Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In the Art Room: Self-Portrait in a Kimono

Konichiwa, ya'll! 

My second grade students have been wrapping up their Self-Portraits in a Kimono collages this week and I just had to share. Because, well, look at 'em. They are, like, totes adorbs (so sorry. With my {gulp} 39th birthday approaching in a month and a half, I've decided to hit mid-life crisis mode and talk like a 13 year old. Mostly because I still act like a 13 year old.)

We covered so much with this project from traditional Japanese clothing to portrait drawing to collage techniques.  We even learned how to write a couple of Japanese characters! It was a whole lotta stuff crammed into one masterpiece and the kids are so excited with the results.

One of my favorite things about displaying these pieces together is that they often appear to interact with each other...like Capt. Spiky Hair and Samurai Scar Face. Scar Face doesn't look too enthused. Maybe the scar is from a bad run-in with a certain spiked hair dude.

Students could create a fan to include in their collage or not. Some students decided to get all FANtastic and spring for two fans. Notice the one tucked into the obijime (which is that little yarn belt).
Now, ya'll might recall that our theme for the school year is Asia (even if we did take a wee detour to Norway to study all things Viking when my student teacher was with us). You can catch a glimpse of my Asian-themed art room here. I've worn this kimono a couple of times and chatted with the kids about the different elements of the outfit. This really piqued their curiosity and got them excited about creating a mini-kimono of their own. Now the boys did take a little convincing...that was until I showed them examples of samurai in their kimonos. Then they were totally on board. 

BY THE WAY...if you are attending the Art of Education's online conference this Saturday, this here is one of the four different costumes you'll get the chance to see. Please BYOC (Bring Your Own Crackers) because my presentation is full of some serious cheesiness.
The first thing we did was create our kimonos. We chatted about the tradition in Japan of having four different kimonos, one for every season. I asked the kids to pick their favorite season and color two coffee filters with colors that reminded them of that time of year. Once colored, these filters were placed on a styrofoam plate and painted with water. NOW, this project was delayed a bit because I did switch gears and have them use their painted coffee filters for a temporary installation for International Dot Day (see here). Once that installation was down, coffee filters were returned and we were back to work.

Our next order of business was creating the body. The children were given a template that was about 3" wide and 9" tall with a round head shape at the top. After selecting their flesh color, they traced the template for the head portion only and began drawing out the features of the face.
We did chat quite a bit about the placement of facial features. The children drew their portraits in pencil, traced with thin sharpie and then erased their pencil lines. Color was added with colored pencils. We then worked on the kimono. The children learned that a collar called a eri sugata is often worn under a kimono. They created one with a small piece of origami paper. Next we folded the kimono over the body...in just the right way with the left side first, right side on top. Folding the kimono the opposite way is how it is worn when buried.
Hair was added with a choice of decorations for the ladies. Arms were created with the second coffee filter folded just like the kimono. Hands were made with the aid of a template. Then came the belts: the obi, which is the large belt and the obijimi, the small cord that goes around the obi. I happened to have some snazzy fabric for the obi and some funky monkey yarn for the obijimi.

Here's a group of first grade creations before arms were added.
Because white toe socks are usually worn with the wooden clogs called geta, the students were given white paper the same width of the body. They were told to draw two curved lines, cut out and slip inside the bottom of the kimono. The top of the geta clogs were created with the letter "V".

I really wanted the background to be interesting but not take away from the awesomeness of the self-portrait. For that reason, the kids used Mod Podge to adhere a piece of tissue paper to white drawing paper and then proceeded to cover that with Mod Podge I had added glitter to.

Once the sparkly background was complete, the kids added their self-portraits. Then they were to write some Japanese characters that best described them (based on a handout that was on their tables) and glue to the bottom of their piece. Once complete, I have the kids my "red stamp of approval": a stamp I had created in Japan that has my name on it. 

Whew! I'm exhausted just explaining all the elements of this lesson...I know the kids are happy with their work. And probably even happier still to move on to something new. Next up: Sumi-e Brush Painting! I'm excited to share this art with the children. Have you taught sumi-e before? Any tips?

OH! And thanks to all of you that have joined in on the Artsy Book Club! If you've not done it already, you can join our facebook page here. And you can join this blog's facebook page here

Chat with you soon!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #86 and Our Artsy Book of Choice!

Still-Life Dress Monday: So I totally know what you're thinking: Geesh, Stephens, that dress is a lil short doncha think? Yeah, looking at this photo, I totally agree. That's the prob with being a little on the tall side, clothing is often a little on the small side. Regardless, when you teach little kids, I swear to you, they don't notice this kinda stuff (mine don't anyway). What they did love was the photograph of the lady and the examples of still-life paintings which inspired several convos. dress: scored cheaply on Modcloth; tights: Target; boots: Frye, picked up at a second hand shop; necklace: DIY embroidery, details here
Hey, ya'll! I hope you guys are having a super amazing weekend...AND looking forward to a lovely Monday off in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. If you DON'T have the day off, my apologies. I'll stay in my pajamas and craft a little bit longer in your honor. 

This past week was my first 5-day'er since the holidays and I can't believe I made it! I tried out some of your vocabulary suggestions this week (an updated post with your amazing suggestions to come), continued stencil marbling with my third and fourth graders, and wore my Starry Night light up dress for kindergarten town. Then yesterday, hubs and I went on a 12 mile hike on which I decided to wear my new hiking boots which weigh, I swear, five pounds each. I felt like I was walking with overweight koala bears clinging to my ankles. Which sounds cute. Trust me, it wasn't. All that jibber-jabber to say, I'm beat and I think Ima need Monday just to recover.
Or, MAYBE, I'll spend Monday purchasing our Artsy Book Club book of choice: One Drawing a Day by Veronica Lawlor (available on amazon here)! Thank you to all of you that voted -- it was a seriously close race between this book and two others. Perhaps if this book club idea takes off, we'll read those other books as well. 

Now, I've done a little homework and I found that the author, along with several other illustrators, has a blog that might give you an idea of what we'll be creating. I've been trying to dream up ways for us to share our drawings with each other and chat back and forth about our experience. AND how we art teachers can share this experience with our students (Drawing Club, anyone...?).

For that reason, I've created an Artsy Book Club Facebook page! Please feel free to join the page whether your reading the book and sharing your drawings or not. I hope that this will be an inspiring and fun experience for all of us.

For everyone to have enough time to purchase their book and begin thinking about when in the world they'll find time to create a drawing a day, let's begin reading this book Monday, February 3rd. Of course, you can begin at any ole time...I just wanted to give those of you that love deadlines and such, a deadline and such. Oh, I'm so excited! I'm looking forward to getting started!
Starry Night Tuesday: Once every six days, I have three kindergarten classes back-to-back for 45 minutes at a time. I drink a tall cup of patience, have a couple of amazing assistants on hand and try my very best not to grow any more gray hairs by the end of the two plus hours. On this day, I had 'em in the palm of my paint-splattered hand when I sit the switch on my dress. Granted, that moment didn't last too long...but enough to get their attention and have 'em interested in all things Starry Night and van Gogh-y. dress: DIY Starry Night here; tights and top: Target; boots: Marshall's
Sweet or Savory? Marilyn Murphy, 2010. Since we'll be drawing, I wanted to share with ya'll one of my favorite artists whose medium of choice is pencil, Marilyn Murphy. Ms. Murphy is a local artist who is also a professor of art at Vanderbilt University. I have been in love with her work since discovering it a coupla years ago. It's so retro, Twilight Zone-y and simply amazing.
Hot Java, 2007. One thing I really love about her surrealist work are the stories that you can create just by looking at her drawings. She creates a mystery in her drawings and leaves you to solve it. And what fun it is to unravel the strange elements.

Security Tag Wednesday: So I have wanted this Anthro dress since the beginning of time. BUT it was always, like, one million dollars. When I found it at a resale shop for $20, I flipped out! Until I got all the way home (from Cali) only to find they'd forgotten to remove the security tag. WHUH? So hubs and I spent some time watching youtube videos (some by folks who OBVIOUSLY did  A LOT of shoplifting, le sigh) and using a lighter, a knife and some tweezers had the thing off the dress in a matter of minutes. Future DIY post...? sweater: thrifted; dress: Buffalo Exchange; boots and belt: Anthro
Profiterole, 2008. Ms. Murphy has created many of these lasso'ing-things-from-the-sky pieces and I absolutely love them. I'm really drawn to the color sky blue so that could be a reason these pieces are some of my faves.
Hair Cuttin' Thursday: Ya'll, I NEVER get my hair cut. Only because I'm lazy. But it's gotten so long and gnarly on the ends, I just had to do it. Now you know your hair is too long when they make you stand up for your hair cut. Seriously? She took off 3" and did a fab job...but you cannot even tell the difference. dress and shoes: thrifted; blouse and necklace: gift; tights: Target
The Getaway, 2005.
Friday!: Marbling papers with 4 classes of 3rd and 4th graders will seriously wear you out! But they loved it so much. I had one boy tell me that this was his "new favorite day of the year" and several others come up to me and say, "thank you for teaching us this." Totally worth the mess. sweater: Old Navy; dress: vintage, thrifted; boots and belt: Anthro; tights: Target
Haunted by Tradition, 2010.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In the Art Room: Marbled Paper Stenciling

Alright, what you see here is the result of "I wonder what would happen if we tried this" about 3 minutes before the kids walked into the room. I'd planned on us trying our hand at the Japanese art of suminagashi, which translates "floating ink", but was able to throw in a little stenciling too. That is if all the stars lined up (no pun intended) and the kids were able to capture the paint on their paper at just the right moment. More on that in a minute.
First, lemme tell you what I told the kids. I explained to them that we were not only going to make paint float (which received a lotta "what?!"s) but also capture that floating paint with our papers (which got a lotta "how in the world!?"s). I had them "go shopping at the store" for one sheet of paper and two card stock stars. I inherited about 500 of these stars from my mother-in-law and haven't stopped finding projects for them (thanks, Diana!). One of the reasons I think this worked great as a stencil was because of the thickness of the stars. I don't think regular paper stencils would work as well. But that's just a guess.
The great thing about these stars is that they have a little dye cut hole in them so we can easily string them together later. Still dreaming up project ideas for these guys. For now they are simply pretties.

These two sheets were created on our first day of marbling when my marbling mixture/paint mixture was off. You can see this by the clumping and streaking of the blue paint on the right. I still love the result.

So you wanna attempt the Japanese art form of suminagashi? I hafta tell ya, it's a bit tricky getting the ratio mixtures just right (it involves measuring which is math-esque and therefore gross like boys and boogers). But if you are willing to give it a go, here's what worked (most of the time) for me: 

  • Blender (I have a thrifted one. You won't want to use a personal one. Unless you're making slimy smoothies for someone you don't like.)
  • Carrageenan (That'd be powderized seaweed. Your bigger art supply chains and online retailers will have this). 
  • Trays. Use deeper ones then you see here if you are working with many classes in a row.
  • Watered-Down Acrylic Paint (I use watered down craft store paint).
  • Droppers
  • A Hair Pic or homemade version (I crafted mine outta toothpicks and foam core. It looks like some kinda torture tool...which gives me lots of ideas when the time out spot just isn't doin' the trick [kidding! ... kinda]).
  • Paper (der)
  • Do yourself a favor and follow the directions on the package. You'll be blending up to one gallon of water per two tablespoons (if memory serves me correctly) in warm water. 
  • Pour mixture into shallow trays and allow to rest for up to 12 hours. I did this in my art room right before leaving for the day.

What the carrageenan does is thicken the water so that it can hold up the paint. You're trying to get that paint to float on the surface of the water. For this, the paint needs to be pretty watery and light. So I mixed paint and water in cups and squirted it into the tray to test it's floatiness. If it sank, I added a little more water.
So I discovered I only had two picks. For 20 kids. So I had to improvise and make these bad boys outta foam core and toothpicks. I'm mighty proud of my MacGyver'ness. P.S. I promise that's not blood from my earlier torture device comment.
Turns out kids don't know how to use droppers. Did you know this? So we had a little chat and practiced pinching the droppers in the air. We also had to discuss that you are to gently squeeze the dropper to release the paint. NOT squeeze it hard and douse the art teacher. Ahem. 

Now, I have classes of 20 students, 4 trays and 30 minutes. Which is like a recipe for disaster. To kinda make it work, I had all the children gather around those two tables you saw earlier, planted one child in front of each of the four trays and walked them through the directions as their buddies looked on. After giving them a moment to add the colors to their tray, we moved on to using the pic or "feathering."
I really had to stress that with the pic, the goal is to create designs in the paint for the paper to capture. Not simply stir the paint all around. Some of 'em got it and the others that didn't were quickly straightened out by their buddies that were watching them.
Then came the capturing part. I helped each individual child with this step. I had them place their stars gently in the tray with their names up. I quickly dropped their paper on top, took it out and they were to quickly remove the stars. This didn't always happen quickly because they were so stunned looking at the paper I had lifted out. Again, buddies on hand would say, "your stars are sinking!" and they'd be removed from the slimy solution. Which feels like snot. Not gonna lie.

Okay, honestly? The stenciling was like a happy accident...when it worked. Sometimes the kids didn't get their stars placed quite right and the simply ended up with a marbled paper. And, honestly, they didn't care. They were just so in love with the process and the magical idea of capturing paint.
However, I'm a little sad the results weren't as vibrant as I remember our marbling projects in the past being. Have you marbled this way before? It always seems rather hit or miss to me. Do you have sure fire method? I'd love to hear it.
Of course, shaving cream is super fun and easy...but I really wanted to give the experience of suminagashi because we are currently studying Japan. One kit I had included methylcellulose which didn't work at all. Almost positive that was operator error. Have ya'll used that with any success? Can you come over to my place and show me how it's done? I have coffee and chocolate.
For now, I will continue using this method. I'm excited to share this with my older students because I think they'll love it.
Doesn't this look like a shooting star?
Until next time, you're marbling thoughts would be appreciated. Because (wait for it...) I've just about lost my marbles working with this stuff (can I get a wahwah-waaaaah). 

Oh! AND I'm super stoked by all of ya's interested in the book club! Yay! Let's be smart and literary together. Can't wait to see which title the final vote comes down to. 

Until next time, have a great week!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #85 and Book Club Contenders!

Welcome Back, Tuesday: So we managed to score an extra day of winter break because of the weather (thank you, Mother Earth, you're a dear!) which pushed back our return to Tuesday. It was a no-kids-all-day-faculty-meeting kind of day in the gym...where the heat had not been on for two weeks. It was definitely a BYOBEBandEC affair (that'd be: Bring Your Own Electric Blanket and Extension Cord...which I totally did). scarf: I forget!; sweater: DIY here; dress: TJMaxx; tights and leg warmers: Target?; boots: Anthro, last year
Hello, ya'll! I hope you all have had a great week. I went back to school for a coupla days this week...which happened to be just the right amount. Too many nights of staying up until the wee hours partyin' (which, around here, means crafting) made it super tough to get up and get moving. One big motivator for me this past week was introducing my first and second grade students to the art of suminagashi (which is Japanese for "floating paint"...or paper marbling). We had big fat slimy fun with that and I can't wait to show you the results.

A week or so ago, I ran the idea of a book club past ya'll and what an enthusiastic response I got! So I spent some time searching for books I thought looked promising and I've put together this list. Some books are about teaching, a couple are about exploring drawing/painting, and a few about creativity. I tried to give you a variety to choose from. I've added a tiny blurb about each book with a link to amazon where you can read the full description. If you are interested in joining the fun, read these descriptions and cast your vote on the right hand side of the screen. You don't have to type in a code or any other silliness to vote. Just pick and click. I'll leave the voting up for a week and then announce the chosen book.

 Once we've chosen the book, then we can read and chat! If you happen to have a blog and you'd like to let others know about our book club, that would be great. I say, the more the merrier, don't you think? 

And then I got ANOTHER idea...if you happen to join the book club AND are attending the NAEA Conference in San Diego (like me, eeee, so excited!), what do you say we have an actually book club meet-up? Details on that to come, just wanted to throw that thought atcha.

Okay, without further a do, here's the Book Club Contenders!
Why Are All The Good Teachers Crazy? by Frank Stepnowski A refreshingly honest look inside the teaching profession, Why Are All the Good Teachers Crazy? is a captivating collection of hilarious stories and unreserved observations from one man’s odyssey in the classroom. 

Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith Perhaps the most famous fifth-grade teacher in America, Rafe Esquith has won numerous awards and even honorary citizenship in the British Empire for his outstandingly successful methods.

Easter Egg Wednesday: I know, I know, I look like the Easter Bunny exploded on me. In January. I can't help it, I need color to deal with all this gray! dress: The Limited; sweater: DIY here; tights: Target; shoes: thrifted
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron  The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life.

One Drawing a Day by Veronica Lawlor Through 46 daily exercises which make up a complete 6-week course, you will keep your artistic skills sharp and your imaginations fertile by doing One Drawing A Day. Each spread in the book features a beautiful drawing by one of 8 professional illustrators, with a description and comments by the illustrator as well as a companion exercise.
One Watercolor a Day by Veronica Lawlor  Spark new ideas and increase your creativity with One Watercolor a Day. This enchanting art book contains six weeks’ worth of daily watercolor paintings and exercises to help you cultivate your imagination and develop your style.

Thursdayness: I got these amazing bakelite bracelets from my mother-in-law for Christmas. They are my new favorite thing and I wear them all the time. Bakelite is like super duper pricey...and I lose every ebay auction I attempt. So I'm glad to have these lovelies! felted sweater: DIY here; blouse: gift; skirt and tights: Target, old; boots: Anthro; necklace: thrifted

Out of Our Minds by Ken Robinson In this extensively revised and updated version of his bestselling classic, Out of Our Minds, Ken Robinson offers a groundbreaking approach to understanding creativity in education and in business. 
Friday, You Got Here Fast!: Thank you for hearing my prayers. By the way, did you notice I wore a felted sweater every day? Yeah, it was kind of my theme...which I've noticed that having a theme makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier. For me, anyways. sweater: DIY here; dress, belt and boots: Anthro; tights: Target; necklace: gift

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.