Posted by: dbjaquith | January 25, 2016

Developing Skills with Watercolors

All EffectsWatercolor_Painters_at_WorkThird grade is a great year of learning and discovery, when students eagerly take new information and apply it to existing understandings in art class, constructing deeper knowledge about familiar media and concepts. Approaching their watercolors as scientists and artists, students experimented and then observed what they could do with four basic watercolor techniques:

  • Wet brush on wet paper
  • Wet brush on dry paper
  • Dry brush on wet paper
  • Dry brush on dry paper
Painters add suggestions to the list of what the wet-on-wet technique is good for in a painting.

Painters add suggestions to the list of what the wet-on-wet technique is good for in a painting.

Resulting artworks ignited artists’ imaginations as they identified real and fantasy scenes in their work. A large chart invited artist-scientists to document what purposes each of the techniques might serve in a watercolor painting.  Next week students can choose to continue with watercolor on larger paper or continue with other art media in our Creativity Studio. In the video below a student wipes most of the water off his brush to explore the scratchy textures created by a dry brush on dry paper.

 

Posted by: dbjaquith | January 18, 2016

Teaching for Artistic Behavior

TAB_Un1Last Saturday a group of art teachers happily joined together for an all-day “unconference” on the topic of Teaching for Artistic Behavior at the McDevitt Middle School in Waltham, MA.

Kathleen Flynn and Susan Bivona look at Katie McCabe's "High Five" assessments.

Kathleen Flynn and Susan Bivona look at Katie McCabe’s “High Five” assessments.

“What’s an unconference?” you ask. An unconference is a focused gathering of individuals where no one has to prepare any powerpoints, lectures or handouts. Instead, the day’s sessions are determined on-the-spot, with attendees proposing ideas based on their interests and questions. Breakout sessions were held around the school with teachers sharing their best practices, asking each other for advice and gaining new strategies.

“What’s Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB)?” you ask. TAB is both a philosophy and an organization. As philosophy, Teaching for Artistic Behavior means facilitating classroom design and instruction to empower children to make their own art because the child (not the teacher) is the artist. As an organization TAB supports and advocates for arts educators who facilitate for learner-directed artmaking through choice-based art education.

TAB teachers listen to Colleen Haley describe her middle school TAB practice.

TAB teachers listen to Colleen Haley describe her middle school TAB practice.

Our lively groups’ professional discussions on Saturday included:

  • Expectations for social and artistic behaviors
  • Reluctant learners
  • Objectives and goals
  • Modified Choice
  • Studio Centers
  • Motivational language
  • Recontextualized hand turkeys (thanks to Lisa Grize)!

TAB_Un3

Posted by: dbjaquith | January 17, 2016

Print Around the Room

Happy New Year! We eased back into art class with a week of “Print Around the Room”. Sadly our fun with marble printing, bubble printing, object printing and foam printing was interrupted when the art room heater broke mid-week. My new teacher intern, Rachael Howell, and I traveled to classrooms with simple printing materials. Students loved playing with paint and water and carrageenan (seaweed slime) to create unexpected results.

Drops of tempera paint float on the carrageenan surface.

Drops of tempera paint float on the carrageenan surface.

Printing on foam surface with markers and damp paper.

Printing on foam surface with markers and damp paper.

Lower grades painted on objects and printed them on color paper.

Lower grades painted on objects and printed them on color paper.

After looking over their dry prints, students wrote What If? questions for future strategies with printing.

After looking over their dry prints, students wrote What If? questions for future strategies with printing.

Posted by: dbjaquith | November 22, 2015

Who is the artist — the Robot or the Cricket or Harvey Moon?

This drawing machine comes with a supply of paper.

This drawing machine comes with a supply of paper.

Contemporary art practices differ greatly from those when I was school-age. Today’s creators bring together a wide range of media in service to their ideas. Take Harvey Moon, for instance. He is fascinated with the concept of collaboration, both with technology and nature. He puts a cricket in a box, programs a robot to track the cricket and then make marks on paper that correspond with the cricket’s movements. Showing the video of Harvey Moon’s Drawing Machines to 4th graders elicits a range of opinions as to who is the artist of the drawing. Though some believe it to be a collaboration between the three, many will argue for the cricket. After all, the cricket determines what the course of the drawing will be. Others feel strongly that the robot is doing all the work while Harry Moon sits back and just watches. Still others insist that, without Harvey Moon, none of this could happen.

After a lively discussion, I invite students to create their own drawing machines if they choose to do so. Using materials found in our Attachment Test boxes and other found objects, students set out to make a drawing machine of their own. There is a lot of trial-and-error in the process, a Studio Habit we call “Stretch and Explore.” Students test out their hypotheses, revise and try again. Below are videos of several 4th grade drawing machines. See what you think!

Posted by: dbjaquith | November 8, 2015

3D Design or Sculpture or Just Stuff?

A treehouse design, with the ladder arranged and ready to attach.

A treehouse design, with the ladder arranged and ready to attach.

Many (but not all) children love to construct things that represent the world around them. Buildings, vehicles, devices, furniture, games and sporting events are among the types of things that emerge in our 3D Design Studio. It’s a little like sculpture because, as the name suggests, the artwork is three-dimensional. But, unlike sculpture, the intent is to replicate an object that has a specific purpose or function, in this case, shelter and play. Making something that does something. This is what excites my students and is at the heart of design.

Fourth graders put their work away carefully to ensure it will remain intact until they return to the art classroom.

Fourth graders put their work away carefully to ensure it will remain intact until they return to the art classroom.

In the photo to the left, what appears to be a random grouping of objects is actually a very carefully arranged long-term art project. Fourth grade girls discovered that they could cut up pom poms, mix them with glue and leave them to dry in re-purposed watercolor pans. Their bakery concept emerged slowly but now they are moving full-steam ahead to consider how they will display their cakes. This activity involves inquiry, collaboration, and long-range planning, skills valued both in art class and beyond to other classrooms. The outcome of this work may tend more toward 3D design or more toward sculpture or simply a blend of both. Labels don’t matter to these artists – they are just happily engaged in an activity that challenges their creative and critical thinking skills.

Sculpture has its own purposes, different from design. When talking about sculpture with children I compare it to painting, as a media that can evoke a feeling or response from the viewer, communicate a perspective or tell a story. Sculpture is like a painting that you can walk around and see from all sides. We make sculptures out of clay, paper mache and plaster. Students understand this.

3D design often incorporates aspects of sculpture, bringing in the personal narrative, and vice versa. The treehouse design above offers a narrative about childhood, adventure and freedom. The sculptural tree below was lovingly created for the artist’s classroom teacher. One student conceived of the idea and persisted through complex construction issues to complete the project. Her classmates joined in, assisting with painting and assembly. A boy made all of the Origami apples which display each of the names of all the students in the class. This sculpture was constructed using the same materials found in the 3D Design Studio but serves a different purpose than design, celebrating the community that exists in the classroom.

In today’s art world, many contemporary artists have moved away from modernist classifications such as sculpture and design toward DIY and maker cultures. In the words of Lane Relyea (Your Everyday Art World, 2013): “Today the painting students, all of them, across the board, don’t say they’re painters. But they also don’t call themselves artists. ‘I do stuff’ is the most frequent response. Or, ‘I make stuff.’ All verb, no predicate. All open-ended adaptability and responsiveness, no set vocation.” So then why do these distinctions between sculpture and 3D Design matter when teaching elementary students? Because the non-art world moves at a far slower pace than the art world. For the majority of adults in these young people’s lives, art media labels continue to form a basis for much, if not all, of what they know and remember about art. Such labels are also in mainstream art education so that, when these students move on to middle and high school, it is likely that they will continue to study painting and design and sculpture. These terms offer students language to clarify and describe their work to others even if, among friends, they tell each other “I make stuff.”

The classroom tree with Origami apples, leaves and names of all the children in the class.

The classroom tree with Origami apples, leaves and names of all the children in the class.

Posted by: dbjaquith | October 26, 2015

Candy Corn in the Art Room

Candy CornChildren naturally bring their excitement into art class and, with a student-directed art program, they are able to follow their interests. Halloween is coming up this weekend and is certainly on students’ minds. One girl decided to make a weaving about Candy Corn. Her work demonstrates her understanding of tapestry weaving, where shapes of different colors can be joined together by interlocking stitches. You can learn more about tapestry weaving by watching Blue Acorn Woolens’ video. We watched the last five minutes to see how to weave with multiple colors.  A second video, below, shows Candy Corn in-process. This weaving inspired many other Candy Corn weavings throughout the last several weeks!

Posted by: dbjaquith | October 5, 2015

Painting Around the Room

This student is painting with tempera paint on top of chalk and oil pastel, marker painting and watercolor.

This student is painting with tempera paint on top of chalk and oil pastel, marker painting and watercolor.

Engagement is high with paint media!

Engagement is high with paint media!

Children tend to compartmentalize art media when they paint or draw.  I might suggest going back into a painting the following class with the same or a different media to build up layers, add details or extend the experience.  In response children typically observe, “My painting is done and there is nothing more I can add.” The concept of working back into dry paintings does not come naturally to young artists. Unless it is a “have to,” in which case the student has no choice in the matter, most prefer to take home the paintings that they spent five to thirty minutes on. We discuss the Studio Habit of Stretch and Explore, which encourages artists to challenge themselves (stretch) while playing with materials to discover new techniques (explore). The playful atmosphere of Stretch and Explore encourages students to take risks with their artwork.

A student paints water on top of marker drawing to soften the color.

A student paints water on top of marker drawing to soften the color.

The art studio is set up with different media at each table. Tempera paint, mixing palettes and varied brushes sit at one side of the room. Next to this table are watercolors and oil pastels, paired so they can be used individually or together. A third table holds water-soluble oil pastels, which blend to a thick consistency. Chalk pastels, brushes and water rest on another table. By painting water over the chalk, colors blend in subtle ways and the chalk dust is minimized. Most surprising to students is the table containing markers, brushes and water. Did you know that water painted on top of marker drawings creates a watercolor-like effect? We didn’t! Some students embraced this media and found new ways to show their interests.

A third grade boy invented a technique by blowing on dripping paint to create super-fine white lines on his painting.

A third grade boy invented a technique by blowing on dripping paint to create super-fine white lines on his painting.

Sometimes choice-based art teachers insist on a “have to” in order to demonstrate to children that certain techniques, details or special effects can really enhance their work. Young artists may be skeptical, with good reason, for fear that a nice piece might be over-worked. Adult artists struggle with the same issues. So last week we played a little game called “What If…” .

What If is a question artists frequently ask of themselves, both consciously and subconsciously. For our game, first, second and third graders were grouped into small teams to look at each others’ artwork from the previous week. They laid out their tempera, watercolor, pastel and marker paintings – all made with lots of water and pigment – and chose one to enhance with more media. Then each student provided a What If suggestion to others at their table.

Oil pastels resist watercolors; their texture on the watercolor paper is a nice complement to the bright paint.

Oil pastels resist watercolors; their texture on the watercolor paper complements the bright paint.

What if you outline shapes with chalk pastel?

What if you use neon marker to make that part stand out more?

What if you go over the dark parts with oil pastel?

What if you draw back into your watercolor painting with marker?

The artists moved to the table with the media they would use to add to one painting. This was not easy for some who, at first, did not see possibilities in their work. After discussions with classmates, however, each student had a direction and plan, as well as permission to Stretch and Explore with art media. The rest of class was spent painting and drawing to music. At the end of class children shared their What If plans with each other.

Students share their What If questions on the white board.

Students share their What If questions on the white board.

Posted by: dbjaquith | September 20, 2015

Drawing Around the Room

A girl uses oil pastels to draw a dragon.

A girl uses a stump to blend oil pastels in her dragon drawing.

We are off to a great start in the art studio!

Most students mixed drawing media in one drawing. This boy tested each material separately.

Most students mixed drawing media in one drawing. This boy tested each material separately.

Students are eager to get back to their art and have been exploring drawing media through the studio habit of Stretch & Explore. Students “drew around the room” with media exploration, drawing games and stop-motion drawing.

First and second graders made mixed media drawings using chalk pastels, oil pastels, graphite, colored pencils and neon markers. At the end of class we reviewed these materials to determine their properties and identify best uses for each.

Fifth graders tried out a new app called Stop Motion Studio on the classroom iPads. They filmed a drawing in-progress, from start to finish.

Students drew for 30 seconds and then a photograph was taken. When played together, the many consecutive photos create the impression of movement.

Every 30 seconds a photograph was taken of the drawings. When played together, the many consecutive photos create the impression of movement.

Super Messy!

Super Messy!

These stop-motion drawings were done with charcoal and chalk so students could erase and redraw their ideas. This was much easier than filming on digital cameras and importing into iMovie! The iPads are very spontaneous with an instant reply function. The “onion skin” aspect lets students see a ghost image of the last photograph taken so they can align the next photo without using a tripod. Will they try this again? Time will tell…

Thing/Doing is a card drawing game.

Thing/Doing is a card drawing game.

3rd and 4th graders played Drawing Games as a warm-up to drawing. They chose from six different games and then rated the games for fun and challenge. Surprisingly, the games they found the most fun had the least challenge! Thing/Doing is one of the most popular drawing games. Two stacks of cards, one pink and one blue, are placed on the table. Pink cards list nouns, such as dragon, princess, monster, dog and blue cards list verbs, such as dancing, eating, roller skating, and skateboarding. Students draw the thing on the pink card performing the action on the blue card. Then everyone tries to guess what each has drawn.

The Drawing Board Game is a typical board game with drawing challenges. Players roll dice and move around the board. When a player lands on a blank space he takes a white card. White cards give directions, such as “Move two steps back” or “Skip one turn.” When a player lands on a gray space she takes a gray card. Gray cards name a drawing challenge which players must draw. The game ends when the first player makes it to the Finish line.

The Drawing Board Game can be played by four players at a time.

The Drawing Board Game can be played by four players at a time.

 

 

Posted by: dbjaquith | August 30, 2015

Summer 2015

Mid-July garden

Mid-July garden

Once a year I post about my summer here on the Self-Directed Art blog. This has been a glorious summer! In spite of starting six days late (due to snow last February) it felt like a very long and full season. My summer started with the second annual TAB Institute Summer Teacher Institute which ran for a week in early July at Massachusetts College of Art & Design.

Forty eight teachers spent a week together in Boston learning about learner-directed pedagogy at the Teaching for Artistic Behavior Summer Institute.

Forty eight teachers spent a week together in Boston learning about learner-directed pedagogy at the Teaching for Artistic Behavior Summer Institute.

As director, I work with the college to plan a fulfilling week of graduate level professional development on the topic of choice-based teaching and learning. This year 42 teachers came from 20 different states along with faculty from Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois and North Carolina. The week went fast, with in-depth discussions about curriculum, assessment, media and strategies to deepen learning for our PreK-12 students. This year’s participants are a hard-working and lively group of dedicated professionals. It was a fabulously fun week together!

The Tusket River in Nova Scotia is brownish and bubbly, due to all the peat under the water.

The Tusket River in Nova Scotia is brownish and bubbly, due to all the peat under the water.

Soon after my husband and I joined friends and set sail for Nova Scotia. We spent several foggy days on this remote and beautiful island, relaxing in “Bear Cottage” in the woods by a lake. We did not see any bears but a very cute porcupine came to visit us on the deck one afternoon. Whales, seals and pods of dolphins escorted us home on the ferry back to Portland.

A frequent visitor to the feeder!

A frequent visitor to the feeder

The rest of the summer was spent in Gloucester looking out on Ipswich Bay, where I had fully intended to get a lot of writing completed. That didn’t happen! Instead I found myself in the garden, tending to the ever-changing show of color. The humming- birds visited often and, though I tried to get some good photographs, my camera is too slow for their fast speed. Did you know that hummingbirds will buzz your head if you get too close to their feeder?

All of these artworks are still in-progress and will continue to evolve over time.

All of these artworks are still in-progress and will continue to evolve over time. Some are more realistic than others as you can see.

Oil sticks and paint sticks are great fun to work with on canvas!

Oil sticks and paint sticks are great fun to work with on canvas!

A week-long class at Montserrat College of Art with painter Dean Nimmer on abstract art has inspired me to create new artwork. I had been painting landscapes for a few years but want to become less realistic so Dean’s exercises have helped me to gradually start the transition to abstraction. One starting point I like is to trace shadows onto a canvas and then work off the shapes. This results in organic forms that can fill a composition. I also switched from oil paints to oil sticks, essentially oil paint in stick-form so I can draw with paint! Paint sticks feel less demanding than oil paints to me so I can work more freely, usually on 3-4 pieces at a time, and just play with color and form. As you can see, I have a ways to go as the work seems to naturally represent something recognizable.

Lots of creatures live in and around these rocks and are fun to discover.

Lots of creatures live in and around these rocks and are fun to discover.

My Gloucester neighborhood has been my summer home since childhood. The people, the landscape, the tides, water and sky are all familiar constants. An annual highlight is the Perseids meteor shower and this year, with the new moon, it was spectacular! Our coast is quite rocky with a sandbar that emerges at low tide. I like to walk the beach to see what creatures, textures and colors appear in my camera lens. We face west, toward Cranes Beach and Plum Island. My evening ritual includes photographing the sunset and I am often joined by my neighbors. For us, this is our fireworks, a beautiful light and color show provided daily by nature.

A July sunset captures summer's glow.

A July sunset captures summer’s glow.

Like many of you I am preparing for a new school year, full of children’s art making and the myriad of surprises that appear each day in our Creativity Studio. When students have autonomy to direct their learning, their teacher gets the joy of watching them to see what will happen next. Being an art teacher is a wonderful job and I am so proud to be a part of this amazing profession!

Posted by: dbjaquith | June 24, 2015

Stop-Motion Animation 2015

Fourth graders developed skills in storytelling, claymation, technology and, most importantly, collaboration as they worked in teams to plan and create their animations. There are many steps in the stop-motion process:

1. Sketch/write a storyboard showing characters, location and story arc

2. Make characters, props and backgrounds out of clay and paper

3. Photograph the characters against the backgrounds, step-by-step. Some animations have close to 200 photographs!

4. Upload photos to iMovie and edit the animation with timing, titles, sound and visual effects

5. Watch the animation and revise where needed

Watch these animations to see how well students understand the animation process!

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