art ed digested

chewing on the issues of the art ed world

art ed digested

New Digs!

September 12, 2013 · No Comments · media

In the flurry of work over the summer I have completely neglected to leave some breadcrumbs to my new website!  I’m excited to populate the new site with more in-depth and beautiful lesson plans, more student artwork examples, and a more timely blog. I will continue to maintain this site, but all my new thoughts and content will go to Check it out!


Advice to New Teachers

July 24, 2012 · No Comments · education, practice

Growing up with the internet, and understanding the public nature of everything we share there, it’s naive and silly that I’m still a little shocked when people outside my personal network stumble onto my website. Most recently, art educators have been pinning some of my lessons on Pinterest and I’ve been receiving emails from beginning teachers asking for advice. While I still consider myself a fairly new teacher, I do have about ten years of experience under my belt in a variety of educational settings, so that counts for something, eh? The advice that I give is simple and I thought I’d share it here:

Classroom management styles vary greatly for every teacher, but it is always best to be clear about your expectations with your students from day one. Generate a class list of expectations together in positive language (such as “be kind and respectful in the studio”, rather than “don’t be mean”) and then be very consistent about following through. Let your behavior and communication style be the model for the types of interactions you want students to have in the studio.

As far as curriculum is concerned, check the national arts standards and let them them inform what you do while making sure to include what you’re passionate about (for me it’s asian art and aesthetic critique) because your unique viewpoint and enthusiasm are contagious, not only for your students, but for your colleagues! Don’t overlook the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues who might have exceptional skills to share with you- artists are not only found in the studio, and interdisciplinary links to other subject areas make learning rich and exciting!

The planning and reflection process is invaluable for students of all ages. You can model the language students are expected to use in order to be specific and accurate, allowing them to reference the elements and principles of art, art movements, and techniques. When you give students the time and the respect they deserve to talk things through on their own, in small groups, and with the entire class, you empower them and allow them to speak like the true artists they already are. Never underestimate what a student can create based on their age. Children of any age are capable of incredible insight and creativity especially when they feel safe, supported, and respected.


Planning and Critique in the Art process

November 7, 2011 · No Comments · practice, students

Elementary art projects involve an intensive idea generation and editing process to arrive at final art pieces. This process includes class and individual discussions, brainstorming sessions, thumbnail sketching, writing exercises, as well as peer and self-editing.
Each activity that students complete helps to build a clear understanding of their goals and the message they aim to express through their artwork. These skills transfer seamlessly throughout the curriculum, especially in Language Arts. All students should be able to speak about the creation process of their artwork and when the piece is completed, discuss the meaning behind it.
In Upper Elementary, students rely heavily on individual brainstorming in their sketchbooks and often use peer-critique to refine their ideas before beginning a final piece. This process empowers each student as an artist and gives a framework of the skills necessary to conceive and create artwork that is both visually successful and personally meaningful.


Surrealist Art and the Unconscious Mind

January 20, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

My third grade artists have been studying the Surrealist Art Movement since September, first working with words – using existing poetry to create remixed narratives. As we begin our painting unit, the third graders are preparing images that employ “Random Juxtaposition,” which forces the viewer to create links between formerly unrelated objects. Through interpreting these juxtapositions, we unlock our unconscious thoughts- one of the primary aims of the Surrealist artists. While the third grade students will be creating paintings, you can easily try this exercise at home using magazine and newspaper clippings:

Choose one item for each category listed below- try to go with your first instinct. Gather images from color prints, magazines or newspapers, cut them out and arrange on a piece of paper until you reach a balanced composition that pleases you. Paste your images down and add extra details in ink, paint or collaged blocks of color. Share your work with a friend and ask them to share the story it tells them!

(click the image below for the full view)

Screen shot 2011-01-19 at 3.52.42 PM


Becoming Aesthetic Philosophers

November 23, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

How would YOU define art?

The Upper Elementary students began their year with in-depth discussions regarding the nature of Art and Beauty. Our first goal is to create a definition of art that is generated by the entire upper elementary group. We are still editing our definition to create something that is pleasing to the entire group- but check out some of the individual responses:

“Art is anything or everything. Art is an emotion or feeling of a person.” “Art is the sleek move of a pencil.” “Art is something you practice and do that is pleasant and good; music or visual.” “Art is purely in the eye of the beholder. Whatever you see as art – is art. To you. Art is anything creative and imagination-based. There is no one right definition.The world is full of color and beauty, that is art.” “Art is creativity…” “I think art is expressing yourself in different ways.” “I think art is a world of mysteries; about feelings – talking in different ways, but all at once.” “Art is anything.” “Imagination is art because it takes imagination to make things. Whether they are ugly to you doesn’t matter. The maker likes it.”


Drapery Studies

November 23, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The sixth grade students just completed some beautiful observational renderings of a drapery still life. Drapery studies are complex, with many subtle shadows and highlights, making this an incredibly challenging exercise for any artist. While drapery studies are quite tricky, the process can be very relaxing, and I encourage everyone to give it a go! You can try this at home by taking any simple piece of cloth and pinning it to the wall or draping it on top of some boxes:

1.Carefully observe the major shapes and folds first, using light lines, record these shapes and folds with a pencil on a piece of brown paper (use a recycled shopping bag)

2. Now obeserve where there are the brightest highlights and record them with a white colored pencil or some chalk. Are all the highlights the same level of brightness? Are some more dim than others? Use more pressure with the colored pencil to create brighter tones!

3. After you have added all of your highlights, observe and record areas of shadow- are some shadows more intense than others? Use pressure and layering to create mid-grays and almost black shadows. Don’t forget the shadow that the fabric might cast on the wall or floor as well!

Check out the work done by the sixth graders to see each student’s unique style:



The Elements of Suspense!

April 1, 2010 · No Comments · education, lesson planning, media

This Spring the Visual and Performing Arts department will unveil a new unit of study: Film Appreciation. The movie we have chosen to study is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” which is a suspenseful thriller starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. The themes covered will center on Hitchcock’s elements of suspense, character development, and composition as it applies to cinematography.

L.B. Jeffries and Lisa Freemont suspect foul play...

L.B. Jeffries and Lisa Freemont suspect foul play...

We will watch the movie in small segments, leaving time to keep individual journals and discuss major events. This would be a great opportunity to begin watching and analyzing films at home, if you are not already in the habit of doing so. Click below to use the same journal we will use in class if you’d like to try watching with a critical eye!

Rear Window Journal


Why Elementary students need Advanced Art Education

November 15, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

“I’m not good at art” “I can’t draw” “I never took Art in high school.”

Sound familiar? These statements are incredibly frequent during my conversations at parent/teacher conferences, and even among my peers. Why, among adults, is a talent in visual arts so black and white?  To answer this you have to start at the very beginning.

When we had our first art classes, the vast majority of students (myself included) enjoyed the free-experimentation of basic “kid-friendly” art materials like tempera paint, safety scissors, crayons, Elmer’s glue and construction paper. Depending on the art teacher leading the class, the students were either encouraged to create and use their imagination, strictly observe, or create seasonal crafts.  Many of these activities lasted right on through from kindergarten to sixth grade.

In middle school, everything changes, and a more formal art curriculum is taught, focused on pencils, ceramics, acrylic or even oil paint.  Observational techniques and tips such as modeling with shading, atmospheric, one and two-point perspective, portraiture and figure drawing are introduced. The problem is that at this point, only students who make room in their schedule will receive this seemingly secret wisdom of the ages. Art is now merely elective in the student’s education.

In high school, the divide is even more vast, where in my experience, the students taking art classes are most likely planning to major in art or art education in college, taking courses like AP Art, and studio credits.  Students now imbue their work with meaning, go on trips to local museums, talk about the cultural context of masterpieces, delve into defining what art is, and debate the legitimacy of groundbreaking new pieces.

Why are these essential activities reserved for only for those students who have chosen art as their career? Why are these skills introduced only after ten years of “experimenting”?  It is after this period of time that the majority of students plateau in their artistic skills when they choose not to continue in middle or high school.

How can an adult understand how to draw a self-portrait, if they have never learned the basic proportions of the face, and how to draw the facial features using simple geometric forms? How can they hope to create a non-objective sculpture that expresses joy if they have never previously stretched that muscle?

Students as early as five years old can understand the importance of an art critique.  They can judge whether a thing may or may not be “art.”  They can understand the concepts of the horizon line and cast shadows.  They can study anatomy and translate the workings of the human form into detailed drawings.  They can speak extensively about the meaning they gather from their own work and the work of their peers.

At this critical time of development we need to teach elementary students what art can be in all of its confusing, inspiring, and complicated glory.  Any concept that might be taught in high school or university can be presented in such a way that a first grader might gain basic understanding, and that a fifth or sixth grade student can devour completely.


Welcome to Kingsley Visual Arts!

September 17, 2009 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

IMG_9059Welcome to a new and exciting year at the Kingsley Montessori School Visual Arts program! In addition to our dynamic curriculum, we have some fun new projects: Upper Elementary portfolio prep for middle school interviews, opportunities to stretch photography and writing skills in the Yearbook committee, interdisciplinary links within each student’s classroom, art exhibits, and our third annual Create-A-Day Challenge beginning on October 3rd and culminating in a gallery showing on November 10th!


Our curriculum this year will begin with Art Criticism and Aesthetics, which is to say that we will ask the question “What is Art?” and attempt to answer it. Art Criticism is really just a fancy way to say that we have discussions about artwork. Every student from Kindergarten through Sixth grade will practice the skills necessary to view artwork and have an informed conversation using advanced art vocubulary. We will also discuss context for the artwork we view, placing artists and art pieces in their time period and culture to understand and extract meaning and purpose.

Our studio work will span most techniques of professional artists, beginning in observational drawing, then tackling sculptural forms through clay, wire, and even cardboard. We will then incorporate color theory before jumping into a painting unit to synthesize the skills of observation, shading, placement, color mixing, and creating the illusion of space. In the spring, our lessons take on a more conceptual feel, as we focus on meaning more heavily than the actual appearance of things in the world around us. We will experiment with media such as film, photography, animation, puppetry, and bookmaking.


One very exciting change is that we have a student teacher joining us until December. Marissa Poole is a student at MassArt, and she is very familiar with the Kingsley community through babysitting work for the Soderlund and Wheelan families in the Early Childhood program. From her frequent visits at dismissal, Marissa grew to know and befriend the faculty at the Fairfield building and decided to explore the Elementary program. Below, Marissa explains the philosophy behind her studio work.


I have always thought about how sixty seconds equals a minute, and sixty minutes equals an hour and that turns into a day, which turns into weeks, months, years. My work is based around this idea of little moments that add up to make a life. I normally see something or find something that adds to my day and take a photograph of it. From there, the photograph itself either gets incorporated into a painting/collage, or I just use it to fuel whatever it is that I need to make. This is an example of a photo I took that turned into a transfer collage.


Talking about Children’s Artwork

July 27, 2009 · No Comments · education, howto, media, music, practice, students, video


How to make an amazing sock puppet!

April 24, 2009 · No Comments · education, howto, lesson planning, silly

How to make an amazing sock puppet!

It’s that time again. Springtime. In my mind, spring is the time for sock puppets. I love sock puppets. Sock puppets transcend age and skill level.  Anyone can make an awesome sock puppet. Sock puppets can be whimsical and imaginative, sock puppets can take the form of self-portraiture, or your favorite person. Sock puppets allow you to create a dramatic rendition of the history of the impressionist artists in under an hour. They are cheap, expressive and accessible.

My kindergarten students are planning their sock puppets now, using the planning sheets that you can download below, which outline who their puppet is, what they like to do, where they live, and even special powers! This planning stage is preparation for character development exercises they will perform later as they progress in the Lower Elementary drama curriculum. Currently, the puppets that the Kindergarten students are imagining create quite the cast of characters: a dog, princesses and queens who eat sparkle cookies, racers, little girls, “keratas” that live in caves, aliens, and many more.

kingsley 16598

To begin constructing your puppet, gather these materials: glue gun (adult operated), single socks (can be found under your bed, or next to the dryer), buttons or googly eyes, felt or foam sheets, and any other material that will help you create your character, such as yarn, pom poms, pipe cleaners, old costume jewelry and scrap fabric.

You can easily make a great puppet simply by decorating a sock, but adding a piece of felt or foam to your puppet will help little hands open and close the mouth, and be a guide for placing facial features. The following directions will show you how to make a puppet with an inset mouth.
Heat up your glue gun as you cut an oval shape from the foam or felt that is approximately 3 inches long.

kingsley 16598

Lay your sock flat on a table and use scissors to cut a line following the sock’s toe seam.
Open the sock up at the toe end, from the slit you just made, and glue the edges of the sock to the perimeter of the foam or felt oval. This is a little tricky to do the first time, just make sure you glue around in the top half, attach the upper “jaw” part of the sock, then finish gluing the bottom half, and attach the lower “jaw.”

kingsley 16598

Now, the fun part! Using a needle and thread, velcro, tacky glue, or hot glue, add a face, clothes, even arms and legs or wings to create your ultimate puppet buddy!

sock puppet plan


Speed-Painting, with Ortist

March 30, 2009 · No Comments · lesson planning, media, painting, practice, video

I’ve seen time-lapse painting videos around, and had never tried my hand at it until now.  This has some exciting potential as a medium on its own, as well as a pre-painting tool, to teach layers, and have students share individual techniques with their peers. If only you could narrate, too!

visit Ortist


smArt History will blow your mind.

March 22, 2009 · No Comments · education, lesson planning, media

This is a “drop everything and check this out now” website!

smArt History was just suggested to me this evening, and I can’t believe that I hadn’t seen or heard about this amazingly rich and wonderful resource!

It has a wealth of art images, links, blog commentary, videos, podcasts and lessons. The site is navigated in an incredibly user-friendly way. Even their “about us” page is fabulous, and describes this tool in a way that I am loath to paraphrase:

In smARThistory, we have aimed for reliable content and a delivery model that is entertaining and occasionally even playful. Our podcasts and screen-casts are spontaneous conversations about works of art where we are not afraid to disagree with each other or art history orthodoxy. We have found that the unpredictable nature of discussion is far more compelling to our students (and the public) than a monologue. When students listen to shifts of meaning as we seek to understand each other, we model the experience we want our students to have—a willingness to encounter the unfamiliar and transform it in ways that make it meaningful to them. We believe that smARThistory is broadly applicable to our discipline and is a first step toward understanding how art history can fit into the new collaborative culture created by web 2.0 technologies.

I hope that you will share this with your family, colleagues and classrooms, it is as entertaining as it is insightful and educational.


Color Theory Rocks!

January 12, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

During the month of January and February, all of my students will begin a journey though the land of color. Our unit will begin in the same way for each class, a simple color wheel. Students must create the hues of the color wheel; Red, Red-Orange, Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow, Yellow-Green, Green, Blue-Green, Blue, Blue-Violet, Purple, and Magenta using only the primary colors Red, Yellow, and Blue.

Color theory and optics are vital parts of every art student’s education up through the collegiate level! There are many wonderful resources on the web that can help enrich your understanding of color, and here’s a quick sampling of my favorites:

Causes of Color is a fabulous site that explores color from many different angles, including the science of Optics, and explanations for color in nature.

Color in Motion is a wonderful interactive media site that includes animation, games, and activities, that focus on the feelings and symbolism evoked by primary and secondary colors.

Color Theory by Worqx is slightly more text heavy, but also incredibly full of straightforward information with helpful diagrams.

This Color Mixing Game invites the player to match the hue of the bouncing ball by clicking on different colors to add. This is a great way to practice color mixing skills for painting!

It is important to note that many students do not experience color in a way that the majority of the world does, and these people are often categorized as “color-blind.” These students can participate in color theory lessons in a modified way, and have much to share with the class regarding their different visual take on the world

Color-blindness is the inability to distinguish the differences between certain colors. This condition results from an absence of color-sensitive pigment in the cone cells of the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye. Approximately 1 out of 12 males and 1 out of 200 women are color blind.


Sculpting with Wire

November 23, 2008 · No Comments · media, practice, video

Sculpture at home may seem like a daunting idea, but many sculptural materials are not only easy to use, but inexpensive and tidy.

I love wire!

Wire is a great choice for elementary age artists, as the wire represents line, which makes a familiar link from two-dimensional drawing to three-dimensional sculpture. Students can clearly visualize how a drawing can become a wire sculpture by following the contours of their drawn lines.

There are many varieties of wire, ranging from thick aluminum to fine copper wire, and also colorful plastic coated wire more suited to younger artists, as it dulls any sharp wire ends.
Wire is also forgiving of mistakes and changing ideas, allowing for untwisting and re-twisting many times before the wire becomes too tangled to use again.

Below is a video tutorial demonstrating how to make a wire figure sculpture. You can create this and display as-is, or glue it to a base, add clay, aluminum foil or plaster to create a realistic figure with more volume. Try it at home with your family!