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! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Making stuff...

I love looking at the art of others. Illustrators, painters, sculptors, you name it, and I wanna see what it is, know how it's made, what materials were used, what inspired it, who made it, what their story is, tell me all about it. It's sometimes so inspiring that I can't wait to get started on a new project of my own. Sometimes something you see jolts you into an "Ah-HA!" moment that changes your perspective of things and you finally know how to finish something you started. My husband and I have collected some interesting pieces of art for our home over the years, and each piece tells a different story. I've always loved handmade things and genuinely appreciate the work of others, the time invested, the thoughtful care taken to perfect a craft or idea, the little imperfections that add loads of character and charm to each unique piece. However, it's taken me a loooooooong looooong time to begin to value what I have to offer artistically. I'm an elementary art teacher. I teach art skills and concepts to kids, I love it, I think I'm pretty good at it, but I'm asked to do a lot of other things, such as caricatures for gifts, paintings, drawings, sewing projects and beaded work...It only recently occurred to me that people wouldn't be asking me to do these things if they didn't believe I could deliver. If other folks have that much faith in my skills, why haven't I

So this year I made stuff, good stuff (nothing museum quality, but cool to me). Stuff to gift, stuff to sell, stuff that made me feel like a problem solver, stuff that made me smile, and stuff that frustrated me quite a bit. I drank coffee and tea while making things, listened to music, tried things I'd never tried before. Last year someone I work with gifted my family a tiny homemade Christmas ornament that we love. This year my daughter and I decided to make one for her that would include her cat, Mel, in some way. My daughter helped this coworker choose her cat pal from a local shelter, and Clare is an animal lover, so incorporating Mel was a must! I had scrap leather pieces laying around, so I painted a background on one. My daughter chose her favorite Mel pics by stalking Instagram, and I painted some more. 

I'm not a big cat person, but I have a soft spot for orange cats. My grandmother always had orange cats named George. When one passed, the next orange cat was named George too! Anywho....We talked about each step in the creative process. What about beads around the edge? Can we do that? What color beads should be used (we had loads to choose from)? How could we add glitter?!?!?! Mel is pretty fancy and wears a tiny bell on her collar, so we decided to add a bell to the ornament. We were really pleased with this tiny thoughtful gift, and so was the recipient of it. My daughter has great ideas, is incredibly thoughtful, and I love listening to her thoughts. She's great company, and I love working on projects with her. This little project inspired other projects, so I'm on a roll! Go look at art and make something!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Gingerbread House Tradition

I love sentimental traditions. This is a big time of year for such things...Baking holiday cookies to share, large family gatherings with recipes that have been passed down for generations, dishes that only come out for big events, special ornaments for Christmas trees. I've learned many lessons from having traditions, made many fond memories, and enjoy continuing them with my own children. Each Christmas season I think about my childhood neighbor, Mrs. Carpenter, who was part of several memorable traditions. She was a very tiny woman who had a very large white house, a perfectly manicured lawn, and quite a book collection. She was an influential person in my life. She took me to get my very first library card. We'd get new books regularly, walking to town together. She let me "help" her gather up her raked leaves in the fall, placing them in wire baskets to dump in the woods behind her home. She was a retired teacher, she was old school, she was so incredibly smart and kind in her own way. I admired her greatly. 

She started a Christmas tradition that I've carried on with my own children: the seasonal decorating of a gingerbread house. Each year Mrs. Carpenter would assemble the gingerbread house from a kit before I went over to decorate so it was ready to go when I got there. I loved it! The goal was to decorate it even better than the previous year. She would encourage and praise my efforts. The tradition lives on!!! Each year I purchase a gingerbread kit for my own children, similar to this one. I assemble it, my children decorate it, and they love it! There's always a lot of taste testing of the candies. You know, just to make sure they're good enough for our sure-to-be-amazing gingerbread house. A family favorite are SweeTarts mini chewy candies. We hide them from my husband until our decorating is complete, he can gobble up a bag of those in no time at all!

This year our family took turns battling the flu, so I didn't get out to purchase the traditional gingerbread kit. Ugh! At least it passed through before Christmas break! My daughter and I were home with fevers, on the mend from the worst of the flu storm (whew!), and she asked if we could try to make our own. Hmm? Yes, what a great idea! We had never made one from scratch before so we researched gingerbread houses for ideas. Clare liked a lot of things! We sketched, measured, cut, and planned together. She would be a great foreman and/or architect. It took longer than we thought it would, but we were excited! 

We looked up a gingerbread recipe online and set to work mixin' it up! Clare thought our molasses and brown sugar looked like a sandcastle with a moat. Ah, a beach sounds pretty nice right now...

Clare helped scoop dough from the bowl to roll it out on overturned cookie sheets covered in parchment paper. The lip around the rim of the cookie sheets would have been a problem while rolling out our dough, so we flipped them over. Worked like a charm!

We worked together to arrange our cut template pieces on the surface of our dough. We had to roll out a few slabs in order to have enough pieces for our house. After our template pieces were in place, we used a small knife dipped in flour to cut around them. The dough was a bit sticky, even after chilling, so the flour helped prevent the dough from sticking to the knife and gobbing up our cut lines. The recipe we used said to bake the pieces inside of the slab they were cut from, so into the oven they went!

When it came out of the oven the pieces were slightly distorted. Following the recipe directions, we replaced the template pieces and cut around them again, then let the pieces cool on the pan. 

We decided not to try cutting out the windows, as we'd originally planned to do. We would simply trace them with frosting later. 

Two of our pieces really cracked, a roof piece and a wall piece. The roof piece was waaaaaay beyond repair, crumbling to bits, but we were able to save the wall piece. To replace our roof piece we mixed up sugar cookie dough (a Mrs. Carpenter recipe), and set to work assembling the gingerbread house pieces that we did have while the dough chilled. 

The cracked wall piece was becoming a real problem. It became weaker and weaker as we assembled the house. It probably would have been helpful to have a cardboard foundation under the cookies pieces to stabilize them (like cereal box cardboard). We didn't do that, lesson learned. Since the frosting stiffens over time, we decided to use it as a cement or grout for the broken wall pieces. We smeared it on the side of the crack, pushed the pieces together, smoothed the oozing frosting, and we waiting for it to set. To cover the frosting line crack we decided to use graham crackers to build a chimney. We covered the chimney in frosting, sticking marshmallows to it for a "stone" look. We were very pleased, and had fun creatively problem solving through this process!

Back to the missing roof piece. By this point we were getting tired. I was baking birthday cake for my daughter while assembling this thing and wasn't excited about baking sugar cookies if I didn't have to (the dough could be chilled and saved for later). My husband suggested using the cover to an old book that he had laying around from scanning textures for another project. We giggled, but thought it was a neat-o idea! Nobody eats our gingerbread houses anyway, and it'd be a story. The cover really didn't want to stick to the house, so we propped it up with a Fiesta jar until the frosting had set really well. 

Our next problem was how to cover the roof to disguise our book cover without adding too much weight from frosting? RITZ CRACKERS! Having been so ill, we had plenty on hand! They worked PERFECTLY

After drying and setting overnight, the house was ready to decorate! I had mixed up frosting for birthday cake decorating, so while I worked on cake decorating, the kids piped frosting and decorated our gingerbread house. This was a lot of work, but we all agree that it was our best house ever! We are definitely going to attempt to improve our gingerbread house building skills next year!