Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In the Artroom: 4th Grade Viking Ships

I'm just gonna tell you right now, this is one photo-heavy blog post. Which is totally not my fault. I blame my amazingly talented 4th grade artists who just so happened to kick some serious Viking butt with this project. They absolutely loved the Viking unit that student teacher Rebecca introduced (before heading off to high school-land) and I really think their amazing work shows it. Call me a brag-a-saurus (been called worse, trust me) but I'm in love with these works of art.
If you've seen some of the our Viking projects this year (like the 1st grade Viking self-portraits or the 3rd grade Viking ships), then you know a coupla things about how the lessons were designed: 1. They're collage-heavy. Seriously, I think I have a teaching problem(s); 2. They incorporate several different techniques and media; 3. And just about all of the projects take approximately a million years to complete.

I know. I told you, I've got teaching problem(sssss).
And yet I keep coming back to projects like these. Le sigh.
What I really enjoyed about teaching this unit was all of the media the children were able to explore (watercolor, colored pencil, permanent pens) as well as the techniques (painting, sketching, shading, collage). So I thought I'd walk you through our big fat Viking Unit. So put on your horned helmet (horny helmet...?) and hang onto your long ship (dare you to say THAT ten times fast), cuz we're about to get our Viking on (er, what? Never mind. Just keep reading, please).
As you know, my classes are 30 minutes long. So on the first day, using a folded 12" X 18" sheet of paper, the students had to decide how they would like their sky to appear. We brainstormed ideas of what could be seen in a day or night time sky. Using oil pastels, students drew stars, clouds, a sun or a moon. They were given both yellow and white oil pastels. From there, they could begin painting but they had to use analogous colors only. Students were encouraged to paint with horizontal brush strokes (and by "encouraged" I mean and the stink eye if scrub-painting commenced). Several students were unable to finish in that short amount of time and were given the opportunity to continue work the following class.
On the third day, students were given a tri-folded piece of 12" X 18" piece of paper. Rebecca introduced them to three different watercolor techniques. For splatter painting, the students were given the choice to paint wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry. For the wet-on-wet technique, students had a small sponge which they could swipe their paper with water before splattering. This gave the splatters a soft look. For wet-on-dry, they simply began splattering which gave more defined dots. For the mid-section, students were to paint wet-on-wet and add a sprinkle of salt when finished. For the last section, students were to again paint wet-on-wet and when finished, cover with a piece of cling wrap. This was left on the paper over night and when removed, had the cool effect you see on the bottom.
The next class, the collaging began. The students cut each of the three sections down the fold. Then they were instructed to tear each section horizontally creating a wavy line. From there, they painted a line of glue (we keep our glue in cups [think butter dish with a lid] and apply with an old paint brush because I HATE glue bottles. But I'll save that tirade for a separate post) on the straight edge of the paper and added it to our sky to create a horizon. Another strip was added directly below that one.

This process was continued until the bottom of the collage was covered in a lovely sea.
Oh! A tip: Once the kids have used the oil pastels and painted over their drawings, sometimes beads of paint will form and leave unsightly dots. If this bothers the kids, have them go back over the (now dry) paintings with oil pastels again. That will cover up the dried paint dots.
We chatted about blending oil pastels to create a three dimensional look for the sun or moon. This genius got it.
For the long ship, the students were given the option to trace a boat template. This ONLY gave them the general shape of the boat, not the head or tail shape (calm down, template-haters. Breathe). From there, the kids were given these directions:
  1. Draw a sea serpent/dragon head and tail in pencil. The kids were shown about a trillion examples (some printed from images found online, some from books).
  2. Add texture somewhere to your sea serpent.
  3. Add shields and add designs to them that represent your Viking clan. The kids traced bottle caps for their circles.
  4. Add curved lines to your ship to show the texture of wood and the 3-D quality of your ship.
  5. Trace in thin Sharpie.
All that mess took a couple of days. They got really into their drawings. Reading the book mentioned in this post as they worked really sparked some creativity. After their drawings were complete, they then had to:
  1. Add color to the sea serpent and the shields using either Sharpies or colored pencils. Shading was demonstrated.
  2. Use watercolor paint on the boat.
  3. Cut out VERY carefully. Which involved me saying a lot of this:
Do NOT cut off the head. Cut in...sloooooow...moootiooooon.
No, I cannot cut it out for you. 
I'm sorry your hand is cramping. Maybe all those spikes weren't the best idea. Keep cutting.
Do you think Vikings whined this much? Me neither.  

Some of them added Vikings to their ships. Oh, the hilarity.
And just when they thought I wasn't mean and cruel enough, I threw creating a 3-D sail into the mix. Go back to that 3rd grade Viking ship post for details on how to make the sail. All this typing is making my hands cramp. Sorry. I'm one of those whiny Vikings, in case you didn't know.
Shading is tricky for these guys...but they CAN do it. We talked and talked and talked about it and...guess what? They got it! Some of them had to make a couple of sails before they were successful, but in the end, we had shaded sails. Victory! Some kids decided to add a clan design to their sail. They were to lay out their pieces before gluing down, as you see above. This helped them settle on a good composition.
Are you checking out this detailed cutting work? And this was by one of my hand-crampers. I knew she could do it.
And this one was by my friend who said he couldn't shade. When he finished that sail, I had him to hold it up so the class could give him a round of applause. And then I put him in charge of encouraging other slacker-sail makers. A job he did very well.
So, one million years later, we've got Viking ships! And I really don't know who is the most proud, the kids or me...although I'm guessing it will probably be Rebecca. 

Okay, the end. You can take off your horny hat now. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DIY: A Painted Bead Necklace

Dude, doesn't this picture look like some sort of 1970's soft focus photo? Like I should have the lyrics to the Carpenter's Rainy Days and Mondays written in swirly cursive script on the window pane. Super cheesy shot, sorry. Next time I serve up this much cheese, I'll be sure to bring the crackers.
I don't know exactly what's gotten into me, but I've suddenly developed a deep love of wooden bead painting. Or, as I like to refer to it, Ball Bedazzling. Which has led to many a bizarro convo with the hubs. You see, our usual evening routine involves me working at the dining room table or in my sewing room while he's in the bedroom reading. Every now and then we'll holler at each other and attempt conversation which is practically impossible because we can't really hear one another. So the other night, our yell-chat sounded like this:

Hubs: What are you doing down there?

Me: Bead painting.

Hubs: What!?


Hubs: I still can't hear you.


Hubs: (silence)

I've long been admiring these bauble-y necklaces from Anthropologie but I'm the worst at buying jewelry. Mostly cuz I know there's a pretty good chance I'll take it off at some point during the day, stuff it in a pocket, wash my clothes without checking said pocket and, well, you can guess the rest. Kinda like that time I left a silver crayon in my pocket and everything came out glittey. Which I thought was super cool...but hubs didn't seem to take to his new sparkle shorts. 

Yeah. Lots gets lost in translation at my house. I'm thinking of investing in some walkie talkies for us. Or maybe just a coupla cans and a string. Sounds like a super fun DIY.

Speaking of, this beading painting business is seriously fun and addictive. If you're into painting your balls, that is.
The key to stringing up your necklace it making sure that you have a small bead in between large ones. If not, when you wear the necklace, the two large beads create a small gap and you can see the unsightly elastic.
Now I know my version isn't as classy as Anthro's but I really like the goofy playfulness of it. And I have decided that these are my new favorite colors in the universe. Please note all the sparkles.
At the craft store, I picked up four different sizes of wooden beads and about a dozen of those cheapo bottles of acrylic paint. My local craft joint had Martha Stewart paint which I found to be of much higher quality than the usual generic stuff. I splurged on her metallic colored paints (and by "splurged" I mean, like, $1.75 a tube).
I quickly found that you can't paint these bad boys while holding them in your grubby man hands. So I used the backsides of paint brushes to hold them. For the smaller beads, I used q-tips (that I snipped one end off of) and wooden skewers.
Many of the beads I painted two toned. For this, I would paint the bead all one color (always using the lighter of the two colors as the background) and then paint the other half. Now, I do have a steady hand but I also use a couple of tricks. One is that I hold my painting arm firmly against my body to keep it from shaking. Then I lower my paint brush onto the bead and rotate the paintbrush that is holding the bead with my other hand. This helps me to create an even-ish line.
For the stripes, I used a very small brush and again, used my other hand to rotate. The key here is to rotate that brush evenly so that your stripes are equally spaced. And the great thing is, if you mess up, let that bead dry and paint over it. They are super forgiving. Unlike my husband in his sparkle shorts.
Making polka dots proved to be the easiest. I used a Q-tip and just rotated the bead to get them evenly spaced. Once all the beads were complete and dry, I slathered them with a thin coat of matte Modge Podge to prevent them from chipping.
While visiting family this weekend, I parked myself on the couch and set to work. I decided that I wanted my first necklace to be about the same size as this pie plate. I used it to plan out my design. Once determined, I started stringing my beads on elastic string and double knot tied the ends. Think glorified candy necklace. Cuz that's pretty much what it is.
For the smaller and larger necklace, I simply made them different sizes than the first. Seriously easy, ya'll. If painting all those wee balls didn't cross my eyes, I'd probably be making a bracelet to match.
Instead, bead painting has since morphed into bag painting which I can't wait to share with you. Although, when hubs calls down and asks what I'm up to, I believe I'll just shout back, "Painting my sack!" I'm sure he'll appreciate that in all of his sparkly glittery awesomeness. Until we chat again, go paint some balls, ermkay?    

Sunday, November 10, 2013

DIY: A Magritte Get-Up

Alright, friends, the post you've (not-at-all) been waiting for: the DIY Magritte Get-Up. This outfit is #4 in my Artist of the Month Ensembles after Hokusai's The Great Wave, A Jackson Pollock Splatter-tastic Dress and a Campbell's Soup Dress after Warhol. And I gotta tell you, this outfit was the easiest creation so far.

I started with this little black dress from Target that I'd thrifted years ago. I picked it up because it's one of those basic things that I've heard you're supposed to have in your closet...but I never wore it because it was just too basic for my taste. Cuz, you know, if it's not glitzy, sequins-y, bedazzled or just insanely tacky in some way, I've got no use for it. 

So, whilst cleaning The Clothing Landfill, aka my closet, I decided to move the dress to my Clothing-to-be-Given-a-Makeover Closet. Yes, that's a real place. No, I never get rid of anything. Yes, I realize I have a problem. No, therapy hasn't worked. Yes, I'm willing to try meds, why you got a cheap source...? Hook a girl up, would ya?
The Great Family, 1963

When I settled on Magritte as our next artist, I was influenced by his images of birds filled with clouds. I ordered some cloud-filled fabric from my go-to place: I love this website because they have a crazy huge selection, the prices are awesome and the shipping is lightening fast. As soon as I got my mitts on the fabric, I washed and dried it (always a good idea to wash and dry new fabric to remove the sizing. Just don't ask me what "sizing" is) and set to work.
I started by ironing some interfacing to the wrong side fabric. I did this because if makes for a thicker fabric which I have found to be easier when appliqueing. From there, I sketched out a couple of birds on tissue paper, pinned that to my cloud fabric and cut.
Puh-lease don't judge me by the state of my cutting board. It used to double as a painting station...before I relocated to the dining room table and proceeded to damage that. Which is why we don't have nice things. Story of my life.
The key to applique (which your basic sewing machine can do...just read that highly entertaining thing called a manual) is making sure your needle goes on the outside of the applique piece and then the inside. And go slowly-ish. Especially around pesky corners and hard turns.
Which, as you can see, I have a hard time doing. I was totally stressing over the imperfections of it all until I held it up in the mirror I have on the other side of my sewing room. From a distance, you really can't see those flaws. Besides, ain't nobody gonna get this close to your skirt and if they's not because they're checking out your skirt. And any major errors can always be fixed with a black Sharpie. Because, in my experience I have found one thing to be a solid truth: Sharpies Fix Everything.
Not only did I luck out with already having the dress in my closet, but I also had the blouse and the black jacket. Which left the maroon tie and the apple-faced bowler hat.
The hat was an easy find at the local Halloween costume shop. Unfortunately, it's either a kid's hat or I have an elephant-sized head because that thing was tight. My custodian buddy at school suggested I wear the hat tipped forward which was genius for two reasons: I could actually see beyond the apple and I didn't end up with Hat Headache. And there's nothing worse than that.
To create the apple, I sketched it out on matte board found in my storage closet at school. I knew I had to make the stem really long as that was the part I was going to cut and insert in the brim of the hat.
Once that was finished, I cut this bad boy out with an Exacto. Then I sliced the stem in half and made a small slit in the brim of the hat. I then inserted both the top and bottom of the apple in the brim and hot glued the daylights outta it.
For the tie, I simply used a maroon strip of fabric, sewed it into a tube, turned it and ironed it. The trick was tying the thing, I'd forgotten how! I went through a Dress-Like-a-Dude phase in high school where I routinely wore a tie but sadly the memory of how to tie a tie escaped me. A little help from youtube managed to save the day. I used my gold pin for 15 years of teaching service as my tie tack. I wish I could take credit for those cloud tights but those came from ebay-land. 

And there you have it, folks! I wish I could say I knew exactly who our artist for next month would be but I don't have a firm idea yet. I'm totes open to suggestions, ya'll! So lemme hear 'em if you got 'em. 

Until next time, have a great week!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In the Art Room: Trying Something New

The Art Room Foyer...that's right, my room is so big it has it's own entryway. I'm totes spoiled, ya'll. You can learn more about the Smartest Artist Game (seen on the right) here and read about our day-to-day attempts at routines and procedures here.
You ever find yourself watching those amazingly terrible infomercials where you're all, "who would buy that?!" only to get sucked in a little further to discover that the 'mercial is speaking directly to you and that product they're pitching could quite possibly solve all of your life's problems? For example, how about the Better Marriage Blanket which, with it's activated-carbon fabric, a material "used by the military to protect against chemical weapons", can put an end to the silent and deadly problems which reek, er, wreak havoc in otherwise happy marriages? Or what about the Rejuvenique Electrical Facial Mask, which closely resembles Jason's Friday the 13th hockey get-up, but packs a nine-volt battery electrical shock punch to those pesky wrinkles. I just know in my heart of hearts that with 5 easy payments of $39.99, my life would be perfection, right?

Such is kinda the story of my life in the art room. I see a problem, I dream up some incredibly perfect way to fix it either turns out shockingly bad (like my facial mask) or super stinky (shoulda went for the blanket). However, in this here post, I wanted to spare you the stink and share with you the (so-far) successes. So here's a list of some new things I'm trying and enjoying in the art room this year. Enjoy and puh-lease let me know what new things you are giving a go this school year. Shake Weight Paint Brush, perhaps...?

I Can Statements. In my neck of the woods, my students are to be told several times just what it is they are learning and what it is they'll be accomplishing. I'm also supposed to tie that in to the state standards and put it in kid friendly terms. So just to the left of the bulletin board seen in the top photo is this miniature dry erase display of their current I Can's along with the permanent standards. When the children enter my room, they walk along a line I have taped to the floor. When the first student has reached the end of the tape and all have entered the art room, I have the students repeat their daily I Can's after me. This helps us all to focus and puts an end to the question, "What are we doing today?!"
Time Timer. I have Art Teachers Hate Glitter to thank for this. She made mention of using this in her art room and I was excited to try it out. With 30 minutes for art making, I am always watching the clock and I am also always losing track of time. More often than I'd like to admit, one class is cleaning up while I have another class walking in (at which point we play the "Let's Watch the Other Class Clean Up and See How Well They Do" Game...which is a totally boring game and Milton Bradley ain't going to be making a version anytime soon).
My students love this thing. In fact, when they walk in and take a seat on the floor, if one of them notices I've not set the time, they'll ask to do it for me. As time moves on, the red pie gets smaller and finally ends with a loud beep of the alarm. This has become our signal to clean up. What I love about this is that the children have become more aware of time management. You can find the Time Timer here.
See, Think, Wonder. After repeating our I Can statements at the door, I'll often pick a student to "be the teacher." This student will sit in my chair and discuss a work of art I have on my easel. The work of art will often be created by our Artist of the Month. The "teacher" is to ask the children "What do you See?" (note the camera icon) and they are to respond like they would with me, by raising their hand. After speaking with a couple of children the teacher can then move on to "What do you Think?"  (lightbulb) and "What do you Wonder?" (question mark). This game is great because it buys me a little time to get supplies out on tables and it allows me to pre assess students knowledge, thoughts and questions about a work of art.
Also on my board I have my I Can statements posted again for their viewing pleasure. By the way, the display on the right was created with the children's messy mats and a poster from Target.
Good Music. My husband and I love going to theme parks because they are magical. And I want my art room to be a magical place in the school. With all that often goes on in a half an hour, it's hard to stop and make a magical moment happen for the children. So good music helps. This amazing CD has been on constant rotation in the art room. It's calming, quiet, recognizable and, well, magical. Next on my music wishlist is the Star Wars soundtrack.
Choose Your Own Adventure. Did you all read Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were kids? I loved them. If you are not familiar, you read a short chapter and at the conclusion, you can decide, as in the case of this book, if you A. Want to invade a monastery, B. Go on a Viking raid or C. Fight in a Viking battle. From there, the book takes you on a wonderful adventure of your choosing. I've been reading this to my fourth grade students (I've deemed it inappropriate for those younger due to Viking violence) and it has sparked so much creativity with their Viking drawings. As a class, we vote on the adventures we go on. Even in my short 30 minutes, I can manage to read a couple of adventures. There is an enormous library of these books on amazon. In fact, just today I purchased Ninja and Samurai adventure tales. The kids are thrilled.
Snap Snap WOOOSH. I suck at clean up procedures. There. I said it. Mostly cuz we're running late. However, with the Time Timer keeping track, we are getting better. Our new procedure is that when you hear the alarm, you clean. Once your table is clean with everything put in it's correct spot (having a mini trash can on the table as seen on the right in the photo above really helps) and all of the students are standing behind their pushed in chair, they count down at their table and collectively snap their fingers and give me the "Snap! Snap! WHOOSH!" with a wave motion of their arms. They are to only do this once (otherwise they will do it repeatedly and drive me nutz) at which point I'll check their table for neatness. If they are good, I send them to line up. If not, they are asked to continue cleaning and give me the signal again when they are ready. So's working out pretty well.

Art Class Homework. They asked for it, I swear! In fact, they can get pretty grumpy when I don't have anything for them. So once a week, I'm making art homework available for the taking. My plan is to tie it in with our artist of the month and see just what they come up with. Once the art work is returned to me, we look at it and recognize those young artists at the beginning of class. I'm plotting a way to display these hard workers efforts and I'll share it with you soon.
Personally, I think an Ice Cream Dress is a FANTASTIC idea...and has given me lots of food for to speak.

And there you have it! Okay, you're turn...what are you doing in your art room that works? And if I Act Now! can I please get it for just 3 easy payments of $19.99...? Because that'd be better than a Better Marriage Blanket, ya'll!