18 October, 2014

Made it!

Well I've made it through the first stretch of the year.  We have a week off starting today and even though we're not going away, I'm really looking forward to it.  Kit and Ella returned from their respective school trips to Cambodia and Thailand on Thursday and Friday all excited and wiser and slightly worn out.  Poor Kit's gone off to do the PSATs today at school (very bad timing).

I have some fun photos of share of our little Deepavali celebration at school.  On Thursday night I went out with some people from work to have a curry in little India, do some shopping, get some henna done etc.  Yesterday I had the best day at work, swanning around in my Indian attire and only taught 2 classes!
Serangoon rd, Little India
So much shiny shiny 
 I was mesmerised watching the man do my henna
ready for work
we have all kinds of random things in our parking garage at school.  I drive past these cord spools every day (Iwant to steal one for the art department) and finally walked back to take a photo yesterday
 My lovely friend Libby in front of my display of her class' work
blurry i know, but with our henna
 Then it was off to the gym (with the WORST lighting for taking photos) for the show.  I had to watch it twice as we specialists are always required to "usher".

 I got to see the demon putting on his make up.

The show told the story of Krishna defeating the demon which is the Deepavali story of light and good defeating darkness and evil.

There was quite a bit of violence (I never really caught on as to who the woman was other than the demon attacked her and Krishna defended her)
The first show was for nursery through to 3rd grade and was toned down a little, although still a little long I thought.  The second show was for 4th and 5th graders and the newly returned from their field studies trips in Vietnam and Cambodia, 11th and 10th graders who were made to go to school even though there was nothing for them to do.  Kit was among them, and lets just say, they were less than enthused about having to go and sit through this show.  Fortunately the performers picked up on it and really played to them; getting involved with a bit of audience participation when the demon was running away and hiding from Krishna. (that's Kit cross legged at the front)
 And he may have been the bad guy, but he had the BEST costume.

 Anyway, after all that excitement, it was back to my classroom for some actual teaching (still in my gorgeous frock).
My 5th graders are beginning a unit about observation of natural forms and how we can use it to inspire  us.  I had a great time last weekend buying some shells and cacti, I even got some peacock feathers in Little India on Thursday night.
I love this photo (it was totally not posed- just something I caught happening)
I made some simple card focus frames to try and get them to really be looking at certain areas.   I bought some magnifying glasses too, and for the most part right now, there's not so much drawing going on as there is looking.  But that's absolutely ok.  I loved seeing them almost lying across the tables to be able to really look at displays in the middle.
Then I waited around at school until 6:30 for my girl to come home from Thailand and we went home and had a lovely evening.  She bought me some elephant pants and a lovely little rice paper book (Kit got Matt and I both elephants).  
 But the biggest gift was to have them both back and to see how utterly inspired they were by their trips.  They both had to go and see various NGOs : Ella helped catch fish out of mud that was used for farming, Kit helped to build wheelchairs.  And it was nice to have my girl home to sit and doodle on her with Henna while we watched last Sunday's Doctor Who episode.
Not quite as gorgeous and delicate as mine!  I need to practise.

15 October, 2014

Positive and Negative space self portraits

As part of my 5th graders' how we express ourselves unit on how our passions and strengths can empower self-expression and drive potential we studied positive and negative space and created 2 side by side self portraits; one showing their strengths and passions (inside their silhouetted head/positive space) and one showing their future potential i.e. what they could do with those strengths and passions (outside their silhouetted head/negative space).  This has been quite a long project.  With shortened classes this year, everything takes so much longer as it's start stop all the time.  I even opened my classroom up to all my 5th graders in the morning, at recess and lunch and I STILL had some who didn't finish.

However I am really pleased with the over all results and I think I really pushed them, not only artistically, but to really think about their content.  It only took me 4 hours to grade and hang the 3 classes last night…sigh….

Anyway, I do want to share.  When I look at them from afar like this, it really strikes me how much impact the negative space ones have.  I've seen so many "projects" with positive and negative space just using black and white, but I think it's more important to use full colour.  The impact of going all the way to the edges is really striking.  I would have LOVED to work out some way where we could have merged the two as well (other than trying to do complicated cutting) so that we had NO negative space, but I couldn't work it out in our time frame.

Now we move into some observational drawing which will shake some of them up a bit!

12 October, 2014

Life's a Journal

My nearly full journal with the bhuddha one I've just begun and the big one that I've been using on and off over 2006-I've been going over pages.  I love the Loki pussy cat paws in the corner -he watches everything.
As I sit here tonight I realise how drastically Matt and my lives are changing.  Oscar is not living at home, Kit is in Cambodia with school, Ella is in Thailand with school (I had to get her there by 4:30 am for the bus today), Remi's been out all day and here we are at home, just the 2 of us (and a friend stopping by on his way through SG).

Anyway, my journals.  I'm really pleased to say that my teaching is really inspiring my own creativity this year.  I find I'm coming home and spending hours working in my journal.  Which has become journalS.  It's not great work, it's not high art by any means, but by God it's enjoyable.  

I'm really enjoying collaging, playing around with paint and gel mediums and palette knives to texturise my paper.  I've got out my old pastel pencils and been playing around with them, I've bought new markers which I'm loving using.  It really is my switch off and relax time.

Anyway, here's a few pages that I thought I'd share (some of these have been on instagram).  There's some faces (my 4th graders are doing self portraits), lots of collage (I'm loving using pages from my Frankie magazines which have a gorgeous texture and lovely muted colours for my beginning inspirations)

This one began as a pastel drawing which I tried to seal with white glue and it ended up a big muddy mess.  The next day I went back in and over it and the white glue with the pastel grains mixed in made a gorgeous texture to draw on.
Paletted paint on brown paper with sharpie and pastel
This is just "prepped" ready to go...

The brown paper is collage and paint with matte gel with pastels on top (the other tree is an old pencil one)
 The collage on the right is from 2006 when I first moved to CT and didn't have ANY art supplies (I think I made the glue with flour) and the paper was from catalogues, I added to it on the left with pastels on brown paper
The shoes and fence picture courtesy of Frankie magazine, I collaged around it and used palette knife and paint and pastels on top.
Sometimes things are more of a doodle while watching TV.  These circles once again are old, the other collage papers I added on top and I'm expanding the doodle.
This one is awaiting some of my lovely new markers…the picture in the middle is from Frankie magazine as are some of the papers...

this one was also from Frankie and you can see the line…the rest is drawn by me as well as a few extra balloons...

Markers on a page from a Frankie.  I use brush tipped markers ( note the feet on the pages to hold them down.  This sketch book is so full of collaged papers that it is exploding!)

12 different collage images/pages from Franke with markers 

lovely mindless doodling which is my total mind shut down before bed while I listen to audio books.  I find that using the computer so much during the day means that my eyes are toast by the end of the day and I just can not read.
playing around with pastel pencils on paper that I added textured gels to.  The matte gel was really good, but the fibre paste (which I LOVE for painting) was too much for the pastels.

01 October, 2014

4th grade portraits

So, I've not really gone into it, but our art department has been under a bit of pressure this year from our head honcho; words have been spoken such as "too craft based", "not enough skills', "poor quality" etc.

And while I don't necessarily agree (you should see us running around second guessing EVERY thing that we do right now), I can also see that some areas could do with some improvement.

I won't get into my views about whether we are teaching art for kids to just do art or whether we are teaching thinking, problem solving etc skills for all kids to take into the future in an IB inquiry based school; the first in the world to have an "innovation" centre.  

That's been part of the stress and extra work this year.  And BOY! has there been extra stress and work this year (and I'm not the only one, nor in the only department).

ANY HOO…I'm sharing my 4th grade classes with another teacher again this year.  We agreed to repeat a unit that I taught last year where we combine colour theory (with a focus on warm and cool  and contrasting/opposite colours) with a self portrait.  Last year we did these self portraits with half the face cool and half the face warm and I encouraged the kids to "abstract" their faces after having done some proportion studies.  

This year we decided to really focus on the skills; on face proportion and on more than just warm and cool colours.  (Any art teachers out there, I would LOVE to hear your views on when certain aspects of colour theory are being taught and how).  

I had the students do one 40 minute lesson (actually only a 30 minute lesson) using mirrors to draw their faces in their sketch books.  Although I gave them some pointers about measuring using their fingers etc, and walked around behind them showing them where their hair line was in proportion to the top of their head etc, I for the most part just let them go.

Part of the issue with our school is that we just have no real idea of how many kids spent last year at the school doing our art program, how many have come from other schools with or without arts programs, so I'm finding it really useful to do LOTS of pre assessment for everything we do.  We can take NOTHING for granted.

I have to admit that I was surprised by the results.  I thought they would be able to do much better than they did.  I could immediately see those who'd had some instruction in face proportions before (the best  of them announced proudly that one of my colleagues had taught her- something I texted to her immediately; seriously we are deflated at the moment).  So the next lesson I showed them a slide show with lines and markers on an oval and  then on real faces and then left it up on the promethean board for them.  I also showed them eye shapes and ways to draw noses etc.  

I then gave them a *****template****** (shock horror! and something I thought I NEVER would do).  A basic template of an oval head.  I put some dots for pupil guides, a tiny line for the bottom of the nose and one for the bottom of the bottom lip as we'd looked at the 1/2, 1/2 1/2 way of doing portraits.  I talked about these, I talked about the lines at the side of the head, about "3 eyes" etc etc., and they took 2 x 40 minute lessons to do this drawing.  They used mirrors and photographs of themselves which are on the fronts of their sketch books.   I showed them a value scale that I did with their drawing pencils and emphasised shading.  The first lesson I spent walking around giving them tips and asking questions and the second lesson I left them to it.  They knew it was an assessment piece and the second lesson they were SO focused. (teacher's favourite lesson)
 I still think we could spend WEEKS on this, looking at how we could improve.   The best part was when they compared their original drawing with their one on a template!  They could all see the improvement and I had to stop one girl from scribbling out her original.
I really want to revisit this next week as they upscale themselves onto bigger pieces of paper.  I told them that that was why proportion was important as it gave them a way to map out a starting point.  It will be interesting to see the final products (and whether or not they meet the expectations of the boss upstairs!)

24 September, 2014

my chair

After finally writing a post tonight (see below) I found this half written post in my drafts that I never published; I think I was waiting to finish the project.  Well, I haven't yet, so I will post this as it is:

So remember this chair?  This is a chair we inherited in NYC back in 2001 .  Our landlord had got rid of the "valuable furniture" from his newly deceased mother's house and told us to get rid of anything else we didn't want to good will.  We still have 3 pieces of furniture for that time. This is one of them.  I absolutely love this chair.  I had TOTALLY forgotten that we had it; that we'd put it in to storage, and that when we got our stuff out of storage that this was part of it.  However, it needs some repairs.  And while I have become quite good at restoring and recovering furniture over the last few years, I just don't have access to the same sort of supplies here.  This one will have to wait.

So I decided to patch this chair for now.  I have, over the years,  seen really gorgeous chair patching on the web and on pinterest, but when I went to look for pictures and inspiration I couldn't find ANYTHING!!!

So I decided to make a kind of how to patch tutorial: 
I know the photos aren't great, but they sort of go through the process.  I use a curved upholstery needle and regular double threaded cotton and just stitch into the fold.
 I've been using safety pins to get the fabric nice and tight. and the folds how I want them.
 I also snip into the inside corners to make them sit flatter.

 I chose a dark green velvet for the seat (It was thinner than the fabric used for the arms and I thought it would be more comfortable to sit on as the fold wouldn't be as noticeable).
 On the arms I used the same upholstery fabric as I used on 3 different chairs that are in our house in VT.  I love this fabric and it looks gorgeous on the arms of the chair, once I stitched them nice and tight.  I thought I had taken photos of that process, but apparently not; once I get into it I forget.

I love the effect (although in all honesty I have only had time to finish one arm.  Things really are crazy busy at work (and Matt leaves for the UK and NYC for 2 weeks tonight) and I am just fighting to keep on top of things. I need an early night, a good night's sleep and to be about 3 more weeks into the future  when things will hopefully settle down.