The Power of Photography – Artist of the Day Video Theme

Day 8 - I see you

This is such an exciting time in the history of man!  I want to share the history of photography with them, and get them thinking about the POWER they carry around with them – the camera in their phone.  Never in the history of mankind have so many had such a powerful tool in their pocket.  The 21st c. has seen the explosion of communicating information through visuals.  The fact that a high percentage of the population of the world has the capability to transmit images globally in the blink of an eye has completely shifted the way we understand our world.  It has been a huge democratization factor, and has changed not only art, but also politics and society.

This week’s Artist of the Day videos centered around the theme of Photography.  I wanted to help them find out how to take better pictures, and to think more broadly about the kinds of pictures they might take.  Here is the lineup:

My student teacher came up with these questions for the students to reflect on after viewing the videos:

  • What is one way to improve the composition in your photographs?
  • A photographer in Dubai takes photos while skydiving, how can you change the way you take pictures based on your interaction with your settings?
  • What might be some challenges and considerations of taking successful photos underwater?
  • Micro photography is taking photos of the smaller details in life (like the ant carrying the pink leaf). What objects or organisms would you be inclined to take photos of at the micro level?
  • If you were a photojournalist, what story would you want to capture through photos?

Showing our students these viewpoints of professionals broadens their perception of the world.  I asked each class how many students were interested in photography, and a healthy number of hands were raised in each class.  Photography and video content are trumping text in information dissemination.  Helping our students to strengthen their visual literacy is an important skill art teachers can pass on.  Enjoy this lineup of videos, consider showing them to your students and use these questions, or come up with your own questions or activities to connect our students to the power of the image.

Process Over Product in Art Education: A Student Centered Approach to Making Art

Living in the 21st century is living in a time when change is rapid and insistent.  It can be difficult to keep up with  constant change, much less embrace and incorporate it into our teaching practices.  My experience as an art teacher has always been at the high school level in a public school setting.  My school is highly diverse in every way – racially, culturally, economically, religiously, and with a high percentage of students with special needs.  It is challenging teaching so many kinds of children while striving to target their individual needs!  More than challenging, it can lead to a high level of frustration for both teacher and student!  I know my experience is not unique – this is the common landscape of art classrooms across the country.  When teachers get together, they talk about these common problems and wonder how we can reach our students when we feel like art can be at the heart of their individual expression.

Art education, just like education in general, is also in a state of flux.  Decades of teaching centered on a teacher driven, studio techniques curriculum does not engage the majority of students taking beginning art classes.  The teacher is faced with apathy, defiance and push back as the students query their teacher about why they should do it.  It’s not that what we’ve been doing for the last 20 or 30 years is wrong, it’s just that we need to think about what we’re doing with a new lens, adapting our pedagogy to incorporate not only technology, but the mindset of the digital natives that we are teaching.

My presentation reflects my own journey as an art educator over the last 10 years.  I have been exposed to many ideas, techniques, strategies and approaches to teaching art.  When new ideas come my way, I have taken them immediately into the classroom and played with them with my students, and I have been very transparent with them about why we try these new methods or vocabularies – I want them to care about the art they make!

The lesson plan format I present here is the culmination of my own teaching experience.  I have created an outline that put teaching studio techniques not at the front of the lesson, but is woven throughout the art making process.  What comes at the beginning of my students’ experience is investigation, exploration, questioning and journaling to connect to their own discoveries and their personal lives.  The art that results from this approach is more authentic and not formulaic like many “art projects” can turn out to be.  They have more motivation and excitement in their creating.  And, they are more involved in the assessment of their project because I have shifted my grading to assessing their effort and persistence instead of how skilled their end product is.  My students like being graded this way and I do to.  We are slowly changing from an art classroom to an art community, where their voice, ideas and creations are celebrated and valued as unique expressions.

After viewing the presentation above, here are some questions to consider about your own experience teaching, or how you think you will incorporate some of these ideas when you begin teaching:

  1. Have you ever been a part of a class in which the instructor used a questioning strategy –like QFT or artful thinking?  If so, did it deepen your understanding or connection to what you were learning?  Tell us about your experience and how you would incorporate questioning strategies into your own teaching.
  1. Do you think students can produce high quality artwork if they are focused on the process instead of the product?  This lesson plan emphasizes discovery and investigation instead of teacher driven instruction about processes and techniques.  How would you fold in studio technique instruction into a lesson plan that emphasizes students driving their own learning?
  1. In many art experiences, reflection and assessment come at the completion of the art project instead of throughout the process. Identify at least three types of assessment tools you would use with your students and how you might weave them into a process over product lesson plan format.

I welcome your thoughts and would love to hear your comments!

The Power of Circle Painting – Art & Community

Back in the day, when I taught AP Art History, I would talk to my students about sacred geometry, the mathematical underpinnings of our world.  Man’s art has connected to this universal law since the beginning of his art and architecture creations.  Through keen observation, man recognized the relationships, the patterns and the power of essential shapes and proportions.

The Circle lies at the heart of this universal code and is rich with meaning and purpose.

The Circle is the most common and universal signs, found in all cultures. It is the symbol of the sun in its limitless or boundless aspect. It has no beginning or end, and no divisions, making it the perfect symbol of completeness, eternity, and the soul:

The circle is also the symbol of boundary and enclosure, of completion, and returning cycles. The circle symbolism most familiar to us is that of the wedding ring which encircles the finger associated in ancient times with the heart. The wedding ring symbolizes not just a pledge of eternal love, but the enclosure of the heart- a pledge of fidelity.  (From the symboldictionary.net)

I was introduced to a beautiful collaborative activity at our art education in service workshop before we began the school year.  Our Visual Arts Coordinator provided us with big panels of cardboard, paint and brushes, and we worked together to create our own circle painting.  Instead of sitting at tables, clumped up with our art teams, we mingled together and painted with abandon.  Instead of being talked at, we created together.  It was active and fun.  This collaborative art activity has sprung out of an organization that is using this simple but powerful activity to bring people together – Circlepainting.org.

Our district art team got to work that day and painted our own circle painting with glee.

PDH #1PDH #2After school got underway, our Visual Arts Coordinator organized our annual staff exhibit that is hung at three of the administration facilities in our district.  She had one circle painting framed and hung at each of the exhibits to display the beauty of art teachers playing together.

 

Framed Circle painting

The circle painting was a powerful influence!  I had seen it grow from a big, blank piece of cardboard into a beautiful, dynamic work of art.  It had been easy, quick and so much fun!  When our school announced that we were going to have a Club Fair on our campus to promote all of the clubs offered to the student body, the circle painting was in the forefront of my mind for our table display.  Let’s make our own circle painting!  Off we went, aprons on, paint and brushes out, ready, set and GO!

Art Club Painting

In just one hour, our art club produced their own spectacular circle painting!  The students LOVED it!  As they left, each one expressed how much fun they had.  A sign was also made and when we set up our table, we had the most dynamic, beautiful table of all of them!

Art Club Table

I was incredibly proud of the students, and they were so proud of themselves!  As they manned the table, you could see them beam in front of their creation.  It was such a powerful way to start off the year!  If you haven’t done this with your students, find a day when you need to infuse some energy back into your program.  Get that paint out and make a circle painting!  We all know how much fun it is, but your students may not have experienced an art activity that can bring the whole group together.  Art – it brings people together.

Art Club Paint Hand

Essential Questioning Strategies and Question Formulation Technique

Learning about the Question Formulation Technique in my graduate studies at Texas Woman’s University has been one of the most valuable additions to my teaching toolkit.  This presentation has links to one of the developer’s TEDx talk as well as a video that was made in my classroom at the beginning of the year’s Sculpture I class.  You can find out how I have the students return to the essential questions they generated for themselves throughout their creative process, from initial design to their end of project reflection.  QFT is a powerful, easy and meaningful way to help our students be more engaged and in charge of their learning.

2013 TAEA Presentation – Essential Questioning Strategies

colorful_question_mark_vector_set_148455The Question Formulation Technique is my favorite new strategy to help my art students develop their own essential questions that guide their art making.

Click the “QFT Presentation” blue link below to download the presentation from the conference.  The PowerPoint contains video content and will take some time to download, so be patient!  Go grap a cup or better yet, work on some art while downloading.  Feel free to share and please contact me with comments or questions.  I would love to hear how other art teachers use QFT in their classroom!

QFT Presentation

Artist of the Day Video Student Reflection

Video photo

I’ve been using Artist of the Day videos as an opening activity in my high school art classes for several years now.  I have noticed changes in the quality of the videos as well as trends, such as artists using more technology in developing their artwork.  Everything about our lives change constantly and rapidly, so I felt a need to check in with my students to see what they think about the Artist of the Day videos I show them.  I asked 120 students four questions and will list some of their short answer responses here.

The thing I like most about Artist of the Day is:

  • You get to see different types of art and new creations (47 students wrote answers that were very similar to this.  This is definitely one of the goals I have with the videos.)  The rest of the responses have varying numbers of responses.
  • It’s unique
  • I like the people and their personality
  • Expands your imagination and brings out new ideas
  • It’s a good way to escape
  • Getting inspired before every class
  • It inspires me
  • I get to relax at the beginning of the class
  • You don’t know what you are going to see next (As the instructor, I select the videos I show, but I do show videos the students find as well.)
  • I notice more artsy stuff!

Artist of the Day helps me:

  • Get ideas and inspire me
  • With creativity
  • Learn
  • Understand artists’ point of view about their work
  • Discover new artists and types of art
  • Think outside the box
  • Relax and let my brain move away from all of the academics
  • Forget about bad things throughout my day (that’s a nice side benefit!)
  • Get into the mood of art
  • Get through the hump of my day and get the creative part of my brain going
  • See things differently

Artist of the Day is Fun because:

  • I get to see different forms of art
  • It shows imagination and ideas I never thought of
  • The videos we watch are really cool
  • It’s cool and interesting
  • It’s different from the things I do in my other classes
  • It isn’t focused on educating us/more about exploring a new world of art
  • It makes you feel happy for some apparent reason ( 🙂 I love this – it makes me happy!  I get to see the video 6 times a day!!!)
  • You see real life, current applications of art
  • It shows that people enjoy art
  • I get to see things I wouldn’t normally see
  • We get a break before we start learning
  • It’s something I look forward to

I wish Artist of the Day was:

  • It’s fine as it is (a lot of students responded this way.  The videos are usually between 2-5 minutes long.)
  • Longer (as many said they wished it was longer!  A few wished it was shorter, but I think they are about the right length so they don’t cut into too much studio time.)
  • ME!
  • More about music and dance
  • More about technology
  • More about the artist and how they work
  • Something teens would like more (need to drill down to get specific information about this.)
  • On the school website so we could see them whenever.  (This is something I need to work on – putting them up on my class pages.)
  • All class long because they have cool information
  • Something to try to gain new experiences (Also something to get more information about.)

I have an article that is going to be published in an art education journal next month about how to use these videos.  If the reader wants to get more in depth information about the Artist of the Day Videos, email me and I’ll send the article to you when it comes out.  In the meantime, I asked my student teacher, Melissa Backus from Texas Woman’s University what she thought about the Artist of the Day Videos.  Here’s what she said…

AoD Videos are kind of magical – at a basic level, they get students to focus and get settled into class.  On another level, they expose students to a variety of formal and self-taught contemporary artists, and a variety of mediums and styles of art.  These videos also help create dialogue in the classroom, separate from the main project or topic, about contemporary art and artists.  Ultimately, the videos give students the chance to see art they probably won’t see anywhere else (unless they actively searched for it!).

Playing with the videos to help connect my students to making and appreciating art brings me a great deal of pleasure.  Though a small fraction had some complaint about the videos, the vast majority wrote positive things about our daily art exploration.  We all discover the wonders of the art world in our classroom and are transported by their beauty and genius – every day!

Aesthetic Inquiry – Is Nature Art?

Adrift

Watch the Vimeo video – Adrift

Last Friday the Artist of the Day video was a beautiful video, Adrift, which shows the movement of fog in San Francisco.  It was a wonderful, calm way to end the week.  I realized that until seeing this video, I did not fully understand the expression “the fog rolled in”.  Seeing this aspect of nature in motion is truly captivating.

I decided that morning to ask my high school students what they thought about the question, “Is Nature Art?”.  I also asked them how they would define art.  We had not done any preparatory discussion about these questions, but after 5 weeks of seeing various Artist of the Day videos, I thought it would be interesting to get a spontaneous response from them in regard to both questions.

The overwhelming majority of them loved the video, as did I.  Their reasons were that it’s beautiful and they enjoyed the ability to see a weather phenomenon not usually witnessed in our part of the world.

I wondered how they might define art.  I know that my own idea about art that’s developed over time is something I’ve heard other artists say – that it has hand, head and heart.  That seems like a very succinct definition.  I found my student’s responses were really lovely ideas about something that is so hard to define.

What is art?  How would you define what it is?

  • Art is a form of life.
  • Art is something that inspires you, connects with you, is something you make, see, imagine…pretty much anything is art.
  • Art is freedom of the mind and emotions.
  • Art is a way of creation and exploration with colors and imagination.  There is no limit to art.
  • Art is something that captures expression.
  • Art is something that can come from within the mind but also the heart.
  • Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.  (Hmmmm – perhaps this was looked up on a smart phone?)
  • Art is anything that inspires, something that teleports you.
  • Art is what you want it to be of your own piece of life and freedom.
  • Art is anything you want it to be.
  • Art is finding meaning in things; art can be anything the maker finds meaningful.
  • Art is a way of expressing yourself while reaching others on a personal level.
  • Art is anything that is worth noticing, and a lot of things are!
  • Art is an idea, mood and character put into form, whether it’s the way someone smiles, or the way someone paints a smile.  ( I love this one….)

The next question, “Is Nature Art?” was answered in the affirmative overwhelmingly by my students!  122 responses said “yes” and only 5 said “no”.  Here is their thinking about it and why..

Is Nature Art?  Why or Why not?

  • Yes, because it has a significance of it’s own and contains basically all elements of art.  I believe art may have been started from nature.
  • Yes, nature is the origin of man made arts, the artistic creation of God.
  • Yes, nature is art.  Events like thunderstorms contain abstract events and inexplicable colors.
  • Yes, nature is God’s masterpiece.  He created it and it is like his art.
  • Yes, it’s the best work of art because it was created so well that no one else can create or copy it.
  • Yes, because some people think flowers can be art.
  • Yes, art can be anything we want it to be.
  • Yes, nature is the art of life, before all of the inventions and innovations.
  • No, but I do see it as inspiration.  Artists can see natural objects and get inspired to try and make their own art.
  • No, art revolves around nature; nature is only a part of art.
  • No, it isn’t a way of expressing anything.  It’s natural and art is not.
  • (and this in depth response…)Nature is many things.  It is beautiful.  It is serene.  It is magical.  But it is not art.  Art is an applied action – a doingness, while nature just happens.  It’s not trying to create – rocks are thrown around by the wind and the water isn’t able to convey the beauty of life, nor the pain of death.  However, when humans are brought into the mix, we can take the randomness and turn it into meaning.  The video that was shown today was very calming and beautiful; it was art whose aspect is nature.  It would be in no way as powerful if you just had been looking at the fog.  He had to record it, edit it, add music and so on.  Raw nature isn’t art, humans are needed to transform it into something others can connect to.

Bravo my young friends!  It’s wonderful to hear you ponder these big questions of life and it warms my heart to know that you recognize the power and majesty of both nature and art.  How you you, dear reader, define art?  What are your own thoughts about the question “Is Nature Art?”.  I would love to include your ideas in this post as well….