Category Archives: artistic behaviors

The Power of One Challenge

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I had hit a slump.  There were 2 packets of “The 9” left to complete for the year, but I wasn’t feeling either one of them.  I considered doing a watercolor exploration, but then decided my art 1 students really didn’t need anymore media explorations at this point in the year.  So, I did what any TAB teacher would do, I asked my TAB colleagues for suggestions.  It was there that I decided I would create a challenge based on Phil Hansen’s Ted Talk, “Embrace the Shake“.  Thus, the Power of One Challenge was born.

We started the challenge by watching the Ted Talk.  We had already watched it earlier in the year, but I told them we were going to watch it again as it was very important to what they were about to be asked to do.  Next, I gave them the run-down of the challenge.

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I didn’t give much other information.  I told them to think back to the video and the work that Phil Hansen made and HOW he made it.  I gave time for questions, and time for research.  They had a day and a half to look up info needed and to print it out before losing computers.  I limited computers because I have a love/hate relationship with out 1:1 school.  I really wanted them to concentrate on art making without the distraction of games and movies and whatever else it is they do on their laptops.

Some kids got the concept of the challenge right away.  Others took the whole day and half to grasp what was being asked of them.  Once they started, I just sat back and watched them learn, answering questions when asked.  They problem solved.  They were creative.  They all weren’t so original, but that often happens in an art class–one student sees another doing something they feel as cool, so they want to do it too.

I really enjoyed this 2 week challenge.  It gave me time to recoup as a teacher, but was super beneficial to my students.  When I go to do this challenge again, I will change how we present when all is finished.  And, I might change when we do it, and have it be their final exam.

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Watch through the slideshow to see what each artists “1 thing” was.  I am so proud of these kids.

Working with “The 10”: Ceramics Packet Reflection

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My friend, Ian Sands, developed a system called “the 9“.  They are packets based around the basics of subjects of art that artists create.  It’s not about content, but more about category that art would fall into.  The packets include: the object, architecture, nature, landscape, figure, portrait, imagination, non-representational, and conceptual.  He introduced them to me some time last school year, and I thought they were wonderful.  I’ve been successfully using them with my art 1 students this year.  They are a great introduction to art categories, while allowing my TAB students to make lots of meaningful choices.

I tested them out last year with one of my classes, and thought that they would be a great tool for working with my ceramics students as they move along their artistic journey.  Sometime last spring, I began planning how to use Ian’s model for my ceramics program.  I began researching and decided that for the most part, ceramics artists’ works fall into most of the same categories.  But, I discovered that there are 10 categories, instead of 9.  They include: nature, animal, architecture, “figure”-ative, functionality, imagination, non-representation, portraiture, the object, and conceptual/installation.

Following Ian’s template, I created consideration questions for each packet, changed up the suggestions and geared the planning around requirements I have for my students.  I am very happy with the development of my packets.

Now, here’s where I am dissatisfied with “The 10”.  I rolled them out in a way that I find isn’t working the way I hoped.  I thought it would make my students more independent, so I introduced it with my intermediate and advanced students.  (They meet at the same time.)  I think this was my mistake.  I should have used it with my beginners after we completed the “have-to” portion of our class.  Seeing how my art 1 students are growing using “The 9”, helped me to see this.  Currently with my beginners, we do ceramic artistic behavior units right after finishing our “have to” section.  We just began our first unit, Ceramic Artists are Inspired by Nature, but I think that after this unit, we will pass out sketchbooks and move onto the next packet.  Nature is one of the packets after all.  We will continue through the rest of the year going through packets, picking up next fall with where we left off.  Then we will dive into deeper meaning with Ceramic Artistic Behavior units.

I will continue with my upper ceramic students in the way we are working. With the exception of one student, they are all seniors, and I’m not too worried about it.  They are working and learning and growing.

They say it takes 3 years to really build up a program.  Like I previously stated, this is the 5th year of the program.  I’ve been playing around with it, trying new things each year to replace things that weren’t working.  I feel I finally have a great grasp on the program and the progression it should take to truly have my students behaving and thinking like artists.  The timing of “The 10” was the final piece of the puzzle that finally fell into place.

 

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Example of “The 10: Nature Packet”

 

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.

 

 

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.

The DuckArt Tantamounter: A midterm exam.

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My school expects every class and every studeny to have a midterm exam.  I hate exams. And, without “testable content” in a TAB classroom, a written test was not really a good idea.  I’ve done portfolio reviews and semester learning questionaires before, but with art 1, they’re hit or miss.  I’ve done the “final artwork” thing before too, but I don’t grade artwork normally, so coming up with a rubric for one sucks.

Then it hit me. Why not do the Tantamounter.  I love doing it as an activity with my kids. We hadn’t done it yet.  It was a great way to show off the artistic behaviors and thinking I had hoped they had been learning…problem solving, communicating, collaborating, observation…and of course, it showed they could work in a shared studio as part of their task was to leave the studio as clean as they found it.

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It was such a huge success.  I painted our living painting, much to the dismay of many who thought it was going away for the rest of the year, and put it outside our classroom.

Upon entering the room, the class was told they were now the inner workings of the tantamount machine. After a brief slide show, a statement about materials, and time for questions, time began–they had 60 minutes.

Seriously, it was awesome.

I do want to thank my coworkers for bringing such interesting items to be Tantamounted.  I couldn’t have pulled it off without them. I have decided this is my go to midterm from now on.

Artists Tackle Social Issues

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I have been wanting to have my art 2 students take their work to a deeper level–to really bring in their voices.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of students that already do, but most still create artworks that haven’t quite broken the surface.  I’ve tried doing a unit on stereotypes before, but it seems that I get the usual suspects.  So, this year, I decided it was the year to “bring it on”, so to speak.  I decided to challenge my students with the tackling of social issues.

They first started by defining some “common” words… opinion, social issue, society, commentary, and parody.  I also asked them to consider why an artist would want to us social issues in their work.  That question seemed to be a hard one for them.  I asked them to watch either a video on Maxwell Rushton and his “Left Out” project or on Favianna Rodriguez, a Latina printmaker, and make connections between the what they watched and our unit idea of using social issues in art.  The final part of their research was to find artworks that used social issues.  And, they couldn’t show any that I showed them for our intro to the unit.

To help my students get warmed up for creating their own artwork, I gave them a challenge.  They had 2 choices.  Choice one: talk to 5 different people about some “hot topic issues” of today, and create a sketch of a possible artwork based on their “favorite” opinion.  Choice two: Pick a social issue that is hot today, create a slideshow of at least 5 different artworks around that issue (on either side), and present to the class.

These girls gave me permission to share the links to their slideshows.  I think they did some great work.

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The best part for me about this unit was how invested in their artwork the kids became.  I didn’t have to prod the kids to get going.  They quickly had a social issue they wanted to talk about and set off creating.  I am so impressed with their work, and their voices.

Artists Steal?

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Every year I do a unit based around copyright called “Artists Steal”.  We learn about appropriation, fair use, parody, and copyright infringement.  And, every year I do it the same way…  Lengthy power point where I drone on and on about each “topic” with case studies for each.  It takes the whole period, and I know that by the end, kids have just plain zoned out completely.  After the Powerpoint, the kids do a challenge of an animated character remix and finish with their own artwork…following the rules of copyright infringement.

This year, I decided that I needed to change things up.  First and foremost, I made the unit into a boot camp.  It takes only a week.  2 days of learning about copyright.  And 2-3 days for the character remix challenge.

On day one, I showed the video for David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure“.  Then we watched Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby” video.  We ended the video fun with a short interview with Vanilla Ice from MTV.   We briefly discussed how Vanilla Ice was in violation and I told them the outcome of the case–an out of court settlement of an undisclosed amount.  That helped me to segway into the next portion of the boot camp–group work.

I told my students that copyright applied to visual arts as well, and that there were 4 topics we were going to learn about.  I then divided the class into 4 group and assigned each group a topic–copyright, appropriation, fair use, and parody.  Each group was given a laminated card with the textbook definition of their topic and a case study for that topic.  The students were asked to put the definition into teenager vocabulary so the rest of the class would understand.   Then they were to read about the case, and based on their topic, decide what the outcome of the case should be and why they felt that way.

The following day, each group presented their topic to the class.  I read the textbook definition, then the group would translate that into teenager vocab.  I projected the images for their case study.  The students described the case to the class and told us their decision on what the outcome should be.  The rest of the class then had the option to agree or disagree and give reasons why.  Finally, I told them the real outcome.

After the students finish their character remix challenge, which they will do in their sketchbook and put a photo of on our class seesaw feed, we will discuss one more case before moving onto another artistic behavior unit….Banksy’s Dismaland.

I am really happy with how the boot camp went.  I rather enjoyed not being the one to teach them. The students listened to each other, had opinions, and even changed opinions after hearing what others had to say.  I think they learned more this way than when I would teach it all.  I hope they use the information they gathered from this as we move forward with our art making this year.

New Year, New Curriculum

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Summer is over for me as in-service starts on Monday the 7th.  And, that means it is time to shake off the sun, which is hard in Texas.  Anyway, with the start of the new year comes new lessons, new ideas, and new curriculum to be implemented.

Curriculum: the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program.

Since I am the only ceramics teacher, I am in charge of my own curriculum for those courses.  And, the ceramics curriculum is going to be the biggest thing I will implement this year.

For some years now, I have taught my ceramics classes in a way that lends itself to my TAB philosophy that I follow.  My purpose is for the students to be able to think like ceramic artists by the end of their time in those classes.  That includes knowing about clay, glazes, and different techniques to achieve the ideas the artist wants to create.  I have structured my classes as a teacher-led beginning, with the first semester leaning more towards a choice class with “projects” I have designed to teach the basic building techniques ceramicists use.  From there, we move into a more TAB atmosphere with themes and the students using the design process while interpreting those themes.  My upper classes have even more freedom to either take or leave the themes.

I have found that most students were not really understanding how ceramic artists work nor were they able to think like one…relying too much on me and very low-level ceramic skills.  That when I finally made the connection that I needed to dump themes like I had in my art 1 and art 2 classes, and move to a more unit based curriculum…but not units based necessarily on the artistic behaviors that I use in art 1 and art 2.  Instead, I needed to come up with common artistic behaviors that ceramicists use.  Creating 3-dimensional objects requires a different mindset and understanding that creating 2-dimensional artwork.

I racked my brain for what I had learned and seen over the years in ceramic arts, and invented a list of things I felt that ceramic artists did when creating their work.  Many are based on the type of work they create and how they create that work.  I will take those behaviors and structure the units like I do my normal units–with 3 parts: digging deeper, challenge, and your turn.  In the digging deeper students will define some pertinent words to the behavior, students will watch and analyze a video about an artist that works in that fashion, and then will find examples of ceramic art in that style.  For the challenge…well, I don’t know yet how that will work…but, I’m not too worried about it right now.  And of course, the your turn section.  I think that is self-explanatory.

My plan on using this is to start with my intermediate/advanced class and have them be the guinea pigs.  Once the beginning class has finished the first semester and is ready to move onto the units, I will have tried them once and can tweak what is needed so they will be able to use them.  Basically, intermediate/advanced will be a semester ahead.  And, in the long run, it should work out that those in advanced next year will be able to truly be full TAB having been through the ceramic behavior units.  (I hope that makes sense because it does in my head.)

Here is my list of ceramic behaviors:

  • Artists Work in a Series 
  • Artists Explore Color 
  • Artists Explore Surface Treatments
  • Artists Work Conceptually 
  • Artists Create Realism 
  • Artists Communicate 
  • Artists Work Decoratively
  • Artists Work Functionally 
  • Artists Develop a Style 
  • Artists Create Installations 
  • Artists Work “Figure”atively

This is all a work in progress, but I feel that it will be very successful.  My move away from themes and into AB units in art 1 and art 2 were highly successful in my students becoming artists, so the natural conclusion is this will too.