Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You can never have too much Gesso

Students practice our mural on a mini canvas

I traced our mural onto the wall in preparation for our first painting session scheduled this week using a handy projector and transparency.  When I returned to the art room to put everything away, I glanced at our reproduction poster spread across my desk.  Something looked wrong.  With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I realized that I had just spent the last hour drawing our mural carefully and completely backwards.  I had been so caught up in positioning and size, that I lost sight of the forest for the trees.  Recalibrating my departure time, I implemented Plan B which involved the application of a liberal coat of gesso.  To my dismay, when the gesso dried, the permanent marker lines bled through to such an extent that I had no other choice but to resort to Plan C - yet another liberal application of gesso.  Finally dry with just a ghost of the incorrect lines coming through, I retraced the picture correctly.  My one hour job turned into three, but at least it’s up there ready for the seventeen pairs of hands  ready to bring the wall to life with an interpretation of Auguste Macke’s “Vegetable Fields.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Diagnosis: Senioritis - Prognosis: Unknown

The Taming of Horses - St. Petersburg, Anichkov Bridge

I’m under no illusions when it comes to the makeup of my student body in an elective art class.  In fact, I’ve identified three kinds of visual art students.   I can work with all three types, but some are easier to motivate than others.

1.        Type 1: These kids love art and can’t get enough.  (Wish I had more of these).
2.       Type 2: These kids  view  art as the means to fulfilling a fine arts requirement; and
3.       Type 3:  These kids need to fill a time slot in their schedule, and I’m the least offensive of several less palatable choices.

 Last month, Type 3 student, “James,” decided after completing Art I, that his foray into  visual arts  had reached an end.  He told me he was bailing at the semester’s conclusion.   True to his word, on the last day of class he cleaned out his cubby, took his portfolio and exited my room for the last time.  I felt sorry to see him go. Although not especially motivated or artistic, I thought he might gain more confidence in his abilities if he just stuck it out.  Frankly, he was looking for a class in which to mark time until graduation, something really low maintenance and less taxing – possibly a study hall.     So, to my surprise, on day three of the new grading period, “James” walked into class and asked if it was too late to take Art II.    Mildly amused, I queried him as to why he wanted to enroll, when we both knew he wasn’t interested in art.  He sheepishly replied that he didn’t want to take Business Communications.   “So, I’m the lesser of two evils?” I inquired, driving the point home.  “Yep,” he grinned back at me. .. Well, at least you have to respect his honesty.

 My father in law says:  “I’d rather tame a wild horse, than breathe life into a dead one”.  I hope I’m up for the challenge, but it remains to be seen whether the patient can be cured.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Gold Key is like playing in the Super Bowl

Orpheus by Alex11999

Judging twenty-eight hundred  entries from schools across Northeast Ohio in two days for the Scholastic Art show would exhaust the heartiest curator.  Three of the 2,800 belonged to my students.   I walked the tightrope between hoping for the best possible outcome, while still mentally preparing for my kids’ not making the cut.  Art teachers submitted photographs of student work on CD to the host school, Kent State Stark, on January 5.  I settled in for the long weekend to monitor email for notification of results.   Although a much tidier intake system than before, it meant courting carpel tunnel syndrome as I laid siege to my computer repeatedly.    In the high school realm, acceptance in the Scholastic show and earning a “Gold Key” is equivalent to making it to the Super Bowl.  When I spotted the long awaited email, I clicked and started scrolling down the screen looking for "Lake Center Christian School."   My eyes came to an abrupt halt at Alex’s name on the Gold Key list for his mask!  Thank you,  Jesus!  My two other students didn’t make it this time, but there’s always next year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goodbye Chalkboards, Hello Whiteboards

R.I.P. Chalkboard

If I to spot a highway patrolman aiming a radar gun my way, I automatically tap the breaks even though I’m not speeding.  Sometimes authority elicits a Pavlovian response from me.  So, when Mr. Miller and Mr. Ritenour from Maintenance strode into my room last week wearing serious faces, I worried.  Their expressions prompted a quick self-check which brought to mind two potential problems:    A couple of weeks ago, the fire department warned us that our art cart’s location near the kiln posed a fire hazard.  And two, my students recently removed Christmas paintings from the school windows using razor blades.   A discreet glance in the direction of the cart sadly confirmed its unresolved proximity to the kiln room.  As far as the windows, one might have been damaged in the process of scraping off paint.  On one hand I pictured getting officially cited and fined by the fire department; while on the other, a ruined window loomed in the hallway.  (I don’t even want to think about what that costs).  Discretion being the better part of valor, I decided to wait and see which of the problems I needed to answer by inquiring, “What can I do for you?”  in as cheerful a voice as I could manage.

You could have pushed me over with a feather when they both broke into wide smiles and asked if I’d still like to switch out our chalkboards for whiteboards.  Thanks to a local university who donated rather than discard them, we inherited whiteboards which otherwise were out of our reach this year.   Needless to say, when they left, I immediately remedied the art cart situation and re-examined the windows.  “No worries,” as the Aussies would say, cart and windows now pass scrutiny.   Our ability to quickly and easily remove marks vastly improved overnight with the use of whiteboards – we just love them.  I am wondering about my ability to accurately decipher facial expressions, though.   I need to bone up on my Paul Ekman.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The World Can Stop for an Afternoon

Life is painted in squares of color, post-it notes cover my computer, the garage door, purse and grade book.  What was the world like before post-its?  This week is an over-sized to-do list with items checked off as they’re completed.  Here is my list for the first two days of the new semester:

Syllabus completed and distributed - check
Lesson plans for first lessons typed out and handed into principal - check
PowerPoint’s for class overviews completed and moved to zip drive – check
Grades in Edline for last semester by 8:00 a.m. today – check
Mural sign-up sheet and letter posted to Edline – check
Mini-term handouts and supply order sheet completed – check
School Christmas windows cleaned – (kid power rocks!) – check
Scholastic art show entries dropped off at local university – check

Despite all this post-it note productivity, my Christmas tree is still in the living room along with all our holiday decorations.  Yet, I’m not glancing at another sticky square of paper with demanding line item tasks today.    The world stops for me this afternoon so I can sit in my rocking chair with no other agenda than to feel a baby’s soft breath against my check as we rock back and forth.   There’s nothing like a grandchild to give one perspective on what really matters.