Sunday, October 4, 2015

Workshop 2: Moon Madness

For workshop two our lesson was about the moon. I didn’t realize the Super Moon would happen the week before my workshop when I planned it. So the relevance was a nice surprise.
To start, I was going to show the girls a slideshow of wholly unrelated artwork, except that the moon was an obvious feature in each and ask them to puzzle out what they had in common. I ruined the surprise, though, because when the girls were gathered, I immediately and excitedly pointed to the sample project to show them what we were going to do.


We went through the slideshow anyway, and talked a bit about the phases and mythology of the moon and the moons of other planets. We discussed how the moon is a satellite (really?) and how the Roman goddess Luna was thought to ride across the sky in her chariot pulled by bulls and how this is the origin of the words “lunar” and “lunatic”.

Then we watched a short Youtube video that showed how I wanted the girls to pull prints and some various techniques they could try. I also showed some examples of classic and popular moon imagery to help kick start their brainstorming for the prints.

I designed this lesson to dip my toes in the waters of TAB (Teaching Artistic Behaviors) choice-based education methods. I had planned two projects for the class, with centers for each activity. I told the girls they needed to create one “man in the moon” foil engraving and one lunar themed print. But after that they were free to make more pieces at whichever center they preferred. 
Overall, I think this went very well. This girls enjoyed both activities, they took it seriously and didn’t goof off when I was busy helping others, they didn’t struggle with ideas or seem confused about what to do, and they helped clean up at the end. 
I didn’t get any photos in process because there was paint involved. A lot of paint. Why is there so much paint everywhere? I didn’t even think about touching electronics. But here are photos of some of our finished moon profiles and prints:
This lesson went smoothly primarily because I had a small class of five students. If I had tried this with a larger group serious changes and accommodations would have been required. So even though I feel this went well for me, I’m going to list the changes that would be needed for a larger class.

First, both of these activities would have been too much in a larger group. Between the paint and the foil, there were too many supplies around, too many things going on at once, too much mess, and too little table space. It was an orderly kind of chaos with five students. But with a larger class, these projects would need to be separate.
For specific changes for the foil project: I wanted the girls to trace their profiles on cardboard using light and shadow. They had a hard time tracing their own profile. Between the hazy shadow line and the corrugated cardboard we were using for our backing it was difficult for unskilled hands to get a clean profile line.

In a larger class, me tracing the profile would not have been an efficient use of time at all. What I think I would do differently would be to take profile photos of the students and print them. Then have the students paste these photos onto their backing. They are still using the skill of tracing, but tracing on paper and it would save a lot of time.
I also ended up doing most of the hot glue for this project. Some of the girls didn’t want to risk getting burned, others just couldn’t make a non-shaky line with the hot glue gun. An alternative method that doesn’t produce as clear of raised lines, but would make the students responsible for the outline would be to use Elmer’s glue. Elmer's glue takes a long time to dry and, with this method, the students would probably have to wait until the next class to complete the foil step.

I don’t have a lot of changes I would make to the printmaking project. Two things stood out though. First, the craft kind of acrylic paint we were using was simply not very good for printmaking. It was too mucousy and runny. You can see in some of the prints that the girls had a hard time getting the paint to roll out nicely onto their surface. It kept pulling up in little rivulets. An interesting effect, but not desirable for this project. It made stamping techniques ineffective.

When I did my sample project at home I used tubed acrylic paint. A little thicker, more average quality, and it worked much, much better. Some girls got frustrated that their stamps weren’t showing clearly and one girl didn’t like anything she had printed. When I had them put their names on their prints at the end of class, I was disappointed to discover this girl had thrown away all her prints! 

Below are some of the samples I did with better paint. You can see they are not perfectly crisp but I didn’t struggle the way we all did in the workshop.

Second, I think the girls would have been happy to experiment with printmaking techniques the whole class, and I wonder what else they could have come up with with more time and better paint.

I was able to engage the students in a little more reflection this time as we cleaned up. We discussed some of the difficulties we had with the prints and the tracing. We talked about the different techniques they had tried and what had worked best. The girls seemed to be most proud of their moon profiles, but they claimed, unanimously, that they had really enjoyed both projects.
I’m heartily looking forward to next time.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Workshop 1: Wool Dying with Food Coloring and Felted Rainbow Planets!

The essential information: my art workshop is about SPACE! I have seven students, all girls, ranging from fourth grade to sixth grade.

As the girls trickled in we began with introductions. While we waited for everyone to arrive, I had them design a name tag. I think this was a good starter activity. It’s always hard to meet new people and I could see shyness and hesitance in some of the girls when they arrived. To immediately throw them into an activity together, where the focus isn’t completely on them, helped to get things started. 
It’s so often that way with younger children, too. Have you ever noticed that at a park or playground? Kids that have never met before will throw themselves into play without introduction. And at the end if you ask, “What was your new friend’s name?” They’ll often shrug and say, “I dunno.” It's the activity, the play, that makes them feel comfortable with each other. 

To begin, I showed the girls the examples I had made in preparation and explained we were going to dye roving and make felted planets. My lesson started with a short PowerPoint where I tried to mash together the seemingly unrelated topics of planets and Fiber Art. 

We talked about the interior of the Earth and I showed them where the inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust were in my example piece. 

We also talked about the interior of Jupiter and satellites like moons. We talked about how scientists think that under the crusts of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan there might be liquid water!

From there I moved on to the topic of where wool comes from. I had a short youtube video I had intended to show that broke down the process from sheep to yarn, but it wasn’t loading, so we moved on. 

In the PowerPoint I connected Jodi Colella’s fiber art to our lesson for that day. She has some works that look like bulging planets or wormholes—and they are felted! We talked about Nick Cave and how he reuses knitted and crocheted things to make “suits” and other unique and beautiful pieces of art. 
Nick Cave, SOUNDSUIT, 2011

 Seeds, Jodi Colella, 2014

Then we got down to work…er…play.  
I demonstrated how to dye wool roving and the girls followed along step by step. 

First, we coiled our roving in microwave safe dishes.
Second, we let the roving soak in a mixture of vinegar water.
Third, we picked our food colors and began sprinkling them onto the roving. Poking the wool so the water would help it spread.

After the roving was dyed it was time to microwave everyone’s wool to set the dye. 

While the microwave cooked all the roving, we moved on to our Felted Planets. 

I started demonstrating how to make a wool ball and wrap it up with layers. The girls did a great job with this. It’s not the easiest to get roving to behave and stay put.

After their ball had been layered with a few colors, they dunked them in warm soapy water and squished and squished and squished to compact the fiber and get it to felt. 

The girls had a hard time believing that their fiber planets were felting. It takes a good amount of time and pressure to felt the balls and I think they were worried when it didn’t happen after a few rounds of squishing. But they persisted and we got some awesome results! 
I don’t have any photos of this part because all of our hands were soapy and wet.

But I'm pretty certain everyone's favorite part was the last step--cutting their planets in half to reveal the interior.

Felted Planets cut in half:

The girls that finished their felt planet early wanted to continue making more. They made moons and suns for their planets. Some of these didn’t quite felt as well as their first planet since they were eager to get to the part where they cut the planet in half. But the one below is a gorgeous sun.
Judging by how engaged the students were in the process and the spectacular end results, I feel the objectives of this lesson were met. And we had fun, too. 

Based on how this first experience went, one change I would make for future lessons would be leaving enough time at the end of class for the students to be responsible for some portion of clean up. 

It also felt like a crazy whirlwind of activity! It's possible I planned too much for the day, but we did manage to complete all the tasks other than the short reflection discussion I had planned. The only question I managed to get out for that part was a quick "Did you guys like this lesson?"
It was great to hear enthusiastic "yeahs!!" all around. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Teaser: "Out of this World" Art workshop. Beginning 9/26

Wool roving--from snow white to rainbow bright! I'll tell you how and why SOON!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Metamorphosis Commission

These paintings are acrylic on canvas, 3'x4'.

Some of the iterations that the above painting (white and pink background) went through are below. It started out blue. I wasn't feeling the blue for this one. Which is why I went ahead and made a second blue painting for the Studio space. Notice how the background keeps getting lighter and lighter. 

A complete color change always bothers me a bit, as it feels like a waste of materials. But I know that the under painting colors always show through in ways that are obvious and not so obvious. It would be a different painting without the blue under painting.

Original sketch:

New project involving curly hair

Many months worth of commissions and work