Friday, November 22, 2013

Class Demonstrations

Often, when I assign a new project in my art classes, I like to work along with my students in order to demonstrate techniques and development of a drawing or painting.  I find that many of my students learn a great deal from watching how other artists tackle a project. Here are a couple of recent demonstrations.  I began each of them in class, but put in some extra time after school.  Up next . . . the Snow Elf shown in my last post.

What we see depends on what we look for (18x12, acrylic on paper)

Long Voyage in a Small Boat (12x18, acrylic on paper)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Snow Elf

Today, I introduced my drawing students to the process of illustration, specifically concept development.  I have a small container of nouns and another of adjectives. My students pick one word from each container, then combine them to create a random concept, from which they must develop ten rough sketches.  I decided to work along with them this morning.  My concept? "Mad Winter".  I began with several rough sketches of a grumpy winter king, explored dragon-like ice creatures, and then wrapped up with some thumbnails sketches of a snow queen standing on a high peak overlooking a snow covered mountain range.  I then drew one more, not so angry, but winter inspired.  This one interested me most, so in my painting class I took a few minutes to put some acrylic paint on it, as seen here.  The sketch is about 4 inches tall.  And it has me hooked. I want to create a large painting based on the sketch.  Hopefully tomorrow I can prep a canvas or a board and get it ready to paint.  I'll try to post updates.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Expeditionary Learning National Conference Day 3

Today is the final day of the conference. I am looking forward to returning home. I am ready to rest and synthesize all the information and ideas produced by the classes and conversations.

Perhaps the most interesting idea I am taking home is to provide 20% of my class time for students to work freely on the art project of their choice. Many companies, such as Google and 3M, have used this "20%" model succesfully with their employees in order to promote creativity. My plan is to make Fridays available for "Personal Expeditions." Students will be able to take their art in any direction they choose, but I will expect them to create their own Guiding Questions and Learning Targets, and then to report on their learning regularly. My hope is that students will discover many of their best and most creative works of art in these self-designed products/lessons.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Expeditionary Learning National Conference Day 2

Well, I survived. No, not zombies, nor even a bad Brad Pitt zombie movie. I made it through my Master Class presentation...and I enjoyed it. Most of my nervousness abated quickly. Only a few minutes into the class I asked everyone to draw, and then I realized I was just hanging out with a bunch of fellow artists and talking about art education. I could do that all day.

Last night I finally got a decent night's sleep (7 hours). That is more than I think I slept over the past two nights combined. I even got up and ran a couple miles on a treadmill (I brought my running shoes and figured I better use them).  So with all that now behind me, I am looking forward to a new day of learning to be a better teacher.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Expeditionary Learning National Conference Day 1

I am in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Expeditionary Learning National Conference. I will be teaching a Master Class this afternoon entitled "Creating a Culture of Artistic Excellence through Cumulative Art Projects." Yeah, sounds academic right? At least, I hope it will be practical and helpful. Ironically, I am pretty nervous to teach my peers. Teaching a room full of rowdy teenagers is fairly simple. Teaching a room full of rowdy teachers is downright scary.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

On Writing

I would like to be a good writer. I am not. I have been studying E. B. White to learn from a master, but he intimidates me. Perhaps I will go draw.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Monsters vs. Demons

While sitting at my son’s baseball game last night, I was thinking about Monsters Inc and had an idea for a sequel (Obviously I’ve had Monsters Inc on my mind a lot lately).  Perhaps Disney will be calling me soon … to tell me to quit messing with their property.  :)

Anyway, the story is about a 15-year-old Boo who is going through a really rough time.  She feels lost and alone, but gets some help from an old friend.  Imagine all the trouble Sully could get into in the human world.

Yeah, I’m sure the catch phrase is too dark for Disney, but I liked the sound of it.  Perhaps I have an over-active imagination.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Artistic Outburst

I have five kids, I'm a school teacher, I serve as a Scoutmaster and a soccer coach . . . I'm grateful for all of those things, but I often don't have as much time to draw as I would like.  Every once in a while, I come home, set aside a few minutes, and draw.  This sketch is the result of one of those artistic outbursts a couple months ago.  While it isn't my greatest drawing, it was definitely enjoyable. 

Friday, May 03, 2013


In my Drawing class, I asked my students to choose a word from a list and then depict the word in a drawing.  As a demonstration, I selected the word "roots" and created the following charcoal drawing.  I rarely complete my demonstration pieces, but enjoyed this one enough that I set aside some extra time to finish it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nice View

It is exciting to see the progress of the new Venture High School building.   Today I visited the construction site and stood on the cement slab that will soon be my classroom.  Most of my north-facing wall will be one large window and the view is pretty amazing.

I've always been oriented towards figure drawing and still-lifes, but I think I might just start incorporating some landscape painting. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Anatomy for Artists: Final Skeletons

We finished the Anatomy for Artists Intensive yesterday, and I'm glad it's over.  Don't get me wrong.  It was a fantastic class to teach, but I think, after two weeks of drawing nearly 5 hours per day, the students and I are all mentally exhausted.  Here are some of the final drawings that came out of the class. The skeleton drawings are life-size.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Anatomy for Artists: Skeleton Update

The Anatomy for Artists intensive has been awesome.  The students--all ninth and tenth graders--have nearly completed their life-size skeleton studies and have produced some great drawings.  Here are some additional photos of the skeletons in progress.  I should have some photos of the final skeletons later this weekend.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Anatomy for Artists Intensive

At Venture High, we offer "Intensives" twice each year.  These are unique courses that provide the opportunity for students to explore specific concepts in-depth.  The students sign up for one class, which they attend all day, every day for two weeks.  This semester, I am teaching an "Anatomy for Artists" course that introduces basic skeletal structure through art.  The class's final product  is a life-size skeleton drawing.  Each day students draw a different section of the skeleton, using a model and photos for reference.  It has been one of the most demanding art classes I have taught, with students drawing steadily for four or five hours per day.  First, they draw pencil studies the bones, then spend the majority of the day drawing specific parts of the skeleton which they later use to assemble the full skeleton body.  The students have produced some amazing work.  One of the "character"  learning targets for this course was "perseverance" because I knew it would be a large, demanding project, and my students exceeded my expectations.  I am proud of their efforts.  Below are a few drawings in progress.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


I recently found this drawing of alien concepts in a box of old keepsakes.  I think I drew them in fourth grade.  I remember drawing them during class.  I'm sure I was supposed to be listening to the teacher.  Instead my imagination was wandering somewhere between Neptune and Pluto.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Expeditionary Learning Conference Display

My principal--who is attending the Expeditionary Learning National Conference in Baltimore--sent me this photo today.  It highlights some of my students' work from an assignment in Art Foundations (see my blog post on February 4th).  The display describes the project and shows copies of earlier drawings that demonstrate the progression and "revision" required to complete the final 18x24 inch artwork.  I was impressed with the quality of the art that resulted from this process.  While there was only room for three images to be displayed, they could have easily selected twenty.  Kudos to the students for the hard work!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Master Studies

In my Drawing 1 class, I recently had my students study drawings by master artists.  Each student selected a copy of a master drawing and then did his/her best to reproduce it with charcoal on 18x24 inch paper.  My hope was that my students would gain greater insight into the drawing process as they observed the "solutions" used by master artists.  Overall, I was very pleased with the results.  Here a few of the drawings that resulted from the project.

A.M., 9th grade, Study of John Singer Sargent

A.W., 10th grade, Study of George Seurat

 C.C., 10th grade, Study of Leonardo Da Vinci

R.S., 10th grade, Study of John Singer Sargent

 B.F., 9th grade, Study of Edgar Degas

Monday, February 04, 2013

Students Exhibiting Work at EL National Conference

There are many very talented young artists at VHS, so I was very happy last week when we received an invitation to exhibit artwork at the upcoming Expeditionary Learning National Conference in Baltimore.  From what I understand, this is a pretty good thing for a new high school in its first year.  Specifically, they asked for art from an assignment done in my Art Foundations class in which my students created 18x24 self-portraits.  In this project, students focused on drawing "value shapes", or areas of similar brightness, using only line, and then colored in these shapes with arbitrary colors.  Here are a couple examples.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Moment to Draw

With a full schedule at school and home, it's often hard to find time to draw as much as I would like.  That's one reason I look forward to VHS's Art Club.  Once per week, several of my students come into the classroom after school to work on their projects, and sometimes I can find a few minutes to draw with them.  Last week, we asked one student to sit for a life drawing.  I was able to grab some charcoal and create this sketch.