Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More Favorite Books for the Art Classroom

I’ll admit here that I’m a book fiend. I’ve built quite a library of titles and usually have some kind of literature link in at least one class I’m teaching every day. Incorporating books is effortless; there are so many titles you can connect to a lesson! Incorporating books is enriching; they provide deeper levels of learning into my lessons.
The following books are a little different from that; I read these titles usually at the end of the class period and they are unrelated to any lesson I am teaching. They provide a quiet teachable moment, a glimpse into the lives of the characters in the book and how their lives are enriched by art, or suggests a creative way of looking at the world.
I’ve listed my top three favorite books in a separate post. They stand out high above the rest of the books in this list (in the opinion of my students and myself) so they needed their own space. But the following seven books have proven to be very popular titles for my students as well, and worth sharing with you.
1. Incredible Ned, by Bill Maynard. Incredible Ned, you can see what he says! This causes a series of comical dilemmas… It’s a rhyming book that’s fun to read out loud, but you can get a little winded! This addresses visual art as a language, a form of expressing yourself.
2. Micawber, by John Lithgow. Micawber the squirrel stumbles upon a museum and to his delight he discovers art supplies waiting for him to explore. The look of sheer delight on that squirrel’s face just amazes my students… they can feel it too!
3. Emma's Rug, by Allan Say. Emma is a young artist that amazes the adults around her with her talent. All goes well until her mother washes her little rug. This addresses the question of where artists get their ideas from.
4. Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg. A fun interactive book that celebrates making mistakes and using creative problem solving to inspire artwork.
5. Luke's Way of Looking, by Nadia Wheatley and Matt Ottley. A wonderful story, and great example of how artists use emphasis and contrast to tell a story through pictures.

6. Peter's Painting, by Sally Moss. Richly colored images explore the idea of the more you paint, the more you love painting, and the more your imagination soars.
7. Zoom, by Istvan Banyai. Not a storybook, it’s a wordless book that challenges the point of view of the reader. It’s a fun book that has the reader excited to see what’s coming up on the next page.
8. No One Saw - Ordinary Things Through the Eyes of an Artist, by Bob Raczka. Okay, I snuck this book on the list! It’s celebrates how famous artists found the extraordinary from the ordinary.

Okay, that’s my list… I can’t wait to hear your suggestions to expand it!

Three All Time Favorite Books for the Art Classroom

I started compiling a top ten list of my favorite children’s literature that has art themes. These books are not linked to any lessons I teach, they are simply great books I’ll pull out near the end of a class and we’ll have a read. As my top ten grew I noticed that these three books stood out way above the others so I thought I’d take a moment to share them first.

1. The number ONE best book EVER is, of course Art Dog, by Thatcher Hurd. By day Author is a mild mannered guard at the Dogopolis Museum of Art, but on nights when the moon is full he turns into… Art Dog! Every year students ask me to read them Art Dog and over the years I’ve gotten good at dramatic voice inflections and pauses. In the big “fight” scene I make the action 3D by making paintbrush swooshing sounds and moving the book towards them, away from them and ultimately turning the page upside down and back again.

2. Regina’s Big Mistake, by Marissa Moss. Regina has to make a picture of a jungle with the rest of her class but struggles throughout the whole process coming up with ideas of her own and making mistakes every step of the way. Read this book early in the school year. It can be calming for the students who are silently struggling through their art lessons and going through the same frustrations as Regina. Walking in her shoes and seeing how she ultimately resolves all her problems celebrates the problem solving process and encourages students to not give up.

3. I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!, by Karen Beaumont. If, at the end of this book, someone doesn’t say, “Read it again!” I’ll say, “Wanna read it again?!” And we do! One beautiful singsong book the students finish the rhyme to every page. Very engaging, and oh, what a naughty, naughty little boy that everyone reading the book, including me, wishes he/she could be!

Note: If I have a really challenging class I’ll occasionally start the class with everyone on the floor and we’ll read a book. It calms everyone down and after the book the students are listening so I can introduce the lesson we will be working on that class. Usually I prefer to read when we’re all cleaned up at the end though… I like the idea of them mulling over the book as they walk out of the art room, a quiet celebration of art in the world, in this case, as seen through the eyes of a dog and two boys.

Your school library might have these books already in your building.

Check them out and see what you think… Enjoy!
Now… what are YOUR all time favorites?

Paper Mache Using Art Paste

When planning a paper mache lesson consider skipping the flour/salt/water mix and the wheat paste, and check out School Smart Art Paste instead…

This product is a methyl cellulose powder you mix with water.

It’s easy to work with and the extra paste you have left over from your lesson can be stored in a lidded container for over a year… No mold! No odor! It has an amazing shelf life.

Stir the powder into water and set it aside for a few minutes. I usually sprinkle half a bag of the paste into an ice cream pail and fill with warm water, stopping about two inches from the top of the bucket.

The liquid thickens into a clear slippery mixture within 5-15 minutes, the longer you wait the thicker it gets. Stir the mixture and modify how thin or thick you want it; add water or sprinkle in more paste.

That’s it! You’re ready to use it. This product is a dream to use. Make a batch as big or small as you need, and any paste left over can be stored in a lidded container. One art teacher I worked with stored the paste in a large plastic laundry detergent bottle. Just unscrew the lid, pour it into containers for student use and pour the leftovers back in the laundry soap container when done. I usually just put a lid on the ice cream bucket as the laundry detergent containers are too tall for my shelving or storage under my sinks.

It is a slippery paste but cleaning up the containers the students used is pretty easy. Empty paste into a storage container and place all the class containers that had held the paste in the sink. Fill the containers to the top with water. Let them soak for a couple of hours and the paste will no longer be clinging to the sides of the containers. Just rinse and set aside to dry.
I purchase School Smart Art Paste from the School Specialty art supply catalog. The Nasco art supply catalog sells a product that looks like the same thing, produced by the Elmer’s company. You might consider a Google search to see if any of the catalogs you order from carries it.
Have you used art paste for projects other than paper mache? Please share!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Storing Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint was such a pain to work with!
The mouth of the bottle is too wide to pour small amounts out.

The pumps you screw onto the top clog easily.

The newer pumps have little caps you close after every use. If you forget to close it the paint dries and you can’t get the cap back on tight without digging and cleaning the spout.
The earlier versions of the pump were forever getting clogged and if you forced it out by pumping down hard, it would squirt onto your clothes, students and across the table! Yuck. When I see a pump now I automatically just unscrew the top and pour… better too much paint on the plate than wearing it on my clothes all day.
So I was REALLY excited to see a GREAT solution!

Ketchup bottles!

At the beginning of the school year I ask my students to save me their empty ketchup bottles. It’s an unusual request and the students actually remember it at the dinner table and ask their parents to save the empty bottles so they can take them to school. I’ll get ketchup bottles dropped off throughout the whole school year. You can get the amount you need pretty quick.

You’ll want to soak the bottles and caps in soapy bleach water for awhile. The bottles don’t always come to you cleaned out well. It’s amazingly hard to get that ketchup smell out of even a clean bottle, so I soak the whole thing for a day, rinse it well and resolve to live with a little ketchup smelling acrylic paint. I’ve never had any paint go bad in the bottles.
I found a cool gadget at a kitchen supply store… you screw one end onto your ketchup bottle, the other end onto a second ketchup bottle and position it so the almost empty bottle of ketchup drains into the newer bottle below. I screw that onto the ketchup/acrylic bottles, prop it up and the jug of acrylic slowly drips into the ketchup bottle with occasional squeezes to help it along. Often I’ll thin out the acrylic paint to get it flowing easier.

That’s it! And it’s super easy to store… no more lugging out big jugs of acrylic. The students love the look of the red and yellow paint in the ketchup bottles-it surprises them and they laugh.
Thank you Sarah! -A great art teacher in my district that shared this idea.
Can you share any improvements to this idea? I would love to hear from you! Thanks!

Clay Stamps

I brought some clay home with me this summer to make clay stamps. They're fun to make and will be great texture tools to use in many clay lessons.

You'll want to wander around your house looking for interesting textures...
• I have my eye on my doormat right now... it has interesting indentations in it that should look great on a stamp.
• My junk drawer in the kitchen should be a gold mine.
• Using both ends of a pencil gives multiple design opportunities.
• The texture on leaves should work although you want the impression to be deep so look for veins in leaves that really stand out.
• Pressing the clay to the bottom of your shoe to pick up the tread pattern works great AND it makes a great 1st grade clay pendant!

Store all your new stamps and fire them with your first load of student clay pieces when you are back in school.

It would be great for this list of texture ideas to grow! Any ideas you’re willing to share? Thanks!

Rehydrating Clay

Some ideas on rehydrating and storing your clay...

With the end of the school year I've been busy cleaning and storing supplies. Before I pack the unused clay away I go through the steps below. When I come back in the fall it is ready to go!
This works great for clay that has dried out after using it in class. It's ready to go in a day of two.
All of my clay is stored in a clean lidded garbage barrel. I have three barrels per school. The barrels help keep the clay moist throughout the year when it's not being used.

Keep the barrel on coasters. With all that clay inside it will be really heavy and you'll want to be able to move it easily. This coaster was a spare my custodian gave me. Check with your custodian before making or purchasing one, sometimes they go through cleaning sprees and they toss some cool stuff.

Keep your clay in smaller plastic bags within the barrel. In this picture this is the bag the clay came in. I've worked in schools where I've found all the clay dumped straight into the bottom of the clay barrel. After a year the clay dries out a little... a year after that and it's leather hard and an impossible dense mess that you can't get out of the bottom of the barrel. Smaller plastic bags keep the clay moist and easy to get in and out of the barrel.
The craziest thing I ever saw in a clay barrel: someone had wet a towel and laid it over the clay before putting the lid back on and leaving for the summer. When I opened the barrel in the fall the wet towel was BLACK with mold. Gak! I was freaking that I had breathed it in when I opened the lid. I closed it up again and hauled it to the custodian and told him to toss the whole thing and NOT open the lid.

Okay, so to hydrate the clay you'll need bagged clay and a long paintbrush.

Use the handle of the paintbrush to poke multiple holes into the clay.

Make the holes deep in the clay.

Pour water into the holes. Fill to the top of each hole.

Close the bag up again and place it back in the barrel.

With all the clay wrapped up in bags I usually lay some plastic over the top of the bags and close the lid tight. In the fall the clay will have absorbed all the water and be ready for you to use.
Thank you Kathy H. for sharing this tip years ago at one of our elementary art department meetings!