Thursday, August 15, 2013

In the Art Room: The First Days of Art Class

Konichiwa'ing and bowing to "Sensei Stephens"...a girl could get used to this. Unfortunately, I can't seem to train the hubs to do the same.
Konichiwa, ya'll!
 I don't know about you, but I am always super curious how teachers begin their school year. Since I just finished seeing all of my first through fourth grade classes for an hour this rotation (I see my students for a 1/2 hour twice every six days. Yeah, I'm just as confused as you are), I thought I'd share with you the first days of art class. Not included in this episode of In the Art Room is kindergarten-town. Because they start a little later than the rest, I only saw one class this week...and I tend to do things a little differently with them (read: whatever I can manage to do with a herd of cats, er kids, in one session).

On the first day of art class, I greeted my students outside my room wearing my kimono. We chatted briefly about how we would be studying the art of Asia this year beginning with Japan. They learned that whenever they are on a red line (one outside my room as you can see below, one in my room where we line up and another set where we sit on the floor) they are to be "samurai silent". I then told them how to say hello in Japanese and how to bow to show respect. Which is what's goin' down in that top photo.
My Samurai Silent line.

Once we entered the art room, following another red line, I asked the kids if they could tell me anything that was different about my room. Keep in mind, the last time they saw my room, it looked like this...and now it looks like this. From there, we gathered on the floor in "Japan".  I used the yellow map to remind them the name of our continent, the continent we studied last year and the continent of Asia. 

I chatted with the kids about my trip to Japan several years ago (I did the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund program which I cannot recommend enough. It was such a wonderful experience. You really outta do it). They learned that children in Japan are very much like them, including their style of dress. However, on special occasions, folks do wear a kimono. I chatted about my kimono, the obi (that giant belt) and my geta (the wooden shoes I'm wearing).
I know what you're thinking: You didn't talk about RULES on the very first day?! I'm getting to it! But c'mon. On the first days of school, it's nothing but rules and procedures and blahblahblah. Not only that, but I've been these kids' art teacher forever. We kinda sorta got this. That being said, after 10 minutes of chatting about Japan, I did have the kids move to this part of my room, take a seat on the floor so we could discuss...Art Class Rules.

Now, before they ventured to that part of the room, I asked them to go shopping at The Store for a piece of newspaper. The Store is simply the supply-gathering table I have set up in my room. You can read more about that here.
Okay, so you mighta noticed I'm wearing a different kimono. I'd accidentally left my other one at home that day and was left using my thrift store kimono.
Once seated on the floor with our newspapers, I went through the roll and greeted each student with a "konichiwa!". This gave them the opportunity to not only practice their konichiwas but to also learn my name if they were a newbie.
Five minutes later we got around to the rules. Now just to spice things up a bit, I like to use my sound machine when chatting about something that might otherwise be monotonous. This little gadget has 16 different awesome sound effects from a scream (to demonstrate what I might sound like if a rule is broken) to a round of applause for awesomeness. Consequences to not following rules are also discussed. Behind my rows of seated kids, I've got two red X's that are my designated time out spots. Students are to stand and face me when in time out so they can still hear instructions but no longer (er, hopefully) disrupt the group. Now, I'm not gonna lie, I've had my share of office referrals. But it's rare so I don't chat about it much.
When all that's covered, we get to our Very First Art Project! After teaching for a million (okay, 15) years, it's one thing that I've found drives the kids nuts on the first day: not getting to "do art". So I always try to include a little something. On the first day, we spent the last 5-7ish minutes making origami hats. I used this as a chance to really emphasize the rules: If you "listen carefully" then you'll be able to "follow directions. Origami can be confusing, so "try your best". "Be kind" to your friends, lend a hand if they need help. And that wrapped up our very first 1/2 hour session.
For our second 1/2 hour session, we practiced our samurai silent business and got our seats in art class. I have six tables with four chairs at each. Every table has a color and every seat has a number. Each student was instructed where their spot was (I'm a believer in assigned seats with an even ratio of boys/girls and positive peer grouping). I told them that we were going to play the Painting Game. Once they were given their seats, they were told to put on the apron that was on the back of their chair, don't touch the paint and wait for everyone to get their seat.
So the Painting Game was just a fun way for us to review proper painting procedures, review the elements of art and have fun. I would draw a number and then either a line or a shape and the kids were to paint it. I reminded them that our paint brushes are like ballerinas: they ALWAYS dance on their tippy-toes. They never EVER scoot around on their bottom. Because that's bad for the bristles and just plain weird. I mean, who ever heard of a butt-scootin-around ballerina?!
After a couple rounds, the kids swapped paint cups and brushes with their neighbors. We talked about the principals of art by chatting about variety, emphasis and all that other groovy goodness.
I changed out the table coverings at the end of each day which means these papers got pretty well covered. The kids were responsible for enhancing the painting that was already before them...which was a struggle for some. However, they all seemed to enjoy their painting time and were eager to do it again. Which we won't be anytime soon because we have a million other projects to get to...but I didn't tell them that. By the way, these paintings will be used as a backdrop for another project I'll share with you soon.
To wrap up the Painting Game and chat about what we learned, we lined up and played The Smartest Artist. More on that game here.

This is actually a photo from last year...I just didn't manage to snap one while we were playing this week. I quizzed them on the elements of art, the primary colors and the names of lines. After that, we bowed and said sayonara before exiting.
And there you have it! One hour in the art room, broken down into two classes. Every time I see these guys, I'll be covering a new routine and procedure (next up, safety drills) but I gotta break it up a bit with some fun. For my sanity and theirs. Teacher friends, how do you approach your first days of school. There's just so much to cover, the fun never ends. Thank goodness Friday comes once a week and saves the day, right?!
And now it's time to announce the Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! Debi! Congrats, girl! I can't wait to send this crayon-goodness your way and see what amazingness you create.

Monday, August 12, 2013

DIY: Hokusai's The Great Wave Dress

 'kay, lemme first start by saying that I don't know what in the world kind of crazy blurry lame-o setting I put my camera on but I blame it entirely on these crazy blurry lame-o photos. And the crazy blurry lame-o photographer. Who just so happens to be me. 

That being said, look! I put a great big Hokusai wave on my dress! And take another look! At the entrance to the art room! Be sure to get a good hard look before that evil fun-hater the Fire Marshall comes and has a heart attack at all of the codes I'm breakin'. I mean, did you see the tree? And I've not even given you a complete tour of the place, complete with the hanging lanterns and wax paper umbrellas (tour post coming soon). I mean, seriously. If I don't cause the dude to go into early retirement then I'm just not doin' my job, says me. And my principal. But she says that too me all the time.
 I painted this Great Wave mural over 10 years ago for a bulletin board in my previous school. I can't believe that I actually managed to 1. not lose it; 2. not tear it up; 3. it just feels like there should be a 3 here even though I don't have a third point. I decided to hang it outside my art room because 1. there wasn't any more wall space in my classroom; 2. I was tired of seeing it rolled up and on the floor in my storage closet; 3. again, no third point but 3 was feeling left out.

 I thought the black backdrop would show off the painting a bit more than the cinder blocks. AND I also thought of the look it would put on ole Fun-hatin' Fire Marshall's face and was all, "YES, wall-to-wall paper it 'tis."
 Being the crazy person that I am, I got it in my head that I needed a dress to match our unit on Hokusai's The Great Wave. And wouldn't you know, that very day The Thrift Store Gods smiled on me and put this sweet white Target dress in my hands.
 From blah to Holy Crap, run for your lives, that wave is gonna swallow us whole!

 Just in case you wanna make a Great Wave Dress (and, like, duh, who doesn't?!), here's what I did: I began by laying out my dress and drawing my version of Hokusai's print in the size I thought would work on the dress. On the back of some wrapping paper. Because I didn't have anything else (BTW, if you are expecting a prezzie from me in the near future, be warned, it will be wrapped in a Kroger sack. I'm outta wrapping paper.)
 To create the two tones of blue in the big waves, I appliqued these teal pieces on top of the dark blue.
 I decided to use the white of the dress for the foamy part of the wave. Which meant I only had to create the blue portions of the water.
 Here you can see the white of the dress acting as the negative space. BTW, that's a kneaded eraser in the foreground. Not my chewing gum.
 Once a thousand of the world's most pokey-est of pins were put into place, the stitching commenced. Which, fyi, is no fun party when you are constantly being stabbed by said pokey-est of pins.
Once all the pieces were in place, I added the zigzag types of lines to create the waves and, viola! One Great Wave Dress complete!
Oh! By the way, I totally didn't forget about the giveaway (ha! yes, I did). So, don't you worry. I'll be announcing the winner soonish. Good news for all you slackers, there's still time to throw your name into the ring. Do it! You need crayon fabric in your life. Trust me. It makes a world of a difference (no it doesn't. Drinking does).

Chat soon, ya'll! I'm off to find out just why my photos are so crazy blurry lame-o. And possibly fire my photographer.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In the Art Room: Welcome to Japan!

 So, can you guess where we'll be traveling this year in the art room? If you just guessed "Chexico!" like one of my students today, then, I hate to tell ya this, but you are incorrecto. As they say in Chexico.

However, if you guessed, "We are going to Japanese!" like another student of mine, then, yay! You're getting warmer! We'll be studying the art, culture and people of Asia this year. I decided to go with a Japanese theme for my room decor.
 That being said, I really had no clue just how I was gonna transform these windows into the Land of the Rising Sun. So I uprooted a stash of Hokusai prints (my inspiration for this post) and slowly started knocking it out.

 The kids are always fascinated by the window paintings. My favorite question of all time: "Does the principal know you painted the windows?" My other favorite question comes every year from my custodian buddy who will walk in, stop dead in his tracks and say, "Did you paint that?!" Seriously, every year. When I tell him, "yes!" I always get an "all by yourself?!"
 It took me a couple of hours to wash Paris off my windows and take down all of the art work. Here's what my blank canvas, so to speak, looks like. It's a lovely view but it can be very distracting to the kids when we have wacky weather, friends on the playground or sun shining in our eyes and burning out our retinas.
I began working on this during summer for just a few hours a day. On the morning I came back to this, I absolutely hated it. The colors seemed too bright and garish to me. But I've got a rule about art-making that comes courtesy of Tim Gunn: Make it work.
 At the end of that day, I was getting a little closer to being finished and a little happier with the result. I figured whatever I didn't like I could stick my giant tree in front of. Cuz that's Tim Gunn's other no-as-popular credo: Big a** trees hide big a** mistakes.
 This here's about the time I threw down my brushes, wiped my brow and heard that oh-so-familiar, "Did you paint that?!" And all that was left was adding the tree.
 Now this tree came in at least a half dozen parts from the ever-so-lovely Anthropologie store in downtown Franklin, Tennessee. Wasn't that so super awesome of them to donate it to the art room? I thought so. I had some of my favorite buddies help me put the thing together...and we almost did it. However, my skillz with drillz are seriously lacking. The thing ended up with enough screws sticking out of it that it closely resembled a cactus. When I asked the principal if all the kids had their tetanus shots because, if not, we might have a prob with all those rusty bits sticking out, she kinda freaked a little. I'm not gonna lie. I was woe-is-meing to a wonderful parent at our school who then proceeded to volunteer her awesome husband to come and fix Big Bad Tetanus Tree. And all was happy in Chexico. Er, Japanese. Japan! Whatever.
And while I totally love my Japanese set up, I gotta tell you, I'm gonna miss Paris a bit. In fact, I had one or two students today tell me that they'll miss seeing the hot air balloons and the Eiffel Tower.

 The year before we studied Europe, we covered Egypt. At this time, I was only painting the right bank of windows. Before I went all crazy town and painted the entire ding-dong thing.
Regardless, I'm super stoked for the new school year. This is what I wore today as our introduction to the art room and a tiny glimpse into our year in Asia. Although it appears we might have to have a wee chat about cultural acceptance as I heard this from one of my students today:

"Mrs. Stephens," with a look from head to toe, a sigh and an eye roll, "you look ridiculous. As usual."

Seriously? I get no respect! 

Sayonara, dudes!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

DIY: A Crayon-tastic Dress and A GIVEAWAY!

 What you see here is an art teacher that's one crayon short of a full box. 
Partly cuz, let's face it, I'm nutz (and I'm not just sayin' so. During our school's evening registration, I was asked on more than one occasion by the under-10 set if I was planning on being "even crazier this year." When I replied with an "um, I suppose so?" I was met with mostly "yes!"es and a few "oh no"s. But those came from parents and the administration. Which doesn't count, says me.) And the other partly cuz, well, I used several of the crayons from my box for that there hair clip.
But that crayon clip was just the icing on this Ultra-Geeky-Crayontastic-Art-Teachery-Get-Up Cake. 

When I stumbled upon this crayon fabric at JoAnn's, I knew deep in my tacky-bedazzled heart that it was meant for curtain-making or bulletin board decorating. Not dresses. I thought to myself, "Should I? Or would that be taking things a little too far?" And then I remembered THIS get up, laughed manically (which drew stares and whispers and a phone call to the police) and realized I done took things too far a long long time ago.

I also scooped up a coupla yards of that blue chevron. I loved the idea of it paired with the crayon fabric (look, I can teach about zig zag lines and crayons with this dress. Shoot, this dress just does the teachin' itself. Thank goodness because with all this sewing I forgot to write my lesson plans. Just kidding, principal lady!).
You might recall I scored a batch o vintage patterns this summer that just happened to be in my size. I decided to use the one above...with much anticipation. I've never heard good things about Vague, er, Vogue patterns and, I gotta say, with good reason. I mean, I thought Mrs. Butterick was bad. She at least talked to me. Vogue just uses pictures, arrows and a couple line drawings of the middle finger. It's most off-putting. Thankfully, this pattern was pretty self-explanatory, so my wee brain was able to manage.
 I really loved the dress on the envelope with the butterfly border fabric so I used the crayons as the boarder to the chevron. I was a little concerned that so much blue zigzag would be boring and toyed around with other fabric choices. In the end, I decided that having the zigzags run in different directions would be twofold terrificness: horizontals to accentuate and verticals to elongate. Wow, that sentence made me sound all smart -n- stuff. Maybe I'll include that in my lesson plan. Oh! By the way, crayon shoe DIY here. Cuz I know you're dying to make your own. Double Oh! More about my Art History Wall here.

 Just a coupla books I plan on reading whilst wearing said dress. See, I did plan. A little. 

Have ya'll read these? Love 'em.

 And there you have it! One Crayon Dress complete(-ly crazy. You're welcome, children.)
 And now, lemme giveaway some stuff! I have a coupla odd-shaped yards of this crayon fabric (due to cutting to create the border) and this super rad vintage box of Crayola crayons in hardly-used condition. The fabric would make great quilting squares, classroom curtains, underwear, the possibilities are endless. To enter, all you gotta do is leave a comment about what you'd do with either the crayons, the fabric or both! International friends, you are always welcome to join the fun. I'll throw all ya'll's names in a jar and announce the winner sometime next week. When I've finished writing my lesson plans.

Until then, lemme hear from you and enjoy the rest of your week!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What the Art Teacher Wore #72

Hello, Final Summer Monday: Yep, that's right. Come tomorrow, we'll be back to school. Thankfully we've got a couple more days to get our act together before the kids return. Oh, and speaking of kids, tomorrow is Meet-the-Teacher night which is always super fun. And I totally spent the majority of the weekend working on a dress for the occasion. More on that soonish. dress: vintage, DIY-update by me; belt: Pin Up Girl Clothing (I wear this thing TOO MUCH); shoes: thrifted Crocs (that's right, I said Crocs, can you believe it?)
What is up, ya'll? It finally stopped raining here (it's seriously been the rainiest summer ever in Tennessee. And that's great, I can dig it, but my yard looks like a Chia Pet on 'roids. Which sounds way cooler than it looks. Imagine Carrot Top's hair as a yard. Got that in your mind's eye? I told ya it wasn't pretty). 

So I was able to tackle said Rainforest Cafe Yard this morning and was almost finished when the neighbor's super-friendly, always-on-the-lamb golden retriever decided to drop by for a "Hey, whatcha doin'? It looks like fun! Can I help? Oh, wait, I gotta pee. On your mailbox. Okay, I'm back! Whatcha doin' now? Before you tell me, can I sniff your privates? Please?! Because that would be awesome. Oh, wait, I gotta pooh. Right where you haven't mowed yet. Be right back!"

And, when he returned, that sweet pup proceeded to drool the slimiest of drool all down my leg. Guh, just the thought still makes me do a little dry heavin'. So I've still got a pinch of yard work to complete. And for that reason, Ima gonna hafta to keep this post a pinch less long-winded than most. You're welcome.

Oh! And I'm including an artist along with my outfits this week! I used to be so good at that and then I, well, went on summer vacay and turned my brain off. I love the work of Hokusai so I thought I'd share it wit ya this week. Enjoy and I'll be back soonish!
The Great Wave off Kanagawa (aka The Wave), circa 1830 - 33, Katsushika Hokusai. So, when I think of Hokusai, I think of The Wave. This work was the first in his series of woodblock prints titled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. This work, like most of Hokusai's wood block prints, is an example of Ukiyo-e art. Translated, that means "pictures of the floating world" and in you-and-me terms, that means works of art created between the 17th - 20th centuries with landscape motifs. Or big fat wave motifs. Either one.

Self-Portrait in the Age of an Old Man, Hokusai. Katsushika (best name ever) Hokusai lived from 1760 - 1849. And in that time, he became one of the most outstanding creators of Ukiyo-e with his woodblock prints and paintings. During his lifetime, block printing was a new thing that he obviously took to. Dude created around 30,000 block prints during his lifetime.

My First Handmade Dress Tuesday: I found this forgotten dress in the back of my closet the other day and had to get it out. I sewed it about 5 years ago and it was my first wearable garment. It's actually based off a prairie style skirt. All I did was pull the thing up to cover my lady-bits and add shoulder straps. Without the belt, it's a total tent but that's just between you and me. sweater, yellow necklace: thrifted; shoes: Crocs; hair flower and dress: made by me

South Wind, Clear Sky. Another one of Hokusai's Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji. This series of prints is really what catapulted Hokusai to fame during his lifetime. He was already well-known in his home country of Japan. But when copies of these prints traveled abroad, his work became widely recognized and appreciated. Among his most famous fans? Vincent van Gogh.
Catching Up with Friends Wednesday: And by "catching up" I mean "putting them to work". Two of my buddies helped me put up that Anthro tree (which seriously has a Little Shop of Horrors feel to it), another took some bottle caps off my hands and then I grabbed dinner with my future student teacher. Who will be put to serious work, muhahaha. I got a car that desperately needs a washin'. dress and sweater: thrifted; belt: H&M; sandals: Chacos
Lilies. I love Hokusai's work but I really got a think for his flowers. Especially this piece. I do believe that blue in the background is my favorite color. I love everything about this work of art.
Back at It Thursday: Our first days back to school involve lots of sitting. So here I am practicing. Sunglasses are excellent at meetings because they hide eye-rolling and sleeping. Now if I could just work on that mouth-hanging-open/snoring part, I'd probably have a lot more people fooled. dress: DIY here
Goten-yama Hill. Again, I love the color palette. Those blues with the pink, my fave.
Fun Friday: I really work at the best school ever. It was our first day back in our school building as a team and it felt so nice to catch up with everyone. We had some long-time staff members chat with us on the history of our school and it was goose-bumpy good. It definitely made me excited (ish) to be back. dress: thrifted; belt: Anthro; shoes: Frye; flower: made by me; necklace: ancient Target
Cranes. Look at how beautiful and perfect those cranes are. And to think they were created with just a few simple brush strokes. Brush paintings really seem to have the idea of "less is more" down, don't you think? It looks so simple yet it takes a lifetime to be able to paint like this.