Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In the Art Room: Totally Tubular Castles

Unlike most students, this fourth grade dude opted for a moody evening sky. I love how well it works with this haunted looking castle.  
I recently discovered that if I need something, all I have to do is ask. For instance, I totally underestimated how much glue we would consume, er, use in the art room this year and only ordered one gallon. When that well ran dry, I simply sent out a school-wide email and within hours I had enough glue to put back together all of the dishes I've managed to break over the years. Thank goodness! My dishwasher is simply devouring those styrofoam plates!

  This is also how I managed to acquire the four million toilet paper tubes we used for this castle building project. The only slight draw back to asking for stuff: you just might receive far more than imagined (shoot me an email if you'd like to become the proud new owner of six garbage bags of toilet paper tubes! They make great gifts -- the expression on the recipent's face is always one of pure confusion which I like to interpret as joy).

Because our castle was apart of our study of Germany, I also incorporated some of Grimm's Fairy Tales into the mix. This young artist dude obviously was inspired by Rapunzel.
Okay, I'm dying to ask the artist about the story behind this drawing. Just why is the knight in shining armor high tailin' it out of town? Did he find out just how high maintenance those Rapunzels can be? "Climb up my hair, now braid my hair, make that a french braid, ouch, stop pulling, that hurts! Climb down my hair and get outta here you big ape!"
This artist had his work on display at our local art museum, The Frist Center for Visual Arts. Pretty sweet. My mom once taped my drawing to the fridge. Okay, I taped it to her fridge.

Just exactly how where these amazing castle pieces created by fourth graders, aside from a gallon of glue and a ton of tubes? Well, lemme tell you:
  1. Like I said, this project was a study of castles in Germany. We focused on Schloss Neuschwanstein (where you can see a super brief history here) and the landscape of Bavaria. During our first couple of art classes, we talked color theory and sky painting. 
2.  Next up: Cloud painting. We use a bristle brush to create the cloud texture with an emphasis that clouds have a flat bottom (hey, just like the art teacher!) and a fluffy top (ha! art teacher wishes). I also chat about showing space by painting the clouds near the horizon smaller and have them increase in size as they climb up the page.
3. After a big fat hairy chat about the landscape of southwestern Germany, we tackle the land. The students were given three pieces of 18" X 6" paper in the following colors: white, light green and green. They were instructed to crumble each piece, smooth it out, and rub water based oil pastels over each. Then each piece of paper was given a stroke of water with a paint brush to help blend the oil pastels. I have found the Crayola Portfolio Oil Pastels work best for this.

4. Once those were dry, each of the three papers were torn lengthwise. Some students opted to create three-dimensional mountains. This was done by taking a small torn piece of paper, coloring it heavily in oil pastels, laying it on the mountain and smearing the oil pastel from the paper to the mountain. From there, the land was glued to the sky painting.

5.  After all of that landscaping, we were finally ready for our castle building. I kept the directions very basic because I was curious to see what the students would come up with. What I did tell them was to cut a slit up the back of the tube and fold each cut line about 1/4". This would be where the glue would go to attach to the landscape. This is also how the gnomes were glued down in my project posted last week.

6.  For the top of the castle, short cuts were made and every other one was folded down. Easy.

7.  The kids came up with the idea of the draw bridge. When one got the idea to glue a "chain" to hold the bridge, the rest just had to do the same.
In case you mustache, this is Mustache Kingdom.
8.  Here's how they were shaping up after a couple of days. Once glued down, they were ready to be painted.
 9.  Students were to paint a base coat onto their castles. I offered them black paint but a handful wanted something a little more colorful. And sparkly. What's a castle without glitter, after all?
 10.  After the base coat was applied, students sponge painted gray paint onto their castle for a rock like texture. When one student used the back of his paint brush to create bricks, the rest of us all had a "why didn't I think of that?!" moment.
Yes, that's a flying PopTart/Taco/cat-with-a-rainbow-shooting-out-it's-butt thing. Not sure if that's from some cartoon or imagined. Most likely the effects of glue consumption.
 11.  Once castles were complete, the real fun began. Our castle either had to have a flag and/or a shield. After a chat about Grimm's Fairy Tales, I encouraged the addition of characters to the scene. Those that decided to not include characters and finished early wrote stories about their kingdom.
I'm kinda on this kick where I add that super fine glitter to all of the paint. You can see that shine in this pair of castles.
These kids have the funniest imaginations. I love their silliness.
Last photo, I swear! This little amazing artist had the genius idea to add puffy paint vines to her castle. I'm rather smitten with her dragons.
And there you have it! Many moons, tubes and a gallon o' glue later, you've got some of the coolest castles in all of Tennessee. Now, that I've got all the glue a girl could ever want, I'm thinking of sending out an email asking for coins. Tell me what you think of this:

"Dear Teachers, The students will be using loose change. Would you mind sending any and all pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to the art room? Thank you!" 

With all these generous teachers of mine, this outta easily cover my Spring Break vacay to Daytona Beach. Art Teachers Gone Wild, here I come!

Monday, February 25, 2013

DIY: Ceramic Gnome Homes

A neighborhood of gnome homes.
 My hubs and I've been married for something like a dozen years. Not sure exactly because I lost our marriage certificate long ago. It wasn't a day that stands out in my mind because it was simply a fifteen minute session with the judge at the courthouse. I don't remember much except that I wore this horrible cornflower blue two-piece suit dress from Talbots thus making me look like Barbara Bush. Hawt.

Details of adorableness. You sure you can handle this much cute?

Wait. Where was I going with this? Ah, yes, married life. In the beginning, hubs and I were never apart. And it was lovely cause we didn't wanna be. This changed over time (like six months in) and I began to kinda-sorta freakin' love my alone time. You see, hubs has to go on these occasional work trips and when he does, I likes to party. And by party I mean invite a buncha buddies over for grown-up drinks, laughs and gnome-home making. Exactly what the Beastie Boys were talkin' about during their fight for the right to party.
Textures for clay: lace, crochet bits, burlap and plastic doilies. Although texture possibilities are endless. My personal fave: the bottom of my shoe.
 Let's say you wanna indulge in your own gnome home making merriment. Well, this here clay project is so easy you can still be successful after a grown-up drink or three. Here's what you'll need:
  •  clay (I use a low-fire clay like cone 04-06)
  • rolling pins
  • textures
  • cornstarch (clay can often be too damp and stick to your rolling pin and textures. Cornstarch makes it less sticky without removing too much moisture)
  • old toothbrushes and cups of water
  • wooden skewers (for cutting the clay)
I swear to you my hands are not this skin-removed pink. Although maybe they are. The kids can hardly focus when I demonstrate on the elmo (not the doll, you silly, the piece of electronic equipment). My favorite kid comment of late: (whispering) ewww, did you see her hands?!
 To begin, I create the bottom of my home. Pick a texture and place it on a non-sticky surface. Place your clay on top of that. If your clay is sticky, sprinkle it with cornstarch and set to rollin' wit your pin. Not your homies. Keep you clay at a 1/4" thickness. Any thicker can cause explosions in your kiln while any thinner can be too weak. You gots to get this just right, Goldie Locks.
 Peel your clay off and viola! You've got texture. Now let's roll it up and make it into the base of your home.

 Now you could just roll it up as-is as shown on the left. Or you could cut one end of your rolled slab with an interesting line to jazz of the piece. It's up to you. Whatever you decide, use your old toothbrush to scrub one side thus gluing the connected pieces together.
 For some variety, I opted for a different texture for the roof. Crocheted bits like this can be purchased at your local craft store or pinched from your grannies house. You know, that lady who dresses like Barbara Bush.
 Roll this up waffle cone style. Again, toothbrush before you attach one side of the cone to the other. It might stick while you work but there's a chance that without using the toothbrush and water to attach it might not remain stuck for long.

 Set the roof on your house and pray you made it the right size. And if you didn't then you just messed the whole thing up. Aw, just kidding. But you did kinda mess up. Sorry. Make your waffle smaller/bigger and try to get it right this time, would ya?

My other favorite textures? Stamps! The larger stamps could also be used for the base or the roof.
I decided to use the stamps for details like this little faux wooden door. Clay loves to adhere to stamps so go all cornstarch on it and you'll be fine.
 My fave finishing touches are doors, windows, flowers and hearts. There are endless possibilities. I mean, just take a look at this cuteness:

 Aww! Add a couple hearts to the top for you and that special guy you hope goes out of town. These were done with stamps but you could also use alphabet pasta. Just leave the pasta in and let it fire off in the kiln.
 Sweet little ladder. It's always good to have a fire escape.
 It's so adorable it's burning my eyes. Seriously.
Because I knew I'd have a hard time getting all these ladies back at the same time, I opted to have them make and glaze their houses in one sitting. For that I used The Clay Lady's Clay Paint. Her "paint" is an engobe (which is dried clay with pigment added). This can be painted directly on to wet clay. Once dry, these pieces were dunked in The Clay Lady Glaze. Because I love vibrant colors, I use Mayco's Stroke and Coat with the children.
I'm thinking that the creation of these homes just might have gotten the gnome bug outta my system (as evidenced by this gnome dress, my students gnomies and my own gnome homes). In fact, I think I'll turn to my longtime fashion consultant and ask her opinion. What say you, Barb?
Hey! That's my wedding dress!
Geez, so many caption options with this photo:

"Shhh! You'll wake the gnomes!"

"Smell my finger. Does it smell like Cheetos to you?"

"I know where your marriage certificate is but I'll never tell!"

Wow, Barb. Just, wow.

Merry gnome-home making to you! Until next time, enjoy your week.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What the Art Teacher Wore #56

Presidential Monday: The kiddos had the day off while I had a day of meetings. And kids claim life isn't fair for them? Oh, just you wait until you enter Grown Up Town, Junior. sweater: vintage, found at Goodwill and shown with it's sister sweaters here; skirt: vintage, thrifted; belt and boots: Anthropologie; fishnets: dunno, Target?
'Ello, mates! This week, my students and I began transitioning from all things Germany to the United Kingdom. We've been having a jolly good time learning all about the Queen, her home at Buckingham Palace, her guards with the funny furry hats, the geography, food, slang, you name it, we've chatted about it. We've even been burning up the CD player with one student's One Direction CD and my Beatles collection. My plan is to hold a tea in my art room this week. With a half an hour art time and projects to work on, we'll see how that goes. I'll keep you posted.

To celebrate our voyage to the UK, I've been sporting Union Jack inspired outfits this week. Because of this, I thought I'd share just a pinch of the history of the Union Jack as well as some miscellaneous bits. I hope you enjoy.

This coming week is Read Across America Week! At my school wear are celebrating by dressing a bit wacky everyday (so why don't they just call it Dress Like an Art Teacher Week?). If you are a teacher, are you dressing up? If so, I'd love to see what you are wearing. Please feel free to share a link to your blog in the comments. And if you aren't a teacher, I still wanna see your wacky wears!  
The Union Flag: Aka, Union Jack. This is the flag of the United Kingdom (not just that place where One Direction is from, as my students would have you believe). This is also the flag of several British territories. And it makes an appearance in the upper left hand corner of former British countries (think Australia). Personally, I think this is the best designed flag ever.
The Making of the Union Jack: So the story goes that in 1603, James VI of Scotland inherited the English and Irish thrones. This united England, Scotland and Ireland although they remained separate states. Combining the flags of these states, a new flag was created. I'm not sure why the Welsh flag was not included in this mash up of flag design. Might have something to do with that giant red dragon their flag has smack in the middle.
Union Jack Attack Tuesday: To really kick off our new adventure in the United Kingdom, I decided to wear the colors of the Union Jack this week. Which took some digging into the depths of my closet as I just don't wear a ton of cobalt blue. sweater: vintage, thrifted; plaid dress: from a rare venture into the mall a million years ago; belt: Anthropologie; sparkly fishnets and tights: Target; shoes: Irregular Choice
Union Jack Doc Martins: In junior high, I experienced my own British invasion in the form of a Beatles obsession. Which I think is an absolute requirement if you are to have any taste in music as an adult. My summer job as a corn detasseler in rural Indiana never paid enough for me to purchase my own pair of Docs. If it would have, I think I'd have lived in these.
Trying Hard and Failing Wednesday: Not in love with this outfit, just a little too much pattern clashing for me. Ah well, better luck next Wednesday (which happens to be "words on a shirt" day for Read Across America Week, eep!). shirt: thrifted; sweater: Lucky Brand, thrifted; skirt: Anthro, bought at Buffalo Exchange; belt: Pinup Girl Clothing; fishnets: Target; shoes: Softt
Talkin' 'Bout my Ge-ge-generation: Of course, one British band obsessions usually leads to another. My bedroom growing up housed Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin posters as well. To this day, I don't believe there's a hotter dude than a young Robert Plant. BTW, did Pete Townsend's mom make him wear that jacket? He looks mighty miffed.
The Thursday I'd Like to Forget: Yeah, it was one of those days. So let's focus on the positive: my (almost) completely thrifted outfit! Typing up these little outfit portions, I've noticed that most of my outfits are thrifted this week. There's really nothing like striking gold at the thrift store, says me. sweater: Old Navy, thrifted; dress: BCBG, thrifted; belt: Supayana on etsy; fishnets: Target?; shoes: Irregular Choice
World's Most Expensive Union Jack: According to the The Daily Mail UK, this is the only surviving flag from the Battle of Trafalgar from the early 1800's. It sold for £384,000 (which would be about $585,254). According to The Daily Mail, the huge flag "is littered with holes from shot damage and still has a whiff of gunpowder, flew from the jackstaff of HMS Spartiate at the historic battle 204 years ago. After the victory over Napoleon's French army, the crew lowered the flag and presented it to Lieutenant James Clephan for his outstanding performance."

Graffiti artist, activist, film maker and painter Banksy has been creating public work with a statement since the early 90's. In this particular piece, which depicts a child sewing Union Jack bunting, Bansky was trying to bring to light child labor laws in Britain. The Queen was not a fan of this particular work. To the fury of the local community, this piece was chiseled off the wall and sent to Miami for auction. It's interesting to me how artists can say so much by their depiction of a flag in a work of art.
Painted Legs Friday: Not really. But you wouldn't believe the number of kids that thought I had. Little dudes, I love to go the extra mile for you, but that would be a little too far. Even for a crazy art teacher like me. dress: old, Free People; jacket: old, ModCloth; shoes: Clarks; tights: amazon (where you can seriously find EVERYTHING); floral hair clip: made by me
Ginger Spice! If the Queen wasn't pleased with Banksy's work, I wonder what she thought of this little number. I was in college when "Wannabe" and the Spice Girls exploded, like, everywhere. I was too busy listening to (and pretending to like) those grungy dude bands. Besides, what in the world IS a Sporty Spice? Most def not something I wanted sprinkled on my dinner, thank ya very much.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In the Art Room: Winter Wonderland

A grouping of kindergarten landscapes.
For the last three years, when my kindergarteners painted these snowy scenes, the following day was a snow day. I kid you not. This year was no different. Despite the fact that snow wasn't even in the forecast, it fell steadily from midnight on to the following day. The kindergarteners are convinced they made this happen. I'm beginning to believe them and I'm plotting more snowy projects for the very near future.
I love that this tree has outgrown the frame.
I don't usually repeat projects from year to year cuz I get bored easily. But I often struggle with kindergarten project ideas. This is one of my ole standbys because it's got it all: a little painting, a little collaging and a whole lotta landscaping all in one.
After looking at several landscapes (with a big focus on Grandma Moses because she's awesome and so kid-friendly), we began our own paintings. During our first half an hour together, the students were given the following directions:
  • Paint any kind of line that would be good for a hill. Paint that in blue from one side of your paper to another.
  • Blend white paint into the blue line to create light blue or a tint of blue. 
  • Repeat the first two steps with a hilly line below the first.
  • Put that masterpiece on the drying rack, paint brush in the sink, clean that table and you're done for the day!
  • The following day we chatted all about shades. We were creating an evening sky so we used black and blue this time. Some students chose to use the back of their paint brush to draw wind and stars into the sky (Vincent van Gogh much?) while other dabbed on snow or just left it black.
  • On this day we looked at Grandma Moses' landscapes again and chatted about the three parts to a landscape: fore, middle and background. After eyeing her work, we noticed she showed space my painting her trees, houses, people, everything smaller in the background. 
  • Each artist chose their own house from a stash of die cuts. Snow and icicles were added with white oil pastels. We learned how to cut out triangles and rectangles for our trees. 
  • As you can see above, most of the wee ones understood that to create space in their landscape, their trees needed to decrease in size. Just don't ask them what "decrease" means. We're not there yet.
  • Students were given metallic gold and silver oil pastels to add wind and stars to their evening skies. Looks like this artist opted to just stick with white snow and asteroids.
  • Finally, we chatted snowflakes, added them in white oil pastel to our frames along with our signatures.
In all, I'd say these turned out pretty stinkin' cute. Even if some of us still refer to them as our "landscrapes." Call it what you wanna, if it brings us a Snow Day, I'll take it!
On a super happy side note, I came home from school today to find my art room in the back of SchoolArts magazine! I'm so excited. I hardly recognize that super clean room as it currently looks like someone turned it upside down, gave it a couple hard shakes, squirted same paint and threw some glitter inside before slamming it back down again. Small correction: my school is Johnson Elementary. Gotta give the best school to work at props!

Until we chitty-chat again, enjoy the rest of your week!