Friday, December 31, 2010

so you want to paint a mural...part 1

(has nothing to do with anything, but I made it and its cute)

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

crushing the dreams of college students

(random kids happily painting away in Texas, not one of my murals)

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 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 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

Think warm 2011 quilts

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 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

1st grade art

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

2nd grade owls

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!

3rd grade owls

What can you do in two 15 min art session with a stack of scrapbook paper scraps? Make some super cute collage owls. Of all our owl projects these were the school favorite.