Educating Students in the 21st Century
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Expression Paintings

After learning about Kandinsky's emotional and improvisational paintings, my middle school students create their own works of abstraction. This is their first project of the year and they learn a lot about the art elements in order to make a successful composition.

This project has evolved over the years which keeps it fresh and fun. The first year teaching this lesson, the composition was all about the textures, colors, and shapes contained in squares. Then classes experimented with cutting their paintings into interlocking shapes and this year made backgrounds more active with white/metallic colored pencils. The students learn a lot from manipulating their painting. Experimentation is extremely important to develop creative thinking and this sets the tone for the whole year.

Please click on the image gallery below to see how the Expression Paintings have changed over the years.
Topic(s): acrylic painting mixed media 2011 middle school lessons
By Heather on November 15, 2011 at 1:20pm EST Add Comment


Look What I Found!
Creature Discovery


My 8th graders created small creature sculptures from an explorer, scientist, or an environmentalist point of view. This 3D sculpey project is introduced at the emergence of spring. The class share lots of stories about childhood fascination with frogs, tadpoles, turtles, crayfish, fireflies, etc. That wonderful curiosity should be remembered and harnessed.


Sometimes we create an environment inside a recycled container and write stories about this new discovery. The end product is heavy in Science and English concepts that strengthen the artist's message. We have so much fun with this project!

Topic(s): middle school lessons 2010 sculpture 3d
By Heather on November 14, 2011 at 8:49pm EST Add Comment


Scholastic Art Awards 2010
Good news, two of my art students won Gold Keys from the Scholastic Art Awards this year. This is really exciting because out of 165,000 works submitted, only 693 from the Region-at-Large earned Gold Key recognition.

The art work on the right is from an 11th grader in my Digital Art class. It was made by taking digital photographs of his home from different angles and using Photoshop and a "Tilt Shift Maker" to apply an interesting effect that makes certain aspects look tiny. I really like how the three pieces turned out as a series. This piece went also went to the National Exhibition in NYC. The highest honor that Scholastic's gives. Very exciting!

The one piece below is by an 8th grader in one of my middle school classes. This project is the same as the Chuck Close Inspired Fingerprint Project that I've posted before, except that this year I changed things up a bit by having them use a different medium to create the texture (black prisma-color pencil sticks).
Topic(s): scholastic art awards 2010 high school lessons middle school lessons
By Heather on March 5, 2010 at 2:29pm EST Add/View Comments (1)


Happy Halloween Everyone!
Recycled...Origami...Dia de los Muertos...Skull a Day...Inspired Skull

I was approached by my principal to create a Halloween inspired project for our 7th grade advisement group. I struggled with an idea for a while because I didn't want just a meaningless "craft". Thankfully, I'm surrounded by creative people and my sister was a lifesaver with an idea! She was very excited to tell me about this interesting artist, Noah Scalin, that she saw on TV. He introduced his new book called "Skulls" that was assembled from all of the creative skulls he posted on his award winning blog called SkullADay. As the site suggests, he created a skull every day for a year out of every imaginable material! As an artist, I'm completely drawn to the repetitions of the subject as it's transformed by its medium.

So now I had my inspiration! After flipping through the pages, I noticed all of the organic produce and recycled objects that were used as mediums, so I decided on a recycled theme as well. We used cast-off copy paper and made simple origami skulls. Then we stuck them to a skull that was glued with torn copy paper, to help fill in the gaps. It's quite large so you get a different perspective depending on whether you stand up close or far away.

We also touched on the fact that Dia de los Muertos is coming up (Nov. 1 & 2) and that skulls don't have to be morbid, but rather symbols of remembrance. They embellished the skulls with color and patterns, similar to Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skulls.

40 minutes is not very long to teach all of those things and do a project, but all in all, I think it was pretty successful. I mean, you can't go wrong with letting boys make freakish skulls!
Topic(s): middle school lessons
By Heather on October 30, 2008 at 1:10pm EDT Add Comment


Summer Workshop
Well I've had about a week to recover...

The lack of posts has been because during the month of July, I was instructing kids how to make web comics at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It's a really fun summer program that keeps kids from going completely vegetable and keeps me busy as well. So instead of running my blog, I organized a blog for a wonderfully goofy group. KOC 2008 looks very similar to my site (Thanks Pale!).

Check out the blog and the students' websites! We used traditional drawing techniques, Photoshop, a digital camera, and Dreamweaver to make everything...oh and don't forget our whacky imaginations.
Topic(s): webcomics photoshop middle school lessons summer
By Heather on August 9, 2008 at 9:08pm EDT Add Comment


Fingerprint Portraits
Contemporary American painter Chuck Close is one of my favorite artists. He created amazing massive portraits using a grid in unconventional ways. I saw his work at the Albright Knox in Buffalo, NY (Fall of 2006). The Show was a "Survey of Self-Portraits" and was amazing to experience with my family. If you have never seen his work, you better go Google some now! What's even more remarkable is that he was suddenly paralyzed half way through his career and he continued to work.

I was inspired by his art to create a lesson for my 8th graders. He made these very fun portraits using his fingerprints rather than a brush. I presented his work and taught them how to use the grid to blow up their photograph. Painting with fingerprints is not easy. Since we used only black acrylic, you have to rely on pressure for lights and darks. Flaws are a natural part of this process and learning how to accept them and work with them is one reason I like this project.

I loved creating my class example, my Self-Portrait. I loved it so much, that I created another for Pale as a goofy gift (above). My first portrait of Pale! What's wrong with me! He's great and I'll have to pay tribute to him again, maybe in oil paint next time. :P

Below are students' pieces.


Topic(s): acrylic painting portrait self-portraits middle school lessons student art work 2007
By Heather on January 17, 2008 at 12:25pm EST Add/View Comments (5)


Kids On Campus
I just signed up for another year at RIT's Kids on Campus summer program. Since it's on my mind for the moment, I thought I would post my students' websites from the past two years. They are a lot of goofy fun! I teach the Ultimate Web Comics workshop using Photoshop and Dreamweaver. The students' ideas are wild. I try to change it up every year so if anyone has any fun suggestions let me know.

The first year (2006) we just made a comic using traditional and non-traditional techniques and then made a site. My second year (2007), I had them make a cartoon of themselves to learn Photoshop, make a "traditional" web comic, and then create an experimental comic using something other than drawing cartoons, such as photos or clay. The students' skills range from never taken an art class or played with Photoshop before too extremely talented and knowledgable. Sometimes this is a challenge to be able teach the basics while keeping it interesting for those who already know their stuff, hence the reason for so many added activities my second year.

I can't wait for summer!!

KOC 2006
KOC 2007
Topic(s): middle school lessons student art work
By Heather on January 16, 2008 at 1:30pm EST Add Comment
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