Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Floral Frida Sugar Skull Planter

Life gets crazy sometimes, and the McKee family sure has had a lot of that lately! We bought a new house! Exciting! But so. much. work. Seriously. Electrical work, tearing out old crusty ceilings and staples, ripping out old smelly carpet, shrieking over dead mice and their little, shall we say, "surprises". There's a whole lotta mess and gross goin' on these days. But it's also been pretty awesome. My kids are learning to play with mud and sticks. I check 'em for ticks every night. Once this big house project is finished we are so gonna appreciate our beds with sheets and couches! Just before buying this house (which happened really fast and just fell into place), I entered an art project contest in the hopes of scoring some cool new supplies and ideas for my classroom. After all, I want the best for my students! But trying to fulfill that commitment with moving, renovations, kids sports schedules, and set design sure has been tricky, to say the least. One sunny afternoon I dove in between house projects, and chipped away at it whenever possible. Let's take a closer look at what I came up with...

Since the inside of the house has been a busy work zone, I set up a cozy little nook for myself on the front porch. It's been a favorite gathering place for my family to have meals, share ideas and new discoveries, and to have art time when our creative cups are nearing empty and it's time for a refill. The fine folks at Activa Products sent art teachers interested in their contest a neat-o "mystery box" filled with samples of goodies to explore. I had to use 3 of the items sent, along with any additional materials of my choice, to create an original project that could be created in a classroom setting. I was THRILLED to find celluclay in my box! 

It's a papier mache clay that is packaged dry, just add water, mix it around, and voila! Sculpting gold

I decided to roll up my sleeves and use what I had on hand (since it was Easter break, most of my art supplies have been packed away, and I wasn't in school) to MacGyver and Mary Poppins my way through this challenge! 

I love repurposing things. My kindly neighbor, Mr.Shaefer, saves little fruit and yogurt cups for me. They sure do come in handy in the art room, but for this challenge I decided to transform a cup into a tiny planter. Celluclay sticks surprisingly very well to plastic. 

Just add bits at a time and use water to smooth out rougher textures.

To cover the plastic lip of the cup I formed a celluclay coil and attached it to the top of the cup, blending it into the sides of the planter and leaving the inside bare. 

Before the planter surface dried I used extra bits of celluclay to make parts of a face for the pot. I was aiming for a sugar skull Frida, so I coiled the signature unibrow. 

The bits and pieces stuck to the pot! No extra glue or fancy steps needed. It was really that easy! 

While the planter dried in the sun, I took a foam ball (I have a ton of them in my storage closet at school).....

and hot glued it to the bare insides of the planter cup. 

Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite artists. She's a strong female example of grit, something we attempt to explain to our students and expose them to as often as possible. Each year 3rd graders learn a bit about her while we explore Mexican culture, including Day of the Dead. I wanted to merge some of the things we discuss and roll it into one fun and memorable project. With this idea in mind, I moved forward in my project development.....

Frida loved nature and flowers. How perfect that I was making a planter?! Rigid Wrap to the rescue!

To begin, I found some fencing wire, needle nosed pliers that could cut wire, and Rigid Wrap, of course!  

Rigid Wrap comes in rolls that I simply unrolled a bit at a time, cutting it into strips for wrapping around my wire. 

A few rough bends to the tips of my wires and they were ready to be transformed into flowers!

I dipped one strip into water at a time, carefully wrapping around the wire. I shaped a rough flower at the top and wrapped another strip around the wire, leaving a bit of the tip exposed so I could poke it into the foam insert. 

And I left them to dry in the sun!

Before painting I tested the arrangement with the pieces I'd made. She still seemed to need a bit of filler on top. I chatted with my 10-year-old son and his best friend, who happened to be over to play for the afternoon. She suggested using Easter grass. Brilliant! Why hadn't I thought of that myself?! It was Easter weekend, with discounted prices on all Easter stuff! PERFECT!!! So I snatched up a few extra bags of my favorite kind, the crinkly paper bits. 

With all the parts dried from the sun, it was time to paint! However, I was in a pickle. Yes indeed, a real pickle. What's an art teacher to do without a trusty paintbrush to see her through this messy step?! I wasn't in my classroom and my art supplies were packed away from our move! I searched my purse and surprisingly emerged empty handed. A first, that's for sure. Next, I decided to try my husbands car. It's an eclectic collection of forgotten projects, papers he wants to save but won't put away because he'll forget about them, and stuff from our kids school and sports lives. It all just kinda just rolls around together in there and smells a little like pizza...I found a brush! Under the seat! YES! I didn't care that it was floppy and awkward, it was something, and that was more than I started with! Things were looking up! Until they weren't...

The brush was one of  those brushes students complain about. The kind that loses it's bristles so fast you're almost positive it'll be completely bald by the time you complete your painterly task. After painting my base layer of white and sprinkling it with Scenic Sand for a sugary look, I had to problem solve this paintbrush problem. What would Mary Poppins do in a situation like this? What would MacGyver do?

They'd both remind you that you have an old Mary Kay lip gloss floating around in your purse that you keep telling yourself to toss but you save it because you think maybe you'll scrape a little more out just one more time. 

You get real, and clean off that applicator tip, and start painting! It's not perfect, but that's ok! It looks handmade by someone determined to get the job done, no matter what!

I used acrylic paints and sprinkled Scenic Sand to the paint before it dried, making Frida appear to be sugary! The Easter grass was the perfect addition to her flowery top. 

She's going to look pretty adorable at the new house this summer! If you're looking for fun projects to try, visit Activa Products online and follow them on Instagram! Your kids will love it, and you will too!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Perspective Drawings

Let's just agree right now that perspective drawings can be tough. This year was even tougher. Why? Because I changed the way I taught this lesson and I'm glad I did. There's usually a method to my madness, so let me explain...

Perspective drawing helps kids appreciate dimensional qualities of work, they see that overlapping objects can show that something is in front of something else, that things far away are smaller than things that are close. It takes everything we've learned about using basic shapes in our artwork to the next level. 

We looked at examples of perspective in pictures of places from around the world. We discussed the little details of many different kinds buildings, the streets, the shops, and shared the parts we liked best. 

And then we drew together. We did basic guided drawings of horizon lines with vanishing points. We drew cubes above, on, and below those horizon lines with rulers. And then we got silly. We turned those cubes and rectangular prisms into floating toasters, trucks, and butter dishes. Yes, even butter dishes. 

I told stories while drawing my examples on the board about the way my counter looks after my kids make toast with butter. We talked about the crumbs, the lid being left off of the butter dish, the butter knife being too close to the edge of the counter (sometimes), much to the delight of my dog that loves to try to lick anything buttery. They giggled, and some admitted their own buttery toast mess guilt. They could relate to what we were practicing together. They could tap into their real lives, real experiences, their interests.  

In kindergarten we learned that shapes are used as the parts of our drawings. As 3rd graders we learned how to turn 3D shapes into a variety of furniture. And now I was asking them to turn 3D shapes into anything, everything, be creative! Having ideas, generating ideas, being inspired, mish-mashing things you like together to make something new, those are not always easy things to do. I'm an adult and sometimes I still struggle to accomplish these things. But they're important. Future bosses will be looking for creative problem solvers. Thinkers and doers. Ideas. Grit. We're attempting that. 

Some embraced the freedom to create anything they wanted in perspective while others struggled with deciding on what to draw. I wanted them to own it, to know it was theirs and not mine or ours. As students worked they critiqued each other, asked me questions, we solved things that didn't seem quite right. They had to consider details that were important to them. 

The freedoms continued with how to apply color. Some students love painting, others prefer colored pencils, still others enjoy markers. Several combined various mediums and some even tried something new. 

Allowing freedoms can sometimes mean lesser quality for hall displays, but I'm so glad I gave them this opportunity to push themselves, make decisions, solve problems, and to explore.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Warm Heart Paintings

While Mother Nature continues to tease us with warm spring temperatures followed by snow, wind, and SNOW DAYS, let's take a look at what kindergarten has been exploring in the art room! 

Warm and cool colors! To introduce cool colors for our backgrounds we watched snippets of Disney's Frozen! Students sang along, mostly during the chorus (they really owned that part), and we chatted about the cool colors in Queen Elsa's snowy surroundings and ice castle. We even saw the color indigo in her ice! How did we not notice these colors in her ice and snow before?!?! We talked about the colors she wore: greens, blues, purples. It wouldn't make sense for her to wear bright red, would it? No way, that's a warm color! She has ice powers, she needs to look cool

Learning to draw hearts without a template can be tricky, so we looked closely at some and realized that they look like to J's or two candy canes put together. We can draw J's and candy canes! Even though we all drew a heart, each one is unique and they did it themselves! Some were pretty proud of their accomplishment! Once we felt comfortable with our heart drawings and cool colors we donned our paint shirts, rolled up our sleeves (not easy to do with button sleeves), and got REALLY excited to paint with them! I covered the tables with rolled paper in cool colors to go along with our theme and to reinforce this new color family. We looked at several examples of patterns made of lines and shapes that we know and were inspired! Students set to work designing patterned backgrounds for our hearts. 

Check out that indigo line along the top!!! Mixing that color was a big deal. Everyone agreed that when we learned to mix colors this year that was the most difficult to make. Painting pattern details takes focus, helps to develop fine motor skills, and patience. We weren't rushing. We took our time. We encouraged each other. We showed friends at our tables designs we were especially proud of. 

We listened to music while we worked, favoring Pandora Disney tunes, of course. It was especially exciting when "Let it Go" played because that song introduced us to these super cool colors in the first place! 


To introduce students to warm colors we turned again to Disney's Frozen! We watched Olaf singing "In Summer", looking for warm colors. We chatted about how different the hot tub scene would feel if the background was cool instead. The colors we choose are important! How do you think folks will feel looking at our warm hearts? Warm and fuzzy, happy and special, all good things, right? ABSOLUTELY! 

These cheerful hearts are sure to warm you up and put a smile on your face! 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Organic Shape Monsters

First graders have been pretty busy in the art room learning lots n lots about shapes. Shapes?! Yes, SHAPES. We are much too big for stick people. Yes sir, no more stick legs and arms for us! Before Christmas break we learned all about using geometric shapes in our drawings, designing very geometric nutcrackers together. Geometric shapes are used a lot in math, have very formal names like Octagon, Rectangle, Diamond, and Triangle, and are usually symmetrical (you could fold them in half and both sides would look the same!). Now that we're back in school, it's time to learn about another shape family, organic shapes! Organic shapes are pretty different from geometric shapes. They're WiGgLy and curvy, they're often not symmetrical, they typically don't have fancy names, and they're found in NATURE! Your hands and feet are organic shapes, so are clouds, lakes, ponds, and PUDDLES! First graders agree that puddles are a big favorite, so we like organic shapes a lot! To introduce organic shapes we listened to Rita Moreno read "I Need My Monster" by Amanda Noll on YouTube. Her voice is great, and she reads this so well! The kids were totally absorbed in the story...

We LOVED all the different monsters in the story and talked at length about the types of claws we saw (some of them looked like little rocks on the end of sausage fingers), the teeth we saw (some were only on the bottom), the ooze, the tails (some were long and some were short), the lumps and fur and eyes....Then we set to work creating our very own shape monsters! We started out by drawing an organic shape on our paper. Not too small, and just about any wiggly blob would do! We thought about arms and legs and tails....does it have to have legs, or could it move like a snail and leave an ooze trail? If it's going to have legs, does it need more than 2? 4? What about horns? How about 1 eye instead of 2, or maybe 6 instead?! We brainstormed a lot of really good ideas! Some monsters had big lips for kissing you good night, but be careful, they drool! 

We traced our awesome drawings with sharpies, erased our pencil lines, and then learned how to use washable markers as paint! That's right, you can use them instead of watercolors, which is pretty cool if you like to paint and don't have paints at home (if you don't have brushes, use q-tips!). We colored in the bodies of our organic shape monsters and got a little scribble happy! Scribbling?! In the art room?! In this case, it worked out just fine. We used water and brushed over our marker scribbles to blend our colors together, and it filled in all the white spots left by our scribbling just perfectly! Some chose to add little sprinkles of salt to their wet marker paint, knowing that it causes a mottled effect. When they were dry, we cut them out and glued them to a colorful piece of construction paper of our choice. These first graders sure are proud of their work, and so am I! I love how different each monster is, don't you?! We'll be applying all we know about geometric and organic shapes in our next big project, so stay tuned!

Appalachian Gothic

At the end of the school year last year a group of teachers from my school decided to hike a small portion of the Appalachian Trail (I blogged about it here). We were to hike for 3-4 days, depending on how we felt and how much food we had left, since none of us had ever done anything quite like it before. The Goods are a married couple that teach in my school that were part of this small hiking group, and they're always up for an adventure!

While hiking I planned a lesson on making parodies of American Gothic and the Goods happily posed for a quick sketch to help me with my idea. They've done so many kind things for my family that I wanted to something for them in return. This caricature is my thank you to them for their kindness! I referenced a quick picture snapped with my phone on the Trail, a smudgy sketch from my sketchbook, and drew a larger caricature of them as "Appalachian Gothic". A little watercolor finished it off. Thank you Erin and Dave Good for being gooder than good- The McKee family thinks you're pretty GREAT!