Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Teaching Art in a Time of Social Isolation (Famous Painting Reenactment)

Student Work 1

Day 4 (4/27/20) 
You can’t get far on the internet these days without seeing people reenacting famous paintings usually with some comedic twists. I decided to get on board and make it a learning exercise. As soon as I mentioned it to my Drawing 1 students they were on board, especially since I replaced their Old Masters Drawings with it. This class has always been kind of special and the students have a real chemistry about them. When they found out that they were not going to be able to finish the year together they took it pretty hard because they looked forward to their time together. It was the perfect class to use as the pilot and they would all be able to see each other, in pictures at any rate. To make it more of a learning experience they had to research famous paintings to find one that they wanted to recreate. They then had to write a two page critique on the painting and artist. Then it was time to start recreating. Again, I emphasized the importance of good photography to the overall quality.  They were so excited that I actually received some of the images before the due date. As I expected they came up with some good ones. I am not sure how many of these assignments will make the cut once we get back into the brick and mortar but for now it is making online teaching fun.

Student Work 2

Student Work 3

Student Work 4

Student Work 5

Student Work 6

Student Work 7

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Teaching Art in a Time of Social Isolation "Origami"

When Dinosaurs walked the Earth
Day 3 (4/22/20) 
I have always wanted to include “Origami” into my curriculum although finding the time to squeeze it in was always a problem. Originating in Japan, in the sixth century as mostly a religious endeavor, origami still holds a certain mystical quality. At a time when more emphasis has been put on including diverse cultural experiences into art programs origami seemed like a natural bridge. This and the fact that it uses minimal materials made it one of the first options that I thought about when faced with what to do with my ceramics classes in the absence of clay. The problem I faced was how to teach students an art form as complicated as origami without being present. Fortunately the internet came to the rescue. There are tutorials on doing everything from simple to complex forms. To make it less intimidating I emphasized the overall art piece more than the individual objects. The students were allowed to stay as simple or get as complex as they wanted to. Furthermore I encouraged the students to use materials that they had on hand like magazines, newspaper and printer paper as well as found objects. I recommended some sites that showed what contemporary artists are doing in origami and encouraged the students to do some research. When it was time to start they began by posting some of their individual objects. Again, I kept reminding them that the origami modules were to be just one part of larger project and that not everything had to be origami or even paper. I wanted to make it as expansive as possible to allow for individual creativity while minimizing the anxiety of working with something new. Happily, the students seemed to embrace the project and took off in all directions. Finally, I discussed the importance of carefully photographing their projects since the only reference I would have for grading would be their photos. Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their work.

Cubes 1

Cubes 2

Crane Mobile

Flower Mobile

Zoo Animals


Origami Dress


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Teaching Art in a Time of Social Isolation "Land Art"

Land Art 1

Day 2 (4/17/20) 
I have to admit that when I first heard that the school was shutting down and we were going to start teaching students remotely I went into a bit of a panic. Although I have never been a stranger to technology I didn’t really feel prepared to start teaching over the internet. “Google Classroom” was something I was remotely aware of but had never really used it. Being very camera shy, the thought of video conferencing and making videos still sends shivers down my spine. Add to that the fact that I have four classes of ceramics this semester seemed to be a recipe for disaster. The possibility of sending clay home with the students in so little time was out of the question.  In light of the fact that we are not going back this year I am glad I didn’t try. I started working on learning all the programs I would need to make this happen. It came to me that perhaps this would be an opportunity to explore some areas that I had always wanted to but hadn’t had the chance. The first one, for obvious reasons, was Land or Environmental Art. I started by having my Ceramics 2 class research and write on the art of Andy Goldsworthy and other Land Artists. After writing a critique on the Land Art Piece of their choosing they had to develop their own Land Art. It is a small class so I thought it would be a good pilot group. I wasn’t disappointed and will probably use it for other classes in the future.

Land Art 2

Land Art 3

Land Art 4

Land Art 5
Due to school protocol student names are not being used. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Social Isolation

Wade and Tripod 2015

Day 1 (3/21/20)
Where to start? In the last week our world has been turned on end. Social isolation has become the order of the day. Schools have gone online and everywhere there is a surreal, nagging uncertainty. The COVID-19 virus which was just identified four months ago has swept across the planet and changed life as we know it. I have decided to spend some of my isolation time going back and visiting some builds that I have made along the bike trail over the last twelve years. When I first started the Dolmen Project it was an attempt to exercise both my body and mind. I would ride out every morning and build structures along the bike trail and come home and blog about it. At first they were basic cairns of different sizes. We had seen them in Iceland and Norway and found them fascinating. I had the goal of building a hundred of them along the trail. It didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t going to happen since soon after building them they would get knocked down by either natural or human causes. After awhile I started expanding my repertoire to include other objects left lying around by the railroad. I started doing larger and more elaborate builds. Eventually my manifesto became that I could not use anything that was not found on the trail and that would not eventually return to its past state. The first couple of years there was a lot of material available. The railroad had left ties and hardware everywhere which provided a good base to work with. Then later they must have decided that they had value and came through and grabbed everything even the ones that were sculptures. After that I had to get more creative and do more foraging. The first couple years I also made sure I wasn’t caught building. I would go out early so that by the time it got busy I was home blogging and a new crop would seem to pop up overnight. These first couple blogs will go back and take a look at some of the different years and some of the challenges that presented themselves over the last eleven years.

Tripod, Early Incarnation 2011

A Question of Balance 2015

Limestone Cairn 2012

The Knight Build 2015

Water Cairn 2011

Winter Tripod 2016

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The fish Slayer 2000

Grandma and Wade Fishing

Day 4 (7/7/19)
In a summer of bad weather, today was perfect. We decided to go with our son, daughter in law and grandson to Harrington beach for a walk. Just as we were about to start walking around the quarry lake we came across a downed tree that had the bark shredding off from it. I thought it would come in handy for an art project so I grabbed a bunch. Our grandson Wade peeled off a strip about a quarter inch wide by about four feet long. Before long he had found a stick and went about building himself a fishing pole. At first all he could find for bait was a leaf so he tied that on the end and we looked for a place to fish. Harrington quarry pond has all kinds of bass that you can see from looking over the edge. As we were fishing with the leaf somebody found a broken lure with a hook attached so we tied it to the end of the line. The fish seemed very interested in it. Then Wade found a bobber with a little bit of line on it. We tied the bobber on the end of the strip of bark with the line and the lure beyond that. I was surprised by how curious the fish were. Eventually one managed to get hooked and we hauled in a small pan fish. Wade was overjoyed at catching a fish and Grandpa was dumbfounded. What had started out as a flight of fancy ended in a successful fish story.
Quarry Pond

Nice Bass

Maybe not

Wades Fish

On Happy Fisherman

His Dad gives it a try

Look Mom No Beach

Getting ready to go home

Monday, March 25, 2019

Ruminations of a Dinosaur

Day 3 (3/25/19)
I started my first teaching job in 1981. Since that time I have taught at many levels and under many circumstances. Over the next year I would like to reflect on some of the things that have changed in education and some of the things that have remained the same. This is not a doctoral thesis, by any means, but the ponderings of a dinosaur.
 I did not go to Kindergarten. It was available but for whatever reason our mother decided not to send us so I was six when I started first grade. I sometimes wonder if we are doing the right thing by starting children in school so early. My grandson will be six this summer and already has two years under his belt, although one of those was only half days. I realize the economic reality of sending to children to school so early but wonder if it is best for their development. My brother and I spent our days building forts in the woods and pretending we were the latest TV characters or even the neighbor boys Richard and David, who were in High School and had horses. They were pretty much the coolest people we knew. When we were older we were Brains Benton and converted our woodshed into a crime lab. Now days it seems like even playtime is structured. I follow a Facebook page called “Play based Art” which is great but what about play based play. Play has become athletics and yet another structured activity. We seem to be in such a hurry to rush our children into the future. Currently there is a big push in schools to offer more and more college classes. In some cases students have many of their first year of college general studies done before graduating from High School. Again what is our big hurry? Many of the skills I learned for life came from my elective classes. Now, with all the required classes and Advanced Placement classes there is little room for electives. In many cases the elective classes that are available are so focused on specific technologies that they do little to teach the basics. Although we have children who are prepared for college, few are prepared for life. It doesn’t take a PhD to see that many of our students lack valuable everyday coping skills. As I said in the beginning I don’t have all the answers. If I did I wouldn’t be in the classroom, I would be inventing acronyms, writing books, collecting data and making all sorts of money. These are just the ruminations of dinosaur.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Spring Break on the Bike Trail

Three Builds

Day 2 (3/23/19)
After a couple of years without much activity on the bike trail Eileen and I decided to get an early start in 2019. We had no idea how much snow would be left on the trail but decided to go find out. There were areas where snow had drifted that we had to walk the bikes across but most of it was good. This time of the year is a great time to get out and build because the grass hasn’t covered all the building materials yet. We were not disappointed.  I started by building a cairn at the beginning of the trail. The only problem we encountered was the water. Many of the building sites were still quite saturated so we headed for higher ground. I wanted to check on the area we refer to as the sculpture garden. We were pleasantly surprised to find “Tripod” still standing although somewhat worse for wear. Most of the other builds were down. I set to work. It was wet and muddy but at least I didn’t have to worry about biting ants or mosquitoes. Soon after starting on Tripod I realized that with the soft ground I was going to have to do some stabilization. Finally, I managed to get everything set up without fear of it toppling at least right away. I spent some time restoring a couple of other builds before deciding to call it a day. I hope this bodes well for the rest of the year.  

Some Snow

Eileen walking her Bike

First build in 2019

Woolly Bear

Tripod still standing

We found a rock

Signs of Spring

In hiding

Building starts

A new one

Tripod rebuild

Pussy Willows