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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Art of Apex: Ten Years

The banner above was the first Art of Apex blog banner.

One door closes another door opens...

10 Years Art of Apex from Apex HS Art on Vimeo.

Ten years ago, I returned to teaching, accepting a position at Apex High
School. The first year here, I only taught Art One and Art History. Later, we expanded the program to include Computer Art, and since then I have also taught Art Two and Art Three.

However, it doesn't matter which classes I taught. That's because, as the old saying goes, I don't teach art, I teach students. It's the students at Apex that made my position so easy to do and so enjoyable to have. They are the best!

Now, after ten years, I find myself starting a new adventure. However, I will always remember the students I was lucky enough to work with at Apex... so willing to try new things, so ready to dive in, sometimes about to drive me crazy, but always keeping it "real"!

So here is a quick look at the last ten years of the Art of Apex!


Friday, March 4, 2016

The Blind Portrait Project...

How do you draw a portrait when you have no idea who you are drawing or what they look like? Well, that was the assignment given to these art students as a way to get to know each other as the new semester kicked into gear.

First, I had everyone fill out an anonymous questionnaire. The questions asked about the student's strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes but it there was nothing on it about physical description.   Next, i distributed the questionnaires around the room. Nobody knew which student they had.

Their assignment: create a portrait based only on the information that you learn from reading the questionnaire. Media and everything else was up to the artist.

Today, each student presented to the class, describing what they created and why they created it. Then, I revealed which student they had created a portrait of.

The images show the person holding up the portrait that was created based on their personality questionnaire. Interestingly enough, the artists really nailed it!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Art History Game Day!

With the beat of Will Smith in the air and the taste of gummy bears, the Art History class spent the day playing games. Playing games? Seriously?! First you let the students write the quiz questions and now you're playing games. Don't you ever learn anything in that class? Well, yes, we do. we just have an interesting way of doing it.

OK, so what is game day? Well, groups of students spent the week developing a playable game. The games had to be informative, original, well crafted and fun! It's hard to get all four so most games lean heavy in one direction or another. But all were fun to play. We even invited a few other classes to stop by. Everyone had fun and learned a little something too!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Teaching for Artistic Behaviors

I just received this month's issue of Arts & Activities magazine and right there on page 14 is an article all about choice-based art at the high school level.  I received an email a few months back from Nan Hathaway asking if I would contribute an article to the magazine. I knew right away what I wanted to write about, teaching Artistic Behavior units.

What's an Artistic Behavior unit you ask? Well, its a unit based on how artists think and work. When I first started teaching high school, I based my units on media (painting unit, printing unit, ceramics unit, etc). However, I quickly realized this was too limiting. Next, I created units based on the elements and principles of art. (i.e. instead of a painting lesson i would teach a unit on color theory.) This was better but it still was limiting. I needed some way to teach students not just to make art but to become artists. That's when Melissa Purtee and our Apex team spent a summer coming up with the idea of Artistic Behavior units.

An Artistic Behavior unit should be designed broad enough to encompasses many different ways of thinking and making art. In the article, I describe just a few of the units including Artists Observe, Artists Steal, Artists Solve Problems and Artists are Self Learners. Click on the link here to read the article online and learn more about Artistic Behavior units.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Write Your Own Art History Quiz...

Doesn't it seem silly that the teacher puts out all this Art History information and then gets to decide which questions should be on the quiz? Wouldn't it make more sense if the students decided what part of Art History they wanted to learn? I did... and thats when I decided to start letting the students write the quiz questions. Here is how it works...

I ask everyone to write a question but I do pick the top ten. I think this helps encourage them to write interesting questions. I take photo's of their questions and LCD them on the board.

Here are the top 10 quiz questions from our unit on Northern Renaissance art. Take the quiz. See how well you do! Answer key below.

The Quiz:

1. (above): Who is the painter that can be identified by ominous skies?

2. What are two characteristics of Mannerism?

3. Where did Caravaggio get stabbed?
(Note: the class was quick to point out that Caravaggio wasn't the stabbee but the stabber. Also, this is a Baraque question so the answer will come next week.

4. Best Greek painter?

5. Durer apprenticeship?

6. What is the world's most frequently stolen work of art?

7. He couldn't think of a question but I put it on the quiz anyway ;)

8. What was ironic about Durer's rhino?

9. How can you tell the artwork was created by Durer?

10. How many ears does the lamb in the Ghent Altarpiece have?


1. Who is the painter that can be identified by ominous skies?
El Greco

2. What are two characteristics of Mannerism?
Twisted bodies and going off the page

3. Where did Caravaggio get stabbed?
Caravaggio stabbed a man in the groin over a tennis bet.

4. Best Greek painter?
El Greco!

5. Durer apprenticeship?
Goldsmith. This is the standard answer to almost any Renaissance artist. 

6. What is the world's most frequently stolen work of art?
The Ghent Altarpiece

7. I'm not sure what the right answer to number 7 is.
We'll find out on Monday when we self grade the quizzes.

8. What was ironic about Durer's rhino?
He never saw one.

9. How can you tell the artwork was created by Durer?
His crazy signature!

10. How many ears does the lamb in the Ghent Altarpiece have?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

From Clay to the 3D Printer & Back Again

The latest addition to our 3D printing plan is an app called 123D Catch. What's that you ask? Well, its an iPad app that allows the user to photograph an object and then convert those images into a 3D mesh, ready for printing on our Makerbot 3D printer.

Take this clay sculpture of a dinosaur bird head for example. It was created in clay and will be fired in the kiln. While we were waiting for it to dry, we took a few (40 something) photos using 123D Catch. The app captured the images and converted them into a 3D image. Now we can export that mesh and print as many dinosaur bird heads as we want.  How cool is that! 

The images below are not the clay version but rather the 3D image that 123D Catch created.

View the bird in 3D online!

Click the first box in the window above to view the dino bird in 3D.

The next step was to export the mesh and import it into the 3D printer. We loaded the file into our Makerbot software, pressed the 'print' button and several (12ish) hours later, a 3D printed replica of our clay dino-bird head!

This 3D version is ready for a little clean up to remove the supports and then it can be painted and displayed with pride.

Meanwhile the clay version just came out of the kiln. This piece is also ready for glazing or painting or whatever direction the artists decides to go in.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Artists Are Self Directed: Art Three

In the traditional art class, the teacher picks the project idea, find and demos any tutorials, and decides on the medium the students will use. That might sound like the role of the teacher... but, it's not. That's the role of an artist.

for this first unit, Artists are Self Directed, I wanted the students (AKA, the artists) to decide what inspires them, to seek out 'how to' information when they weren't sure how to complete something, and to pick the media. After all,  I'm not the artist. They are the artists! Here's a look at what the Art Two artists came up with...




Mixed media


Spray painting

Check out more examples here and see how it all started here!

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