Ian Sands has taken a new position at South Brunswick HS Check out it out!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Drawing The Figure

Students in the drawing class are studying proportion, scale, mass, volume and value as it relates to the figure. The students started studying the figure by looking at basic shapes that make up the figure then they moved into gesture drawing and finally complete studies of the figure. Here are a few of their pieces.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Answering Questions About Choice and the Open Art Room. Part 5

This is part five of a week long series on choice in the art room...

After a week long look at Choice in the Open Art Room, we received a lot of questions from art teachers either by email or through Facebook posts. We wanted to utilize our last post in the series to answer a few of the many questions we received. Thanks to everyone for all the support we received this week!


I taught high school including AP for years. AP was the choice setting and the hardest part of my day because of individualized instruction. I can't imagine doing it all day long.(I taught all courses) where does technique and skill come into play? without that the ap couldn't have pulled off quality work. good ideas without craftsmanship= crapmanship. so... i'm curious about this.


Response by Ian Sands:

In Kimberly Sudkamp's post she explains how she does demos at the start of class. One example she mentioned was teaching how to throw on the potters wheel. 

Besides the demos, teaching technique is also on the backend. This actually raises the skill level
 of the student. I'll give you an example. 

I had a student who choose to work on a linear perspective drawing. We had already covered 1 and 2 but he wanted more. I showed him 3 point but he still wasn't satisfied. He asked about 4 point. I told him I didn't know how and see what he could find (on the Internet). He is now working on a 5 point linear perspective, a technique I didn't even know myself. 

Because of choice teaching, his skill level was elevated higher than I could have taken him if I were using a teacher directed model.


Response by Kimberly Sudkamp:

I'm teaching my Sculpture class in this choice method. These students have all taken Art 1, but have not had a lot of experience with 3D work. With each introduction of the project theme I show them a number of artist works that coincide. The students plan then research how they will make their pieces. I even tried having the students make Pinterest pages to organize their ideas and tutorials they found online. 

It was challenging at first, but because the students are now self-motivated it is much easier. They WANT to research, they WANT to take the project further. I am there only as guidance. Every couple of days I do a demo on a technique I feel they would benefit from the most. This changes based on the students. They can choose to use the technique or not. I do not abandon technique, I just choose a different way of teaching it.


Response by Melissa Purtee

I agree with Kim and Ian. Technique and skill are still very important. In my Art One classes I have my projects centered around an important theme or idea - like realism or perspective. Inside of each theme are specific concepts that each student has to learn. These are skill and technique based, just like in a traditional art program, and I demonstrate frequently. The big difference is that I allow students to apply their knowledge in a way they choose. For a project I assigned based on realism I had portraits, still lifes, landscapes and other observational drawings turned in. They were all different but still allowed me to evaluate what students had learned about value, contrast and proportion - the learning objectives for the project. 




How do you budget for needed supplies? How do you know what to buy?

Response by Ian Sands:

Ordering is basically the same. I.e. we purchase enough paint as if everyone would paint. Some paint more, some use less. It works out that way. In fact, I think we use less materials now.



I think if you are going to write blogs and articles from your school on this method, you need to support your way of thinking by backing up how many students have gone on to be successful in art colleges or professional careers in art. I can name many that came from more structured programs in the county, and additionally those who have succeeded in AP Art. We are all for listening and learning with an open mind, but I’d like to hear about some success stories.

Response by Ian Sands:

As I'm sure you'll agree, it is wonderful when a student advances to the AP level. Even more spectacular is when a student leaves school and pursues a career in the arts. However, this is only a small minority, less than 5%, of the art students we teach. 

I truly believe we can't take credit for our student's success if we don't first take credit for the ones who fail. You asked us to present a success story.  Melissa’s story about Darius is a success story about the other 95%


If you were in a math class, and the teacher gave you a book, and said figure it out, how well would you do? The only students that would succeed are the ones that had a natural talent for math. It seems like you are catering only the students with natural ability. It is nice in theory, but it isn’t realistic for the masses.

Response by Melissa Purtee

This is a great question because it speaks to a common misconception about choice based learning: that because it looks different it is not, in fact, teaching. I know that in the scenario described above, with a student being handed a book and tasked with independent learning, that success would not be the outcome for many students. They would fail without direction or guidance. In my lessons I set challenging learning goals, teach students new information and allow them to practice new skills, all while differentiating content to meet their specific needs. It's teaching by any definition.

See an example of what one of my projects is like here.

I think choice based learning is great for all kids because it's so flexible - the teacher and the student work together to create the right learning experience for each student. This works for the kids who come in with a high skill level and the ones who have never had an art class. 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why I Pick Choice, part 4

This is part four of a week long series on choice in the art room...

Why I Pick Choice by Melissa Purtee

I spent eight years as an elementary art teacher in some challenging schools. You know the sort - high poverty, high ELL population, lots of discipline problems. I stumbled over TAB when doing some research and thought that would never work with “my kids”. I pictured all the behavior issues that I dealt with on a daily basis exploding into chaos if I gave students more freedom. Something stuck in my head, however, because my lesson kept getting more open. 

As my teaching evolved so did my classroom management. I became a big fan of PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) and implemented many of its tenants in my classroom. One of the strategies I tried was behavioral incentives. When a group had a number of classes where my behavioral expectations were met the students got to pick the medium for the next class.

One of my fifth grade classes earned the reward after working toward it all year. When we voted to pick the medium there were some students who wanted to paint, others who wanted to make sculptures and some who wanted to draw. I decided to set up centers. I was nervous - there were at least five students with behavior intervention plans among the twenty nine in the class - but I wanted to make the reward meaningful. 

When the class came in and started working I was shocked - all of them were engaged, focused and making art. No one had problems deciding what to make, they cleaned up after themselves and they were collaborating. I spent this class walking around in wonder, shocked at how well it was going, so it was no surprise that it was almost the end of class when I noticed Darius.

Darius had been my student since first grade. He wasn’t necessarily bad, but he did spend most of his art time talking and did the minimum amount of work on each project. He threw most of his artwork in the trash on the way out of the door. Now, however, he was sitting at the sculpture center, silently engrossed with the folding of an intricate paper air plane.

“Your work is beautiful”, I told him.

“Thanks Ms. Purtee”, he said with an ear to ear grin.

“Darius”, I asked, “if art would have been like this every week would you have like my class?’

“ I would have loved it,” he answered.

    In that moment I knew I had to go full choice. Of course, it wasn’t always as perfect as the class I’ve just described but it did always make art challenging, fun and accessible for all my students. I loved it and so did the kids, who took ownership of their art making and excelled. I noticed the biggest change in students who weren't as successful with drawing and painting. The suddenly had a way to express themselves. Everyone was able to find their niche somewhere, to feel like they belonged. 

When the opportunity to teach at Apex High School fell in my lap I jumped at the chance. I knew that I wanted to try out some of the ideas that had worked so well at the Elementary level in High School. Some of the things that I’ve tried have been great, others have needed tweeking. I plan to keep on trying out new ideas. As Ian Sands says - I don't want to teach art, I want to make artists.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How & Why I Use Choice In My Classroom - Part 3

This is part three of a week long series on choice in the art room...

By Kim Sudkamp

Student work - Self portraits (5th grade)
How I was introduced to the idea/What I first thought:
I've never been a fan of the "recipe" projects.  Who made them? The teacher or the students?  I've always encouraged my students to take the projects further, or put their own spin on it.  Even when I was in the elementary classroom last year.  But until I came to Apex high I hadn't heard of an open art classroom.  Purtee and Sands introduced the idea.  It seemed intimidating at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it coincided with my beliefs on art education.

How I'm implementing choice in Sculpture:
The open art room is scary, there is no doubt about that.  But it doesn't mean you don't have order or an understanding of materials.
These two student examples are from the same project and look nothing alike.

"Relief Project" (Material Choice: Clay)
"Relief Project" (Material Choice: Altered Book)

I base each project around a theme.  These themes change between a style of work ("relief") to conceptual ideas ("pressure").  I aim for these themes to be more open-ended and not limiting to material choices.  My general template looks like this:

Based on this model I form my projects.  My first project with my sculpture class was on "Vessels." 

What about teaching techniques?
With each project theme and materials choice I provide a pinterest page to the students.  The idea behind this is that the students can find what they need to know for their specific project while I provide more guidance.
Digital learning doesn't give a full spectrum of understanding materials that the students might need for their project.  Seeing something and actually doing it are completely different.  Every couple days I do a warm-up or demo for the students in the beginning of class.  They can choose to use it this technique if it is appropriate for their project. For example, I did a throwing demo about a month ago with the project "pressure." 1 student chose the wheel. Currently the students are working on "Repetition," and 5 students have chosen the wheel.  These students have used the Pinterest page, helped each other, as well as asked me for guidance in their work.  These warm-ups are about learning the techniques that may later be used to achieve the conceptional idea within their work.

"Vessels Project" (Material Choice: Clay)
"Vessels Project" (Material Choice: Other - Pencils)

How I tackle project time:
Each material lends to specific a specific time range.  In the beginning I had a difficulties with time management.  As I watch students work on the assignment I see what material will probably take the longest. As the first student finishes, I introduce the next project.  This might seem overwhelming, but as the student who is working on a more time consuming material they can also be thinking about their concept of the next. Due dates are very flexible in my classroom. If a student is constantly working I do not mind adding more time for them, but if a student is consistently off task I will give those students a hard deadline.  This might seem unfair, but with each student I have a discussion about project timeline.  They know what I expect.  If a student rushes through a project I have them consider how they could improve it, and did they achieve the concept they were going for?  These students if not ready to move onto the next project can work on their sketchbook assignment for the week.  Using this model takes a lot of patience and student observation, but the students are self motivated becoming passionate about their own pieces.  No longer do I hear "Oh, I trashed that, its stupid." or "Ugh! I hate working with clay!"

"Pressure Project" (Material Choice: Other - Wire/Tape/Ribbon)

If you'd like to discuss this further you can reach me by:
- Commenting below

PART 1 by Melissa Purtee
PART 2 by Ian Sands
PART 3 by Kim Sudkamp

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Does All My Student's Artwork Look The Same? Part 2

This is part two of a week long series on choice in the art room...

By Ian Sands

 "I spent some time questioning concerns I had in my own art program and was surprised to learn the culprit."

While looking over my student’s art some time ago, I noticed that all their work looked the same. Their art was more than similar, it was unrecognizable as individual pieces. When I placed all the art on the table, I couldn’t tell which work belonged to which student. I had to turn the papers over to see their name written on the back. On more than one occasion a student would forget to sign their work. I would hold up the art and ask the class who had created it.

Not only are the above works by two different students, the are from different classes

Another thing I noticed was that all their work looked like it was made by high school students.  Of course they were high school students, but it wasn’t their skill level that made their work look this way. It was the way they handled the elements and principles. Their worked looked more like exercises in line variation and color theory than it did art.

I started questioning what it was that gave their work these two qualities. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it had nothing to do with them at all. It was my lessons that gave their work these attributes. I wanted to correct these issues but I wasn’t sure how to accomplish the task.

Not long after I had come to this realization, I saw a tweet on Twitter that read, “If you get 25 of the same thing from students, it's not a project, it's a recipe.”

At first I let my ego get in the way and thought this was harsh. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a true statement. I was giving them all the same project with the same materials, the same size paper and the same desired outcomes. It should have been little wonder that their work all looked similar. By my doings, they weren’t making art. They were following my recipe.

Recently, I began giving my students theme-based assignments and allowing them to decide what materials they will use to create their art. I replaced the step by step instructions with open-ended questions that challenge them to respond with creative solutions.

The results have been outstanding. Where before I couldn’t tell two works apart, now each project is created in a style that is unique to each student. Their works no longer resemble exercises in the elements and principles, but rather true art that is personal and meaningful to them.

"I'm no longer interested in teaching art but rather making artists." ~ @iansands

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why Don’t High School Art Students Work Like Artists? Part 1

This is part one of a week long series on choice in the art room...

Artists plan their work and select the best materials and techniques to execute their vision. As they work solve problems that they encounter. Sometimes they start over and go a different direction or abandon a project entirely. They might work on a few projects simultaneously or one at a time - which ever method works best for them. They use subject matter that is personal and meaningful to them. They work in series, pursuing an idea to it’s end point.

If you examine these things that artists do as an educator, with Bloom’s Taxonomy in mind, you see that most of the items on the list fall in the creating, evaluating and analyzing sections. These categories describe higher level thinking.  Some descriptors of behaviors from theses sections are assemble, construct, design, develop, appraise,  judge, select, support, value, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, examine, experiment, question, test -  all things that working artists do. These higher order thinking skills are essential for artists to have to be successful.

Now think about a typical art lesson. The teacher selects materials, sets the subject choice, selects the size. The teacher plans the process or technique, then teaches it to the students. The person doing the higher level thinking is the teacher in this instructor driven model. All the hard, challenging, higher level thinking has been done, so the students are left with less challenging tasks, like remembering the steps or copying a specific  technique. Most of the work looks good, because the teacher planned it, but what was learned?

More importantly, how does this method of teaching prepare students to work as artists? What students really need to learn is how to think. What art teachers need to do is provide students with opportunities to make decisions themselves. To do the hard work of planning a project and fixing problems. To decide for themselves when a project is finished. In this student centered model the higher level thinking is done by the students.  Art rooms need to be open to more higher level thinking to make content challenging and relevant for students.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Student Spotlight: Ashley T. - Art Three & Sculpture

Pressure Project.  
The first thing that came to my mind when I thought pressure was Ballet. I thought this because Ballet is a lot of pressure on your foot, as well as a lot of pressure to be perfect. I didn't want to use clay again, so instead I used a different process. This process was taking wire and bending it into the shape I wanted it to be in in order to look like a Ballet shoe. I then took newspapers and balled it into certian sizes in certian areas in order for it to look like this. To get the newspaper to stay I wraped it well with tape. Afterwards, I painted it white for a cleaner and better look. After that, I found this color ribbon that was similar to what a Ballet shoe color would look like, it also has the texture of one too! I wraped this around the shoe as well. I took a block of wood and painted it grey so that I could then glue the shoe to it. I don't think I would change anything about this project, I really like how it turned out.

Layers project:
I knew for a fact that I wanted to include text into my project. Out of many quotes I came to this one. I liked this quote best because I was able to make a cool tye dye background that related to my quote, plus I really enjoy tye dye. To include layers into this project, instead of cutting out one letter I had to cut out two and layer them on top of each other. It was double the work but in the end it was worth it. To make the letters stand out more I spray painted them white. To get the tye dye background I took a pillow case and cut it open to make it wider in order for the quote to fit. And finally, I hot glued the letters onto the pillow case. I'd say this turned out really well, there's nothing I would change about it!
Nature Art Project: 
I really enjoyed making this because it was fun yet simple to do. There are so many things you could create with nature and so many ideas as well. While brainstorming I thought of the idea to make a clock out of flowers, leaves, and twigs. I was at my house while I made this and I found flowers from my front yard and leaves and twigs from a random tree. I arranged them how I liked them best and kept it like this. The twigs were obviously originally brown and I thought it looked odd with the color of the flowers, so I painted the twigs pink. Also, to make it more obvious that it was a clock, I wrote numbers on the leaves with a sharpie. I really loved how it turned out. I love the colors and how bright it looks compared to the sidewalk, it really pops out at you. There is nothing I would change about it!

The "Student Spotlight" posts are excerpts taken from our student blogs. 
You can see more of Ashley T's work here!
You can see all our student blogs here!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Non Traditional Portraits: Final Part 1

The Art Two students are just about finished their nontraditional portraits. You might ask, "What are nontraditional portraits?" Well, according to Megan, my instructions went like this. "Do a portrait. Use a strange material. Go."

I think I might have said a bit more than that but even if I didn't, perhaps I didn't need too. They are doing a pretty bang up job. Check out this first round (more to come)... 

Ashlyn decided to create this swimmer image using goldfish crackers. I ate a few crackers but she still had enough.

Megan created a 3D portrait of Frankenstein, having just finishedreadignthe novel in her English class.

Breielle and Noah used food coloring mixed with plaster to create this very heavy relief.

Emma pushed a lot of pushpins into this work of art to create a portrait of that guy from that band she like.. 

Crystal used the no-frills version of Fruit Loops to create this work. The background was made by crushing the cereal into the colored powder.

Bree made a cake!! Unfortunately, it disappeared. Has anyone seen Bree's art? I can't find it anywhere..

"Eye haven't seen it.", said Girl One.

See more Non Traditional Portraits here !

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Student Spotlight: Ashlyn - Art Two

The Boy in Blue: Image Transfer on Canvas

 For this project our theme was up close and personal. When I first thought of that I thought of noses. To get my reference I googled up close pictures of noses. As we all know google never comes up with exactly what we ask for. The search came up with noses all either too close or too far away for my liking. There was one picture that was a  picture of camera taking a picture of a nose. I then changed my focus to cameras. I googled cameras and it also came up with security room screens. And thats what I decided to do. I painted a wall of blank screens on to 3 separate canvases and took 33 pictures of my little brother.

Using the pictures I did a photo transfer onto the canvas "security screens". I glued the pictures face down and let them dry for a day. I then rubbed off the paper and the picture transferred onto the canvas. But as you would know if you have done a photo transfer before, the picture isnt a carbon copy of the original picture. Part on the picture comes off with the paper. Surprisingly I feel that this only enhanced the piece even more creating an effect that the tv screens were old and were snowing.   

 I demonstrated emphasize in my art work by going over my little brothers blue shirts with a light blue water color. This emphasized that it was the same kid in every picture and made him stand out. Oddly enough I hadn't planned on making everyone of his shirts blue in the pictures. It just happened that almost every picture I had token of him he was wearing a blue shirt.

A Sticky Situation

My idea for a sticky situation was to have an antelope surrounded by 4 tribal masks holding spears. The "stickyness" of the situation would come from the fact that the antelope was about to die. The theme of repetition was represented by the multiple masks. In this picture I had to project the image I had created in photoshop onto the canvas(don't judge me on what I was wearing it was inner nerd day at my school). During this first part of the project I learned a lot about photoshop.

  In this picture I was carving out the stencil. For the antelope and the masks I decided that I wanted to spray paint them while the background was acrylic paint. While I was carving out the stencils, I learned that you had to be very careful not to leave "white islands" or not leaving part of the stencil attached to the piece of paper.

When this picture was taken I had just spray painted my antelope. During this part I literally stopped breathing because I was so nervous.
 After I had finished spray painting my masks and antelopes, I decided that I needed to add spears to make it more clear of the masks intentions.
Not wanting to carve out another stencil, I "simply" covered all of the area that I did not want sprayed. This took a little bit longer than I had originally expected.....
I was very pleased with how the final piece came out. I learned a lot about how I could use different mediums together.

The "Student Spotlight" posts are excerpts taken from our student blogs. 
You can see more of Ashlyn's work here!
You can see all our student blogs here!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Layering: Production

Instead of carefully placing art items side by side, the postmodern principle of Laying dictates that items are layered on top of each other. The student could choose to either explore the medium they were layering or focus on a theme or concept they wished to portray. These are in production…

Working with spoons on canvas over newspaper.

Layers of images in frames at different levels

Spray paint layers on transparencies

Layers of colored wax on sytophome

Layers of cut out letters on tie dye

Plaster, wax and clay

Medium gel, tissue paper, thread
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