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Art History Meets Pop Culture Acrylic Paintings

Yesterday was my last day of the school year, and this year, my kids were focused up until the very end! This year, I decided to start an acrylic painting assignment the last few weeks of school. I gave each student a canvas, and I feel like having a canvas helped. Many of the students had never worked on one before so they were really excited at the opportunity to create something great! Working on a canvas enabled them to stay focused, which is definitely hard to do in the month of May and June!

This assignment is one that I have been doing throughout my teaching career. I think this is the third time I have done this! I’ve taught this not only in high school but also in middle school and I love the results! We talked about Pop Culture and what types of things are popular today. Students brainstorm many ideas and come up with a good list. Then, we research all different types of art and artists! I have had them research in a computer lab, but this past time, a computer lab wasn’t available so I brought in a ton of printables and art magazines and books. I had students work in groups to write down different artists that caught their attention and different art movements that they enjoyed.

Then, students had to come to me with an idea. They needed to tell me what artist they wanted to base their painting off of, what painting specifically, and what they would incorporate into the painting to make it more original and their own.

Another really great thing about this assignment is that you can guide students in a direction that they will all be successful. For example, I had some students who were more successful doing a Pop Art inspired painting, where they did not need to mix colors or do any shading or blending. Some students had experience painting before so I guided them in the direction of a Monet or a Rembrandt painting, etc. This way, all students had different results at all different levels, yet they were all able to be successful!

The PowerPoint that I created for this lesson can be found at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Pop-Culture-Meets-Art-History-3210234

I have a variety of different examples on the slideshow, all of which I have permission for.

Besides though examples, take a look at some of my examples from this current school year!

What works for you as an end of the year lesson? Would love to hear! Enjoy summer!!

 

 

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Pastel Mannequins

This was a quick lesson that only took a few classes. I noticed my students were struggling with Analogous vs. Complementary Colors. I had students complete an oil pastel worksheet for the first day, where they practice different blending techniques and ways to get different results with oil pastels.

Once we finished, we viewed some examples. We focused on composition and zooming in to really fill up the space. Students sketched 2-4 different mannequin poses in their sketchbooks, complete with shading and at least 7 different values.

Then, students were asked to select their most interesting and favorite composition. They then selected an analogous color scheme of their choice and shaded in their mannequin using the oil pastel. They also were allowed to use black and white to create their shadows and their highlights.

I love these results!!

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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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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.

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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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Blind Contour Line Drawings

Soon since last time I’ve blogged… I accepted a new position! I went from K-8, back to high schoolers. I now teach three sections of Drawing & Painting and two sections of Ceramics.

One huge difference I noticed at the beginning of this year was how quiet my high schoolers were! Middle schoolers could care less what people think about them- they came in those first few days loud and crazy. My high schoolers really took (and are still) taking time to warm up in the classroom setting.

We began the year by focusing on three Elements of Art: Line, Shape, and Color. We discussed Contour Lines & Blind Contour Lines. I also gave my students a run through on basic color theory. They learned about Primary, Secondary, Monochromatic, Warm & Cool, Analogous & Complimentary Color Schemes.

To get my students a little out of their comfort zone, I had them partner up and draw their partner using blind contour lines. This means that they were not allowed to look at their paper, but were only allowed to look at their partner. This really got them laughing and interested about the project. I emphasized the importance of taking their time and focusing on all details, because the more detailed the drawing, the more interesting it would be!

Once finished, we discussed composition briefly. We talked about how to arrange things in an interesting way. Students used a light box to trace their new compositions. Lastly, they selected a color scheme of their choice. They added details, colors, patterns, and decorations to their drawings.

As a first project for an Art I class, I am very happy with these results! This was a very fun project, that the students enjoyed, and the results came out very nice!

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8th Grade End Of Year Collaboration

As the school year comes to a close, it is sometimes difficult to come up with a lesson that will be effective, while still holding the interests of the students. This was my first time doing a “Forced Proximity” project. Before I explain, I want to first say that this is a lesson taken from John Zilewicz. John attended MCAD’s Art Educator workshop for Experimental Drawing and this is one of the lessons that was taught.

Forced Proximity is a collaborative art lesson. Students work together using a variety of different mediums and a variety of different techniques. Some mediums include pencils, graphite, charcoal, oil pastels, chalk pastels, gesso, and paint. Different techniques include still life drawing, abstract expressive drawing, group work, individual work, creating subtle background images and pulling images into the foreground, etc.

I did this project with a class of 24 eighth grade girls. I split the class into two different groups. We started out with blank canvas and a still life set up.

Students were asked to sit around the canvas and draw; some students were drawing realistically with still life drawings, while other students were standing and drawing loosely and more abstractly with charcoal. I had students get up every fifteen minutes or so to switch where they were drawing, etc.

It was really interesting to me to see the different directions that each of these went in. Some students went incredibly realistically while others were looser and more subtle. On another day, I also had students add color into their compositions with oil and chalk pastels. Students were asked to consider a variety of different color, to have some art going off the page, to make sure there is an even composition and that there are no “dead zones”.

The next step was to incorporate gesso and block out or to push back images that should not be as vibrant. As some students were blocking things out, others were now working in groups to build off of already created drawings.

I took a picture of the finished product (don’t worry, the duct tape was only temporary! ha!) Good luck and hang in there to all you teachers out there! Happy end of the year!

Megan