends, etc. We then broke those down and considered how to interpret them into a symbol or some sort of imagery.

Students brainstormed with the others at their tables and came up with some ideas. When they had enough ideas, they began a sketch of what their portrait would look like. I offered suggestions to make sure that students were challenging themselves enough, and were not doing things too hard. I told students that if they chose not to draw a realistic face, that they needed to put extra details somewhere else, to ensure that all students were still working the same amount.

I graded these using four main components. Subject Matter & Creativity, Use of Symbolism and Details, Craftsmanship, and Effort.

I was SO happy with how these turned out. Here are some of the great examples from my classes!

 

Altered Books

This lesson was something NEW for my classes, and here’s why-

  • This was the first project that I allowed them to work in groups for. They were in groups of two, three, or four, depending on class size, etc. I wanted them to work in groups because I did not want them spending A TON of time on this project, and also because I have two really quiet classes and I wanted them to get to know each other a bit better.
  • The name of my class is Drawing & Painting, which mainly focuses on two dimensional artworks. I wanted my kids to expand past that and consider how to use their knowledge of drawing and painting to create a three dimensional work of art.

My kids were very excited about this project, being that it was so different. I selected their groups for them, so that I could differentiate between skill levels. For example, I put a girl who definitely knows what she’s doing, able to draw well, could probably be in AP if she wanted to be, I put her with a girl whose drawing skills are not nearly as creative or developed, hoping that they would be able to work alongside each other and offer suggestions.

This was the final project in a Unit I created on Words in Art. We began the unit by discussing how words can enhance or strengthen the quality of an artwork. Students worked and created blackout poetry, along with illustrations that supported their poems. They did this individually for a few days to get them thinking and experimenting with different options.

When I introduced this altered books assignment, I began with A TON of visual examples. I scanned Pinterest and various websites in order to come up with as many great examples as I could find. (If you follow my Pinterest Boards, you will see my “Altered Books” Board, which has a ton of great ideas!

I focused on additive and subtractive techniques, which meant they were either sculpting or carving into their books. I also talked to them about the possibility of leaving the books open versus having them closed and creating a cover page.

After me talking for what seemed like a very long time, I read out the names of the groups and I had my groups get together. I let them select a book and then they began sketching out ideas. Their sketches had to show me:

  • Will anything stand out? Will you create three dimensional works of art from pages?
  • Will anything be carved into? If so, what will you be carving?
  • Will your book be open or closed as a final product?
  • How will you incorporate drawing and painting into your altered book?

(Sidenote) When students were finished with these, I found that it was a great time to introduce Critique. Until this point, my students hadn’t really spent a great deal of time practicing the correct way to critique. I gave them a handout that introduced the 4 Steps to Critique, and we also viewed Starry Night as an example of how to answer each step of critique.

Along with an individual rubric for each student, I also had them write up a 4 Step Critique on another group’s altered book project.

Overall, I really enjoyed this project. It was something different that allowed my students to let loose a bit and bounce their own ideas off of each other.

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Shape Vs. Form Legos

One of the questions on my Benchmark exam asks the students to identify the difference between Shape and Form. While this is something that I felt is simple, I noticed many of my kids struggled with it!

I wanted to do a project that focused on shape versus form to really help students understand how the two differ. We had done some observational drawings already but I wanted to do something that allowed them to focus on WHY we were shading. I wanted to focus on the illusion of form that is created when you are shading, using highlights, shadows, etc.

As a sketchbook warmup, I had students create themselves as if they were a lego character. We discussed how legos are three dimensional, they can be picked up, held, etc. So I told them to consider that as they were sketching (I didn’t want to see any flat lego people)! Students personalized them according to their physical features, character traits, interests, hobbies, etc.

I then showed students some examples of lego drawings. We talked about two different approaches to this. The first was for the students to construct a composition that was more structured and orderly. I then demonstrated how to set up a composition using two point perspective techniques to create realistic legos. The second option was for students to create a more hap hazard composition, where the legos were not lined up perfectly and were instead kind of thrown onto the surface. If they chose this, they did not need to use perspective techniques and could free hand the legos, as long as the legos were still three dimensional.

I felt that this project was challenging, but as the drawings were finished, I could tell my students were really proud of the hard work they had put into this. I also had them do an exit slip and nearly everyone was able to distinguish the difference between shape versus form, hooray!

Overall, I found this lesson to be really engaging- the students were definitely concentrated and focused throughout the entire time, and also rewarding- I was able to get my classes to identify shape vs. form, and they also ended up being very proud of themselves for completing this assignment!

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Blackout Poetry

Blackout Poetry is one of those lessons that I’ve always been intrigued by, but I’ve never tried it. I have some pretty cool classes this year and decided to give it a try. I must say, I really enjoyed this lesson. We began this as a sort of introduction to a Unit on Words and Art. Following this lesson, students created Altered Books (blog post on that to follow later on)!

I introduced my classes to the idea of Words and Art and we discussed how words can be used to further get the point across. I showed them examples of both Blackout Poetry and Blackout Poetry with Illustrations. They were required to create a poem or phrase of their choice and then come up with an illustration that fit their idea.

We incorporated a few different concepts into this including:

Emphasis: How can you emphasize your poem and make it stand out from the rest of the words? How can you emphasize your illustration?

Movement: Is your poem easy to read or is it jumbled and somewhat confusing?

Contrast: Is there a strong contrast between your illustrations and words versus the actual page of the book?

Etc.

I would love to hear some other examples and perhaps how this lesson has been taken a step further! Like I said, I used this as an introduction to a Unit on Words and Art. I am very pleased with these results!

 

Megan

 

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Watercolor Notans

This project was extremely successful for a variety of reasons. The first and most obvious, is that it wasn’t a super tedious project, and it did not require a ton of thought for the students. I purposely organized it so that this project would be worked on the last, short week before winter break. My students were almost mentally checked out anyway, but this really helped to keep them engaged and interested!

We had just begun a watercolor unit and students learned the following watercolor techniques, which were practiced on a strip of paper, with the definitions written on the back:

Wet Onto Wet

Graduated Wash

Dry Brush

Splatter

Blotting

Resist

Of course, there are many more different techniques to use, but these were the ones I wanted to focus on. We had an EXTREMELY relaxing day that began with me showing them various watercolor examples of work that is both Representational and Non-Representational. We discussed what the differences were and then they were asked to create a non-representational watercolor painting using at least four of the watercolor techniques that we discussed. This was also a great opportunity to discuss layering: we began with wet onto wet and lots of water, and as each new layer dried, they added less and less water and more dry brush techniques.

We then discussed positive and negative space. I showed them various examples until I felt that they had a clear understanding. Then, they went to their sketchbooks, where they created their own notan designs. We talked about designs being symmetrical or asymmetrical, and how each would look when reflected on their notan design. Lastly, students were given black squares to draw, cut, and glue their notan designs onto watercolor paper.

After this lesson, now that students have returned from break, I have them working on a watercolor and ink project, which will be posted in a few weeks. I felt that by doing this, it gave them the ability to add a lot of water and paint, and to not be afraid of messing something up with watercolor. This next project will focus on a more controlled, more detailed composition, and I think it is important that students experience both types!

Have you done anything similar to this?

High School Watercolor Notans Art Lesson
High School Watercolor Notans Art Lesson

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Ceramic Coil Pots

First off, super excited with how these turned out. Secondly, incredibly proud at how hard my high schoolers worked on these!

This was their second ceramic project. After just finishing up pinch pot techniques, I had them focus on coil building. I had them sketch out ideas of what they wanted to make. They learned about the coil building process, and I also introduced them to the Elements of Art and Principles of Design.

They had to create a coil pot form (we talked about the difference between shape and form) that include either geometric or organic shapes. One great advantage to doing this, besides them learning about the Elements and Principles, is that I felt it helped them relax a bit with the smoothness of their form.

This was their first time working with red clay, because I wanted to show them a different option besides the gray clay. I also used this project to discuss more glazes with them. In the first project, they only used underglaze and clear. Now, I introduced them to matte glazes versus glossy. I discussed jungle gems. I also talked about the Stroke & Coat glazes (if you haven’t used them, they are great)! They are like if an underglaze and a regular gloss glaze had a baby. They are true to color and shiny!

With almost all coil projects I’ve ever done, I felt like this project did take quite some time. However, the kids stuck with it and really created some good stuff!

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Surrealism Perspective Drawings

In high school, I hated perspective drawing. In college, I still even hated perspective drawing. It wasn’t until I actually became an art teacher and had free range to create a perspective lesson in my own way, that I finally found it interesting. I enjoy teaching it, and overall my kids actually enjoy drawing in perspective.

So how did I accomplish such a feat?

I decided to mix One Point Perspective with Surrealism. Since the two are so different, it makes for a very interesting project! We start out learning basic vocabulary and terms in Perspective. Some words include Perspective, Vanishing Point, Vantage Point, Orthogonal Lines, Horizon Line, etc. I gave the students a quiz on vocabulary before we actually began drawing.

The first actual drawing activity we did was having students create 2D bubble letters. They used their name, quote, lyrics, whatever. I demonstrated how to connect their lines from the letters to the vanishing point. Then, students practiced drawing the backs of their letters, and in turn creating a 3D letter.

Then, we practiced by setting up a room using one point perspective. Students practiced floor boards, ceilings, windows, doors, etc. We then discussed tables, chairs, furniture, and how to successfully add objects (referencing the 3D letter exercise throughout).

After about two weeks of that, I knew my students were getting tired of perspective. (I admit, it can be tedious!) So I wanted to give them a little break by introducing them to Surrealism. We created an Exquisite Corpse exercise, which was so fun! My students loved it and they loved working together to create a drawing.

We also watched a documentary on Salvador Dali! I enjoy the Modern Master’s Documentary on BBC, although I did skip through some parts because it talks about sex and I didn’t want that ish in my classroom!

Then, once students had a strong understanding of Surrealism and what it is, they went to their sketchbooks and began sketching out their ideas. They needed an even mix of Surrealism and One Point Perspective.

Overall, this lesson took about a month. From the vocabulary quiz, perspective worksheets, 3D letters, practice room drawings, and surrealism exercises, to the final product where students practiced blending with colored pencils, I’d say these were a success!

I also had students write a reflection, where I asked them questions such as:

  1. Explain how you created depth in your artwork using words like Perspective, Vanishing Point, Vantage Point, Horizon Line, Orthogonal Line, etc.
  2. Explain what elements of Surrealism you included in your artwork.
  3. What was your favorite part about this assignment? What did you feel most proud of?
  4. What was your least favorite part about this assignment? What challenged you?
  5. If you could make any changes to your final artwork, what would you change?

And ta-da! These are some of my final results. Love them!

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Pinch Pot Pumpkins and Skulls

So it’s almost Christmas… and here I am finally posting about the Pinch Pot Pumpkins and Skulls that my high schoolers completed as their first project! Better late than never though, right?

I wanted to share this project because although it was my high schooler’s first project, I felt that they were all able to succeed in it. I had them sketch out ideas for either a pumpkin or a skull design. They needed to create their design by putting two pinch pots together. For example, a pumpkin would be a pinch pot upside down on a pinch pot that was right side up.

Students drew out colored sketches- they showed me which parts were going to be carved out, where they would add clay, add designs, etc.

After viewing, students worked on creating their pinch pots. I reminded them to keep walls consistent, lips even, and to really work on smoothing out their clay.

As far as glazing went, we stuck to just underglazes since this was their first project. After the bisque firing, we then painted a clear coat onto the top. I am so proud of these results. Please comment if you have any questions regarding this project!

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Finding Mindfulness in Our Everyday Lives

Mindfulness. The gentle effort to be present in whatever experience you find yourself in. Paying attention to the exact moment that you are in. Being aware of your surroundings, what you are eating, what you are listening to, etc. Sounds manageable if you have the time to truly think about it. But what about someone who has a busy schedule, or is living a busy life? As a teacher, I often try to find ways to incorporate mindfulness into my own classroom.

The Many Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

So why exactly would I want to practice mindfulness in the classroom? First off, there are so many benefits to being mindful. Mindfulness is known to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It is known to sharpen your memory, to increase focus, improve critical thinking skills, boost self esteem and confidence.

So as I think about my students, some of which even have IEPS specifically for generalized anxiety disorders, I think about how I can incorporate mindfulness into my classroom setting to provide a more enriching and comfortable environment for them.

I love that the art classroom provides plenty of opportunity for creative expression. Typically, I allow students the first 10-15 minutes of class time to work on a Sketchbook assignment (Which I typically will post on the board). Many times they are open ended such as, “Draw an illustration that describes you,” or “Create a visual that is calming or makes you feel good when you look at it.” I find that at the high school level especially, students really enjoy this time. I feel that they don’t have much time during their busy school day to actually stop and think, to reflect on how they are feeling in that exact moment.

Another great technique that I use is listening to music in the classroom. Typically, students in my class do not talk when I play music. They focus on their work, and between the music and working, they find themselves in a very peaceful, relaxed place. I find that this is also when they are working their hardest and concentrating the most.

In elementary schools, I have seen this done with movement. Letting the children have a chance to get up, to dance, sing, learn a routine, etc. Something to take away stress, calm them, let them stretch their legs, etc.

With all of the standardized testing, data, and expectations that our students have to deal with today, I find that we cannot lose sight of the important stuff! Sure testing is important (to an extent), but isn’t mindfulness, learning about oneself, feeling grounded, and being able to focus and learn more effectively, while living a healthier lifestyle just as important, if not more?

What about Mindfulness for me?

Of course! Now that my students are benefitting from mindfulness, I should be able to as well. I have a few things that I do to really connect to myself at the end of the day. Whatever your schedule is like, even if it feels like you never have a free moment, it is important to find that moment, so that you do not lose yourself in a busy world.

For me, creative expression is so important. I love blogging/journaling because it is such a great creative outlet. It allows me to reflect on my thoughts, write, design, etc. I’m guilty of sometimes incorporating my world life into my blog. (Posting lesson plans, classroom ideas, etc).

I also find time to create my own artwork. I went to school for art after all, so why should I stop making art? All day, I am teaching my students techniques, getting them interested in new concepts and ideas. It is easy to lose sight of why I am doing what I am doing. I make sure to spend at least some time during my weekend to draw, paint, just make my own personal art. Think about what. Why are you doing what you are doing? Are you passionate about something? Do you really give yourself time to sit down, concentrate, and focus on the things that you are passionate about, or are you letting your priorities get out of order?

Whether you have hours of free time, or none at all, it is important to just be mindful in whatever situations you find yourself in. Something as silly as making dinner can become a chore, if only we treat it like a chore. But what if you found a new recipe or something that was of greater interest to you? What if you then sat down and really thought about, really tasted all of the ingredients that you put into your meal? What if you made it more of an opportunity to create and experiment rather than an everyday chore that needed to be done?

If you have to run errands each day, why not switch it up? Try to go a different way than you usually go. Maybe stop somewhere and get ice cream. I remember my old route to work was so tedious after awhile. I began to take different ways. I would find beautiful farms and could stop and get out to pet the horses, or I would pull over to take pictures of the sunrise on my way to work.

There is so much to be mindful of. Notice it. Accept it. Even the shitty things. Find beauty in the everyday chores and routines of your life. Appreciate the beautiful things. Incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life and begin to see the world from a new perspective.

Personalized Mandalas

After finishing Contour & Blind Contour Line Drawings, I wanted my students to take a different approach to our focus on Line, Shape, and Color. I wanted to do something completely different from the contour and blind contour lines… something more focused, intricate, neat, organized, etc. I decided to do Mandalas!

This was my first time teaching this lesson and I really love the results! I typically have sketchbook prompts posted on the board when students come in. They begin drawing for the first ten minutes or so of class. The week before starting mandalas, I had students draw symbols or designs that were simple, yet described themselves. I had students draw bows, flowers, bikes, ice cream, pizza, basketballs, baseball, just to name a few. Students built up many small symbols in their sketchbooks.

We then took a look at Mandalas. Students were guided through setting up a circular grid using compasses. I asked students to personalize their mandalas into an original composition. Again, they were asked to choose a color scheme or a color combination of some sort.

Students were focused and really enjoyed this project. At the end, I had a google classroom assignment that was essentially an Exit Slip. It asked students to Compare and Contrast the difference between the Contour and Blind Contour Line Drawing Vs. Mandalas. I also asked students questions that were personal to their work, to offer them a reflection opportunity to discuss what they did or did not like.

This was hands down one of my favorite lessons I have taught! Pictures below!

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