art is all around us. here i will share my personal experiences and passion for all things art! thanks for stopping by, feel free to share a post and check in again! xo

Monday, December 19, 2011

portrait of an animal

As this is my second year teaching at the middle school level and ninth year teaching I know that lessons are always a "work in progress." As teachers our work is never done. Even when we find a successful lesson we still can find ways to tweak and change it from year to year and the groups of students always dictate what the results will be as well.
My husband just graduated on Friday with a degree in Elementary Education and during his student teaching placements he found the same thing, that even when you are at your best teaching a lesson it may not always produce the result you were hoping for and so work needs to be done to either change what your expectations are or change what you are doing as a teacher. It really is so worth the work at the end of the day seeing your students pleased with their work!

So I decided to change things up and ditch a few lessons from last year and one of my new lessons for 8th grade is teaching an animal portrait lesson.I thought it would be a great continuation from the value portrait studies of a human face and the clay portrait mug. It was a unit of portraiture! I was not sure how my students would handle this because admittedly animals are hard to capture but I figured why not try.
I first talked about overlapping elements in all three portrait styles and showed them a Smartboard presentation of animal portraits. We then sketched a few days from photographs to get a feel for sketching animals and the character of the faces. Then we sketched on our final copy paper and I used 12" x 12" paper however for some portraits we had to trim to find a more complimentary composition. Then the students used watercolors with white tempera to create these animal portraits.

During one of the work days my principal came in to see what the students were working on and even he commented on the success of these portraits as he confirmed with the students that "watercolors are challenging" as are "drawing and painting animals." My students appreciated the recognition that what they were doing was challenging yet they were successful and boy am I ever impressed with their work too!
I hung the animal portraits in the hall and my students have really been so excited to see them. My teaching partner even took his students on a mini "field trip" of sorts just to show his students the work of my fine young artists. I am so proud and could not be more excited or pleased with the outcome!

Please click here to see all of the portraits because they are all really just stunning!

Be Well and Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

what a "MUG" on that mug...

My 8th grade students just completed wonderful functional works of art. They made slab mugs with coil handles first. They perfected the shape and handle and then attached facial features. We had oodles of fun making different facial expressions.

Each one certainly has its own personality. Some of them really say a lot about their creator I think as 8th grade students have their own mood changes, feelings and expressions from moment to moment these are almost the modern day "mood rings."

They are ever changing and truly have so much to say. Each face tells its own story.
This lesson is timeless and the students really enjoyed making them.

As soon as I hand them back the students want to fill them up and begin drinking from them which I love. I have made several of these MUG mugs.... a cup or "mug" with a facial expression or "MUG" on it and I enjoy using them and sharing them with friends.

To view the entire collection please click here for my website and scroll down the to mug lesson

Be Well and Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

dessert boxes

My 7th grade students have completed their dessert boxes. I changed up the lesson a little this year because I wanted to have some more diverse results. I allowed the students to make either cake or pie slices which resulted in creative colorful slices.
The students created paper templates and then traced them onto the clay. They put their slices together and formed a functional clay box with lid.They then attached a decorative handle.
The results are fun and quite colorful! They are being displayed in the case across from my room and lots of attention is being paid to these delicious and delightful desserts.

To see all of the results please click here.

Being a gluten free gal I find these to be some of my most favorite desserts around... wink... wink! Be Well and Enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

coloring the creation of masks

My 6th grade artists just completed a new lesson for me, colorful carved masks. It was my first time teaching this lesson but I have seen it done many times and many different ways so I found my own interpretation and put in into action!


The first thing I had my students do was fold a piece of paper and draw the outside of half the mask. They then drew half noses and mouths and one eye on the folded side of the paper. We cut out our templates and traced them onto 18" x24" white paper, LARGE PAPER! I really wanted these masks to make an impact.
After the students traced their templates in pencil they began using crayons to color in the symmetrical shapes on the masks. I taught them how to color fade and create bright bold compositions or color schemed compositions. We talked about masks and looked at a variety of different cultural masks.
After days of really hard crayon coloring using dark marks we covered the masks with a black india ink wash. The crayons were so dark that they resisted the ink. The kids really enjoyed watching the crayons pop up under ink too. We then used sponges to wipe away excess ink.
We cut the masks out of the large white paper after the ink dried. The masks were really coming into their own and the students were excited. I really enjoyed how excited the students were about this project.We then used carving tools to carve into the crayons and the masks came out stunning! I am very pleased with the results as were the students. I hung the beautiful masks in the hall.

To see more of the results please visit my website by clicking here. Be well and Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

portraits in pale gray

My 8th grade students just completed value study portraits. We looked at the work of Chuck Close and learned about the grid he uses to make successful portraits.
My students were really impressed and in awe of Close's work. They kept asking me, "Are these photographs or paintings?" I reassured them these were paintings done by a very skilled photorealist painter.I loved seeing their interested and awe struck faces when showing Close's work and the up close details of how detailed they really are.
One of my student's parents recently shared with me a great interview with Chuck Close on NPR and so I listened to it and it was rather interesting. I loved hearing about the evolution of his work. The most recent work is less detailed and more abstract. He said he is focusing on shapes rather than specific details and he said that was good as the subjects age, the portraits get less details. It was great! You can listen to this interview by clicking here.
I digress, but my students really enjoyed hearing about Chuck Close's struggle with his health and continuing to work while he is in a wheelchair. I love his story because it is one of courage and strength and really isn't that the story of "the artist?" "The artist" is a strong and courage being to put one's expressions out for all to see.
My partner at the Middle School, Rick Weber, also did this portrait project with his students and they enjoyed it as well. We just started an online gallery that we hope to soon be linked to our district webpage. For now, here is the link, http://wvmsartgallery.weebly.com/. Please check it out and let us know what you think!
In addition, you can find more photos of my student's portraits as always on my personal teacher webpage by clicking here.
As we head into the last few days before Thanksgiving I have to say that I have a lot to be thankful for and one thing at the top of my list is working in a job I love! I feel so fortunate every day that I get to share what I love with young people/artists.
Be Well and Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

barns in fall beauty

My 8th grade artists created barn pen and ink drawings using one point perspective. I am not a personal huge fan of technical drawing. As an artist, I never liked using a ruler, however, as a teacher, I know how important perspective is to learn as a tool to draw correctly and so here are the results of what my students created.
After we finished these drawings, the interesting fact was that quite a few students came to me interested in learning more about perspective so I have been teaching a small group on my lunch how to draw using 3 point and 2 point perspective. I really enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm.
I taught my students how to draw using one point whole class and demonstrated it on the board with a barn. Then the students created their own on their papers. I walked around and helped individual students to create differing elements in their barns.
Once the barns were complete we looked a series of landscape images. We created landscapes around our barns using a background, middleground and foreground. I asked the students to think about textures, time of day, season, etc. when creating their landscapes.
I am very pleased with the results. We certainly got a wide variety of barn designs and details.
It is always interesting to me to see how one assignment can produce such differing results among my students. That is one of the things that I love most about art and I am not sure what other outlet allows for such expression and diversity without the outcome being "incorrect."
After spending yesterday at a superintendent's conference and learning about the Core Curriculum for ELA that we are being asked to incorporate into our Art curriculum I am thinking about "project based" work that is "detail oriented" and in-depth... this transition with be a smooth one for us as this describes us as artists! I am fortunate.
When I first introduced this project to my students I introduced them to Eric Sloane who is a great barn artist so if you are interested in doing an assignment similar to this one I would recommend you checking him out.
To see more of the barn drawings please click here.

Be Well and Enjoy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

coils in clay

My 6th grade artists have just completed their coil making adventure. I explained that when I was in college we had a coil building contest on one of the very first days of my Ceramics class and we had to work in teams to see who could make the longest coil all the way across our clay studio in SUNY New Paltz. It was a busy and fun day! My students have been busy making coils of their very own and putting those to good use.


We built pinch pots first and made coil feet to hold up the pinch pots. It gives it a little height and more elegance and presence.
Then my students got to work making many coils. They used a variety of coil styles including but not limited to arch, circle (all shapes in fact), vertical, horizontal, swirl and they even made up coils I have not seen used before!

Coil and pinch methods are two of the most basic and principal forms of hand building and many artists for years have used them so practice makes perfect! Like I said, as an art major in college, I was still making coils and pinch pots from day 1!
Here is a small sampling of the really great works that my students created. There were so many images it was hard to select which images to feature here on the blog so to see the entire collection please visit my website at nheller.weebly.com and click on the student art gallery or click here to see all of the colorful coils in their glazed glory.

Be Well and Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

bugs on the loose

My 6th grade artists have done a fantastic job this semester drawing insects and insect family members. We were inspired by the work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher and other visual artists to create insect value studies.
I asked the students to "break the borders" with their insects and to push beyond the edges of the paper to create bugs all over as if they were truly crawling all over. My students looked at photographs that I had for them to closely study from observation the insects body parts, legs, textures and more! The students did an excellent job creating realistic renderings of the insects.
Here are just a few of the results. These drawings are "on the loose" all over our hallway and many students have stopped to check out these beautiful drawings. I am very pleased with their work.
Be on the lookout for an insect invasion coming soon to a hallway near you! Be Well and Enjoy!