Giving the Gift of Art- Serving a local school

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I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at a "coffee with the principal" meeting at my son's school and they were going over what plans they had for the following year. This school is a young charter school with a focus on academics, so when we questioned about the arts, there was not much allocated for it.  That is when my hand went up, and i said, "i'll do it. I will provide an art program."

 They had set aside Friday as the day to do all their extracurricular courses like art, music, theater,  etc.  I already was doing other service projects on Fridays, so I would neatly fit it all into one day. That would work, right? I did have a moment of, what did I just do?....  But God send me help.

My mom who had a minor in art and taught Elementary and Middle school for 30 plus years said she would join me. We went to an "Expedition" (extracurricular) meeting at the school and one of my best friends whose son also goes to this school, was there. She heard our crazy ploy and said, "I'm in!" She teaches art at several schools and runs her own summer and winter art camps.  So, now with a solid team, our adventure began.

Because we all believed in doing it right or not at all, we spent many hours every week planning, shopping, and putting together amazing lessons and projects. My friend Jessi, spent soooo much time. It was an honor to serve with these women!

Here we are below. (left to right) Ruth McCullough, Jessi Cherrico from ART EXPRESS, and myself

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We wanted each child to have a sketchbook to create and work on ideas of their own. We also gave them weekly challenges related to our lesson and let them share the following week. Of course we gave candy to those who participated.

Our first project was these painted brushes that were inspired by one of Van Gogh’s self-portraits. Painting an actual brush was a fun and unique way to capture your personality. As you will see, some chose to create characters, proving we all interpret creativity in an individual way.

Throughout the school year we went over the ELEMENTS OF ART. Starting with Van Gough's Starry Night, we were able to focus on TEXTURE and LINES.  

When studying SHAPE we tied in the artist Heni Matisse.  He was a master collage artist. He would create large, wall-sized collaborative cut-outs.  He called this "painting with scissors". We decided our students should build a collage city for each class. First, we spent some time going over different types of cities ( American, European, Mid-Eastern, & Asian). Then we put them into planning teams such as: skyscrapers, businesses, town homes, streets, parks, and sidewalks. They had to sketch out ideas and then use scale and appropriate sizes to cut out their designs. (This is where those old wallpaper books came in handy!)

A book that we found most helpful in teaching kids about drawing, was "Drawing on the Right side of your Brain", by Betty Edwards. We used the methods and techniques suggested to help the students drop all their preconceived ideas of shape and form and to see those objects they are drawing in a new way. Below you can see they are using a PICTURE PLANE VIEWER to focus on the direction of lines and space. Then they transferred the image to paper.

This next project was from a study of value. Kids were shown different ways to draw objects in three- dimensional views through shading techniques. We studied Wayne Thiebaud, an American artist who is known for his diner paintings of food. His sketches showed many ways to bring depth to the artwork.

A group drawing project was chosen to show how value can make your art come alive and how each part is important to tell the whole story.  They were all given a 4 x 6 card to translate value as they saw it. When you are working in segments, you see POSITIVE and NEGATIVE spaces and basic shapes instead of worrying about the whole picture. The result varied between squares as we see the world differently, but it comes together as one composition. 

When focusing on COLOR,  Jessi found this idea and it was my favorite! First she attached different color paper at the front of the room and asked, " Who wants to see what color they are?"  Naturally, they all wanted to come up and see.  The truth is we are NOT red, yellow, black or white. (we are precious in His sight though!)  We are all actually the same color -BROWN,  but with different tints.  We had formula cards for each student so they could figure out their exact formula. Then we had them paint their formula on a separate card.  The class color chart is like a beautiful quilt and shows we how our colors blend.

March is YOUTH ART MONTH, so we encouraged the school to have a contest with the theme "United through art". These are the winners below represented for each grade.

At the beginning of the year, we had everyone draw a self-portrait. Throughout the school year, they learned different drawing techniques and have used different tools to help them draw and see the world in a new way. After practicing these techniques, we had them follow up with a second self-portrait to exhibit the skills they have learned.  

The thrill of teaching is when some of the kids say they didn't know they could draw. When you see the light click on for them and realize they now know IT IS IN THEM TO CREATE. Look at the before and after below. He was so excited with the skills he learned that he even drew one for his mom for mother's day.  We are SO proud!

Finally, testing should be fun, interactive, and thought provoking. Never had tests like that? Well, we did!  Below you will see them try to RECREATE A PAINTING. We tested their visual memory of the art we studied.

Whether it's a Pictionary challenge to draw like Matisse or a showdown with a paintbrush as a buzzer, our students had fun as we reviewed highlights of the year. 

Spending this year teaching Middle School ART was a huge time commitment, but very rewarding. Many kids said it was their favorite class and we were honored to be a part of their lives!  Hopefully, we made an impression and a new love for ART.