Saturday, December 21, 2013

Painted Graham Crackers

The week before any break is usually a little chaotic, this week was no different.  AP Art History finished lecture a little earlier than planned and instead of moving on to a new unit before a week and a half off, I decided the students deserved a little change in pace.  So, as a treat and something fun for the last two days before break, I brought in graham crackers and frosting.  The students chose a famous painting and recreated it on the cracker.  As you can see the 'paintings' turned out pretty good!  I was happy that we got this in before the ice day on Friday.  Happy Holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Washington's Newest Club: Photo Club

Photo club started last Tuesday with a short initial meeting and a photo scavenger hunt around the halls of Wash.  Each week members will be given a theme to photograph.  Photos will be shared via Instagram and members are encouraged to comment on the photos.  We will also be viewing the photos during the meetings on Tuesday's. 

Everyone is welcome to join and post images to Instagram using #crwashphotoclub.  I will post the theme for the week here and on the whiteboard in my classroom (room 241).

This week's theme: Black and White.  Now, go take some pictures!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

2nd Annual NewBo High School Art Show

Today is the day! We are fortunate this year to be holding the show in first floor of the Cherry building.  All four of the CRCSD high schools are participating.  The space is wonderful and filled with lots of people enjoying all the student artwork.  All of the artist studios are also open for Christmas gift purchases!  There are a lot of activities happening today in the NewBo district for all ages.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Text as an Element

Students in Design in Art were asked to manipulate text to create a unique design in which the original letters become unrecognizable.  They used Illustrator and expanded the text objects in order to manipulate the text.  I think the results speak for themselves! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Drawing with Charcoal

Today, I introduced the Drawing 1 students to the messy, but forgiving, medium of charcoal.  I have this gigantic, white ball (on the right side of the image) that we use for shading.  This is the third time the students have had to draw this ball.  They first drew it when we started shading in graphite and then again when they learned about shading with ink.  They love the ball.  Kidding.  Mostly I get 'the ball...again?'.  Yep.  Again.  I started the way I always start.  Students get their own tin (once upon a time in Photography, I use to get 100ft rolls of film and roll film for was awful, but the tins are great for drawing material storage), I hand out vine charcoal, compressed charcoal, a pink eraser, a kneaded eraser, a blending stump, and tissue for blending.  We discuss the materials and how they are used.  I start by showing them how to tone the paper, sketch with the vine charcoal, and then eventually use the compressed charcoal to add value.  I did something a little different today.  When the students thought they were finished, I had them hang their drawings on the wall and step back.  By stepping back, students are able to easily see areas that need more attention.  I talked with each student individually about what they still need to work on.  Students even gave each other feedback about areas to work on.  Most students knew exactly what they needed to work on as soon as they saw the drawing hanging on the wall.  Students then took the drawings and continued to work on them a little more, trying to perfect the drawing as much as they could.  It was a little chaotic, but it was awesome formative assessment.  This is a one day project and tomorrow students will start a white object still life in charcoal. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Drawing 2: The Comic Project Continues

Students are hard at work perfecting their drawings.  They use Photoshop to edit the hand-drawn comics.  Students can add color, create text, outline the panels, and clean-up all the extra marks.  The University of Iowa has a great collection of Graphic Novels and comics.  I came up with the idea for this project after attending a summer workshop at the university with Rachel Williams.  She is incredibly knowledgable and teaches various workshops and classes on the subject.  If you are in the area, I would strongly suggest taking a workshop with her!  The university also does K-12 classroom visits and one of the topics they present on is Graphic Novel and Comic Art.  It makes a great starting point for a lesson on comics.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Announcing: The Collaborative Design Studio

This morning, when I opened my email, I was greeted with some amazing news!  The Collaborative Design Studio is being funded and headed to Room 241 at Washington High School.  My classroom is going to be equipped with a classroom set of Mac Book Airs and Wacom drawing tablets.  This means even in my most traditional courses, like Drawing, students will be able to experience the technology that is used by professionals.  A collaborative element will be added to all of my courses to encourage creative teamwork.  The end goal is to increase student learning and program numbers by engaging students through the use of these technologies. I can't tell you how excited I am about the future of our art program! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Dr. Seuss Drawings are Done!

Here are a few examples from the Fall 2013 Drawing 1 class:

Top Left: Catherine B. Top Right: Melinda K.
Bottom Left: Monica J.  Bottom Right: Alexis C.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dr. Seuss Drawings

This project is always a student favorite.  At this point in Drawing 1, students have been introduced to shading with graphite.  Yesterday, we moved onto ink and did some general practice shading with markers using hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling techniques.  In this project we focus on using hatching to make shapes appear three-dimensional.  Students start by drawing the tubes and then some guidelines that will help them stay on track as they add ink.
In the top right image, you can see the guidelines I have students add before they start adding any hatching with ink.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Drawing Sculpted Words

At some point in my countless hours of web surfing, I came across this great project idea over at A Faithful Attempt for my Drawing 1 class.  Previously, when I started teaching students about shading in graphite or charcoal I would have them take a strip of paper, twist it, and tape it down to a square base.  Usually, students are able to easily see the variety of shadows that exist on the object.  Then they are required to include the various values on the mini sculpture in a drawing.  I have had the students complete this introductory project in charcoal, graphite, and ink.  But, really, an introductory exercise is all it is.  This time around, I thought I would try the ribbon word idea and it seems the students were more involved in the drawing.  I allowed them to choose the word and the size.  In the end, this little adjustment put a little of the student's personality into a basic exercise.  The only thing I would do different next time is require a minimum width, at least an inch, for the strips of paper.  For some reason, my students right now want to work super small and I found that the thicker the paper, the easier it was to make it look realistic.  Here are some of the finished works:

Left: Haven B.  Top Right: Miranda H.
Bottom Image, Left Side: Tian Yin J. Bottom Image, Right Side: Melinda K.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ah, Bansky...

Street art.  I love it.  Bansky is one of the most clever street artists alive.  If you haven't seen his (or her?) New York 'residency' then you have obviously been spending too much time grading art projects or living under a rock.  Better Out Than In is the latest series by the artist and it is all great, thought-provoking work.  I absolutely love this artist as a teaching tool for my classroom.  There are so many teachable moments when referring to Banksy's body of work.  Each of his works takes a stance on popular social topics.  Forbes magazine has a great article on Banksy's seemingly anti-commercial/anti-gallery stance, which is all too funny because the artist is worth upwards of $20 M.

The idea that art should be accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy or educated is an important idea, especially for art students.  Bansky creates public art in a way that is sarcastic and in your face.  There are other artists who get their start in street art, Shepard Fairey is one of them (there are MANY).  At the end of the term, I sometimes show my students the movie "Exit Through the Gift Shop", which is about street artists, how they work, a crazy man who calls himself "Mr. Brainwash", and Banksy makes an 'appearance'.  I wouldn't just show this movie to any class and teachers be need to preview it and have a discussion with your students prior to viewing!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

5 Favorite Materials: In The Classroom

1.  Micron Pens
These pens might be on the expensive side, but I just love letting my students use them.  The students really get into the different sizes and develop strong preferences.  The one drawback to using Microns is that some students are hard on materials and these pens don't take a beating well.  To combat this, I usually save them for my advanced drawing students who tend to be a bit more gentler on the supplies.

2. Color Pencils
Last year this would not have been on my top 5 list.  But, one of the perks of being an art teacher is that I can take studio classes for professional development and I had the fortunate experience of signing up for a color pencil workshop.  It was AWESOME!  I learned so much about color pencils, the various types, and how to blend them that I now love using this material in the classroom.  I devote the first half of Drawing 2 to using color pencils. 

3. Gel Medium
I really enjoy introducing students to the magic of image transfers.  It is a technique that I use in my personal work regularly and students always enjoy learning about the process.  Gel medium is a key material in most image transfer processes.  It is also a great material for collage work.

4. Etching Inks
I am very fortunate to have a large printing press sitting right in the middle of my room.  I devote half of my Drawing 3 course to printmaking.  The students are able to experience all kinds of printmaking: mono printing, screen printing, linoleum block reduction prints, and even intaglio.  When I introduce the etching inks, I feel like I am giving students a real taste, and smell, of college print making classes.  The smell of the inks and the burnt plate oil takes me right back to the printing studio at Mt. Mercy University.  The biggest drawback to etching inks?  They are so messy!  We go through box after box of rubber gloves, but it is totally worth it. 

5. Turpenoid
Yes, odorless turpentine is on my top five list.  It has to be, from clean up to blending oil pastels and color pencils, we use it all the time.  It is a key material and if you aren't using it in your art room, you should be! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mixed Media Portrait Collage

Here are just a few of the fabulous artworks my Drawing 1 class made for a mixed media project.  I usually do the typical self-portrait halfway through the term...just to introduce basic proportions and then we move on.  This time I needed a change.  Drawing is a class I have taught probably close to 30 times.  The projects in Drawing 1 are pretty much the same...we follow Betty Edwards book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".  It provides a great introduction to beginning drawing students.  BUT, I need some variation!  So, I took a basic project and ran with it and the kids loved it!  I showed them a few different image transfer techniques, brought in stencils, gave them acess to spray paint, and showed them how to build layers.  Every single student was totally into the project.  They spent more than two weeks on it!  That never happens in Drawing 1.  Below are some of the finished pieces:
Melinda K.

Top Left: Jacob R. Top Right: Rian T.
Middle Right: Melinda K. Bottom: Melanie F.D.

The top right image is a detail example of an image transfer process that was really slick.  The students started with a drawing, I scanned it, then printed the drawings out on a laser printer.  We used Xylol to transfer the images to the backgrounds.  In a future post, I will detail this process in a tutorial.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's Comic Time

I can't believe it is already that time of the term!  My Drawing 2 students have been asking about this unit since we started class back in August.  They are pretty excited to get started!  We spend the first day talking about comics, the history and the elements used to create a comic (or graphic novel).  I have students examine different graphic novels looking for elements discussed in Making Comics by Scott McCloud.  It is a great book if you are looking to incorporate comics into your classes.  I then have the students work through several drawing exercises to loosen up a bit.  I find that some students are really into this unit while others can be very hesitant.  Working through the basics helps those students open up.  Eventually, we will take these to the computer lab and edited them in Photoshop.  This is a project that takes several weeks, usually around five.  Stay tuned!  I will keep posting as the students progress through the project.  

A student working on preliminary drawings.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Artists of France and Spain

Yes, you read it right!  The Artists of France and Spain!  We announced yesterday that this will be the next international Art Department trip.  We are super excited to offer this global classroom experience for students!  We have chosen to work with EF for this tour, Mrs. Dvorak has taken students on two educational tours with EF, Italy and New York, and had wonderful experiences.  We are hosting our first informational meeting on Friday, October 18th at 3:00 in Room 237 (Mrs. Schmelzer's Room). 

Check back often for more information about this amazing opportunity!

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Welcome to the new Cedar Rapids Washington Art Department blog!  I have decided to move the blog from an announcement page in Google Sites to the Blogger format for a couple of reasons.  First, it is much easier to post with the Blogger app.   This will help me post work in progress more often.  Second, it seems like there is more that I can do with blogger visually and, let's face it, that is why we are here!

I am still going to be posting student work, but I am looking to post more progress shots as well as more specific information about the lessons and tutorials on creative techniques.  The mission of this blog is to create a place for teachers, students, and artists to find ideas, learn techniques, and be inspired to create art!

This is the link to previous posts from the Google Sites blog page.  If anyone has any insight into easily importing those posts into Blogger, I am ALL ears!!!