Monday, September 30, 2013

Printmaking Epiphany

I was a printmaking major in college (they called it "surface design" because we worked with fabric, which distinguished us as "commercial" artists as opposed to the "fine" artists in lithography & etching---nowadays art school demarcations of fine vs. commercial are nonexistent, thankfully). I digress because I wanted to make the point that ALL that my print knowledge was trumped by the decade-plus years I have spent as an art teacher. Every year, I analyze and tweak my lessons, and the one I changed the most this year was fourth grade printmaking. In the past, we have printed linoleum blocks, collograph plates, mono prints, stamps in geocache booklets, but still, I never really felt I hit the "sweet spot" with my fourth grade students. Always, I liked to focus on positive & negative space, and of course, craftsmanship, but with budget limits, being able to print repeatedly (which is what you really need to do to learn how to print) was impossible. I tried a smaller block cut from the larger ones, which made a neat framing motif, but students sort of blew off making the smaller block as nice design-wise as the larger block. Then, this year, I thought about radial printing, which necessitated cutting the blocks down to squares (keeping the small odd bits of course, those will come in handy for something, maybe clay imprinting). Then, I needed to focus the students on making a design abstract enough that it looked good rotated around a center point. This necessitated a full two weeks of designing, and I was out during the actual carving & printing. Then, the prints got dropped off at my house for grading and I was quite thrilled, because the designs looked pretty darn good! That smaller 4" by 4" block just worked out better than a 4" by 6". Printing radially revealed nice surprises design-wise, which is why I always liked "repetition" as a design element. Most of the pieces had at least one clean print out of the four, instead of having to rely on one "lucky" print. We did use a lot more ink than I would have liked, and I heard that the students would have liked to change colors, but printing with one color helped them ink better as each color has a different tackiness to it (in general, lighter colors are thinner, darker colors are toothier). We saved money by printing on sulfite instead of mulberry paper, so I think the costs balanced out. Mulberry paper is more forgiving with the ink, but I don't think anyone but me would notice the print quality difference. So, "eureka" & "yay"---keeping radial prints for next year (with a few "tweaks" of course ;).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Pinterest Saved My Planning

I started the year with some amazing innovations, primarily inspired by the Teach Like a Pirate ethic, but then got derailed by the (unanticipated) need to be out for surgery. Since I always do lesson plans as holistic units, being out for 2 weeks was not such a big deal (okay, it was emotionally a big deal, but all my materials were prepped and ready to go). Then, I found out that I needed to be out for 2 weeks more (big OMG moment) and this was really something for someone who usually misses only a few days each year! As an art teacher, I always feel like the artwork suffers when I am not there. Over the summer, I started revamping my reference boards on Pinterest, and since part of my recuperation has involved plenty of sleepless nights, I felt at least marginally productive researching and adding images in the dark, wee hours of the night on my iPad or phone (I put the apps on both, extremely convenient). So when my sub called to say my kids had run through a unit faster than expected (mostly because a) I was not there, but also because b) we have a 4 day block schedule now), I was able to readily dig up a great lesson idea from one of my Pinboards and transfer it into my LP Word format. Apparently, other educators are realizing the genius of this:

4 Innovative ideas for using Pinterest to support learning

Feel free to check out my boards (for elementary art) at

The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

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The journey of process intrigues me and I am always changing it up.

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