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

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Most Influential DUDES in Art Ed

According to The Art of Education online magazine, Mr Sands (that's me) is considered one of the most influential Dudes in Art Education! Well, that's not too shabby a title!

I'm also in good company as other teachers named include Andrew McCormick, Ted Edinger (AKA Mr. E) and Craig Roland to name a few.

You can read about these and the other top dudes in education right here!

But you know, behind every man is a great woman.. or in my case, three! I wouldn't be half as influential without the spectacular work of all the art teachers at Apex. Ms Sudkamp, Ms Purtee and Ms Rossi.

Thanks Alecia Eggers and AOE for including me on this prestigious list!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not Your Momma's Art Teacher's Units

While everyone is lounging by the pool soaking up the rays, the crack team of educators back at Apex Art headquarters are diligently constructing an amazing program for next fall. Elaborate flow charts are scrawled across the whiteboard as hot topic ideas spur fervent debate. 

Previously, such encounters have produced art-shattering changes such as Student Choice, Theme-Based projects and the Portal. Of course, we will continue to incorporate all of these concepts as we move forward. So what's so amazing that it's the focus for next year's curriculum? Units!

Ok, units might not sound so spine-tingling. However, these aren't your momma's art teacher's units. Each unit we are developing is based, not solely on making art but on being an artist. We took a long look at what artist do, created a list of possible artist behaviors, and scrubbed the list down to our top seven. 

Artists Observe:
This unit will cover observational drawing and possibly painting. It will incorporate still life drawings and nature drawings as well as architectural drawings, urban sketching or even plein air painting. 

Artists Steal:
Discussions will revolve around artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Shepard Fairey, Damien Hirst. Themes could be based on concepts such as appropriation and Intertextuality. 

Artists Communicate:
This unit will cover the many ways art is used to communicate ideas and thoughts. It could cover a range of art works from contemporary artists to commercial fields such as advertising and illustration to video and animation. This could culminate with a theme based project.

Artists Collaborate:
This unit will introduce the concept of working together to build something bigger than the sum of its parts. Consider discussing and contrasting different ways artists collaborate from Jeff Koons who hires people to create his art to teams like Christo and Jeanne-Claude who worked together. 

Artists Curate:
This unit will cover how museum and gallery exhibits are conceived and put together. It could cover everything from artist styles and collections to how museum curators pick topics for shows. Could look at different artists and explore what about their work gives it a style. Could culminate with each student producing three works with their own unique style.

Artists Solve Problems:
This unit will deal with limitations and constraints artist apply to themselves style wise, material wise and concept wise. It could also speak to limitations artist overcome from Matisse or Close in a wheel chair to Phil Hansen's embrace the shake. Could also discuss overcoming environmental constraints like Michelangelo painting the ceiling. Projects could range from limiting student materials, to working in difficult situations.

Artists are Self Learners:
This unit will encourage students to use tutorials, create tutorials themselves, and explore new materials. Sharing what they learn with students in their class or even other classes could also be incorporated.

So go ahead, relax, enjoy your summer knowing we've got it all under control.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I Don’t Like Grading, And I Don’t Think I’m Gonna Do That Anymore

Over the last year, we implemented many changes at the Art of Apex. Everything from new technologies like our student blogs and portal site to curriculum changes like theme based teaching and TAB/student choice. The one area I (Ian Sands) personally have struggled with is grading. 

Last summer I read a blog post by Joe Bower about abolishing grading. I followed the post to Joe’s website where I discovered a plethora of articles about not grading. As I read through each article, I started to question my own grading practices. Why did I grade? Was my grading informative or restrictive? Was my grading punitive? I didn’t like my answers.

I recently wrote an article about this for The Art of Education. Please click here to read the article and feel free to post any comments you might have at the bottom of the post.

 Next year I'm considering not grading their projects or their blogs at all, but simply  tracking student's work. Our grading software allows us to mark projects as "complete" or "missing" where grades go. When it's time to enter grades, I'll sit down with each student with a copy of this spreadsheet and have a conversation about what grade they think they have earned in my class for that period of time. Instead of grading project, or grading blogs, I'll simply give them a grade for the class.

Friday, June 13, 2014

2014 Reflections: Part Two - Favorite Medium

Which medium did you most enjoy working with and why? 

This semester the medium I enjoyed working with the most was oil pastels. Although they can make your hands pretty dirty I enjoyed working with it because of the many techniques it allows. For example in the Space-theme project I used oil pastels.For the planet on which the aliens are standing, I used the scumbling technique, and by applying it many layers, it gave the planet a unique texture and let it seem more realistic. For the Saturn planet I used techniques like burnishing and added highlights to make it seem like the light from the spaceship was falling upon it.

For the 2 in 1 project I also used oil pastels which stood out and contrasted well with the black and white text background. I liked how oil pastels burnish when you apply it in layers to create a vibrant color and unique texture. Using this technique I colored the flamingoes with peach red yellow and white oil burnished well and the flamingoes had a natural color.

Overall I like how vibrant oil pastels can be on paper because it helps produce a contrast in your artwork. I like how if you make a mistake, you can simply add more layers of oil pastel to cover it up.I also enjoyed exploring highlights,core shadows and cast shadows in one of our warmups with oil  pastels.


Fire!! Thats all I really have to say. It was the most risky medium I have worked with. My portfolio is basically, acrylic, pencil, acrylic, acrylic, FIRE! 

I really did not think my plan would work, which it did fail the first attempt but second time was exactly how I imagined it would look- actually better. It was great for lighting and gaining the audience's attention. It gave a great feel to my piece, just how I people feel excited during a circus performance. 

During the D.C trip in the gift shop of the contemporary art museum, there was a book called Food Art. I just flipped through the pages thinking- How did I not think of that?! Food Art is brilliant, and the possibilities are infinite. There was just bananas suspended in the air and a light above them so on the floor was a shadow of a monkey (haha I am the banana girl). Absolutely genius!



My favorite medium by far is colored pencil because it allows me to draw with precision while I am still able to mix colors and blend like when using paint. Also, at the end of the year, I made a colored pencil piece with white pencils on black paper which I really enjoyed because I had to emphasize the light values rather than the dark values on a normal colored pencil piece.

My biggest regret about this semester is limiting myself to colored pencil as medium. I wish I would have explored new mediums because I may have found a new favorite one. A few mediums I would have like to tried are watercolor, stenciling, and mixed-media/collage. 



I enjoyed working with the cardboard during this semester. Working with the cardboard allowed me to make one of my favorite pieces that I made during this class. Cardboard is a very interesting media to work with, because mistakes cannot be reverted, and you only have one way to change the way it looks. 

Due to how simplistic cardboard is, it makes it look very easy to reach your vision for the artwork. I was only able to create one piece with this media, (shown above) which I feel turned out very well.



Over the course of the year I got to work with a lot of different medium that I either haven't worked with in a long time or at all. My favorite medium that I got to work with this year was the duct tape

During the perspective project our group decided to work with duct tape as our medium. It was a lot of fun I've never thought about completing a project with duct tape before. That was probably my favorite because it was something new and different to work with and it was a group project so I got the chance to do it with a bunch of my friends. 

~ Madyson


Monday, June 9, 2014

2014 Reflections: Part One - Most Successful

As we close out the school year here at Apex Art, we asked out students to reflect back on their work over the semester. Here are some of their responses...


What was your most successful project this semester? Describe the project and your work, then explain why you picked it. 

My most successful project this semester would probably my two into one project.  For this project we had to choose two feelings/emotions or two objects and make them one.  I decided to do two emotions of beauty and pain.  I wanted to do these two show that something may be beautiful, but can be experiencing pain at the same time.  I decided not to have any color except on the harmed parts.  I think this was my most successful project because I spent a lot of time on this project and at times I had to just start over and it was a lot of effort.  But it was worth it in the end because I love the outcome and wouldn't change a thing about it. ~ Brittney's Blog


My most successful project was my news project. I really liked the idea of my project and it turned out really well. I was nervous at first cause I've never drawn a person before and a lot of people aren't good at it. I spent a lot of time working on different aspects of a face using a facial expression book. I'm glad I decided to do this project though because it's one of the best I've done. For this project I used charcoal which I'm not too experienced with. I did a project with it last semester but that's the only prior experience I had with charcoal. I think I could have more value in my drawing but I was scared to use the 6B because if you mess up there's not much you can do to cover it up. I used darker values in the neck and the hair but not much on his actual face.


I find that my time project was the most successful. It was a completely original project that stemmed from my own fascination with the wonder of flight, and through this shows my level of creativity, as well as my ability to find a way to make this rather ambitious idea work. It also conveys the light-hearted message I was trying to portray through it. The fluffy cloud background and the focus on how the plane elegantly rises and falls on the wind as it sails smoothly through the sky illustrates calmness and tranquility as your mind floats along with the airplane. This piece conveys my originality and message much better than any of my other projects throughout the year have done. ~ Kimberly's Blog


My most successful project, in my opinion, was my Identity Project. The project is supposed to be what goes on in my mind most of the time when i'm daydreaming, or dreaming in general. The media I had used was markers and pens which is my favorite media. I picked this project as my most successful because it shows most of my skill, especially with  colouring and style. It has the most characters and took me the longest time to do. I am very proud of this work and it is just so important to me. Its a very big picture, almost a poster, and having something represent me (my mind) means a lot. ~ Nory's Blog

My most successful project was probably my "lightning bugs" project I did at the beginning of the semester.     I learned a lot of new processes while working on this particular project. I had never really used photoshop before and my teacher wanted me to challenge myself with different mediums such as this. I also got the chance to try out a different technique for creating art, and that's by using the photocopier to print and take pictures of still life pieces and layer the different copies so they create a whole new picture. I didn't work with very many materials that were familiar to me so this was a new experience but I really enjoyed learning about photoshop and all the different things I can do to make a picture like this one come to life. I wasn't sure at first if using photoshop and actual still-life pieces was a good idea, but my teacher convinced me to play around with different objects on the photocopier and when I found a setup that I was satisfied with, I was extremely pleased with how the project came together.     I could have just as easily said no to using the photocopier and just painted something similar to this piece with acrylic or watercolor paints, but since it was a brand new class when we started on these projects, I thought it was time to step up my game and risk trying something new.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2013-2014 Art Teachers Year in Review

This was the first time since I started at Apex that there has been a team of teachers with common interests, working together to achieve common goals. The results, which I outline below, far exceeded any expectation I could have envisioned. This is truly an amazing list of accomplishments!


There were several technology based ideas brought to fruition that helped advance the Art Dept.

The NAHS website was established to deliver information about meetings and events.

The Student Spotlight was introduced to showcase the work of individual students.

We branded the "Art of Apex" and applied the brand to all our networking sites including gMail, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest. We also purchased the ArtofApex domain.

Speaking of the blog, we rolled out the first group blog series about Choice in the Open Art Room. This series amazingly received over 4,000 individual hits, with each of the five individual posts receiving more hits than any other blog post.

Of course I couldn't mention technology without giving props to our biggest technological accomplishment, the Portal. So impressive is this accomplishment in size and scope, with over 50 videos, 60 Pinterest boards and over 1,000 pins, that it is equivalent to many of the projects I worked on at Nortel Networks.

Furthermore, this is the first year that all art students at Apex (over 400) have created a blog. The Artistic Behaviors section of the Portal has allowed a consistent method for students to self assess their artistic development.


Theme Based Teaching:

This was the first year theme based teaching was introduced at Apex. Theme based teaching allowed the students to develop creative solutions to problems instead of following recipe style art lessons.

TAB/Student Choice:

Similar to theme based lessons, this was the first year the concept of letting students make decisions about the art making process has ever been discussed. The student response to this method was overwhelming positive. This was more then allowing them to choose between media, it was the first time we at Apex have dedicated our efforts to teaching them to think and work as artists.

The proof is in the pudding.. The number of students signing up for next year's art classes is through the roof! Every class has enough students signed up for another section beyond what we already offer.

Professional Development

Our acceptance to NCCAT allowed us to create and populate the Portal content. This trip, including our tour of the Green Energy Park, was a wonderful professional development experience. However, the story goes beyond our experience. An art department, located outside of Charlotte, was so inspired by our Portal that they in turn applied to NCCAT with the intention of developing their own art dept. portal.

Professional development is not just about receiving but sharing what we learn. Two of our proposals were accepted to the NCAEA State Conference in New Bern next October. I believe we would have had all three accepted if not for a mix up regarding one of them.

Several of us took part in the international Monday Art Ed chats sponsored by Colleen Rose on Google hangout. In these video sessions, we discussed topics ranging from the Portal to student choice. All of these sessions were recorded and made available online.

Speaking of international exchanges, several of our students exchanged comments with students from Ontario, Canada in the Google Plus Community.

And most recent, but certainly not least relevant, the HS TAB Facebook community had 50 teachers join on the first day and continues to grow in both numbers and conversations daily.

Truly, this has been a remarkable year... and we are just getting
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...