Monday, March 28, 2016

Workshop 4: Clay tiles (Outdoor Installation)

I was an observer for this week’s lesson. Caley had a project prepared that involved clay tiles. I haven’t read her lesson plan, but I believe the idea was to have the students create a 1’x1’ tile composed of fragmented clay pieces. Then later, all the students’ tiles would be put together to form an outdoor installation.
Caley started off by passing out bags of tangrams and having the students play but also brainstorm what they might what their clay design to look like. This went well and the students seemed to enjoy this introductory activity.   

When it came time to transition from the tangrams to the clay, however, it seemed like things started to go a bit awry.

A couple things I observed: first, the students didn’t confine their tangram designs to a square shape, so when it came time to transfer their design to the idea of a square clay slab, I think a few students struggled with this concept and how to translate. (Why can’t it look like a kitty? What do you mean by negative space all around?)
  Second, while many of the students proclaimed that they loved clay and had worked with it a lot before, many of them struggled with basic skills like using paper templates, cutting the clay with tools, and I even saw some students trying to fuse pieces together without stitching and slipping properly (which would have led to many cracks and breaks later). Also, many students seemed to misunderstand the basic process for how to fill up their 1x1’ square. More than one student tried to cover their 1x1’ board with mushed and finger flattened clay and then cut pieces from there, or got confused when they didn’t have enough clay to cover their board from the first run of the roller. It seemed like conceptualizing how to fill the board with fragmented pieces was a bit difficult to grasp at first.

Third, after everyone started to understand the fundamentals, the class was almost out of time. However, by the end, almost all the students had at least rolled out a slab and begun to cut pieces.

One student didn’t begin working with clay because her design was taking too much time, and another student became very frustrated with the conceptualizing and misunderstanding I spoke of earlier and began to cry. This student gave up on her project and was distraught enough to go home.

I feel like Caley had constructed a thoughtful lesson and had prepared the work space very well. I feel that one key thing might’ve helped with a lot of the difficulty experienced by these students: a demonstration with a pre-rolled slab of using templates, tracing, cutting, and reassembling their clay design on their board.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Workshop 3: Overpainting

I think our third week of classes was a success. Once again, the community time went smoothly. I feel like everyone is much more relaxed now and it no longer feels like an awkward “get to know you” chore that we have to get out of the way.

This was my second week to teach. The girls had voted on overpainting and the fiber self-portrait out of my remaining lessons. Since I need selfies of the girls pre-printed for the fiber portraits, I went with overpainting for this week.

To prepare I went to thrift stores around town to search for amateur or kitsch paintings for the students to work on. However, even the thrift store paintings are out of my price range (at between $9-$20 a pop, I’m wondering if the frames are the part that’s valuable). Luckily, Dr. Baldus has a flat file full of poster prints in her supply.

 I chose a dark and gloomy Norman Rockwell poster with a crease down the middle for my example and demo piece. I figured if I could manage to do something with this print, it should be easy to show the girls how to work with posters that were better suited for the project. To be sure I understood what the students would be doing, I had gone through the entire process.

I also used the formative assessment strategy for my demo piece, which was to create a 3x3 grid of ideas for the overpainting. This is an assessment that forces the student to brainstorm before beginning a work and assesses their ability to create a fluency of ideas.

I don’t have a photo of my demo painting (which evolved into the title of ‘Happy Space Day!’), but I’ll add one to the blog later.

To begin the class, I waited until all the students were present before making announcements so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself. Because of the relaxed nature of the workshops, a few housekeeping items were getting overlooked and I could forsee them becoming a problem in the future. I tacked a written reminder on our board about first, putting names on everything they worked on, from sketches to final product and second, to leave all their work at the studio so that we, the instructors, had it for the final exhibition.

After that I referenced a written agenda for the day. I felt I needed to have something written down that reminded me what the order of events needed to be (do I demo first? Or do they pick their poster print first?) and also informed the students what they were going to be doing and in what order. Without this, I feel it would’ve been easy to forget a part of the lesson or for the girls to think it was acceptable to skip the matrix, for example.

After pointing out the agenda, I had the girls create a tea bag “splat” on a piece of paper. Then, in the interest of saving time, I handed out already dried tea splats and talked about Austin Kleon’s tea bag drawings.

I passed around my Ipad to show some images of his work, and then asked the students to create a drawing from their tea bag splat. While the students were working on their tea bag drawing, I handed the Ipad around again so they could look at images of David Irvine and Dave Pollot’s overpaintings.

During this time, I also had the students write a number down on a small piece of paper and put it into a box for later.

 The students' tea bag drawings:

After the tea bag drawings, I used the Rockwell print to demonstrate two ways of overpainting that I had worked out for this lesson. First, I demoed using tracing paper to layer new images on the poster and then coloring and blending on the tracing paper with markers. After that I demoed using acrylic paint to create new images on the prints and described how I achieved certain effects. I talked about color and value and discussed how to incorporate new imagery so that it didn’t just look as if it was slapped on top.

As Dr. Baldus was circulating in our workshop, she wondered if parts of shiny poster prints could be rubbed off with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel. We experimented and found that they could. So that was demoed as another alternative method for creating overpaintings.

After the demo we drew the students’ numbers (from before) to determine which order they would pick their prints in. This may not have been necessary, but I was worried two students may want the same print or that the more assertive students would get their first choice while the quieter students waited until last. There seemed to be enough prints available that there wasn’t any overlap or dissention this time. After that the students created their 3x3 matrix and then got to work. One student completed two overpaintings, some didn’t get done, but set theirs aside for later.

I was excited to see some experimentation and questioning. One student wanted to use her feet to create a footprint in the snow on her print, so she did. Another student wanted to know what a Nazi armband would look like, which was initially alarming, however I think the final result of this girl’s work was a satire of Nazis or an image that poked fun at them. Even if it hadn’t been we were instructed to not censor the students’ work, but rather to ask questions about their choices—a stance I agree with.  

I’m not sure I would change anything. I feel like it went fairly well. Maybe more access to internet so the students would have necessary source imagery right away, but they did pretty well with their phones and sharing. The lesson could be cleaner if students only used tracing paper and acrylic paint was not provided, but I feel some of the students were very interested and excited about using the paint.

The students really seemed to enjoy this lesson, and I certainly enjoyed watching them grapple with it. I think there was some hesitancy at first. Maybe similar to the anxious feeling an artist might have at “ruining” a pristine sketchbook. However, I think if this lesson was continued, the students would become more and more fluent and skilled at creating humorous or satirical images with this process.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Workshop 2: Tie-Dye Wall Hangings & Sketchbook Wrap-up

I was an observer for last week’s workshop and Caley was the instructor. Therefore, I felt much more relaxed from the very beginning. 
I think community time was a lot easier this week. Maybe it’s just because we were all at least passingly familiar with everyone else. I also feel that it was more relaxed because there was less to do during community time. The students were immediately involved in button making when they entered the room. Since there were not any get to know you introductions, pitches, ot voting, I felt like everyone was much more able to chat and work on the activity confident in what was going to come next.

I tried my hand, again, at getting a very quiet student in my group to open up. I feel I was slightly more successful this time. (We talked about books and her siblings.) I don’t think I imagined that this student was a little more animated during last week’s workshop.

I feel Caley did a great job with her teaching time. Her lesson involved using art to transform your space. So the students made tie-dye wall hangings. 
Her introductory activity tied in very well. The students “tie-dyed” using sharpies and rubbing alcohol on fabric. Something I had never done before. It was pretty fun. 

Caley also talked a bit about the symbolic meaning of color and different theories about how color may affect people’s emotions and perceptions. She encouraged the students to be purposeful in their color choices for their tie-dye project in order to evoke certain feelings or meaning.
Toward the end, while the students’ tie-dye hangings were soaking, I had a chance to help the students construct the sketchbooks that we had started during my lesson the week before.

I didn’t think I needed to go over in detail instructions for measuring and sewing. Partly because I thought verbally explaining some things would be enough, and for the other things, I thought I would be able to move around and help students as the next part came, or as they needed more help.

This was not well thought out on my part. I learned that, first of all, measuring and making straight lines is not a given skill for older students. My verbal instructions were something like “measure where the center line of your cover is and draw a line down. This will be your spine.” At least one student did not measure the center correctly, and one other had made a line that was slightly askew. Of course, this resulted in an uneven front and back when the cover and paper were folded in half. 

Drilling holes with awl:
Even for the girls that did measure correctly, there was some natural unevenness as the pages wouldn’t line up exactly (it happened for me, too). I explained that this was normal and that I had taken small batches of pages (10 or less) and had cut them until they were even a little at a time.

The students wanted to make their book even ALL AT ONCE however and unfortunately for them no scissors or cutting blade was quite sharp enough to hack that much paper at once. I do believe, though, that everyone was satisfied with their book by the end.

There were some minor problems with sewing as well. This mostly revolved around not following the instruction to leave a tail when they began sewing the spine. Those issues were resolved with a hot glue gun.

I meant the wrapping up of the sketchbook to be a filler time for Caley, but because I underestimated how long it would take the girls to finish their book, it took more time than I expected.

If I could do things differently, I would have saved that wrap up activity for one of my lessons with leftover time.

Overall, I think the workshop went very well and Caley did a great job. I’m excited to see what next week brings.