Saturday, May 30, 2015

Art Criticism + Writing = Analytical Writing

If you teach in one of the states that used the PARCC exam this year, then you know that Analytical Writing is a big part of our students' standardized assessment now. Our students need to be able to prove their ability to:
  • cite evidence
  • analyze content
  • study & apply grammar
  • study & apply vocabulary
  • conduct discussions
  • report findings


If you've ever held a formal critique or taught your students the skills of art criticism, you can probably already see how the "Analytical Writing" skills and art class can go hand-in-hand.

Behold... a fantastic TED Ed video that exposes the importance of Art Analysis:

How art can help you analyze - Amy E. Herman

Seriously... if your students don't start paying attention at the bit about bank-robbing ninjas with lasers, then I can't imagine how hard your job must be. But I digress...

It seems that most art teachers follow some version of Feldman's Model of Art Criticism, in which step two is even called "Analysis." If you're like me, you encourage your students to learn and use appropriate art-related vocabulary during critiques (for example, if a student says, "The yellow makes that shape pop," we discuss how the artist "used color to create contrast and emphasis"). We're only on Step 2 of the critique process, and we're already touching upon five of the six analytical writing skills listed above! Art Teachers: WE ARE CHAMPIONS!

Except maybe your students aren't writing... maybe your critique is verbal. Maybe you don't really want to have your students write essays. What can you do?

Example from Julia Sanderl's blog
One option is to grab this popular lesson (beautifully illustrated by Julia Sanderl and her students) and take it for a spin. I recently did, and I got some fantastic results!

Examples from my students at RMHS

My students have 90-minute blocks, so we were able to finish this assignment in one class period.

The handout I gave my students was actually a print-out of the "Feldman's Model of Art Criticism" pdf linked above, with Julia Sanderl's illustration and a short numbered list of instructions on the bottom. I found that my students got a bit confused about which set of questions to answer (the ones in the illustration, or the one at the top), and that some of the questions had wording that was too vague and caused additional confusion. At some point I will make an updated handout for my own future use, and I'll post a link here!

I think if students start using this process early, then writing a more in-depth formal analysis later (in the year or in their progression of courses) would not seem like a daunting task.

Another resource that I have found indispensable this year is this 5-page pdf by Mrs. K. Wood at Forsyth Country Day School. I used her document to create a "Guided Written Art Critique" packet, which served at the mid-term exam for my Advanced Art Students this year.

If you're in search of more resources about art analysis, I tend to gather all the neat stuff I find about critiques (and artist statements) on this Pinterest Board. Please send me your favorites!

P.S. The MOST BEAUTIFUL example of a sketchbook art analysis I have ever seen:

Click to visit the website where I found this analysis

Friday, May 29, 2015

Art II Color Theory Day 2 Activity (Friday 5/29)

You probably already know that colors can affect the way people feel and think. Today you will explore the emotional and psychological meanings of color.

You will work in groups of your choice – every student must be part of a group! No going solo today. Your group must have at least 3 members and no more than 6 members.

Each class must complete the assigned activity for ALL 8 COLORS listed below; you may choose to break into 8 groups, or each group may “study” more than one color:


Your Task: Work as a team to create one cohesive work of art that will instantly show the viewer what that color means. 

Your project should be predominantly monochromatic: you should use ONLY the color your group selected, but you can use tints and shades of that color (lighter values and darker values). I will also allow you to use variations of the hue (pure color), for example: warm green and cool green, perhaps some yellow-green, but no plain yellow!

You can use any media you like (mixed media is great), but remember we are almost out of red acrylic!

EVERYONE in the group must take part in the planning AND making of the project.

Please create a composition (arrangement) that nicely fills the entire page -- I don't want to see a tiny drawing awkwardly sitting in one corner.


Please do the BEST job cleaning up that you've ever done in your life!

I will see you after the weekend!

P.S. Want to know more about how colors are viewed in specific cultures? Check this neat infographic

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

One Point Perspective: Project Resources

So you want to do a little extra something for your One-Point Perspective project? Awesome! Here are some helpful links:

Draw a city from above (looking down at the street):
Swingerzetta on DeviantArt

Random student project example I found on Pinterest:

Random college level student example:
JessicaSlay on Deviant Art

Draw a city from below (looking up at the sky):
lamorghana on DeviantArt
Super cool project sample with circular border:
from "artcsara" on
A 5-minute YouTube tutorial (I will make an exception to "no videos in class" for this, obvi):

Remember my tips:

  • Your street doesn't have to be the same on both sides
  • Your horizon line doesn't have to be in the center of the page
  • Your vanishing point doesn't have to be in the center of the page
  • Your street doesn't even have to be a street! Just use 1-point perspective!
Make something awesome!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Beyond the complaint: Soliciting feedback from disgruntled students

The Art Show at RMHS is only three days away. And it's on the same day that progress reports are due. So as you can imagine, keeping up with a blog has not been a priority lately, especially since my students haven't needed it. But this idea behind today's post compelled me to write.

I am a leave replacement teacher in a high school this year. I have spent the past four years working in Student Affairs at colleges. I feel totally hashtag blessed to be teaching art again. While it's been an overwhelmingly joyful transition back into Art Ed, I do have to admit that (as with any first year at a new school, institution, or position), there has been a little bit of a learning curve. My mentor teacher and I share a classroom, which has been immensely helpful and enjoyable, and the administration at my school are some of the most professionally supportive folks I have ever encountered.

But I also have to admit that I've learned a lot about being a better teacher from my students. Maybe it's typical for teachers, or maybe it comes from my experience in Student Affairs, but I have found that some of the most impactful and helpful advice I've received as a teacher this year came masked as complaints from students. Yes, you read that right: complaints.

As teachers of millennial students (and now of the children of millennial parents), I think we often get distracted by what we, as a society, have come to view as "millennial entitlement." We write off our students as whiners and complainers; they are simply accustomed to complaining because they have been raised to believe that the barriers to their happiness and success shouldn't be so difficult to overcome. "Special Snowflake Syndrome" is something that my coworkers and I coined while working in Residence Life. Students who were consistently coming to meet with us for conduct-related incidents and knew the rules, but felt the rules shouldn't apply to them... those were the folks who seemed to suffer, because they believed they were special snowflakes in a way that defied reason.

I do have a few Special Snowflakes this year, but by and large, I've found that when I take the time to really listen to my students' complaints, to roll the ideas around in my mind and investigate all the facets, I can learn a lot from them. This has been especially true of students who have made the effort to voice their complaints to a guidance counselor or administrator. I have to say, the idea still instinctively makes me cringe; when a student complains about a teacher, bad things can happen. But that has not been my experience this year. The guidance counselor and administrators with whom I have worked this year took the time to create a safe space in which the students were able to more clearly articulate their concerns, which enabled me to find the pieces of the concerns that I could address in my classroom to benefit all the students.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

But the question now is this: how do I create that safe space in my own classroom, so that students do not need to resort to contacting other staff members in order to feel they will be heard? 

If you teach, I don't have to explain to you the difficulty. You have somewhere between 15 and 30 students in the room, many of whom need your help or want your attention at any given moment, and then you have Sally, who is clearly upset with the way something is going. What methods do you use to figure out whether or not that "something" bothering Sally is within your control? How do you break away from the chaos and make sure that Sally knows you're willing to listen and not just saying that you'll listen? How do you help Sally calm herself down so that she can give you something more than an angry rant? Even if Sally makes the effort to come speak to you after class or after school, the likelihood that she will be able to get your undivided attention isn't great (the art room has an ever-present buzz of early and late stragglers, as well as regulars hanging out until we lock the doors for the evening) -- how have you managed this?

I have some ideas, but I'd love to get feedback from other educators. I plan to compile some of the best suggestions here, So please share!