Thursday, January 30, 2014

Foil Figure Sculpture

 Let me begin by apologizing to any parents of fourth graders who realized they were suddenly out of aluminum foil... I encouraged practicing at home :)
This lesson is such a hit year after year, and it is a great sculpture lesson because it only takes one day - no storage issues! We begin with a few live gesture drawings, about 30 seconds each, to warm up and get posing ideas, then we create the sculptures using about a foot of aluminum foil. I also run through some famous figural sculptures by Giacometti, Degas, and Henry Moore on the whiteboard projector to get in the sculpting spirit!

Start the scrunching slowly, to keep from tearing the foil, and then once it's starting to take shape, you can refine te pose. If a limb gets torn off, it is easily repaired at the end with the hot glue gun. 

Next, we trace the figure on the mat board base and shade it in. I attach them myself with a spot of hot glue.

This would be a great tie-in to the upcoming Olympics - doesn't this look like a figure skater?  I have seen several Olympics inspired projects floating around out there recently that were cool.

Get your free handout right here on my Teachers Pay Teachers store to try it out:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


No, it's not an expletive... It's a free and environmentally friendly weaving fiber - plastic yarn! This is the first I've heard of it, and pardon my ignorance if it's a common thing and I am behind the times, but I find this very exciting. Anyway, I know that the art teachers in my county will be doing weavings this semester, and many of you across the country (and world!) love weaving, so I thought I'd share this technique for making plarn found on Crochet Dynamite/Pinterest
If you are an experienced plarn-user, let me know what techniques work best for you - I need tips.
Students: make this! Lots and lots of it! Bring it to class and we will get started soon. I plan on trying this out tomorrow during my snow day. And let's be real, "plarn" is just plain fun to say. :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Relief Sculpture Hearts, 1st grade

 First graders are learning about 3-D art called sculpture, both in-the-round and relief sculpture, which is flat on the back and pops out on the front. We looked at these examples and compared the features:

We used yarn and foam scraps to make our raised surfaces, working with the heart theme since these will be finished just in time for Feb. 14! (I'm a big fan of Valentine's Day)

Next, we drizzled a little liquid glue over the cardboard and rubbed our foil VERY carefully - the more we rubbed, the more the shapes would pop out! After wrapping the extra foil around the back, we designed the color and line patterns with sharpies, emphasizing the 3-D part. I hope these will warm the hearts of many families in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Origami boxes, 2nd grade


Second graders are, like most of my other grades, moving into 3-D form in this unit. After practicing drawing forms on paper, like spheres, cubes, and cylinders, we tried our hands at a little origami. We used full size sheets of newsprint, and to make the paper a little snazzier, we rubbed the newsprint using peeled crayon stubs and Roylco brand Op-Art rubbing plates for color and texture. I found an instruction sheet online, and we all folded together, one step at a time - and everybody got it! Success! Here's the site with the diagram and a video :

Friday, January 24, 2014

Design Cubes, 5th grade

 As a segue from our 2-D first semester into our 3-D second semester, my fifth graders built temporary group sculptures with paper cubes, with each side representing an element of design. Since cubes only have six sides, we decided that form and value could share a square. We also looked at the sculptures of Japanese designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi to see how he uses the elements of design in his modern, minimal sculptures. We were especially impressed by the massive cubes that seemed to defy gravity...



Monday, January 20, 2014

Architecture Pop-ups

Making three-dimensional art is an area of focus for kindergarteners during our third 9-week unit. This year we drew building designs after looking at books of examples, and then like a pop-up book, some of our buildings appear to be in front of others in the background. We discussed the role of the architect in the community, as well as how builders would work differently if there were no blueprint - what a mess! We talked about the most important parts of buildings - roof, door, window - and that shapes could be combined to make these. This lesson took two 45 minute sessions, and I helped each child glue their gray paper individually to keep the glue in the right places:)
This pop-up idea was adapted from the wonderful lesson at arte a scuola :

 In this picture, you can see how the folded paper pops out the opposite way, providing support for the buildings:

 These friends had very similar taste in architecture:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stepping out of the ole comfort zone...

A post for the art teachers out there in blog land (God bless you)...
In this twenty-something year of my teaching career, I have decided to push myself to branch out of my comfort zone and try some new experiences professionally. I am the definition of an introvert and I spend a lot of time in my little room, at the end of my long hall, minding my own art teacher business. So... in the spirit of personal growth, I said yes to two big opportunities, both involving a little give and take.
The Give-ing part: I am very excited (and a lot nervous) about giving my very first conference presentation ever at The Art of Education's Winter Online Conference coming up on the 25th - yay and yikes!!! I am sharing information about using student art portfolios for goals and growth, which is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I am hoping that collaborating with many of you on this topic will be a great learning experience for all of us. There will be fantastic presentations all day long, and you can collaborate from the comforts of your home and pj's!  I got a special "swag box" in the mail today with some really cool samples and freebies - you know they are some of the best things about attending a conference! Hoping to "meet" many of you on the 25th and get some inspiration going for our second semester. To sign up or find out more, check out - your art teacher headquarters for professional development.

The Take: Here is where I could use some advice, if your district has recently undergone compensation reform. Many districts across the country have changed the way teacher salaries are earned, and many more are in the works of reform, like my own. I would love to hear what you think is working or not working in your new salary format re: base pay raises, opportunities for stipends/bonuses, compensation for student growth/hard-to-staff positions/evaluations, etc.

Last summer, again in the spirit of challenging myself (or now that I think about it, maybe it was a hormone fluctuation- a lot of that going on lately... hmmm :) ), I signed on to be a part of my county's Teacher Leadership Forum on compensation reform, and have now moved on to the 16 member design team for Strategic Compensation. I am the only fine arts/special areas representative and I want to be a strong voice for all of us "non-tested subject" teachers. We are just in the beginning stages of developing a whole new system of compensation to replace the old and out-of-date step and level system, and although it is a little intimidating and a huge responsibility, I know that this change is going to be beneficial for all teachers who do their jobs with heart, gusto, and professionalism. Looking forward to hearing your experiences! Thanks friends.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cityscape printmaking, 4th grade

   Boy oh boy, did I love this project!   I have always had a fondness for cityscapes, and printmaking is one of my favorite mediums, so when I came across the drawings of James Gulliver Hancock from his "All the Buildings in New York" project - I couldn't wait to get this plan written and underway. Check it out here - - "an attempt to draw all the buildings in New York by James Gulliver Hancock, an illustrator originally from Australia currently based in Brooklyn, New York."
My fourth graders began by looking at examples from the series, and sketching their favorite parts of the architecture in their sketchbooks, combining them in their own way to create a building design. Next we transferreed the designs onto foam printing plates, keeping in mind that things will print in reverse. Did you know there is a printmaking meme out there called "Printmaking Panda?" Here's a cute example - a fellow art teacher photoshopped this one to clean up the language a little: 

Some early sketches:


Next, we each made 4 prints on a variety of colored papers using the students' choice of black or white ink. This is my teacher sample, and some of my JGH handouts.


Once the prints were complete, we selected our best one and traded the rest with classmates so we could each have a variety of buildings in our cityscapes. We placed emphasis on our own buildings by placing them near the center. We also texturized our backgrounds with crayons and rubbing plates to give that gritty urban feel.
I am so pleased with these and I hope you guys like them as well. Thanks to artist James Gulliver Hancock for the inspiration!

***Update: I sent James Gulliver Hancock some pics from our work and he wrote us a fan letter:
From:James Gulliver Hancock
Dec 24, 2013
To:Hope Knight
 WOW! Hope, really really beautiful work! I love printmaking and children have such a free and confident way of making marks these are fantastic works. So glad I inspired such a wonderful workshop. 
If you can spare one of the prints I’d love to receive one :-)

happy holidays!