Some sketchbook drawings

Monday, December 6, 2010

Semester Reflection

With regard to materials, I have been interested in many of the processes we worked on in class, so much so that I have already tried techniques I learned in Media and Materials in my art classes I teach during the day.  I have taught art classes before and I have some project ideas that have worked well in the past and I will continue to teach in the future.  As an artist when you learn a technique that you are excited about, that excitement will transfer to your students.  For example, I taught the collagraph technique with cut cardstock to my students and felt it was extremely successful.  One huge lesson I learned with our printmaking work was set-up.  I have now successfully done lessons with collagraph printing as an art-on-a-cart class and in an art classroom.  One of my colleagues commented on what an easy clean-up I had (which may seem trivial, but has been something I am working on) and another art teacher asked about the collagraphs as she did not know the cardstock collage technique.
Simply put, my thinking about materials has become more flexible.  I will not shy away from a material just because I have not used it before.  Instead, researching a bit more or asking others for their input can make a huge difference in presenting a lesson with a material that is both new to me and my students

Themes, practices and concerns of contemporary art and design
I have become aware of how you can involve our students in topics important to them and important in the world of contemporary art.  Working with students need not be teaching an art principle alone, we worked on ways to infuse artwork with meaningful content, as in the Tyvek text piece where we selected an important written document, letter or quote as the foundation of our work.

Visual resources
Aileen has visual resources!  At times I was overwhelmed by the resources brought into class, I think I could have spent a class period just looking over all the resource materials.  But seriously, I realized how important it is to bring these resources to class.  Visual resources can provide context for an art project, they can offer a multitude of imagery for one specific kind of art or technique and they can help get the creative juices flowing.  Even though you may have given an excellent demonstration, students still may not know where to begin, or how to begin.  A visual resource can aid a student through the initial stages of an artwork.

Instructional strategies
One of the most important instructional strategies I am taking away from this class is set-up.  Being prepared material-wise and idea-wise makes all the difference.  Setting up your work space with all the needed materials creates structure necessary for a successful class.  I have tried recently to create a prepared environment for the students I teach and the times when things are best planned and prepared, I have had smooth, productive classes.  I now think you should always have some sort of visual reference to go along with the project you are teaching.  As a class we have participated in different types of critiques.  From these critiques I have taken away how to get our students to have meaningful dialogue about art, ask well-directed questions and develop their art vocabulary.

In conclusion and to be continued...
What am I taking from this class into my own studio?  Some of the first thoughts that come to me are experiment and just work!  I do not handle unsuccessful projects in my studio well, but I found the twice weekly sketchbook drawings to provide needed structure and routine for me.  While I am not happy with every single sketchbook entry, I am pleased with several and think I can develop ideas that emerged from these drawings into more elaborate works.  I have learned that I should document everything.  I may not feel like bothering, but if documenting becomes routine then I am always prepared and therefore will not miss out on any opportunities to promote my work or experience teaching.
The overall themes I think I will be taking with me in my work with children and adolescents is to relish the discovery in working with different materials as an artist and educator and to prepare for my students materially and intellectually so that they can meaningful and enjoyable art experiences.

Class #13

Our class was a continuation and elaboration of the stations we started last class.  Before getting to work, we discussed the idea of using stations when teaching.  As I mentioned in my last post, I thought the idea of stations with a different project at each station seemed a bit chaotic.  Aileen proposed that while there may be a certain level of chaos, and acceptance of the fact that you will not be in control of each process, children find stations to be fun.  She said she has always had a positive student reaction to working in stations.  It was good to hear another perspective, not that I was writing off the idea entirely, but now I have become more flexible in my thinking about stations.  The best part for your students, according to Aileen, is that they do not think they are being taught.

With stations there is no teacher directly watching over students, they are working more or less independently.  If you were to leave instructions at each station, most likely your students would not read them or only read part.  At each station personalities emerge and most likely one student will take charge and the others will follow.  Aileen mentioned stations can be an opportunity to play and discover.  Along with discovery the objective may or may not be met, again you as teacher are not totally in charge.  Ultimately as a teacher utilizing stations with your class, in best practice your different processes should prompt thinking, not just provide different kinds of busy work.

While staying in our groups from last week we began working and rotating through the different stations.  In addition to the three stations we had last week (lashing with cardboard strips, stop-animation and tape casting) two more were added.  The new additions were making a book form with a cover made from ironed plastic shopping bags and to make an observational drawing of one of several globe or ball shapes placed on a table.  Each form was different material, for example some of the structures were made of paper straws, wire, cotton batting, aluminum foil, or plastic beads glued together.
I was immediately drawn to this structure and choose it for my observational drawing.

Another addition was collaboration and installation to the cardboard lashing station and the tape casting stations.  The first group installed their work and the next group was to make their own objects taking the previous group's work into consideration so that all the objects/spheres/balls/globes/pods would become one installation.

Installation views of Cardboard lashing and tape casting, 11/30/2010

In taking this work into teaching children and adolescents, I think projects such as these could be conducted as stations or one of these stations could be the sole focus of a class.  I had a difficult time with the cardboard lashing, I would definitely modify the cardboard structures for children.  The other project stations could also be adapted for a younger group.  I especially liked the "choose one" observational drawing.  In this example I do not think there would need to be much modification.  Having like objects shows students the many different ways of representing a form and I believe students would like having the option of choosing their still life object.  While I would not present these stations to a group of young students all at once, our station rotation serves as a rich collection of  prospective projects.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Class #12

We begin with what I consider to be a positive aspect of being an educator:  the art of teaching affords you the luxury of changing your mind at the last minute, allowing you to switch to a different or better idea.  This blog is intended to help me hone my practice in the art of teaching.  Our class began with discussing our blogs, how to refine them and how we are going to "wrap them up" for the semester.

But before we race to the end, we went into a critique/discussion of sketchbooks to look at what everyone would like to do for their final project.  We looked at sketchbooks because they were intended to be one of our sources for inspiration for this final project.  In our sketchbooks we were just working, not necessarily with a specific plan in mind, but seeing where our work and experimentation with different materials would lead us.  Nobody had the same idea for a final project.  Our ideas for final projects included:
  • a book of prints & collages
  • a monoprint & drawing on fabric
  • an installation based on black and white drawing
  • a painting combined with embroidery
  • a casting or a 3-D relief with paper mache
  • a “rain machine”
  • a large accordion book with stencil paintings
  • a book that might be a pattern for model (as in a children’s toy model) of a certain place
  • a stop-animation drawing with charcoal
In discussing a book of collages and prints, Aileen suggested artist, Arturo Herrera, who works in various materials including collage.
Arturo Herrera, 2004
Keep in Touch (from set #4), Mixed media on paper

Another artist mentioned, in reference to the concept Lucinda has been developing, was Tim Knowles.  Lucinda had made her own rain machine that she was using to make prints from actual leaves onto paper.  Knowles had an interest in the natural world as well, specifically having to do with nature and natural motion.  He mapped the movement of different types of trees by attaching drawing implements to the tips of branches which in turn created a different drawing for each different type of tree he used.
Tim Knowles, Tree Drawing

Tim Knowles, Oak on Easel #1

A last reference, specifically for my final project idea was the children's book, Tico and the Golden Wings by Leo Lionni.  I am planning on making a large accordion, wordless book based on the migratory path of the scarlet tanager.  To make my images I would like to use a technique I have been using in my sketchbook with acrylic paint, watercolor and stencils.  I have not yet looked at the whole book, but the few images I have seen from it, do seem to share a similar feel in image and idea.

From critique we moved onto creating structures.  Aileen explained that there are a multitude of ways in which to create a structure.  Buckminster Fuller was mentioned for his repetition of shape in his geodesic dome structures.
Buckminster Fuller, 1949
Autonomous Living Unit
The specific structure we were creating was a sphere.  We divided into small groups and worked with the sphere/structure idea at one of three stations: (1) lashing,with long cardboard strips, tape staples and bamboo to create hollow sphere shapes, (2) reverse tape casting, with clear packing tape and an assortment of balls (basketballs, soccer balls, etc.) Tape was first wrapped around a ball, sticky side up.  Once the ball was completely wrapped sticky side up, it is then wrapped some more with the sticky side down.  After several "wrappings" the ball is carefully removed and a clear sphere remains. (3) Stop-animation with ball of clay, digital camera, mini tripod and black paper background.  By taking several photos after each minute change, the clay ball is supposed to appear to somehow break apart and them re-assemble back into a ball.

As Aileen might say, this class was a bit a "chock-a-block," we accomplished a few different tasks in one class.  Our critique at the beginning of class was helpful and insightful for me, I think a discussion of this nature could work with an older group of students.  If you were planning on having a group of students work on their own final project or a long-term independent project, a critique such as ours was might be helpful as it was also a whole class check-in to see where people were and what they were thinking about in their independent work.  This type of discussion could engage students so that they might better focus on their individual artwork.  

The three different stations works with a group of adults, but I think it might work best with children or adolescents to break into groups and work on just one type of structure making.  Having multiple techniques being introduced and then executed in one class seems like a lot for a group of young students.  Working in "teams" might be great way to work and problem solve one structure building idea, leading to a discussion upon completion as to how each group went about building their structure.  It would also be interesting for everyone to see and compare the different structures in the end.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Class #11

This week's class was about finishing what we started last week.  As a class we were in a place I find happens quite a bit when teaching, where some students are finished and others have varying amounts of work to complete.  We began with some discussion about set-up and who needs to do what.  We seemed more or less evenly distributed with regard to the different printmaking techniques we still needed to accomplish.  Briefly mentioned last class, but not yet attempted, was printing our corrugated cardboard cut-outs using the copy machine and adhesive paper to make stickers.

Discussing the stickers briefly before we began, the prints of artists Terry Winters and Nancy Spero were shown as examples of work that could be viewed in relation to our stickers for a couple of reasons.  Winters' black prints on white paper have a similar quality visually as the stickers that are copied in black on clear sticker paper.

Untitled 1988, Terry Winters
Untitled 1998, Terry Winters
We talked about how some of Spero's prints were very large, but were not necessarily one giant image, rather a collage or collection of prints on one paper or wall.  The stickers could be placed in a similar way as a group of images covering a wall or large pieces of paper.  Nancy also used a handprinted technique which was how we have been working thus far, not using any type of printing press.
Detail of The Re-Birth of Venus, handprinted on paper
1984, Nancy Spero

Sky Goddess/Egyptian Acrobat, handprinted & printed collage
1987-88, Nancy Spero

In small groups we set up the stations for the technique we had not yet attempted or needed to re-do after an unsuccessful first print.  I was glad to do another monoprint because the one I did last week began with too much ink on the plate and turned out looking like a black blob (which was not my intention, I was going for a rabid opossum.)  If you were teaching a printmaking class and this was the second class to work on a variety of techniques, I think how our group went about it would also be a fine way to set up and get working with a group of children.  My only thought with teaching a class was that, there is usually someone who just works fast and would be completely finished.  Perhaps this student could be assigned a specific job.  He or she could be the "Print Tech" and help other students who might need assistance.

After printing one each, Paul Klee monoprint, corrugated cardboard animal, paper collagraph, and printing on the large collaborative print, printing onto stickers and making a folio for the prints we discussed cleaning the prints, tearing clean edges and the proper way to sign and date a print.  Aileen stressed that she teaches these final steps to all ages of students.  These final steps are important aspects of proper printmaking technique that students should practice.

Aileen also provided us with a list of printmaking terms that students should be able to define once they have completed their printmaking lesson.  The list was as follows: brayer, inking up, pulling a print, charging a brayer, a proof, an edition, collagraph, relief printing, handmade paper, rag edge, tearing prints and signing.  By using printmaking terminology and proper technique students are continuing the practice of this traditional art form.

We ended with a dialogue not just about our prints, but our Dystopian graphic novels and some other resources Aileen had brought to class.  The object was to think of the possibilities for class projects that can be derived from looking at the collection of artworks and books.  One idea was to use the folio as a place for students to assemble a collection based on a certain topic or theme.  The collection could include student artwork, or found imagery.  The folio could then be used as source material for a second project.  Another idea was a giant collaborative monoprint.  Aileen mentioned that a large sheet of acetate could be inked, you do not necessarily need glass or plexi.  Students could add drawings together as a group.  What we did as a group was what we usually do on our own, reflecting on our class assignments and seeing how they could relate to teaching children and adolescents.  In a way, we were reflecting out load as a group.

No one in class had done anything yet with their stickers.  In parting, Aileen mentioned the street artists Banksy and Swoon.  She suggested we could use our stickers in a manner similar to the way these artists work.
Art on wall by Swoon

Art on wall by Banksy


Monday, November 15, 2010

Class #10

Sometimes you do let the cat out of the bag!  Aileen has returned and we continued with printmaking for Class #10.  Before any work took place we prepared our space, arranging 5 stations at which we would do 4 different printmaking techniques and make a folio for our prints.  Set-up was much the same as last week's class with Mary, however this time each table was devoted to one technique.  One table each dedicated to printing:  a paper collagraph, "Paul Klee monoprint," corrugated cardboard print, and a large collaborative print using corrugated cardboard and small found materials.

Our paper collagraphs we made during this class in the end looked much like our collagraph plates from last class, however the process by which we made them was different.  We made our plates together as a group with Aileen giving us step by step directions.  We were not told exactly what the whole process was from the beginning, just one step at a time.  For example our first direction was to cut a large shape out of our piece of cardstock.  These cutting directions carried on until the directions were given to glue and assemble our pieces into an imagined creature.  I think this approach to making the collagraph plate would be good for a group of students who are good listeners, and not very chatty.  It would be difficult to lead this project in this manner if students were talking.  With the right group, this is an excellent method for keeping everyone together and at the same place in the project.

We followed step by step cutting directions for the corrugated cardboard as well, this time making not an imagined beast but an actual animal.  Lastly we prepared for our monoprint by making a pencil drawing of the head of a beast we find to be most terrifying.  After the pencil drawing we were ready to print.

Aileen demonstrated the different processes at each table station.  We reviewed proper technique for charging the brayer, inking our plates and pulling the print.  The technique that was completely new to us, was the monoprint.  For this print we used oil based ink, all of our other prints used water based.  The process began with a cardstock frame about an inch wide that was hinged to the top of a small piece of plexi-glass.  We rolled a very thin layer of ink on the plexi-glass, then placed the drawing of our beast head on top of the plexi and frame.  We traced over our drawings in pencil and then carefully pulled the paper away and hopefully saw the head of the beast.  My attempt at this type of print was not so successful.  I had too much ink on the plexi-glass and my beast was more of a blob.  I learned by "doing" that you only need a very thin coating of ink.

In searching for monoprint images I came across this artist, Geraint Evans.  Evans' monoprints could also fall into our exploration of Dystopian themes.  Evan's artwork is described as searching for the "sublime within catastrophe." (

Geraint Evans

Geraint Evans

If you had enough space, the idea of printmaking stations would definitely be something to bring into the art classroom.  Student would have plenty of work and be able to practice more than one technique.  The only aspect of this method  I think you would have to watch is the mess.  I could imagine a classroom consumed with ink leading to messy prints and a major clean-up.  Aileen stopped us frequently during our printing in class to do a quick clean-up.  Cleaning-as-you-go is a must for multi-station printmaking with a group of any age.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Class #9

Aileen was unable to be at Class #9 so an impromptu printmaking workshop was led by Mary from Saturday Art School.  This was a fun and informative class on a paper collagraph technique.  We were asked to focus our work on the idea of monsters;  what makes a monster, a monster?  Mary brought some books about animals, nature and animals of the future.  The following are a couple of examples of some of the resources she brought in to inspire monster-like thoughts.

Ernst Haeckel, 49th plate from Kunstformen der Natur, 1904

Mary's collagraph technique was one you could adapt for a very young class or a class of older children.  We all began with a square-ish sized paper as our "plate" and were given scraps of paper, cardstock, Elmer's glue, scissors and a hole punch to build up our collagraph.  For the youngest groups, Mary mentioned that she pre-cuts some of the shapes so that students will have an idea of the proportion in which they should be working.

With monsters as our theme, we cut and glued our scraps to make our plates.  The next step was inking and printing which was done on prepared tables separate from the space where we made our collagraph plates.  Mary had covered a couple tables completely with butcher paper, taping the paper to the tables to keep it in place.  The prepared printing tables also had the registration all marked out for the plates and paper, so that your print would have an even border.  This is a must-do step when working with children for two reasons;  first, as long as they place their papers according to the registration markings, their print will be centered and have the proper border and secondly, students are then introduced to the principle in the printmaking process of "pulling a clean print."

When we inked our plates Mary showed us the proper way to charge our brayers, not rolling all over back and forth with the ink on the piece of plexi-glass, but rolling in one direction only and lifting the brayer.  The whole length of the brayer should be inked.  We inked our plates, placed them on the registration marks, placed the paper on top and rubbed the back of the paper working in small circles covering the entire surface of the paper.  We then carefully pulled the paper away from the plate and, voila--we had our print!  To back track a bit, we used one color to ink our plates, because we were printing on black paper, after we had our plates inked up with our chosen color, most of us inked our plates very lightly with white ink.  The purpose of this was to really make our printed images pop.

My Monster Collagraph

For last phase of the demonstration Mary showed us how to make a print with multiple colors of ink.  In order to make your background a different color, you need to cut out your image from the plate.  Then we rolled out one color of ink on a piece of plexi-glass placed over the registration marked on the table and inked a square that was the same size as our original plate.  In another color we inked the cut out collagraph and placed it on top of the inked square.  Following the same steps from that point as our first print, our result was then a two color print.  Our last print was a multiple color, collaborative monster on larger paper.  We cut our collagraphs even more and combined our different parts to make one monster.

Caitlin's 2-Color Monster Collagraph

One tip Mary mentioned was that when she is doing printmaking with very young children, kindergarten age, she uses a system where children who are inking and printing must be wearing a printing necklace.  There are limited necklaces so only a set number of students can be printing at once.  The rest of the class should be drawing or working on a different project.  Once the child has printed, they pass the necklace onto another child.  I thought this was a great way to keep control over the process and the materials.  I have taught printmaking projects to young children in the past, and enjoy the process, however my set-up and instruction were not organized in the same way as Mary had demonstrated. A lot was lacking from my instruction and I will definitely employ the techniques I learned in this class to future classes I will be teaching.

Romina's 2-Color Monster Collagraph

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Class #8

Our group began with talking about online publishing.  Aileen brought in some examples of books that she had made using the website Blurb.  Aileen is currently assembling our letters from our Alphabet Primers into a Blurb book.  These types of books are a great way of documenting students' work.  The books could be used as a fundraiser for your school or organization or they could also be used as catalogs for an art exhibition, whether for a class art show or a show of your own.  Aileen showed us an example of a Blurb book exhibition catalog that was made by one of her former students.

Our class went through one last viewing of each Alphabet Primer, complete with sound.  It was interesting to notice the differences and subtleties of each project.  There was one last mention of other artists' Alphabets.  Jim Flora was mentioned for his primer.  Flora was well known for his RCA jazz record album cover designs.
The letter C from Jim Flora's series Primer for Prophets
The letter K from Jim Flora's series Primer for Prophets

Another artist mentioned for his Alphabet Primer was Edward Gorey.  I appreciate his dark side. Whilst his work definitely lives within the realms of doom and gloom, I am not sure whether we would consider Gorey an artist working within the Dystopian model.
Edward Gorey images from his book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Or After the Outing
Gorey provides a great segue into a thought Aileen brought up.  It may seem trivial, but she mentioned asking your students, "Any worries?"  This was something, if I recall correctly, that Aileen's sister used to ask her when they were growing up. But the heart of the matter, is that it is a good idea to check-in with your students, see how they are doing and actually ask what they worry about.
Worried about cataclysmic events?--the unraveling of our civilization as we know it?  Then you must be in a Dystopian state of mind and that was how we ended our class.  We had a bit of an independent work session for our Dystopian graphic novel accordion books, which I personally found to be quite enjoyable and productive.  Aileen usually brings in so many resources/books for our class and I feel I do not always have the time or take the time to get a good look at what has been brought in.  I especially liked the collaged design of this accordion book by Felicia Rice. 

Photos taken of Felicia Rice's book, Codex Espangliensis:  From Columbus to the Border Patrol
  I was also attracted to the book, The Wall, by illustrator Peter Sis. I like his way of drawing and the different viewpoints from which he draws.  I am not sure I would have thought of this book right away as an example of a graphic novel, I might have described it as a picture book memoir for children and adults, but since discussing the format in class, I see where Sis' work could be viewed as such.
Cover of The Wall, Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, Peter Sis
I was curious to see more of Sis' work and found that he is quite a prolific illustrator.  Another image that caught my eye was from his book, Madlenka.
From Madlenka, Peter Sis