Tag Archives: lessons

You Can Go “Home” Again


Our third theme in Art 1 this year was “home”. This proved to be a harder theme than anticipated…and one that many thought was uninteresting. I knew some students wouldn’t be able to get past doing a drawing or a painting of their house, no matter how much we discussed different things that “home” could mean.

I challenged them to look beyond the obvious and look into their lives and show me what home meant to them. Many took this challenge. Many succeeded. But, many fell short. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t learn anything.

A new “station” was opened on this unit. I introduced them to paint. We looked at watercolor pencils and watercolor paints. We also looked at acrylic paints. I could see the sparkle in the eyes of the few that explored the world of acrylics. I watched the frustration. And I saw the perseverance of the few that kept working and working until they were satisfied.

While I am unsure if I will use the theme of “home” again, I am pleased with the results. Here are some of my favorites.


To see all the artwork, visit The Barnett Blog.

My TAB Classroom Is a Living Entity and Must Be Treated As Such


I’ve been at this TAB thing in my classroom for about 2 weeks.  I have implemented it in my Art 1, and my Art 2.  My ceramic classes aren’t quite there yet, but they will be.  I started Art 2 first on the TAB path.  I showed short demos and had them practice using the techniques.  We talked about out main theme of man/machine.  I plan on revisiting tomorrow.  

I feel I made some mistakes in my approach, so after a week of monster pinch pots and bobble heads in Art 1, I had a chance to have a mulligan.  I changed how I had them practice.  And after the first day, I even added a practice exercise that I didn’t do with my Art 2.  

As I go along, I am learning just as much, if not more than my students.  I think that is important in the TAB classroom.  You have to be flexible.  You have to take a step back and re-evaluate.  And, if you are lucky, like I am, you can get a mulligan and try a new way within a few days and not have to wait until the next unit in a few weeks to try something new.  

However, as I watched my Art 2 students finished the final practice before re-visiting our brainstorm session of man/machine, I felt that how I was having them practice just wasn’t right.  I feel they weren’t really having a good go at the different techniques/media.  I plan on finishing up with Art 1 how I completed Art 2, but over the course of the next few weeks, I will come up with some new ideas on how to practice.  Because hey, what worked at one time may not work at another time.  That’s just how the TAB classroom works.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  -Frederick Douglass

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”  -Winston Churchill

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow.  If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living. ” -Gail Sheehy

Jumping in Feet First into Tab


Today I decided my art 2: painting/drawing was just going to jump in, feet first, into TAB.  Let me tell you, it was nerve wracking.  We started off with a Padlet activity.  I introduced our first theme of man/machine and we brain stormed what they thought of when I said the word “man” and when I said the word “machine”.  This was the most talkative the class was all period.  Next I told them of the facebook art teacher group I am part of and how I asked my fellow teachers what artwork and what artists they thought of when I gave the topic of man/machine the list was so varied.  I showed my students examples from the suggestions.  I wanted them to see that there was no wrong answer.  That everyone has different images when told a theme, and that was okay.  In fact, it was encouraged.

The last thing I did today was a few demos on ways of creating value.  Our first unit based on “Man/Machine” is all about b/w drawing media.  I am excited about the artist dictionary they will be creating over the year from their practice of the demos that I do.  I don’t think I made the right choice in how I went about handing things out and the order of that.  I think next time (and I will have a chance to try again in a week or so with art 1), I will do the demo then hand out the practice sheets because even though I told them not to draw what I was drawing, many of them did.  I really want them to practice something and really try the technique out and not just do the short little “thing” I do.

As I mentioned before the loudest they were was during the brainstorming.  It really was a little freaky how quiet a 9th period class was.  I am really hoping they were just overwhelmed because it wasn’t  “normal” art class and they were trying to take it all in.  I really hope they were not bored.  I hope as we go along and this becomes “routine” they act more comfortable in class.  

I look forward to tomorrow.

Art 1 Final Project (Part 3: In Progress)


We have been working on the final project in art 1 for 4 days now.  And, let me tell you, it has been a blast.  After making monoprints, I introduced the idea of surrealism.  Then, as a class we talked about the “requirements” of the final project.

I talked about composition and how it was important to invite the viewer in and keep them in by creating an entryway, “lines” that help the viewer to move around, and depth to keep them there.  I told them that an artwork is a 2-way street–both the artist and the viewer are important.  Not only can you use the artwork to say what you, the artist, had to say, but you also want to create something that the viewer wants to look at.  I told them that they could have this horrific subject matter, but if they created depth and interest that the viewer could get lost in and move around in, then they have won.  They have solved both problems and their artwork is a success.  I told them of a painting I saw in Vienna that was so bloody, but had so much depth, that I went and stared at it for over a half hour, just lost and wandering.  I never showed them the painting, although I have thought about it.  I can still just stare at it for quite some time and get lost.

“Kreuzwegstation”, Hermann Nitsch, 1961. (Translation, “Station of the Cross”)

But, back to the art 1 assignment.  The last part of the assignment was the use of multiple mediums.  I told the students that I wanted them to explore mixed-media art.  I let them know they could use any technique or material we have used.  I told them they could try new things we haven’t used.  I was open to anything.

And off they went to collage.  And, off I went to collage. We have been having a blast.  The kids are loving looking through magazines and having me make photocopies.  Every piece is so different.  Some are serious.  Some are fun.  Some are just plain awesome.  I can’t wait to see where they end up.

One student today said to me as I was walking around looking and asking questions, “I don’t know if I am doing this right.  Is this what it should look like?”  “It looks exactly like what it should look like,” I said, ” Yes you are doing it right.  I am coming up with mine as I am going along.”  He seemed very pleased with this answer.  I know he is working hard and I can see he is making carefully planned out choices.



A serious piece about words that hurt us–I think she is still looking for the “right” eyes.



Yesterday, she said she wasn’t sure what to do.  All she could come up with was trees.

P1030942Today I was joking around with the bottom half of some penguins I added to mine and told her to glue them to look like the feet were hanging out of the tree leaves.  She did.  And now she is painting in a volcano under the tree that the penguin will fall into.  I told her this is awesome.  It is so not serious, which is so different than her normal work.


This student has been inspired by both the highest point, Mount Everest, and the lowest point, the Black Sea.  She chose the former.



Simple, at least for now, with just a set of eyes.  Can’t wait to see what the conte will bring.



I have one student that pulled about 5 monoprints.  She is creating multiple mixed media pieces and then will decide which one is the most successful and will turn that in.  Here is one of them.  I love the energy and her intensity with which she is working.


I have been having a blast, not only watching my students create and make choices and collaborate, but also creating mine.  I think that the energy I am bringing to making my piece has rubbed off because the energy in the room is different.  The way the students are working is different.  And that is a good thing.

The students are funny.  They are like, “Who are you?”  “You are never like this.”  “You’re examples are never this crazy/weird.”  I told them, “Not weird, Awesome!  My artwork is just awesome and you are jealous of it’s awesomeness.”  Of course, this is all in good fun and they jab me right back.  (Then the whole penguin thing occurred, so….um….yeah.)

But, here is my example, just in case you were wondering.  Yes, that is a duck ship.  Yes, it is beaming up an armadillo.  And, yes, that condor is shooting laser beams at the unicorn. But, no, I don’t know what’s up with the monkey.  And, no I don’t know which side the fish are on.  I just know it is Animal Armageddon in Penguin Town.


The students have 5 more class, plus their exam period to complete their surreal mixed media artworks.  Every day I look forward to my 3 art 1 classes.  I can’t wait to see what they do next.



Art 1: Final Project (Part 2: Monoprints)


I had planned to start on Monday, but an unexpected Mother’s Day gift from my son (stomach virus) caused me to start a day late.  While I felt bad taking time away from my students to work, I think they are strong and will not let it affect them.

Today was part 1 of the project:  monoprints.

Several years ago at a conference at UT, I learned how to create monoprints using water and tempera paint.  It was messy and tons of fun.  At the time, we used the paper to make paper kimonos.  Cute, but not really my thing.  I have used the technique another time as a background to learn about symmetry using the Maori Moko Tattoos.  I have since stopped that lesson, but I thought the monoprint technique was a great base for this artwork.

As I stated in part 1, I find that many people, myself included, have a hard time making those first marks on clean, pristine, white paper.  So to help solve that issue and hopefully allow the kids to jump right in, we created monoprints.

Our “plates” for this were my tables.  I covered three tables with water and 2 colors of tempera:  blue/yellow, red/yellow, and red/blue.



Next the students would lay down their paper and pull their print.






Some of the kids liked the process and made several monoprints.  Others were not into the mess or just didn’t want to make art today.  But I am happy with the outcomes and I hope they all have a great base for their multimedia artwork.

Now, the worse part of this activity is the clean-up.  I did have newspaper every where, but there were still a lot of dripping from walking the prints over to the counters.  And, unless you ask the kids to help, no one will.  They will all just sit and watch you clean and wipe up the floor on your hands and knees.  I was disappointed that out of my 65 students, only 3 offered to help clean.  I guess the brightside is it was cleaned to my standards.

Here are some of the fabulous results.

Image   ImageImage


This Book I Read…


Lately I’ve had several issues on my mind that seem to revolve around the same similar topics:  copying, tracing, originality, etc.  I feel these are in the same vein, if you will, of something that we as artists need to understand what is acceptable and what is not.  I also feel we as art teachers need to teach our students the same things.

Several months ago I “started reading for free” this book by Austin Kleon called Steal Like an Artist.  In other words, Kindle let me read a small amount of the book for free to see if I wanted to buy the book.  I never bought the book for my Kindle.  However, last week I needed something to fill my cart on Amazon so I could get free shipping.  I put this book in because it was 40% off.  I AM SO GLAD I FINALLY PURCHASED THIS BOOK!!!

I thought it would just be just a cute book.  It’s a quick read, but one full of lots of food for thought about these topics that have been on my mind lately. I am sure that not everyone will feel about this book like I do, but it really resonated with me and the ideals I want to teach my kids about making art, or just being creative in general.  I highly recommend it.

Some of my favorite parts include:

“What to copy is a little bit trickier.  Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.  You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.  ~page 36.

“Imitation is about copying.  Emulation is  when imitation goes one step further, breaking through into your own thing.”  ~page38.

“Remember ‘Garbage in, garbage out’? You’re only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with.” ~page 102

I want my students to read this book.  Not all of my students, but my art 2 and higher students.  I think it will help them to think deeper about what they are creating and HOW they create it.  Or, at the very least, it will give pause when they begin to create that next artwork for class or themselves.

What is wrong with this print?


In my art 1 class, we are working on creating block prints.  I talk about it being the reverse image from the block to the print. I asked the students not to do letters because I really wanted them to concentrate on learning the process, not dealing with making sure that the letters are the mirror image.  I thought I had it all covered.

I was wrong.  Neither the student nor myself caught it until another student saw the proof print and mentioned it.

Can you tell what is wrong here?


Cinquain Poems and Illustrations


I’ve been told it is National Poetry Month, so this lesson couldn’t have been planned at a better time.  In art 1, students are learning how to create CINQUAIN poems and then will create illustrations based off their poems.  I am very excited about this project.  A cinquain is a 5-line poem that follows certain guidelines.  You can find out more here.    Here is the worksheet I am giving my students.

After the poems are written, students will then create thumbnail sketches of illustrations that relate to their poem.  Things students should consider when creating illustrations are making images close-ups, cropping images some parts go off page, and details.

The final illustrations will be on 4″X4″ paper.  Students will have the choice of completing their drawings with pencil, colored pencils, or a combination of the two.  Illustrations will be mounted, along with a printed out copy of the poem, on black paper.

Teacher example:


Art 1: Informal Balance: Wrap-up and Review


Think back to this post where I talked about bringing in some choice to my art 1 students.  They were able to work in groups and were each given an egg carton to which they could do whatever they liked as long as their final artwork had informal balance.  We worked on the project for about 2 weeks, then we took a week’s break (spring break), and finished up in about 2 or 3 days.  During spring break, I decided not to grade them on the outcome of their project, but instead to grade them on the process and what they had to say about that process.  I had created a list of questions for them to answer.

When it came time to actually figure out a grade, I really had no idea what to do about it.  I didn’t really have a rubric on how to grade what they had written.  They had never done anything like this before, so they had no idea what I was really looking for.  They were honest in their answers.  In the end I gave each student a 100, unless I specifically recalled them spending days not working (which one child did and his partners said something about it in their answers) or they failed to answer all the questions.  The grades ranged from 85-100.

It has taken me a long time to write about the project/process; I’ve been reflecting about it…a lot.  What had I really hoped to gain from this “experiment” of throwing so much choice at the students?  I mean, really, it was all for me.  Yes the kids learned about informal balance.  And I truly believe that many did understand it by the end.  And, of course, there were some that didn’t, but I am not sure they would have gotten it anyway, if I am being honest here.  I had been reading so much about choice that I really wanted to try it out.  I felt the only way to see if I liked it and how I could implement it in my classes was to do a trial run.   I felt this unit was really more for me then for them.  Part of me feels like I shouldn’t admit that, but how am I to know what works and what doesn’t if I don’t try.  Many things look good on paper…

I learned a lot about choice and how to make it work in my classroom and how to make it work for me.  I admittedly am a sort of small control freak.  It is hard for me not to know an outcome.  But, I rolled with this.  I think I need to do some sort of a modified choice.  I think that leaving it so broad was hard for me and for the students.  (Many did say they they didn’t like not knowing what it “should” look like, and that it was hard to come up with an idea.)  I think I would have to slowly bring them into the “choice world”.  It was too much at once.  I think to make it work well, I would need to limit choice to either 2-D or 3-D.  (I have done some choice things in my 2-D and 3-D classes and it has been successful.)  Maybe I should spend some time on different techniques, then go from there where they could expand, explore, and build on things we have already discussed.  I still have a lot to think about.  I like giving them freedom, but I need some sort of control.  I need to find a balance that benefits us both. We (my students and I) need to have a symbiotic relationship if we are all going to thrive.

Overall, it was a fun time in the art room and there was lots of good conversation and exploring going on.  They were doing what I had told them was my motto for the year (stolen from the Frizz of course) “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!”










Altered Books


Art 2: Painting and Drawing have started their altered books.  It is a project I have been doing for 5 years and every year is a completely different experience.  Every year I don’t know what to expect.  Every year I say I am not going to do them again next year; and you know what, I don’t listen and I do them again.

Our school library removes books from its circulation every year and they are free for the taking.  So, in the spring time, I load up on books that I think will be good canvases for next year.  I pick the books carefully.  They are always hard covered.  I pick based on size, both width/height and thickness.  I look at titles that might be interesting to the kids.  For, when I choose books to alter for myself, these are the things I base my choice on.

I introduce the project by talking about how the books are being expelled and we are going to recycle and reuse these books.  I talk about how the book will provide many canvases in one place for the artist to work on one theme.  I tell them that many artists work around a single theme on several artworks and that this is good practice for that.  I also mention that it is good practice for those who will be going to AP Art and will have to come up with a concentration.

From there we talk about the book expectations and the prompts.  I expect each book to have a minimum of 6 pages.  I expect each book to have a cover and a table of contents (listing which prompts were used for which artworks.)  I expect the book to have a theme.  I expect each page to have originated from one of the prompts.  Other than that, there are no other “rules”.

I am sure what you are asking is what are these prompts?  Here is the list of prompts.  The prompts are a way to help the students get their juices flowing.  They are a starting point, or a jumping off point.  They are a beginning…but NOT an ending.  I stress this. They are to take a prompt and use it to help them create an artwork around their theme.  They can interpret the prompt any way they want.  There is not a right or wrong answer. (Unless they are wanting to use copyrighted or trademarked images of course.) Prompts include drip paint and make a print, layers, texture, sew page, and many others.  I ask students to use a prompt once and only once as their jumping off point.  I want them to explore different ways of making art…adding materials they may not have thought of or doing things they may have at one point shrugged off.  And again, I stress the prompts are starting points, not ending points.  And this year, I think they are really understanding that.

This year I decided to try something different.  After talking with several teachers about process over product, I decided to have that be the emphasis on this project. Normally I grade each page individually.  And normally, I hate that process.  I could not come up with a better way to grade the book though.  I even told the students that I would be grading the book that way on the first day of the project, a Monday.  On Tuesday I walked in and said I had changed my mind and we were going to concentrate on the process instead.  I said that I would rather them try 10 new things and work really hard and have their book fail, but having learned something over having a fabulous book where they learned nothing new, took no chances, and didn’t grow as an artist.  I told them on Fridays we would have a reflection on what they did that week and how they acted like artists and did what artists did.  They seemed to be okay with that.   You can read about what I set up in the second half of this post.

And, that Friday we had our first reflection.  I have yet to open the document with their responses. I am scared to see what they wrote.  I don’t know why.  I am excited, but nervous.

In any case, I have watched as half of one class is invested in this and becoming excited at the prospects of what they can make. And I have watched the many of my other class bring their book home with them and back the next day or stop in during morning tutorials to work on their book.  I love it that they are excited about it.  It is a great feeling when a student shyly comes to you and asks if it is okay if they do this or try this.  And then to see their face light up when I gladly say yes.