Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where in the World Am I?

I remember, years ago, when I was an aoljournals blogger, John Scalzi was the editor, and he often traveled. When he did, he'd post a picture of the view outside his motel window. Whatever it was, that was what he showed us. So I did the same today... the view from my window, looking out on the beach. I don't think I've mentioned to anyone where I am. So where am I? There are some clues in the picture. Anyone a beach expert, traveler, vacationer might recognize the strip?

The little pink umbrella... that's ours, That's my husband. I joined him eventually.
Look at the size of the shade we had compared to the huge shade of our well-covered neighbors.
You can't tell f rom the photo how windy it is. Temps are beautiful, but very breezy here.

Well, now this might give it away!

There was a white bird walking on the beach, which took to flight
just as I lifted my camera to take its photo.
I think it's an egret.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vote for Fascinating Art Teacher Blog of 2012

OKAY... it's voting time. I looked at the other nominees for Most Fascinating Art Teacher Blog of 2012, and I am honored to be considered along with them in this category. So if you still would like to vote for my blog, click on the barrel shaped badge in the right column of this page, it's at the top. That link will take you to the voting place. 

When you get there, scroll down to the second Fascination awards (the first one is for technology integration), and you'll see :

"Cast Your Vote for the Most Fascinating Art Teacher Blog of 2012" followed by the words:

TO VOTE: Click on the comments to view the entire list. Look for your blog of choice. If you hover your browser at the end of the blog url, a red "+1" will apppear that you can click on. Its in the same location where you see the votes for the other blogs. For blogs that already have some votes, the "+1" should be immediately beside the vote count, to the right.

I tried it out. I clicked on 57 comments, which opened up the entire list of 57 nominated blogs!! Mine is the first one on the list, A New Bridge. If you click on the name of my blog, it will take you back to my blog. I think you are supposed to click on the red +1 to cast a vote. I tried that but nothing happened. I'll look into it... maybe you'll have more luck with it. I'm trying to do this while away from home, so don't know if it's my computer or the connection I've got.

I do hope all my friends will vote for me! You can vote from June 18 through June 25th, 11:59pm. I invite you to check out any of my previous blogposts, listed by month in the right column.

The last time I posted, I added some drawings the first grade students had started, but I didn't include any finished pieces. Here are some that were completed with washable markers. These are the same kind of markers that I soak in water to make watercolors.
Enjoy the students' abstract alphabets!
Some finished pieces of abstract alphabets. First Grade 2012.

The directions were to connect the letters and numbers, then to color
 in the shapes made by these connections. This student's interpretation
 of the directions resulted in this interesting piece.

I like how light and airy this one is compared to others
that were colored more heavily. Each student had his own point of view,
his own approach, his own idea of what shapes he liked to look at and draw.

This student's abstract alphabet reminds me of Paul Klee's Twittering Machine.
What I find interesting is that I didn't introduce Paul Klee's work, although
I did talk about the work of Stuart Davis and show examples of his work.


Monday, June 11, 2012

2012 Fascination Awards ... I've been nominated!

Ahh, I hear birds, the patter of rain on my deck. And I'm thinking, I'm on summer vacation! It's a short one... we're year round, but still, there's not many jobs that have a month long summer vacation built into the year's schedule.

I'm going to post pictures of my classroom the way it looked after I spent two days cleaning it up so I could walk away with no worries. But mostly this blogpost is about my blog's nomination for the 2012 Fascination Awards!!

Which has nothing to do with the photos, but I like posting photos.... makes the page more interesting. Plus, it's a record of the school year, and gives you an idea of what it looks like when students are not in it.

I just received an email from Accelerated Degree. Here's a portion of the email:

"An article you wrote in 2012 titled Funny Faces and Making Watercolors fromDried-Up Markers has earned your blog a nomination for a Fascination Award: 2012's Most Fascinating Art Teacher blog.

The comments posted in response to your post prove that your content not only inspires your audience, but it also creates discussion around your posts, both of which are requirements for the nomination of a Fascination award.

As a nominee of this award, you have full permission to display the "Nominated" emblem on your website.
Voting begins June 18th at 1:01 AM (EST). The blog with the most votes by June 25th at 11:59 PM (EST) will win the
grand prize, a $100 restaurant gift card and a plaque."

I am honored, and surely would love to have your vote if you think my blog here meets the above criteria. I visit art teacher blogs every day, and link to them, and use them as resources for my own classroom, so to have my blog listed at a website where other art teachers will come looking for ideas and inspiration is an honor. And a boost for the urge to blog! Like I need another reason to write, right?

If you are one of my regular visitors who leaves a comment, thank you! Apparently the commenting aspect of blogging is essential... otherwise, why blog, right? I appreciate the comments... lets me know who's reading my posts, and whose blogs I need to visit so I can leave comments.
Below,, you see a photo of some masks I've made, along with one I bought. The Tiki mask I bought at Myrtle beach. It's made of wood. 

There's a Two-Faced mask hanging above to the left, looks a bit like a bird. It's made from two gourd halves glued together. The little blue and gold mask to the bottom left is an actual plaster mask made from my friend's face many years ago. The eagle face to the far left is actually a milk-gallon jug covered in foil and tape and painted. It was part of an animal Totem Pole one year as a fifth grade project. 

The Blue-Hat face in the middle is made from discarded materials (dried up sharpie markers, paper plates, string, brown packing paper, and other throw-away plastics).  I call her Mother Earth... she is actually the head of a very large puppet I made two years ago for Earth Day celebrations at our school. I had to retire her body when I ran out of places to store it. She dismantled easy enough, so to put her back together would be a cinch. In photo at left is what she looks like in full size... I would carry her in the school parade on Earth Day. There's a broomstick pole inside the black plastic garbage bag. Yeah, that's me, three years ago standing beside her. The students loved her, but if it was windy or raining outside, she was difficult to carry around.

Just before I closed my door for the summer, I took a photo of the watercolor paints I made from watercolor markers over the past two weeks. I can make plenty more, but ran out of bottles. I'll be using them for watercolor resist paintings this year. I wrote about these paints in the previous post.
Makes me want to blog more, but school is out now and I'm ready for a summer vacation. Rest assured, there will be art making this summer as I prepare for the new year. I'll be sharing some of that over the next few weeks.

BTW, voting for the 2012 Fascination awards doesn't start until June18th, so I'll be reposting here and at my Facebook page because I'd love to get the most votes... would tickle me immensely! To vote, please click on the Vote for Me icon in the right column of this blog page. It will take you to another website where you will look for my blog and click on it. More directions will follow on the 18th.

Here's a link to the post that got the attention of the 2012 Fascination Awards, if you are interested in reading it.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Funny Faces and Making Watercolors from Dried-Up Markers

Today's surprise came while I was walking the trail at MacIntosh Lake with a couple of friends. There's a great vein of quartzite running through the park, some rocks as large or larger than my living room chairs....  I spotted a small quartzite rock embedded in the middle of the path, with a clump of grass spiking off the top like a head of hair. "Hey!" I said, pointing, "It looks like a face!" A blank face. So we searched the ground for something to lay on the rock to complete the image of a face.... three small acorn hulls and a curvy stick. My friend captured the funny face with her iPhone. We continued our three mile hike, wondering who would notice our funny rock face. Maybe it would make someone smile today!

Which reminds me what happened to my face this week, which wasn't nearly as funny from my point of view. It's a long story, but I'll make it brief: I was hit in the face with a basketball... smacked in the face is more like it. I'm walking along the front of the gym when a wildly thrown ball sought me out and beamed me good on my forehead/nose. Fortunately, it struck me from above the nose and not below. My glasses were bent out of shape, but easily repaired. My nose, on the other hand, was fractured... a small one, but fractured just the same. It's not looking too bad today, three days later. And it doesn't hurt nearly as much as I thought such an injury would. Make-up easily hides the worst of the bruising.

No doubt, I was never meant to be anywhere near a gym unless it's to be part of a school assembly. The only thing I could ever want from a basketball is for it to be still while I used it as a model for a drawing. I do feel safer in my classroom, where I can play with markers and paints all day! Which is why I posted today... to share something I just learned this week: what to do with all those used up, dried up washable markers. You know the ones I'm talking about... the kids leave the caps off, or the marker has just been used over and over again and finally doesn't do what it was made to do.

I'm always seeking ideas for what to do with all left-overs and throw-aways when things get used up. Like empty wet-wipe tubs, or tubes from the copy machines, lids from plastic bowls, glue stick caps, old crayons, ... and used up washable markers. I'd heard about how one could make watercolor from dried up markers.

Since it's the end of the school year, I wanted to get rid of the old markers, but didn't want to just throw them away (in some ways I am like a hoarder).  I thought I could let the students help me sort through the markers as they worked on their project. Last week, while students colored their abstract alphabets, I told them to toss their used up markers in the bin on my desk, and by the end of the week, I had a bin filled with used up markers.

 This week, I made watercolor paint from the old markers. You can see in the photo how simple it is to get the last of the color from the markers by soaking them over night (or over a weekend) in a cup or jar of water. I used tap water, but you could probably get a cleaner paint using distilled water. The longer the markers soak, the deeper and richer the color you'll get. The ones you see soaking in the photo above had been soaking for just a few minutes, but the next day the colors were quite dark and rich. Then you just pour the watercolor into a squeeze bottle with a cap.

If you don't have enough markers to make your own watercolors this way, send out an email to all your teachers and ask for any of their old markers, the ones they're throwing away. You don't even have to use all the same blues to make blue watercolor, or all the same oranges... I mixed the light blues and the dark blues into one hue. The magentas and reds together, the light and dark greens together, etc.

Oh and don't throw away the marker caps... you'll have a basketful of them eventually, so save them. Why, you ask? I haven't any ideas yet, but I'm sure I'll think of something to do with the plastic caps. For starters, they're easy to hold if you need a little circle-maker. Easy for students to hold it while they trace the circle around the base. I've been looking around other art teacher blogs to find out what they do with their old caps, and found this cute idea for making finger puppets at Captain Crafty.

I want to show off some Abstract Alphabets in this post. First Grade students work here isn't colored yet. I'll post the finished ones next week. They look pretty good.


Their task was to create an abstract drawing by connecting letters and numbers to create shapes and spaces in which to color. 


Fourth and fifth graders have been working on Escher-like Tessellations that we started a couple of weeks ago. I let them choose from 12 different animal Roylco tessellation templates to save some time. In the past I showed them how to make their own templates, but it takes longer and many of the students were just not satisfied with the results.

The challenge for the students was tracing the templates and placing them in the right position without any overlapping. They are quite pleased with their drawings. Coloring begins next week, if they don't run out of school days!

That's it for today's post. Next week I'll be remediating students who didn't pass the reading EOG. I'll be the best darn reading teacher I can be because that's what I did before I became the art teacher.  :-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Becoming a Mother-in-Law

If you are the mother of a son, maybe you can relate to this posting today.

Last week, my only child, my son, was married to a beautiful woman. They met several years ago during their years as Grad students at the University of North Carolina, just 35 miles away from our home.

He announced his marriage plans to us over the phone fifteen months ago, and the anticipation of the wedding, and all that comes with such a grand event, began.  Ever since, I've been looking inside at how I felt and what I thought as the wedding day approached. I wanted to talk to her alone. I wanted to talk to him alone. There were things I wanted to say. Why was it so hard for me to say it?

They have lived and worked nearly 300 miles from our home for the past few years. The opportunities to talk... the timing, never clicked for me. The words that came to mind often choked me up. Could I even speak them aloud? 

My feelings flip-flopped several times over the course of the year... between feeling embarrassed for acting like my son was only 18 and leaving home for the first time, to feeling joyful that he'd found his soul-mate.... from thinking unrealistically that I'd never see him again, as if he wasn't going to be part of my life after he took to him a wife, to dreaming of a future with grand-children. I talked to my husband about it ... I talked to my best friend. But I couldn't talk to my son or his fiancee. Time and distance did not work in our favor.

I continued avoiding attempts to put my thoughts and feelings into words on paper. I knew I shouldn't wait until the day of the wedding to do it... but everytime I sat down to write, the words would not come. I was avoiding it. Trying to write without having my son and his future wife near me, where I could see them and know them, further blocked the words. I felt a little anxious driving to Maryland without knowing what I was going to say.

I needed to reach inside... to find the words that would make sense to not only my son and his wife, but also to the people who would be hearing the message. I finally decided to let my heart speak for me. I would know the time and place to write them down. I let it go so I could enjoy each perfect, present moment as the day of the wedding approached.

It was a beautiful day for a wedding on March 31, 2012 at the Vandiver Inn in Havre de Grace, Maryland... their marriage only hours away. All the motel guest bags I'd prepared earlier had been delivered the day before, thanks to the Groom, his Best Man, and the wedding planner. Clothing and shoes and accessories were ready to don. Mother and Mother-in-law were safe and resting in their rooms. Guests were all in their rooms getting ready, eating brunch/lunch, or relaxing in some way. The Bride and her entourage were getting ready, the Groom with his best friend at another location, also getting ready.

There was a mid-morning walk with my husband. I just wanted to be alone with him for awhile, before we became part of the crowd of wedding celebrants. The sun was shining. We strolled past shops selling souvenirs and art, past restaurants, past an old stone United Methodist Church ... where an inside yard sale was taking place, so we walked in to browse. It helped to clear my mind to do something that wasn't wedding-related.

Back at our room, there was peace and quiet. I told my husband I needed to write. He knows how I am about journaling... he said he would walk down to where his brothers were staying and visit with them.

Finally, I was alone. Peace and quiet. I stretched across the bed in the Victorian room of the Vandiver Inn... with journal and pen, I started writing. There was no order to what I wrote, I just wanted to get the words down. I could sort through it later and pull out the most important words. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I don't know how long I lay there thinking and writing. At some point, my husband walked in, saw the journal before me, and said, "Are you writing a book?" Yes, it appeared I had. I closed my journal. "Yeah, but I'm going to sum it up," I replied.

I went back over the pages I had written, and pulled out what I thought were most appropriate for a short Mother's Wedding Day speech... it had to be short as there would be three other speeches/toasts given before mine: one from my son's best friend, Mike; one from Anna, Matron of Honor and one from Jaimie, Bridesmaid, both best friends of the Bride.

The 5"x7" paper was folded and tucked away into my clutch. Just in case I forgot what I wanted to say. Holding a mic and standing before a crowd is not something I'm comfortable doing.

While we were all dressed and waiting for the wedding procession to begin, my son's future MIL and I were talking. I told her about my speech, and she said "Don't forget to tell them we want grandchildren!" I told her to give me a signal to remind me, and cradled my arms, rocking them sideways, like I was holding a baby. We both laughed. She and her sister said they would give me the signal.

The wedding was beautiful... our pastor from home was there to marry them... in full ministerial robes. His words were personal, there was a sermon, a blessing, the promises... the kiss. They were married before us and before God.

There were the formal family photos in the yard of the Vandiver Inn... and then the reception began in the Pavilion. The toasts were given by Mike, Anna, and Jaimie... then it was my turn.
I held my folded paper torn from the notebook I'd written on earlier in the day. The mic was in my other hand. Yes, I knew what I wanted to say ... the words were on paper so I wouldn't forget.

As I stood before them, emotions overwhelmed me quite suddenly. I looked at them both, he so handsome, she so beautiful... and they took my breath away. These were our children, grown as they were, both professionals, both independent... beginning a new life together as a married couple. How was I going to put all these feelings into words? How could I even speak... I was standing there in the awe of the moment. Momentarily speechless.
My voice did return at last ... after another deep breath.

Following are the words I had written on the paper ... what I actually said, I don't remember... I don't remember what I read from the paper, and what I ad libbed. But I'm pretty sure this is what I said ... slowly... between deep breaths, breaking voice, and being on the verge of tears with every sentence. I don't know how much they heard...

There is much for a mother to say to her son on his wedding day... more than I can say in just a few precious minutes standing before his friends and family, ... and his wife. So I have chosen my words and speak from my heart... thank you all for joining us in this great celebration.

A mother knows... when her son is born... that she can only keep him... until he learns how to drive a car. Long story short... that car took him away to UNC where he met Vi, and now, here they are... married.

I can see it in your eyes ... how much you love each other.

Vi ... you are so beautiful today! ... he's yours now, my dear. I am not sad to know that you have his heart, as he has yours. I am happy... these are happy tears in my eyes. Steven has gained a brother, another mother, a grandmother, aunts and uncles. And, you are part of our family now, too ... with many aunts and uncles and cousins that you haven't even met yet! Welcome to our family, Vi... we love you and adore you.

Steven... though your future will take both of you places and times.... where we will not, and perhaps, we should not... go with you, I want you to know that your father and I are happy for everything that is to come from this union today. You honor us... our family...  with your marriage to Vi. We love you, Steven.

I thank God for bringing the two of you together!

Suddenly, Vi's mother ran up to me and hugged me. She said, "Your speech was beautiful, Bea, but you forgot to tell them about the grandchildren!"

"Oh, I forgot to look at you for the signal!" I tried to speak into the mic, but it had been turned off.

Vi and Steven stood up.

"There's only one thing that could make us happier," I said as the three of us hugged... "and that's when you give us grandchildren." They laughed... no one heard it except them.

They are married, and well on their honeymoon travels.

The following week, my husband drove his mother home to Jonesville. I drove my mother home to Georgia.  Easter week followed... it's been a week of looking at all the photos we took, printing them, putting some in frames, some in a book, sending some to family.

A wedding/celebration shower will follow next week when they fly home to get Daisy, their dog... we are dog-sitting, of course!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Do you wear purple with a red hat?

It's been a good day. Just got back from a visit with my mother-in-law... I took her to the mall, shopping for a dress to wear to my son's wedding. She's 86 years old, white haired, and short like me (I guess I'm white haired, haven't seen my true color in a few years). She'd already shown me what she had that she could wear, but then she said, "But I kind of would like to buy a new dress, you know? Something different." Well, that's what I wanted to hear... and off we went.

Once we arrived in the petites department, she clearly avoided all the dresses and dress suits that looked like something an old woman would wear. I did point out the finer details of these garments, but I agreed with her when she said they were all too long and frumpy. She wanted color, and she wanted a dress, not a skirt with a jacket. She had skirts with jackets in her closet back home. She wanted something different. I encouraged her to find something that she liked, not what I liked, not what her sister liked, but what she liked.

After trying on four different outfits/dresses, she chose something very colorful, nothing like the drab dark colors that seemed to be for the more mature woman who needed to look nice on a wedding day. She already had a closet filled with "Sunday" clothes in dark and light colors. I recalled the poem I had read, years ago, "When I'm an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat...." Maybe she was feeling like that. Maybe wearing this dress would take her mind off the pain in her knees. Maybe wearing this dress would make her feel extra special on a day that everyone else will be dressed up and feeling special, on a day when the bride will be feeling the most extra special of all. I wanted my mother-in-law to feel special that day too.

Well, you know what, I couldn't even begin to direct her away from those youthful colors. Spring is coming soon... Easter is around the corner. She could wear this dress Easter week! If I were her, I would want the option to wear what I wanted. The dress she picked fit her, aside from some minor alterations that she could do herself. The length fell just below her aching knees, and the waist fit her nicely. She considered the three other dresses she had tried on: a navy blue with white dots that had an atrocious tie-on belt that stuck out too far in the front; a dark blue skirt with matching top, white dots, and an orange sweater jacket (one of those short sweater jackets); another drabby long dress that neither of us liked... then finally, she chose the pink/orange/purple/red flowered pattern with a short, bright pinkish-orange 'sweater-jacket'... like I said, it is very colorful. And it looks good on her. It makes her feel good to wear it, and it's comfortable. So I told her to get it.

I even attempted to get her to try on other dresses in another store at the other end of the mall, you know, to make sure she was happy with what we had... in case she did find something else, I would buy it, too, because she would need something to wear to the wedding rehearsal dinner as well. I was prepared to buy her two lovely dresses today. However, as we walked along the racks, neither of us saw anything that could beat what she had already selected. She said she could wear one of her spring-color skirt/jackets to the rehearsal dinner, and the new dress to the wedding.

 Well, that was an easy shopping trip!

The kitten? somehow my MIL came to be its current owner. She doesn't need another kitty, but a woman who couldn't take care of it offered it to her. My MIL has a big soft heart, and finds it difficult to say no when it comes to helping someone out, so she offered to take the kitty. And now she is attached to it. It's name is Sophia. I tried to capture those bright blue eyes, but got red eye with a flash, and she wouldn't stay still long enough to take a clear shot in the low light of the living room. I didn't have any photos of us shopping, so I added the kitty. I love kitties... Don't want to have one now, but just love petting them and taking pictures of them. Someday, I'll have a cat, but not now.

Monday, February 13, 2012

When the Art Teacher is Absent... lessons for the sub!

There comes a time in a teacher's career when she has to be absent for some reason, or gets sick and finally gives in, goes home, sees a doctor and finds out the best medicine is rest. We laugh when we hear that recommendation, especially the teachers who have little ones to take care of at home. What we dislike the most about getting sick is not taking the day(s) off, but having to leave plans for the sub. God bless our subs, though, for without them we would be up a creek without a paddle, and without a prayer!

I am mostly speaking from the art teacher's point of view, but I'm certain all teachers have to decide if it's worth the extra stress to go home sick, or to stay home sick, put in for a sub, and often not even getting someone you know in there. There is much work involved in creating sub plans. On the one hand, particularly in relation to the art teacher, you have specific art projects to finish, and you may even have projected completion dates in mind. Several days' absences in one semester could easily set you back, timewise. Add into the time dilemma testing pull-outs, test administration duties, and even professional development days that take an art teacher away from her classroom, and it's quite possible a project won't get finished on time.

Back to the purpose of this entry... sub plans & sick teacher. That's me this week. Fortunately, I had a set of plans for all my classes from preK right through 5th grade, including a couple of EC classes. The plans were not of my own creation, but something I found online, or maybe at my Art Teachers Group (we meet once a month, I thank God for bringing them into my life five years ago!). I used the plans for three different days, same plans, but each day different classes came through. And had three different subs... not my doing, but how it worked out with our online sub system. I had to do some minor modifying to adjust for grade/ability levels, and the EC class, but that took much less time than trying to find something different for each grade level.

I discovered the first time I got a sub, several years ago, to NEVER leave your current art project plans with a sub unless you and she are close friends and she knows exactly what you are thinking and what you want done. There's no way any sub can be you, and do what you would do in any given situation. Oh! the pain the next day I arrived back in class... supplies not put back properly, materials mixed up; class work not filed away properly; and the students of one class had convinced the sub they could use the circle templates (plastic lids) to press into the modelling clay. Ruined for drawing, the lids were. Had to throw them all away. But I learned from that experience, a great deal, about what kind of plans to leave the art teacher sub. 

I found that it is best to leave something the students can do that is interesting for them, and keeps them busy to prevent any behavior problems. I don't want to scare off my subs as they are often hard to come by. But having a good activity reinforces the point of our students coming to school, after all: they come to learn!!
I want them to learn something valuable in the time they are with me, so why would I expect anything less while they are with my sub? And from the sub's point of view, they want to do what they've been trained to do, and that is to teach. 
Generally, I call the sub that is assigned to me before s/he walks into my classroom so I can get to know at least their name, which grade levels they feel most comfortable working with, and if they have children at home. Having a casual chat helps break the ice, eases my mind about the person in my room (if I didn't know her/him to begin with), and probably eases their mind before they enter my classroom for the first time. Some subs will tell me they love art, and can't wait to do my class, while others tell me they don't know how to draw a straight line.  just tell them they won't have to!

So I want to help other art teachers by posting some things I found on the internet, some I have used, and some not, that can be used for a day or two of classes. Most can be done in one session, or taken home and completed. They are for the most part simple, requiring only paper, crayons or color pencils, or markers.

First I will leave some links of the blog entries that addresses this issue, in case you need something right now. Then I'll come back and leave some of my own ideas (with photos) in a follow up entry.
Substitute Art Lessons at The School Arts Room

Animal Art Grids at Teaching Ideas

Feelings Flowers at Teaching Ideas

Kindergarten - The Five Senses at Teacher Vision

Substitute Teacher's Survival Kit at Teacher Vision

A Day in Space (5th-6th grades) at Teacher Vision

Sub Teacher Art Ideas at

Sub lessons for the Art Room by Janet at Mrs. Malone's Art Room

So, if you are sick, please stay home and take care of yourself! A good rest really is often the best medicine for your body to heal and recover. Make your sub plans interesting for the kids, convenient for the sub, and educational for everyone.  Oh, one more thing... leave them some chocolate... for a job well done, they certainly deserve it!

I hope you find something at these links that you can use as they are, or with some minor modifications.

                                                           Be well!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Student Self-Portraits: Voila!!

Another project our fifth graders just completed last semester was the self-portraits they painted. I found this idea on a teaching video by Peggy Flores, as shown in this YouTube video. It is the very same one I have on DVD (except I bought the DVD 2 years ago) which goes on to explain several different ways to approach the self-portrait. For the 5th grade students, I gave them a choice to either do the Fractured Watercolor portrait, or the Puzzle Self-Portrait (both are demonstrated on the video).

First, I showed my students a powerpoint I had made featuring famous self-portraits through the ages during our first introductory session. The following week, we watched the Peggy Flores DVD segment so they would have some idea of the various techniques that they could use once they drew the original pencil portrait. This was followed by several drawing sessions during which students learned and practiced drawing themselves while looking into large self-standing mirrors. Most took about two to three practice drawings on newsprint before they felt ready to transfer their drawing to watercolor paper.

The transfer involved them placing the watercolor paper on top of the finished portrait outline over a window on a sunny day... sort of a vertical light box effect. Students easily trace their outline and features from the newsprint onto the watercolor paper with a Sharpie fine point marker.

Fractured Watercolor Portrait:
The next session saw them watercolor painting the portrait. Instructions included: use one color for the background, one for the hair, one for the face, and one for the clothing. Eyes and mouth were left open to the student. They had to paint wet on wet (which they learned in previous years).

The watercolor session took one to two sessions, depending upon a student's speed and comfort zone with this media. For most, they got the entire painting done in one session. I found that the best looking paintings were the one in which the students didn't overwork the watercolors, and were able to live with the way the colors would bleed together. Some kids really thought they were messing up when this happened, but I was prepared to address that.

I told them to consider themselves on a discovery mission: they knew they wanted to complete the project, and they knew the materials they were working with, but they didn't know what the results would look like. There was a real fear (for some) that they would mess up. I explained that was a risk, indeed. Artists often take risks when they make a piece of art because there is always the chance that what they see in their minds will not match what they actually make. But what I've found (from my own experience) is that what I make is usually better than what I had imagined in the first place... mistakes and all!  I wanted them to look at the 'mistakes' as part of the process. I reminded them that many discoveries were made from misjudgments, errors, misunderstandings, and taking the wrong path. I had hoped these words of encouragement would allow them to let go of the fear of making a mistake, or at least to accept the minor anxiety they were feeling, and just go forward anyway. Just do it, I said, to quote a famous advertising slogan!!

The next week, they picked up the ultra-fine point Sharpie marker to fracture the watercolor. To fracture, they first had to notice the places where colors met and blended, where values suddenly changed from light to dark. When they could see these 'lines', they could trace over them with the marker, and outline these 'islands' of color/value. A few kids had a hard time with this at first, but once I pointed the possible fractures out, they easily began finding new ones to trace on their own.

I think the girls had the most difficult time when fracturing their faces... it didn't make them pretty.  (I overheard their comments as they worked.) It felt like they were putting scars, lines, wrinkles, etc on the face. In the end, though, most of the girls were happy with the effect of the fracturing. The boys got a big kick out of the fracturing technique. One even emphasized his outlining technique with stitch-like marks. It wasn't bad actually... unfortunately, his is not finished. I may come back and edit this later and add it. It's interesting.
The biggest complaint I heard was "Man this takes a long time!"... "But look how good they look!" I replied frequently. "Isn't it worth the extra time?"


 Puzzle Watercolor Portrait: One class elected to do the Puzzle portrait instead. Their instructions were slightly different... and they used washable markers (we used RoseArt, Crazy Art, and Crayola brands). They transferred their outlines to the watercolor paper the same as the others had, and they outlined with Sharpie markers...  but they used the washable markers to color, and brushes with water to paint over the marker colors, to achieve the watercolor effect. However, the background was completed with wet on wet brushed on watercolor (using Prang semi-moist pan colors).

I would have to say that of the two portrait sessions, the fracturing took the longest, and was the more challenging for the students if only of their patience and endurance to continue working on the same project over a period of time. The Puzzle portraits didn't take quite as long, but coloring the puzzle pieces with markers took longer than painting them with watercolor directly. I suppose we could have just used watercolor paints, but I was trying to get two different looks. And if you compare them closely, you'll see that the Puzzle portraits are brighter and bolder than the fractured portraits, while the fractured portraits have a greater looseness, almost a sketchy look to them.

If you are an art teacher, I hope you find this information helpful. I think it helps when art teachers share their class work... their students' work, and the process. It helps take the mystery out of teaching art, or even making art.

Please feel free to contact me, but mostly, just leave a comment. Thanks!

Odd discovery today as I tried to read the comments on the previous post... I kept getting a blank screen each time I clicked on the comments at the end of the post. I finally was able to read them when I went into another feature of the blog, and clicked on comments. That's where I could read every comment written, without any of the text from the post. Just comments. I was wondering if anyone else has experienced that, or if it is something unique to my computer. I've not been using this blog for so long, possibly there's something I haven't done, that I need to do, to make sure it's updated??? Would appreciate any help ... thanks!