Sunday, November 15, 2015

Final Workshop & Exhibition

Yesterday was our last workshop. If I had had much time to think about it during the workshop, I would’ve been kind of sad, but as usual, it was a busy, busy morning!

One girl was absent both last time and this time.  I had really hoped everyone’s stars would be on the constellation mural for today, but it was not to be. 

Even though this final and shortened workshop time was mostly used for catch up, we still had plenty to do in the one hour we could work before the exhibition for the families.  I was very pleased that the girls were ready and willing to work quickly on their unfinished projects. (I didn’t hear one complaint about wanting to do something new or not wanting to finish something.) Each girl that was there finished everything we had done thus far. 

The weaving was completed and put up on our constellation mural.
Follow the link below to read the awesome myths the girls wrote to go with their constellation pose.

Two girls completed over-paintings from last week’s shortened lesson.

The other three girls started their over-paintings! Even though they knew they wouldn’t finish it in time for the exhibition, they wanted to begin it so they could take it home and finish it later. Two girls said that the over-painting was one of their favorite projects, despite having only worked on it very little. That made me a little sad that we hadn’t had enough time to fit in properly.

I only got a photo of one of the over paintings, because as soon as parents started to arrive, the work that we had just completed and hung, was “oohed” and “ahhed” over for  few minutes, and then taken down. Which was probably the most difficult part of the day for me—watching the visible evidence of all the hard work and fun we’d had being dismantled and then disappearing.

The parents seemed pleased and impressed as the girls described what they had done and explained each piece. The girls seemed really excited to show off. I even heard a few mentions of artists we had talked about!

Later that day it hit me that I didn’t get a photo of all the girls together and that I’d probably never see them again. Of course I have photos of all of the girls working over the course of the weeks, but I really regret not getting a class photo of all of us. 

I’m so proud of all the girls! I feel very privileged that I got to meet each one of them and take part in their journey of learning about art. I absolutely loved seeing their spontaneity and creativity.
This has been a lot of hard work, but it’s also been an incredible experience and I’m sad to see the end of it.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Over-Painting & Catch up

Today was designated as our catch up time. I did have a lesson planned about over-painting, but for the sake of the upcoming exhibition I put completing our already started projects as the highest priority for the day.

I did show the girls the over-painting examples and explained the lesson briefly as an enticement to finish up quickly, if they could. 

The list of projects to complete included our papier-mache planets, our galaxy resist paintings, and our star weaving. Two girls still needed to complete their Starry Night on Planet X drawings, but those two girls were absent.

Even with the catch up day thrown off by the missing students, the girls still managed to get a lot done. Our mural started to come together as the girls finished their weaving. I typed, matted, and hung the girls’ myths next to our mural. They had fun reading each other’s myths and seeing their own on the wall. You can just see them hanging on the wall in the photo below.


We cut our star sun catchers.

And two girls finished painting their planets. 

At this point, most of the girls stopped what they were working on so I could go over my over-painting slideshow.
I showed them some examples from contemporary artists David Irvine and Dave Pollot to get the ideas percolating.

Here are my sample projects.

These were made by placing tracing paper over an art print, drawing something that is meant to be incorporated into the print, cutting that out of the tracing paper, gluing it to the print, and then coloring the cut out paper with marker and crayon. I also modge-podged over this example to make it all seem more one piece.

Two girls finished up all their projects and were able to start on the over-painting lesson.
Remember that wool we dyed as part of our very first lesson?
The girls had been asking what we were intending to do with it. Honestly, I didn’t have anything planned for it at all. But since they kept asking, and a few girls had mentioned tying it around their necks for a necklace, I thought I would show them how to make felted beads, so they could make a more durable wool necklace.

Here's the necklace made from the length of wool I dyed along with them.
The girls that were finished used the second half of the class to both start their over-paintings, and make felted wool beads.
I have a shorter lesson planned for the hour before our exhibition for next time, but I think we’ll have our work cut out for us finishing our weaving and over-painting and tying up the last few loose ends.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


This week’s topic was constellations.
The day started out a little chaotic. Two of my students had agreed to come in early for a chance to complete the pendulum painting project (it was a pretty fun one to miss out on). One of the girls arrived early-ish, one didn’t. So we were still working on girl #2’s pendulum painting when the class assembled. 

I felt a bit harried by all the activity that wasn’t related to my lesson that day, and the slight delay to getting started. I guess transitions can be hard for adults, too! But we wrapped up the pendulum painting and were able to get started mostly on time. 

To begin, I had a book I was going to read out loud to the girls. After assessing the noise level of the space (noise carries really well in the basement work area) I decided I would show them the book and tell them they could read it on their own if they were interested. It’s really a fantastic book.
"You Are Stardust" By Elin Kelsey

We moved on to the informational slideshow I had put together about constellations and myths. We talked about how constellations have been around for over five thousand years (also the difference between BC and BCE) and how many of them have myths or stories associated with them. We talked about Calisto, Jupiter, and Arcas—the story behind the Big and Little Dipper.

We also talked about muralists Diego Rivera and Banksy.
Then I explained that for this project, the girls were going to *write* a short myth about themselves and figure out a body pose to go with their myth for a large constellation mural.
I read the myth I had written about Athena turning me into a winged constellation for stealing her paint out loud, and showed them my example body pose (minus my body outline).

After the girls finished writing their myths (and they were so fun!), they chose their pose and lay down on the mural paper. I traced their bodies and then they decided where they wanted their constellation “points” to be. Then we connected the dots.

This project was more ambitious than I realized, even for a 90 minute workshop. I had planned for the girls to weave stars to attach to their constellation points. So while some girls were traced, other girls were working on their woven stars.

The girls need to make two smaller stars:

And one larger woven star:

During the weaving, I had the girls come two at a time to splatter paint our mural paper for an even starrier effect. They seemed to really enjoy doing this part.

We didn’t get the weaving done. But I’m planning on abbreviating next week’s workshop, or only having girls who are caught up work on something new, in an effort to finish our mural and wrap up other loose ends before the last day and exhibit. 

Meanwhile, I’m going to type the girls’ myths to be hung underneath the finished mural. I’m really excited to see it all come together and show off the girls' weaving and awesome creative writing!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Starry Night on Planet X

This week’s workshop was titled a “Starry Night on Planet X”. The main art knowledge I wanted to impart with this lesson revolved around the color wheel, the Post-Impressionist style, and creative thinking.

For an introductory activity, I started out by showing the girls a picture designed to create an “after-image”. To see the after image, stare at the black dot in the middle of the yellow circles for 10-15 seconds. Then quickly move your eyes to the black dot in the middle of the white square. You should see the image of the circles in the white square, but the opposite color of the one you first stared at. For yellow, this would mean, nine purple circles.
Josef Albers “Color Diagram VIII-2”

The point of this activity was to talk about color and color relationships. We also talked about this painting by Richard Anuszkiewicz (“All Things Do Live in Three”).

Would you believe me if I told you the background was the same red color all throughout the painting? My students didn’t. But once I explained the effect, everyone thought it was pretty neat that the color changes in the circles made the entire background seem different throughout.

We talked about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complementary colors and analogous colors.
We discussed Post-Impressionism, Vincent Van Gogh and his painting “Starry Night”.

At the end of our informational slideshow I asked how many students had written an essay. I told them that our lesson today was like an essay, but the answer was going to be an art project instead of writing.

Here was my art essay question:
What would Van Gogh have painted for his nighttime sky if he had lived on a different planet? 

Here are some of the answers I got:

Of course, there was a little more to it than just whipping out these awesome drawings/paintings.

I inundated them with possible imagery. Including revisiting some of our Rock and Ball Space artists from two lessons ago.

  As part of teaching for artistic behaviors, I want the girls to learn some of the processes that artists use. One process is preparatory sketching. In my ideal lesson plan, I wanted the girls to each create three possibilities for their alien landscape and select the best one. In reality, I knew that the process of sketching three drawings would take way too much of our time, and we wouldn’t get to the final steps of the project.

Instead, I had the girls begin by drawing a sketch of their alien starry night on tracing paper. This way they could make any corrections or changes without ruining their black paper with excessive pencil lines and eraser marks.
Then they learned a trick for transferring their drawings on tracing paper to the black construction paper.

I did a brief demonstration on how to make small marks to mimic Van Gogh’s painting style. This was my example below. I had this hanging up as a reminder of mark making, medium possibilities, and color schemes. (From left to right: chalk pastel/primary colors, oil pastel/analogous colors, acrylic paint/complimentary colors.)

I also pointed out and discussed the motion of the paint--the visual rhythm you can see as your eyes follow his marks. I was really proud to see some girls making a conscious effort to create rhythm in their drawings!
As usual, the speed at which everyone works is very different. Some girls didn’t finish their drawings because they were very cautious and detailed with their sketches. Some girls finished early. We still have things from previous workshops to wrap up, so there is never a lack of things to do.

Girls that finished early worked on painting their paper mache planets, finishing their rubber cement galaxies, and I worked on hanging everyone’s work around our space so that the girls and I could easily see all the things they had made thus far.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Galaxies Galore!

This week’s workshop was about galaxies.

Two girls were missing this week, and not knowing when/if they would arrive, I waited about ten minutes before really getting started. While we waited, the other girls worked on a few different things (keep reading to find out what).

When we got started we talked about the different kinds of galaxies, how they’re made of a few thousand to a hundred trillion stars, and how scientists believe that there may be black holes at the center of most galaxies-- including our own!

It may have seemed unrelated at the time, but we also talked about and viewed some work by Jackson Pollock and talked about the technique of “drip painting”.
(Blue Poles, Jackson Pollock)

Then to transition into the idea for our project, I showed the girls a video of a neutron’s star motion through space as tracked by the Fermi telescope: Vela’s Motion. Some girls said that the motion of the star reminded them of a Spirograph.

Finally, to connect the different concepts, I asked the question: What do you think would happen if we dripped paint from a swinging pendulum? I asked the girls to predict what they thought would happen. Almost without exception (Sadie had watched me experimenting at home) the girls predicted the paint would drip randomly and make crazy marks.
So then we tested our hypothesis:

The girls all thought this was pretty awesome. We kept making these “drip galaxies” until we finally ran out of paint.

Since only one girl could use the pendulum at a time (and we had some time while we waited for our classmates), the girls alternated between working on painting their paper mache planets from our last workshop
....and making other kinds of galaxy images with rubber cement resist…
And marbling liquid watercolor in glue. 

With the rubber cement, the girls used salt to make “star” patterns in the watercolor. Experimentation seemed to be the word of the day. A few girls wanted to see what would happen if they mixed salt in with the glue while they marbled. I didn’t think it would have any effect at all, but I didn’t discourage them from seeing for themselves.

Other experimentation involved, mixing colors in our pendulum paintings (red and yellow here):

We also saw these awesome drip marks on our tarp that protected the floor:

So we wondered what would happen if we tried to make a print of our floor drips:

This was a busy day, full of activity. At any given time there was a lot going on. The girls didn’t finish painting their planets, which I thought would happen today. I think it would’ve been possible if not for all the other projects they were able to work on (and be distracted by).  Everyone was engaged though and working diligently on something. I think finishing up our planets will just need to be an activity that we focus on during the edges of classes when other lessons are finished early.

A lot of research and preparation went into the process of pendulum painting. The exact right height of the pendulum, how close the nozzle was to the paper, the kind of container, the size of the hole it dripped from, the consistency of the paint, the type of paper…every little variable changed the outcome. I went from terrible results, to mediocre results, to finally some decent results before I was ready to do it with the girls.

I think it was worth it, but it’s really true that sometimes things can look effortless only because of the many hours of work you didn’t see!