Defining Realism and Adding Style

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Realism is a word that is often used to describe artwork.  And, for whatever reason, if something looks realistic, the work is considered good.  But, what is realism exactly?  How should we define it.  What do people actually mean when talking about realism?  And how does style come into the equation.

I think first we do need to define what we mean by realism.  I think when most people talk about realism, they are talking about photorealism or hyperrealism.

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“Kandy Kane Rainbow” by Charles Bell

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“Golden Thoughts” by Mike Dargas

I think this distinction–so realistic it looks like a photo– when using the term “realism” needs to be made, especially when we are teaching our students about artwork and how to talk about artwork.

The next word we need to define is style/stylized.  For me, this means the artist’s personal “twist” on how they present their work.  They can make their work look realistic…proportional, recognizable, three-dimensional…but they’ve added themselves in how they do this.

Most artists work with a sense of realism, but they add their own personal style to their work.  Some artists are very tight. Others works are very free and flowing.  Then you’ve got those that work in a sketchy-like manner.  Style can add interest and evoke feelings in ways that maybe a photorealistic work can’t.  Style is what makes an artist unique.

 

 

TAB, Modified TAB, and Other TABby things

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TAB is a huge buzzword these days. I see it thrown around in many Facebook groups. But what is TAB exactly? TAB is an acronym for Teaching for Artistic Behavior. It is a philosophy that has three core values. It asks “What do Artists do?” It believes the child is the artist. And, it believes the art room is her/his studio. It is these three ideas that drive a TAB teacher’s curriculum…how they run their studio.

That brings me to my next topic, Modified TAB. This isn’t really a thing. A teacher either believes in the philosophy or doesn’t. They don’t really pick and choose which of the values they want to believe. What confuses people is the misunderstanding that being a TAB teacher means you are balls to the wall full choice, all day long. Like I said…this is a misconception of the philosophy. When running a TAB studio, no matter the level, there is a spectrum of choice. The amount of choice a teacher will allow has several variables.

  • Campus/district expectations
    • Some teachers are expected to do x, y, and z. And most of us do like to be in compliance.
  • How “on board” a principal is with the change in the art program.
  • Bootcamp vs studio time
    • bootcamps are short amounts of time where the full class will explore a specific topic such as acrylic paints and color theory or copyright. Bootcamps should last a few days to a week tops. Studio time is where the students create their artwork.
  • Needs of the child
    • Each child is different in their learning styles and how comfortable they are with freedom. TAB is differentiation at its best.
  • Have to’s
    • There are certain things that teachers believe every student needs to know. This could be doing an attachment test to be able to use the sculpture center or biweekly drawing tests that have kids focus on the eye/brain/hand connection.
  • Teacher comfortability with giving up control.

Basically, a TAB teacher utilitizes varying degrees of choice throughout the year, for various reasons. But, they don’t utilize varying degrees of the philosophy.

Teaching in a “TAB-like” way isn’t a thing, but using varying levels of choice is. You can offer choice without being TAB, but you can’t be TAB without offering choice. You are a TAB teacher or you are not. There is not a formula as to how to run a TAB studio. There are as many ways to run the studio as there are TAB teachers. That’s the beauty of it. Believe the philosophy and do what works for you, your population, and your admin…as long as you have student Artistic autonomy as a goal for your students.

For more information about Teaching for Artistic Behavior, visit teachingforartisticbehavior.org

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A High School TAB studio with multiple mediums being worked on at the same time.

Talking With Students

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Teachers like to say that they talk to their students.  Secondary art teachers especially like to say that.  But, what does that mean– talk TO your students.  Furthermore, shouldn’t that say talk WITH your students?

In a TAB classroom/studio, it is very important that we talk with our students.  Talking TO them is like me just going on and on and on and not making any sense or relating to them in any way.  That’s a monologue…not a conversation.  If we talk WITH  our students, so much more is going to happen.

So, what does it look like to talk with our students

  1. You get to know your students…what they do outside of your room, what teachers they like, whom they are dating, what they do in their free time, what their home life is like, etc.  This is really important if we want to help them to create meaningful artworks.  Knowing these things can help spark ideas when they are stuck in an artwork or getting started.
  2. Asking questions that don’t have an answer.  The open-ended question gets them thinking about things on a deeper level.  It can be about their art or it can be about society or some other issue that you think has nothing to do with art.  You never know how the way a student contemplates answers to those questions is going to show up in an artwork.
  3. Art history on the back-end.  When we talk with students about what they are creating, it can open up the student to artists they may have never know about.  Hey, I see you are into drawing patterns–let me show you the work of Britto.  Your work reminds me of an artist named Mondrian.
  4. Relationships are built by talking WITH someone.  This means listening as well.  We like to think of the art room as a safe place for students, a place where they feel comfortable.  Well, to build that type of environment, we want to build relationships.  We want to build trust.  Trust can lead to some amazing things happening in our classrooms.
  5. Letting them have opinions on their artwork and the work of others around them.  Yours, the teacher, is not the only authority on artwork.  Giving students an equal footing helps to validate what they are thinking.  They need to know their opinions matter.
  6. Making the students feel comfortable to ask questions.  If the students feel you are unapproachable, they will never ask questions and their artistic growth will more than likely be stunted.

I would be amiss if I didn’t list a few things that talking WITH doesn’t include.  It doesn’t mean telling them not to do something, like a corner sun.  It doesn’t include telling them their artwork doesn’t meet your expectations of how much contrast or values it should have.  It doesn’t mean only saying hello to them or just talking about the day’s assignment.

I love to build relationships with my students.  I love having open and real conversations with them.  I love getting to know them and having them get to know me.  I love when I can show them new things because I listened to what they had to say.  And I love when I can see that they thought about things we talked about because it shows up in their artwork or their other conversations they have.  Talking WITH them is so important because the art studio is about so much more than just making art.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
~Rollo May

2018 Texas TAB Lab

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One would think that by now I would be sitting in the sun, sipping margaritas and enjoying my summer.  One would think that if one didn’t know me.  I have 2 kids and the Texas sun is way to hot to sit under all day.  Now sipping margaritas…that’s another story for another day.

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My third week off for summer was spent doing some very important and exciting professional development–the Texas TAB Lab (#TxTABLab).  Lori Wallace and Julie Bates20180613_0938451693010827.jpg honored me months ago by asking me to help out with this year’s mini-conference, by heading up the secondary portion of the conference.  This year was our second event.  At our first meet-up, there were about 30 of us tops in this small conference room in a hotel in Waco, TX.  Ginger Tapia set the whole thing up and it was wonderful.  It was there that an event was born.  This year, TAB Lab was definitely the place to be, as we more than doubled the attendance with 67 teachers.  And, I am happy to say that the secondary peeps went from about 7 or 8 to almost 20.  It’s a good time to be a Tx TAB teacher.

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Let’s get to it.  Our main meeting hall was the Frank Fickett Center  (FFSTC).  The hotel suggested it because the conference room was not going to hold us all.  It was a wonderful space to be in for 2 days.  The conference kicked off with one of our keynote speakers, Katherine Douglas.  She was unable to make it to Austin, so she spoke via interwebs.  Among the many fabulous things Kathy spoke of, she told us in regards to child art that “adult eyes need to learn appreciation for it”.  She also shared her 7 goals for her TAB studio and her students.

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  2. Get materials and tools to explore idea
  3. Explore/Make idea, with false starts, change directions, mistakes
  4. Know when it’s finished
  5. Put away materials/tools properly
  6. Reflect/Share ideas
  7. Think about what’s next

Thank you Kathy so much for joining us.

That afternoon we went to visit some classrooms.  The elementary teachers broke into 2 groups–visiting both Julie’s and Lori’s classrooms in Pflugerville.  The secondary teachers made the long drive to Taylor to visit my classroom.  I am so happy they made the journey.  In spite of the 80+° room temp, it was an amazing experience.  I talked briefly about my journey, then we toured my room and how it was set up.  We talked about daily activities and classroom flow.  There was much conversation…conversation that lasted well past when I thought we would leave.

 

We went to dinner at Rudy’s BBQ and went back to the FFSCT for some more art chat and some Paper Smaché with the one and only Clyde Gaw.  Paper smaché is like paper maché, but Clyd-i-fied.

 

Our second day opened up with our second keynote speaker, Clyde Gaw.  I bet you thought he was just here for Smaché.   He was also here for the cardboard. In 20180613_092720-1358794459.jpghis presentation, he told us of his journey–his life journey–from the train tracks by where he grew up to his current job as a high school TAB teacher in Indiana.  It was interesting to me to hear how and when he met people I know (or know of), like Clark Fralick, Diane Jacquith, Kathy, NanHathaway, and John Crowe.  My biggest take away from Clyde that morning was the rhizome.  He likened things to it and called us rhizomatic. (def 1 def 2).  If you were’t at TAB Lab, but you are meeting up with Clyde at some other TAB event this summer, I’m sure he’ll talk about it.

 

The rest of the day included a working lunch, small group sessions, mini-presentations from attendees and 2 guest speakers, Priscilla Lamb and Manuel Gamez.  Priscella presented on Autism and Special Ed.  Manuel is the Fine Arts Director for PfISD.  It was interesting to hear the perspective of a non-teacher, someone in admin.  He very much supports the arts and really likes TAB.  Bonus for Lori and Julie. We ended the day with some gelli printing with Lori and some faux screen printing led by yours truly.  Unfortunately, after testing the screen the night before, I didn’t wash it fully and the prints weren’t as clean as I would have liked.  But, my fellow teachers were cool with it and didn’t complain.

 

After dinner, many of us met back at the hotel conference room and had some cookies, milk, chat, and arting.  It was a fun way to end the day.

 

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Friday was our last day and Lori had set up a great activity at Austin Creative Reuse.  ACR is a store that is supplied by donations.  It is a TAB teacher’s dream.  Well, and it’s the dream of artists and crafters and people that are into reuse.  We met in the classroom at ACR and split into 2 groups.  Those with the late birthdays went to the store first.  I have already been to ACR, so I knew what was up.  The others were new and were in amazement.  After shopping time, we went back and we participated in what was essentially like “Chopped”, but with art materials. We worked in groups of 4/5.  We were given a theme of “represent”.  And we went from there.  I was fortunate to get with a group where we all just flowed and worked well together.  Our sculpture was called “Bond”.

 

All in all it was a fabulous conference.  I am so glad that I was able to go and that I was enable to pass on my knowledge to others.  I know that I didn’t provide much of what I learned at Tx TAB Lab, but if you are curious as to what was shared, visit out Padlet.  It has links to almost everything.  I look forward to next year when I hope we go even bigger…it is Texas after all…Go Big or Go Home!  Until then, I have Facebook to be able to talk to my new TAB friends.

 

The 2017-18 School Year in Review

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Another school year has come to a close.  That makes 11 for me.  The 2017-18 school year was a good year for me.  I had a couple of bumps in the road–that one student who felt she no longer needed to be here (luckily she is still here ♥) and the whole grading issue with me not being in compliance.  Overall, it was a fun and happy year.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look back and see what went down.

⇒ I entered 3 students this year into Scholastic Art and Writing.  We didn’t get any awards or even mentions, but I am proud that I was able to enter the work of these 3 young women.  I think we were robbed, but life goes on, right.

⇒ I was honored when Diane Jacquith and Kathy Douglas asked me to have a small part in the 2nd edition of their book, Engaging Learners Through Artmaking.  I speak of how I include current artists in my curriculum through an activity called Artist Monday.  Students watch a short video and then answer some questions about the artist and what they create.  Artists are always current, and many create art in ways that go beyond the traditional ways my students know about art making.

⇒I took my upper ceramic students on a field trip…on a Saturday!  It was so much fun.  We went to the Texas Clay Festival in Gruene, TX.  My students got to see a woman who was burnishing a pot and talking about terra sigillata.  They saw a variety of artists and got to see what people would be willing to pay for ceramics.  And, they got to watch a raku firing.  I am so glad that we went.  The fact that they were willing to give up a Saturday to go on a field trip was tremendous.  I hope to make this a yearly activity.

Seattle 2018.  This year’s NAEA conference was in Seattle.  I was lucky to be able to present not once, but twice at this year’s conference.  And bonus for me, both were with my very good friend and amazing TAB teacher, Elizabeth Honeysett.  We presented on Single Media and the TAB Classroom.  Liz talked about her jewelry classes and I talked about my ceramics classes.  We also did a ticketed event–The Secondary Choice Demo Room.  This was extra fun for me because I got to see adults make art.   Seattle was a blast.

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Restorative Discipline was brought into my school in the 2016-17 school year.  Each year they train a small amount of teachers.  I was lucky to be asked to be part of the 2017-18 cohort (cohort 2).  I really like restorative discipline because it focuses on relationships and community building.  It stresses being proactive instead of being reactive.  It was a great fit for me because I am all about relationships and community in my classroom.  We had many trainings throughout the year, which kept me always reflecting on my teaching.  I reflect anyways, but the reflections from the RD perspective made me think about things I sometimes gloss over.

⇒ RD brought the academic circle into my teaching practice.  In RD, there are many types of circle activities you can do with your students and the academic circle is one I really liked.  I utilized it in my ceramics classes.  There had been a disconnect between what my students researched on a artistic behavior and the art making that went along with it.  The academic circle filled the gap.  It allowed me to check what my students learned on their own. It allowed my students to share and connect with each other.  It allowed for questions.  It allowed for students to see ceramic art their peers were drawn to.  And, it helped to clarify the big idea for the students before they moved to the creation of their work.

⇒ I applied for a grant and was award it!  In our community, there is a Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 11.42.27 AMfoundation called the Taylor Educational Enrichment Foundation (TEE) that offers thousands of dollars in grants annually.  I finally got the courage to write a grant proposal for a raku kiln kit.  When the day finallyarrived when we would find out who would be awarded, I’ll admit, I was nervous.  I heard the band and the cheerleaders coming down the hall.  I kept hoping they were coming to me and not going to walk on by.  My principal ducked his head into my office and told me to come out into the hallway.  I was so excited.  I was dancing around my classroom.  I have since ordered and received the kit and I can’t wait to set it up and teach my students how to raku this fall.

⇒For a few years, I make and gift some special seniors a piece of “Duck Art” pottery.  It started when some seniors bugged the crap out of me for cereal bowls.  So, as an end of year gift, I made bowls and gave them each one.  On the inside of the bowl, there was a duck.  The next year the seniors weren’t into cereal so much as they were coffee.  So, the image was transferred to a mug.  Each year, the duck image changed, but the sentiment was the same.  I made X# of mugs–all similar in shape, color, and image–and handed them out to the lucky ones I had forged relationships with.  This year, I wanted something different.  I really don’t like being a production potter.  I don’t like making the same thing over and over.  I decided to make each mug different and glaze each mug different.  The only thing that was my thru-line was the Duck Art medallion I made.  I made a sprig, which was a good lesson for the students, and went from there.  At the end, the students got to pick which mug they wanted according to their tastes and what fit well in their hands.  This has become the new and final senior Duck Art Mug.

 

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The Duck Art Mug!!

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The lefties

Those are really the bigs things that happened this year.  Like I said, it was a good year.  I made some stronger relationships with both students and colleagues.  I am sad that my ceramics seniors are gone.  They were a great group of kids.  But, I am excited for those returning next year.  I learned a lot about my teaching and how I want to move forward.  I really understand the end goal I have for my students–both those that will be with me for a year and those that will continue on.  I have worked hard (and continue to) on how to help my students meet those goals.  I have much in store for next year…I hope to implement “the 9”, courtesy of Ian Sands, with my art 1 class.  I have taken the 9 and created my own version–“the 10”–which is geared for my upper ceramics kiddos.  And, our principal decided to split the AP Studio art program between my co-worker and myself…so that will be interesting.  I am happy with my 11th year, and I look forward to another fun-filled TAB-tastic year in the Duck Art Studio.  But, until then, I will relax and enjoy my summer.

Artists Curate

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This unit was something I have been wanting to have my art students do for some time, but it never seemed to be the right time.  Well, in January of 2018, I looked at my art 2 students and decided this was the group that could pull it off.  And, I was right.  While not every student hit it out of the park, most did…in one way or another.

This was my final unit for my art 2 students.  We spend over 6 weeks working.  It will also double as their final exam.  Here is the information students were given about the curation of a show.  They were given a few days to figure out what they wanted to do, then they jumped into the work.

This unit was amazing.  Most students decided to curate a show of their own new work.  I’ve never seen so many of my students jump in and work constantly–walking in the room and getting right to work.  They were passionate about what they were creating because it was all them…I had no say in what they could create.  They came up with their own themes for their shows, and figured out what type of create to meet that theme.  One group of 3 boys had originally decided to curate past work they had made, but out of no where began to collaborate on a large panel piece of a dragon in space.  I was thrilled by how well they worked together.

About a week prior to the hang, they made flyers to advertise their shows.  They hung copies in different areas of the school and we added information to the cafeteria announcement slides.

Finally the day came to hang their show.  I gave them some pointers on how to hang their art on the walls of the student centers, and then let them go.  In addition to hanging their pieces, they added labels and a show/artist statement.  They all look so fabulous.   I am so proud of my students.  And, the comments from others around the school have all been so positive.  I know my students are proud of their work.  I can tell, even if they won’t admit it to me.

The show will be up for a week, and on it’s final day we will have a closing reception with some small snacks, drinks, and a “guest book” for each student that people can sign.  Next week, I will meet with each student individually to talk about their curation experience and together we will decide on a grade for their exam.

I am really glad that I finally was able to do a unit like this.  I really like to show off what my students create, but usually it just gets hung in the fine arts hallway.  It really showcases the students and their talents.

Exploring 21st century principles

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This was a very challenging unit for my art 2 students.  And, while it was a miss in some respects, there were others aspects that were major hits.  Not only did my students learn a lot about Olivia Gude’s Post-Modern Principles, I did as well.

My first experience with Olivia Gude was in New York City when she was part of a panel for a Super Session at NAEA 17.  There she spoke of what she had called the Post-Modern Principles.  I was intrigued about what she was talking about, and I began to wonder how I could bring them into my classroom.  Now, they aren’t the easiest concepts to grasp–especially for a bunch of 10th and 11th graders.  I was hesitant, but man did I underestimate them.

I set up the unit in a the different way than normal.  I didn’t want to lecture to the students.  I knew if I did, the information would go in one ear and out the other.  Also, I didn’t want to do all the work.  I checked with our instructional coach and together we decided that I wasn’t asking too much of the kids.  (What?!  Sometimes I wonder, but then I shake me head and say that maybe I am asking not enough.)

I briefly showed my students a slide show with Olivia’s definitions for each principle.  I didn’t go into detail.  At the end of slideshow was their assignment (to research each principle, understand what they means, be able to share out their findings, and find images that exhibit each principle.)  I wanted to show an example of what I was looking for, so I picked the easiest of the bunch.  I explained everything I did to research–the sites I went to, the articles I read, the videos I watched, things from previous knowledge I had.  Then I set them free.

After the research part, we came back together as a group and went over what they had learned.  We went through each principle, with each student sharing what they had learned.  Many things were repeated, but I think that helped validate each student’s research.

The final part of the research was the image find.  Students didn’t share these out to the class, which in hindsight I wish I had them do. They did share with me though, through google classroom.  This was the amazing part to me.  This solidified to me that they understood the concepts and could find artwork that appropriately showed the principle.  And, they knew some images utilized more than one principle, so the students chose to highlight the one that was most prominent.

After the research, students did create artwork.  I think this was the hardest part of the unit for them.  Great artworks, that were full of creativity and thought, with powerful messages, were made.  But the implementation of the newly discovered principles into their work was weak.  But I was, and still am, okay with that.  Not every unit we do in class has to be about artwork.  There is more to art.  Being able to know how to research art concepts is important.  Being able to read artwork is also an important skill.  I like to think that these students will look at contemporary art in a completely different way, not just walk by without a second glance, and really see what the artist is trying to convey.

Exploring a Medium and Multiple Pieces

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One aspect of a TAB classroom that gets criticized is when we allow our students to explore the same medium over and over and over.  Critics often think this is wrong that we TAB teachers don’t expose our students to a variety of media by making them do different projects based on different materials.  Unfortunately, this is not how artists work.  Yes, some artists work in several mediums…Picasso and Degas come to mind. Both painted and sculpted.  But, they came to other mediums because they wanted to explore, not because someone else told them to.  I am sure they were aware of other mediums, but they preferred what they preferred.  We do the same for our students.  They are aware of other mediums, but ultimately, they should work in the medium they prefer or what they feel is best to convey their idea.

On Mondays, I introduce my students to contemporary artists.  I want them to know what is being made in today’s art world.  While deciding on artists to have them meet, I found 2 artists that reinforce this idea exploring the same medium over and over.  First is El Anatsui.  Second is Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor.  I have included clips from both these artists.  If you click on their names, you can find the entire video.  Neither of these clips are about the art they make, but rather the message they are sending.

When we let our students continue to explore the same medium, they will begin to understand what it can offer.  They can push the boundaries of the medium.  They will understand what it means to research in an artistic sense.  They will behave like artists.

NAEA 2018: Seattle

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I have always wanted to go to Seattle, so when I saw that the National Art Ed conference was going to be held there, I was going no matter if my session proposals were accepted or not.  Luckily for me, I was selected to co-present twice for the Seattle conference.  That meant that I could get reimbursed by my district for the cost of admission to the conference.  (Every little bit given back is helpful.)

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I woke up at 3:30 am to start my journey to the West Coast.  It was a long day, but the beauty of the city made it worth it…not to mention that I was meeting up with 2 of my favorite fellow TAB teachers, Liz and Hillary.  We were able to get out of the city proper and experience Kirkland.  It was so beautiful, and if we could afford it, I would so pick up my family and move there.

But I digress.  Let’s talk about the conference.  I spent this conference a little bit differently than I had in the past.  I barely went to sessions, and instead channeled my friend and fellow Texas art teacher, Arlene Shelton. I wandered around the city for a large portion of the time.  I spent a morning walking in the rain (and snow) down to the MoPop museum.  I took my time and photographed parts of the city that often gets overlooked.  I spent one morning with Joy Schultz walking around Pike Place Market, getting lost in the colors of fresh fruit and flowers, and marveling over the artisans booths.  Hillary and I went on an adventure to dinner one evening and along the way found Jimmy Hendrix, Dick Blick, and rainbowed crosswalks.  I paused for over a half hour Saturday morning to stand in solidarity as my fellow Americans walked in the “March for our Lives” protest.  And, I drank more coffee than I would like to admit.

 

 

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I did go to a few sessions, and I did present twice (these 2 sessions will each have their own posts.)  But, to be honest, it was tough to find things that interested me.  I went to every ceramics session I could find, but there wasn’t much that was new to me. In fact, one session got me so fired up…  Let’s just say, as art teachers, we need to stop perpetuating techniques that are dangerous.  No matter how cute it is.

Out of the 6 or 7 sessions I attended over the 3 days, several did stand out.  I went to one that was about STEAM…well…it was really anti-STEM/STEAM.  One of the speakers was Cindy Foley.  She is amazing to listen to and I could have just sat and listened for hours.  She is so passionate.  (And, did you know that STEM really means “Strategies That Engage Minds”?  Yeah, neither did I until Cindy told me so.)  Another session that was wonderful was by Pam Ehrenreich.  She talked about how she TABs in her high school class.  Ask her about her “Random Objects of Treasure” collection, you won’t be disappointed.  Clara Lieu gave a session on art critique.  I found it super helpful as having student critique each other is one of my weak areas in my classes.  Every year I do improve though, so there’s that.  And, finally I went to a session by Candi Poll-Price on assessment.  It was fantastic.  I was sad I had to miss the end, but my session was next, so I had to take off early.  (Also, I needed some more coffee.)

20180321_1839052022233196.jpgI hadn’t planned on spending the conference going to so few sessions.  I had hoped there would be a ton for me to learn.  Unfortunately, when I looked through the program, not much stood out to me.  There were TAB sessions, but many were for elementary or they were sessions to get you excited about TAB.  I already am excited about TAB.  I don’t need to be convinced how amazing it is–for both my students and for me.  I know this is going to sound a bit egotistical, and that is not my intention.  I felt there wasn’t much for teachers, TAB teachers specifically, at my level in the ways of development.  Things I want to discuss and think about are above the beginning levels.  Don’t get me wrong, those types of beginning level sessions are of extreme importance.  And, I love presenting and giving.  I just need to be getting something too.

I am glad I went because I had numerous important conversations with my tribe at the TAB dinner and at other eating events.  Funny how food and drink do that.  Those conversations are what I really got the most from this year.

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I will not be attending NAEA19 in Boston next year.  I am opting for another Boston event–the TAB Institute in the summer of 2019.  I am looking forward to the amazing things I will get from it and from the teachers who will be attending with me. Until then, thanks Seahawk fans for accepting this Packer fan into your town for a few days.

Artists Abstract/Don’t Represent

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Normally I teach both abstract and non-objective art in a full-on unit.  This year I decided to revise that.  While I think the information included is important, it was information that could be learned in a shorter amount of time…with the right activities and check-ins.  I am lucky as our school is 1:1 and has a set of TVs at the front of the school that we can hook in to.

Day 1: Each class broke into 5 equal groups.  They brought one computer with them and we headed to the front of the school.  Each group hooked into a tv, and they were asked to first define both abstract and non-representational/non-objective.  After that, each group went thru a slideshow and determined if an image was abstract or non-objective, based on what they had discovered in their definition search. At the end of class, we went thru the slideshow as a whole class.

Day 2: We briefly went over the definitions of each style of art.  The students then were to watch 2 videos through playposit.  One video was on Joan Jonas and the other was Soo Sunny Park.  They students had to determine which artist would be considered abstract and which was non-objective.  They also had to say why.  This was really to stress the difference between the two genres and to let them see 2 artists at work.

Day 3:  At the start of class, we had a check for understanding where kids defined each term, said what they had in common and what made them different.  Then it was time for was our image find day.  Each student had to create a document that contained 10 images.  Five of the images had to be abstract.  Five had to be non-objective.  They also had to say why they chose those images–what drew them to those pieces.  I like having them do this because it causes them not to choose the first 5 they find and to really search through a ton of images.  Furthermore, it gives me some behind the scenes info into art they find intriguing.

Days 4-6: These were studio day.  Students chose which type of art they wanted to create, then had 3 days to create that art.  It was awesome.  The first day about 60% of students were working, but by the second day, 95% were working and not rushing thru.  I was very pleased with the conversations and the engagement by my students.

Day 7:  Our final day of the bootcamp was reflection day.  I asked students to fill out a google form.  I asked them again to tell me the differences and similarities between abstract and non-objective.  I asked them what genre their artwork fell into.  Then I asked some opinion questions about the bootcamp and abstract/non-objective work.  With the extra time left that period, kids could finish up anything they hadn’t gotten to over the past 3 studio days.

This was a huge success.  It wasn’t so long that they eventually lost interest. And, it was focused and narrow enough for 95% to understand the two concepts.