Friday, December 31, 2010
Ok my last mural related post was a bit harsh....I SHOULD have said I am a mural grump when I have to do a mural for someone else's project/idea (aka doing the work for them). I obviously love murals and think they are a really interesting and important part of understanding our visual society.
I just think people often get into mural projects not really knowing/understanding the amount of work/details involved to make a good looking, long lasting mural. After working on 9 murals I've complied a list of questions to consider and hints to take advantage of so mural making is a smoother process. So let's say, even after my last dream crushing post, that you still want to paint a mural, or you are in a situation where you HAVE to paint a mural and you just can't say no. I thought it would be helpful to share what I have learned about the mural making process so that some of my struggles could possibly help make your project more enjoyable.
To make this info easier to digest and this post not into a book I'm going to break it into 4 parts.
*Part 1 : Indoor non permanent murals (prep and materials)
*Part 2. Indoor permanent murals (prep and materials)
*Part 3. Outdoor murals (prep and materials)
*Part 4. Mural concept and image creation: from idea to the wall
**Disclaimer** These are just my experiences, ideas, feelings, thoughts. I am not claiming that I know everything or even the best way to do things. This is simply what I have found to work/not work for me.
Part 1. The indoor non permanent mural
Whew baby, this is the way to go in my opinion. Non permanent murals offer you a lot of flexibility in size,how long you work on a mural, how many people work on it, where it can be located and overall cost. I also find it is easier to get permission to do a non permanent mural than a permanent one.
Before you choose your material consider your budget, your location, how long you want the mural to be up and how you will attach the mural to the wall. The aspect of attaching the mural to the wall is a major issue. Don't paint a heavy plywood mural only to discover you can't drill into the wall with sturdy enough crews to hold it. If you want light and movable go with canvas, if you want sturdy and more permanent go with plywood.
Let's choose your material to paint on.
*If you have a LOT of money you can get large pre-stretched canvases. I have always worked in low income schools/programs so this has not been an option.
*I have learned many school art supply catalogs sell large (about 10 ft x 4 or 6ft) canvas (not on wood) with corner grommets. These run between $40 and $80 depending on the size and some are already primed. If you are on a really tight budget (as I am)...
* Head over to Home depot or Lows and go to the painting drop cloth section. There you will find large pieces of canvas for dirt cheap. Like 15' x 20' for less than $40 and 6' x 5' for about $15. I like to get these and either put in my own corner grommets or make some functional stretcher bars with your coworkers left over wood from building projects and a staple gun. OR we can go really, really low cost and
*get sheets of plywood. There is no reason you can't make a multi panel image to have a larger size. You can get your wood at the hardware store OR if you have an IKEA around head over there and go to the scratch and dent section. There you can buy the very large sheets of plywood they use to ship their products for about $2 a sheet. Yes $2 for a 8' x 6' piece of wood.
Now you have the material you are going to paint on. This would be a good time to decided if you want to break your "canvas/wood" into smaller parts so you can have students work on one section of a mural at a time, or put different parts on each work table or make your mural easier to store.
Now let's prime that painting surface. I think it is always worth going this extra step so your colors are brighter and your finished image is sharper. You can use the cheep white paint from the store, often I get the stuff from Big Lots OR I just ask around for white paint from my coworkers homes. I can always get white paint donated.
!!!!Make sure it is acrylic based; NOT enamel based or oil based paint!!!!
After this you can use any acrylic paint to create your image. But once again NO enamel or oil based paint, especially if you live in a humid area.
Next post is permanent indoor murals.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I am a mural hater. I am the Grinch of murals. I have a, "Just say no!" policy on murals. And I have earned that right. Over the years I have had a hand in 9 murals and overseen several of those as the person in charge. My senior honors thesis was a 100+ page tome on the history of murals in the US as a method of beautification, representation and socialization.
I've studied murals from the East to the West coast and everywhere in between. I've read every book I could find on murals, talked to a ton of people where involved in making murals and organized and carried out mural projects at two schools. And do you know what I learned after all of that? Murals (and honors theses) are awesome, and something to be really proud of, but they are a hell of a lot more WORK than you expect.
(Now comes the part where I am going to crush the dreams of college students)
Each year, like clockwork, in October, come one or two college students wanting to do a mural project at the school. Sometimes they are art students, sometimes undergrads needing service hours, sometimes starving artists who want to build up their resume.
I appalled the good intentions of all of these nice girls (always girls). And each year I listen politely, nodding my head as they explain their vision...(please see girl in her early 20's wearing skinny black jeans, converse, a Indy band tee shirt, her boyfriends zip up hoodie, a scarf wrapped around her neck and a haircut reminiscent of the band Flock of Seagulls....can you picture her...ok) "Soooo, I was thinking something about the community and um everyone coming together, and collage and dreams and lots of colors and like a quote from someone inspiring, maybe Chavez or Dr. King or something."
I ask her to sit down and go through my crush list (the list that crushes your dreams)
1. When would you like to do this project? ("um well, I need to have my hours for this class done by the end of November...so like in the next week or so?") next week! it rains almost every day here between October and mid May.
2. Do you have a budget to do this project ("no...maybe I can get some paint donated?") make that a LOT of paint!
3. What age of our students you want to work on the mural ("EVERYBODY!") Chaos!
4. Do you have anyone to help you? ("You") Who me!? I'm kind of busy teaching during the day
5. Have you done a mural before? ("no, but my high school art teacher said I had potential and I draw the cover art for my boyfriend's band's cds!) Oh lord...
6. What kind of image/size where you thinking of ? ("well like I said something about the community...something BIG)
7. What do you picture when you think of our community...do you live in the neighborhood? (girl looks a bit taken aback, "no, I don't live in this neighborhood. Um well I know it's like really diverse(whispers and uses finger quotes)and I thought it would be such a nice way for the kids to make their school AMAZING and they would be so proud and everyone could come together and paint it! ) Oh dear someone has been watching "School Pride" on ABC
At this point I have to tell her that we are not allowed to put permanent murals on the inside walls of the school. Also it is really really hard to paint a mural in the rain, so outdoor will have to wait till the late spring. And she needs to apply to the district and possibly the city of Portland for a permit to have a mural on a outside wall. (all murals larger than 5x6 feet in PDX fall under signage and advertising code and need a special permit that costs about $150, UNLESS you apply to the city's Regional Arts Council board and receive one of the 5(?) grants they give per year to professional artist working on large public murals.
Also I have no budget to give to the mural and neither does the school, nor any appropriate paint. I also can not help her during the day because I teach 8 classes a day and you can't take 29 kids out to paint a mural for only 15 min at a time. I also can NOT send kids out alone with her because she is not a certified teacher or teachers aid unless I get her background checked by the district and find an aid to be out there with her...oh wait, they fired all our aids due to budget cuts a few years back. Also no putting kids on ladders, scaffolding or chairs.
Sooo....basically your only options are a non permanent mural indoors (on plywood or canvas) (once again I can not provided the materials and supplies for you) Or you can wait till the spring and do a small under 5x6 foot mural outside if the principal and district facilities give you permission. In either case the project will have to be done as an after-school project through the after school program.
Smile is gone, eyes are either a bit sad or mad...yes my friends that is how you crush the dreams of a nice collage student. Twice I have received a whinny..."But I need to fill my service hours by the end of the semester!" "You are more then welcome to come volunteer in my classroom doing art with the kids! " I always offer. Never a taker. They leave and I never hear from them again.
Until this year. I have a stubborn girl this year (and I like her for that) she has already worked it out with the after school program that she will do her mural post school hours. She has two friends who are going to help her. She has gotten the after school program to promise $100 for supplies and is ready to hit up home deopt for more. I think she may have it in her BUT she refuses to do an indoor temp mural or anything under 5x6ft. She wants it LARGE and she wants it outside. She and I have been going in circles for three months now and she won't accept anything but outside. I've told her who to contact in the district to see if she can apply for an outside permit, but I'm not holding my breath and I think she is missing for the forest for the trees by insisting that it either be outside and big or on a WALL inside.
I've done my job trying to crush her and now it is the turn of the school district and the city... they are good at that stuff
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Last year when we got back from winter break I decided January would have the theme of, "Think Warm." I was looking to do projects that focused on weaving and quilts. I had what I thought were a ton of great lessons but in the end it was one of the most frustrating months of teaching in my life. Weaving projects have a steep learning curve and old crappy school scissors DO NOT cut fabric. This year I will be slashing some of my projects and trading in different projects with the same concept but hopefully better results.
Kinder and 1st symmetry quilts were high prep on my side but excellent results for the kids. Now that I have all my templates made I think things will go smoothly this year. We talk about slide, mirror and radial symmetry using these three quilt patterns.
shoo fly churn dash pinwheel or double pinwheel
I choose these patterns because they have students cut squares into either triangles or rectangles and allow for easy manipulation to achieve the patterns.
I give the students the squares needed for each part in the correct color and then a "quilt puzzle guide" to glue the shapes onto. they have to cut their shapes and match the color of the shape to the shape and color word on their puzzle guide.
If you are interested in exploring math and art using quilting...or you happen to like to quilt (like I do) I would highly recomend the website www.quilt.com and then going to the "Quilt blocks by block type." This no frills website but has all the quilt blocks you could ever want in 4, 5, 7 and 9 patch. There is enough variety to keep students of all ages working on their math and art skills. They also have really nice quilt coloring sheets and each quilt block gives you step by step directions.
You could really challenge your older students, which I plan to do (4th and 5th grade) with more complex designs that still work off squares cut into triangles and rectangles. I like to use
summer windsJacob's ladder card trick
for the older students I give them square of colors to choose from and a image of the completed quilt square but they must figure out how to cut and arrange their squares to make the design.
Back when I taught 5th grade, in a much nicer school, I had my advanced math group also find the area of the each of the shapes. This was great practice for finding area of squares, rectangles and triangles.
You could, given the time, money, supplies and interest, take these projects into the realm of fabric, even just cutting the shapes out of fabric and gluing them down. However, I find cutting shapes from fabric without a rotary cutter to be pretty frustrating and I will not be going there.
As for the 2nd and 3rd graders, they will be learning about Faith Ringgold and doing a project many of us have done based on her book "Tar Beach."
I will have the students draw, or collage, or a combo of both, a picture of them flying over our neighborhood or city. Around the picture they create students put squares of fabric to create a patchwork quilt border. Last year I tried to have the kids make the squares out of fabric. Our school scissors will not under any circumstances cut fabric. So I tried the paper cutter...that worked a bit better but not good enough for me to cut enough squares for around 200 students. I had seen another teacher do this project and use some wonderful Roylco decorative papers as the "fabric" squares. I think that is a great idea. I happen to have a stack of scrapbook paper from a teacher who gave up her scrapbook hobby so we will use those in place of the Roylco. I hope for better results this year...ones that I could even post~
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Man the poor 1st graders are getting the short end of the stick this year. We have been in school for 14 weeks and I have only seen the classes 7 times! Most classes I have seen about 25 times.
A strange and unfortunate mix of assemblies, field trips, days off of school, assemblies and teacher double booking has robed the kids of art class. Unlike most grade levels at my school 1st grade only comes to art once a week for 20min instead of twice a week for 20 min at a time. Let me tell you it is hard to get much of anything done with 29 1st graders in only 20 min.
The only project we have completed that I feel good about took us 4 of the 7 classes we have had together. I'm a bit late putting up the photos but this is our harvest collage. A merging of our non Halloween, Halloween pumpkin, a painted paper gourd and a ear of finger painted Indian corn. Along with the help of a hot glue gun and a collage student who needed to get some volunteer hours we added the corn husks that you would usually use for making tamales.
These were influenced by the harvest collages lots of different schools did but special thanks to Holly at Lines, Dots and Doodles for her idea.
click to enlarge
Thursday, December 9, 2010
And for the last of the owls, 2nd grade texture owls.
A major theme in 2nd grade is texture and understanding the difference between real and visual texture. Students drew 3 large leaves on green paper and then used warm color crayons and my homemade rubbing plates to add visual texture. Then we used our little fingers and small motor skills to tear brown paper and collage it onto our owls to create real texture. Finally I caved in and got out the large google eyes.
I have focusing on building a sense of community and teach about public art by having the kids do more collaborative art this year. So we took our leaves and owls and combined them to make a fantastic owl tree. We also talked about camouflage and why owls would blend in with their environment. We pulled in the science words predator and prey while we were at it.
(click to enlarge)
I also went the extra step to put out the labels explaining what we were working on during the project.
I'm glad I took a photo though because within 48 hours my typed up explanation has been ripped down and trampled by wet, muddy feet.
even our less, ahem...gifted...kiddos made cute owls!
Way to go 2nd grade!
Monday, November 29, 2010
My first year at my current school was the first year a 8th grade class, "graduated," in 20 some years. Last year was the 2nd 8th grade class. So that means the first group of 8th graders are now 15 year old sophomores.
You know what 15 year old girls like to watch on MTV?...16 and Pregnant. You know, the show where they follow around a teen girl who is having a baby showing what a mess it has made of her life, yet always ends with her holding her cute little baby and saying she doesn't regret having her baby (or sex for that matter)....she just wishing she had waited longer. Well around my school we don't need to watch the show because we have our own version with our ex-students.
Last year, as 14 year old Freshman, TWO of my ex students got pregnant. Both had babies during October. Both have dropped out. Last spring I was know to sporadically yell out, "NO BABIES!!!!!" during my middle school classes. As my 8th graders were leaving school for the last time in June I was screaming at them, "NO MORE BABIES!!!!." Stop any 8th grade girl in the hall and ask her what my, "thing," is and she will respond NO BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!! Apparently my yelling is not doing much good though.
During conferences in comes a ex-student, now a sophomore, who comes to see me pretty often. "Mrs. B, guess what!? You are going to haatttteeee it," she says. "Oh lord, what?" I ask. "C___ is pregnant!" Sigh. "Are you sure?" I ask. "Oh yeah, I'm sure." "NO MORE FREAKING BABIES!!" I holler. A little asking around proves that yes, it is true, a third girl from that first 8th grade class is now pregnant. There were 44 kids in that group of 8th graders. 21 were girls. 3 are now pregnant or have already had a baby. So that means (quick math...) 14% of the girls from that class are already deep in baby mama drama. To think they have two and half more years before they graduate. I will not be surprised if several more get pregnant. And I wonder why the high school graduation rate at the school we feed into is about 47%.
Ick in five years those babies born this fall will be in Kindergarten and could be my students. My student's babies as my students. I am not sticking around for that.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Our 4th grade project was a dumbed down version of this stunning lesson from That Artist Women. I honestly don't have her skill level with watercolor painting but I sure like to try her projects myself to help improve my own skills and then simplify them for my kiddos.
This project started back when I was out sick and I had two different subs do the drawing of the owl with the kids. I had the sub follow the how to draw owl sequence I posted back in my owl project idea post. I still don't know where the drawing sequence came from! Anyway I had left a stack of card stock with the first step, a letter W in the place and in the size I wanted the kids to stick to. It must have worked out because 95% of the kids had a usable drawing when I got back.
During our next time together I had the kids use a sharpie to go over their pencil lines. Then we used brown oil pastel to add feather and branch texture to our owls. Next I gave them a white oil pastel to draw leaves in the background. Some kids were too frustrated with the white and used yellow instead and that worked out looking pretty good also.
During our third session we painted our owls and used the warm colors to paint the background. Some kids asked to add splotches of green and I said that was Ok. We also talked a bit about analogous colors and why owls would be brown like the trees they roosted in (aka what are the advantages of camouflage) then we talked about what snow owls would be white...camouflage and adaptation. Just a nice little science tie in. I asked the librarian to read Owl Moon to the kids to go with the project but she never got around to it. Oh well...so goes it when you only have class for 20-ish min at a time.
Whooo loves owls? I dooooooo! We did owl projects in 5th-2nd grade and everyone whooo saw them liked them. Let's start with 5th grade.
I am working on building the 5th graders confidence in drawing and getting them to make artistic choices. This was my first, "artist's choice," drawing lesson. I choose steps of the drawing that were required and steps that were optional. This allowed each student to personalize their drawing to their own taste, interest, skill level and desired amount of work. Ohhh look at me, I differentiated.
I started by guiding the class through a basic owl drawing. No tracers allowed for this one. We started towards the top of the paper and made a fist. I had them place their fist on the paper and "draw" around it with their finger. Then I had them use their pencil to draw a oval- circle shape about the size of their fist. Next we drew the body of the owl using a basic oval and the idea that the body should be about two heads high. At this point the kids added a beak, ears if they wanted them, design around the eyes and on the face and some w shaped lines for feathers on the tummy. Onto the wings. Students could make the wings laying to the side of the owl, stretching out or with one wing bent to hold something. Next we drew a branch for our owl to sit on and added the feet. Students could put leaves on their branch if wanted. Then I had students add a moon (in the phase of their choice) and stars if they wanted. Finally students could have their owl hold something. Some chose a heart, others had their owls hold baby owls or teddy bears or even a mouse for dinner. Everything was inked over with waterproof felt tip pen.
After this was all done we spent two class sessions painting our owls (one class is still not done) I showed the kids how to mix different shades of brown with their watercolors and used touches of blue and purple to create different feather textures on the wings and body. We talked about painting one section of a drawing and then moving onto another area to let the paint dry before we went back to the first section to keep paint from bleeding. We practiced keeping our paint not to thick and not too watery. Eventually we did a wet on wet wash in the back and added salt to make the star/snow effect.
The results: I would say at leat 85% of the students felt good about their drawing. That is way better than usual. I was quite pleased with their drawings and creativity. Our painting results were less successful. We did our drawing on 60lb card stock...my "good" paper alternative. I can only afford to have students do one clay project a year and one project on good watercolor paper. As this was a new lesson I didn't want to risk the 5th grade's one piece of watercolor paper on it. I wish I had. Doing detailed watercolor painting on anything but watercolor paper tends to lead to so so results. Still quite a few kids got a pretty nice end product. It would be interesting to do this lesson with tempera and small small brushes, but I just love the look of watercolors.
Well in the last week I have amassed over 100 followers who now look at my blog. I also got put on another top blog list. To some this might mean blogging victory...to me it means stage fright. I started this as a place to keep my lessons and vent. Then as a place to record for myself what the students artwork looked like from year to year. I feel like the more people who read my blog the more awesome it needs to be, the more insightful the dialog, the more impressive the projects and end result from my students. That is not really pressure I am looking for. Hence my stage fright. I'm also feeling more hesitant to talk about my personal struggles at my school. The more people reading my blog the higher the chance that someone will suss me out and rat me out to my school/my district? Then again, it seems of all the people who read my blog who show their personal info the closest person is in Seattle...well aside from a few of my personal friends. So I'm probably being paranoid. For now I will try to pretend/hope that only 20 people actually read my writing and the rest just scan my photos for lesson ideas and move along.
Onto the art. The oil pastels I can buy from my district wear house drive me nuts. I've always been unhappy with their lack of vibrancy, lack of coverage, how absurdly fast they are gone and how easily they break and the fact that they wont blend. To me a major part of using oil pastels is their ability to blend giving you new colors and a painterly effect. With my district ones one color just slides over the other or balls up. Very frustrating. To my great joy the kindergarten teacher was cleaning out her closets between conferences on Tuesday and found some boxes of Crayola oil pastels that a parent had brought in years ago. She did not want them and gave them to me. I promptly tried them out (the octagonal ones) Wow! I hate to be a brand whore but those Crayola's are a LOT better than the school's generic ones. I know what I will be using my next five weeks worth of Jo-anns coupons buying.
To the project at hand. It is a good standby for teaching landscape, warm and cool colors and using up the little bits of old oil pastels. I usually do this project with 3rd grade as they have the small motor control to draw with the glue. This lesson took 1 20 min session and 1 35 min session. We started by talking about foreground, mid ground and background. We made a practice sketch on white paper. We make a wave line at the bottom of the paper. Then we added hills/mountains for the mid ground. Finally we made a circle in the background and used concentric circles to fill the sky area.
After they made their practice sketch I gave each student their black paper and had them make their final drawing with pencil. I then showed them how to go over their lines with white glue. I emphasize that the tip of the glue bottle MUST touch the paper or the will get a blobby mess.
Set the papers FLAT to dry. During the next session I had the kids use the left over bits of oil pastel to color the for and mid ground in cool colors and the sky in warm colors. In the past I have let the kids choose to use cool colors in the sky and warm on the ground. Either way looks good. Lots of people use chalk pastels for this lesson, but then you have to spray to fix.
Monday, November 15, 2010
the "raindrop" tree project I made up to teach 3rd grade about overlap and working on perspective
2nd grade's texture trees inspired by the lesson at We Heart Art
4th grade once again did this lesson from Kids Artists. We ran out of black paper for the background and we used blue instead....I like it better with black. This year I also had them practice their tints to create variegation around the "moon" using paint instead of oil pastel. Too early in the year for this...they got really frustrated. Lets not even talk about how frustrated they got cutting out the black trees. This was one of my fav projects last year. Next year I'll go back to the original version.
Too many people have done this project to give any one person credit for it anymore. But it is the basic tape resist tree. Lots of people do it as a winter Birch painting. We don't have Birch trees in Oregon so we did a fall version. This was 5th grades 1st time painting with acrylics. They liked how rich the colors where and how fast it dried. I liked how each student was able to take the basic directions and come up with their own unique twist on the cluster of trees.
and as always the office bulletin board...click to enlarge. In there are some 1st grade Klimt inspired trees that I didn't take close up photos of for some reason. I did those with a very small group of 1st graders who were done early with some test.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
So this week:
Kinder- I lost track of time so we will stick with our concentric circle turkey as we are working on shape right now and I found the site this came from Preschool daze
1st grade made their corn for their harvest collages and their gourds so all we have to do is cut out all the pieces, pumpkin, corn, gourd and create our composition with them and add some silk fall leaves.
2nd grade: hum, thanks to holidays one class is done and ready for a new project while the other classes still need to finish their texture owls and leaves.
Cas-2 finish texture owls
Cul-2 finish texture owls
Pru-2 has big moon paintings from a Halloween project that fell through. I want to take the big moon as the background and do the scarecrow drawing from Art Projects For Kids, have the kids cut out the scarecrow and glue it on the moon so we get a little perspective going on and we can hopefully use up some of the bag of raffia I was just given. I figure the drawing will take up the 20 min long class session and the painting will take up the 30 min class session
3rd grade: Just did some really fun owl collages/mixed media with my old stash of scrapbook paper. About this time each year I have the kids do a simplified black glue landscape. In the past I have done the one from artsonia (basically this project...not sure where this photo is from, you know the project)
with black paper and oil pastel or chalk pastel. This year I'm going to let the kids choose....two tables will have oil pastels, two tables will have chalk pastels and two tables will have tempera paint.
we will sketch and black glue during our 20 min class and then add color during our 35 min class. Am I crazy for letting them choose their media? Possibly. Am I so low on oil pastels and chalk pastels that I don't have enough for a entire class at a time? YES. I may rethink this later and have everyone paint.
4th grade: Brady still needs to paint their owls, everyone else is done with their owls
J-4 and C-4....torn between two projects also from Art Projects for Kids (can you tell I was cursing her site for projects?) The first one would hit up a ton of 4th grade standards (Oregon has no specific elementary art standards aside from make art, look at art and learn about artist so I use California standards for lack of better idea)
This project works on proportion, figure drawing, positive and negative space and can use complementary colors in the background.
(I'm sure we will end up doing this)
However, I want to do this entomology project sometime soon! I need to find out what grade level studies bugs and then decided if they are old enough to make the little box the bug goes into. You could draw so many types of bugs! From moths to stink bugs to stick bugs!
maybe after Thanksgiving break I will have the 4th and 5th graders make them. They could do a little research on their bug/insect and make a label like in a museum (always trying to squeeze in some writing)
5th grade: both classes need to paint their owls. My twice a week class is going to get started on the 5th grade clay project which is scissor birds (I wish I knew where I got this lesson/photos from so I could give them credit!!) I've had these photos on my laptop for several years and finally feel confident enough to try the project. We will start by making the collage version and then after break we will make the clay version.