Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Ode to Liz----Lady Bugs in the Grass

My first year teaching at Milford Main Middle School I was blessed to share a room with an elementary art teacher who taught in the district.  Liz Copfer (Beck) was my mentor for that year and became my friend.  What a gift to have an experienced art teacher to share ideas with during that hard first year. 

Before I started teaching I had had Liz's mother Margaret (who is the guru of all art teachers in the Cincinnati area), as my art education professor at Xavier in college.  Margaret made me more excited about my profession than I had ever been.  Liz had learned from the best.  Well, I had the opportunity reap the knowledge of both Copfer ladies. 

After my first year at the middle school I was to then go to Pattison to teach elementary school.  Liz copied every one of her lesson plans for me, invited me to a day in her classroom, and made a picture album of every project she did and gave it to me.  This was an amazing thing to receive.  She also gave me countless tips on teaching, words to use, and classroom management ideas.  Some of my best lesson plans I owe to Liz.  I look around my classroom, hear myself say "the fold is our friend", or refer to a scissors as an "alligator" and think of Liz all of the time.  Thank you Liz, you were such a gift to me, as I was your student too! 

Here is the lesson I start every year out with given to me by Liz.  It teaches the first graders how to cut, glue, and follow directions. 
Lady Bugs in the Grass

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.

1st Grade:

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly.
I guess she'll die.
There was an old lady who swallowed a bird.
How absurd to swallow a bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly.
I guess she'll die.
There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.
Imagine that, she swallowed a cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly.
I guess she'll die.
There was an old lady who swallowed a dog.
My what a hog, to swallow a dog.
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
She swallowed the cat, to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly.
I guess she'll die.
There was an old lady who swallowed a cow.
I don't know how she swallowed a cow.
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog.
She swallowed the dog, to catch the cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
that wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a horse...

She's dead of course!

Andy Warhol "POP ART"

I guess I teach the most about the artists I love, because Andy too is one of my favorites.  The forerunner of POP ART and his iconic Marilyn and Campbell's soup can prints cannot be beat.  Andy was an individual and that's why I admire him most.  He was unique, creative, and fun.  I take Warhol's work and explain to the students what POP means.  Why we call it POP music and POP art too.  Instead of drawing soup cans, we draw POP Cans  Each student is allowed to bring a can of pop for the class and "drink and draw".  They draw one can and I then copy it four times for them on the copy machine, "a modern day way to print make."  They they color in one can in the traditional can colors and in the spirit of Warhol change the colors of the other three.  We then cut up the pop can and they staple on the pieces along with pop taps for a great frame.  Here are some great pics!  Also below the pics is a link if you would like to know more about Andy Warhol. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kandinsky Kandinsky Kandinsky

I love Wassily Kandinsky.  The father of "non-objective" artwork has always appealed to my love of color.  Throughout all my years of teaching he is one of the few artists that I have taught every year.  This Russian painter was one of the first artist who painted purely abstact works.  He says his work was devoted to "inner-beauty, fervor of spirit, and deep spirtual desire".  He wanted his work to produce the same emotional connections that people feel to musical compositions.  Here are two of his famous works.  The first, a great representation of abstract work that my third grade students looked at and we talked about how it made us feel and what we thought of.  I then put on different songs that I felt evoked emotion  I love music by Eddie Vedder when trying doing this.  I may also put something on like "Shout", to have them make marks freely and quickly. 
The second famous painting of Kandinsky's are his Circles.  (I borrowed this lesson plan from Kacey Watkins Nobis), I talk to second grade students about how Mr. Kandinsky liked shapes and how colors looked together.  I then have them create their own concentric circles on an 8x8 piece of paper putting out markers, oil pastels, crayons, and highlighters, having them experiment with different materials.  I next laminate each circle and display together.
 2nd Grade Kandinsky Circles
 3rd Grade Abstract Expressionism

Let's Face It......



This is a great project I did with 6th grade.  I printed out about 100 famous people from the past or present.  The list included some people such as Gandi, Justin Bieber, Hannah Montana, Derek Jeter, Lebron James, Julius Ceasar, and Winston Churchill.  I put them in a pile of male and female.  I made the students close their eyes and pic.  They could then switch with someone if they really wanted.  I did this to prevent a mad rush for Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez.  Next the students cut the picture in half and glued one side on a piece of paper.  The kept the other side to look at and draw.  I taught them face proportion, value and how to shade.  I then took them to the computer lab and they had to write a three paragraph essay on who the person was and why they were famous.  The results were fantastic, and hey,  they even learned something about Johnny Cash, Gorbechev, and the Dalai Lama. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

Clay is not my strongest area.  I think it's an amazing substance but haven't had the time to spend getting to know it that well.  My own work is usually 2D like painting and fabric work.  I try my hardest to find great lessons for students because clay IS their favorite.  It's hard for me to get quality work because the "drying out" element. It's also hard because of putting names or initals on the bottom, and they are often hard to read.  So the loading of the kiln, mixing of classes, glazing and another firing is quite hard for me.  I am not sure who told me but water color works great on fired clay.  So, after you do a project and fire it once, hand it back to the kids and have them water color the bisque pieces.  I then spray them in a clear gloss.  They look fantastic.  I usually do this with a project I know they won't eat off or try to put water in.  Here are some "Aztec" inspired Suns.

Munch's SCREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edvard Munch was an expressionist painter and printmaker from Oslo Norway. He was regarded as the pioneer of the amazing Expressionist movement. His art work from the late 1800′s is the most well known, but his later work is gradually attracting more attention and is a worldwide inspiration.  This famous painting has been the inspiration for The Scream mask you often see during Halloween.  I usually do this project during Halloween because it gets the students thinking about things that make them "scream", like spiders, homework, and clowns! I give them a white piece of paper and either oil pastels or crayons.  Tell them about expressionism lines and have them go left to right with straight and curvy lines.  Next the students water color over the lines for a "resist" effect.  The next class we draw a SCREAM face on black construction paper with oil pastels.  So they all don't look the same I have them add their own hair.  The students then cut this out and glue on the background.  Here is Munch's masterpiece along with some 4th grade work as well.

Art Around The World

My friends Mike and Alison met in Vietnam and fell in love.....with each other and this beautiful country.  In 2007 they created a non-for-profit to help kids who suffered from the long lasting effects of Agent Orange sprayed all over the country during the Ameican/Vietnam War.  I decided I needed to go.  Curtis was in his last year of law school and would be taking The Bar in the upcoming summer and couldn't go.  I needed to find someone who had their summers off, liked art, and wanted to travel to Asia.  There weren't a lot of options in Ohio but I had to go.  I met this person who went to high school with Curtis this weekend whom he told me was an art teacher.  I called her out of the blue and asked her to go.  Tracy immediately said yes, and after a few phone calls decided she coudn't because a friend was coming home from Iraq.  So, I called up another random person I met one night who was an art teacher, Kacey Nobis.  Both of these "random" girls had a few close degrees of separation in my life, and I didn't think this was a coincidence.  Kacey Nobis now Watkins and I had agreed to go to Vietnam together to do charity artwork with kids and didn't know each other, except we find out our moms were friends in college??!  We had a crash course on each other and decided it would work.  I had resigned from my job at Pattison heading to NYC and mentioned to my principal that I knew this girl (Tracy) who may be interested in the job and I think she would be a great fit.  Well, Tracy got the job, and Kacey and I went to Asia together and 5 years later these two "random" art teachers are my two best friends. 

Vietnam was a wonderful experience and I too fell in love with this country.  Kacey and I brought the work back to the USA and Mike, Alison, and I put on a charity event in NYC that was a huge hit.  My mother even befriended the United Nations Representatives from Vietnam and was invited for a private tour of the UN.  Here are a few pics, and a link to Mike and Alison's charity in case you are interested. 
 Me in Vietnam.
 Kacey in Vietnam. 
Us with group. 
 The United Nations Representatives loved my mom and aunt. 
 pictures of the art we did in Vietnam that we made into magnets. 
Tracy and I in her art room that used to be mine!

American Gothic Satire

My former principal loved American Gothic by Grant Wood.  My last year at this school in 2007 I decided that before I left I would have all of the 6th graders do a project on this very famous painting. I showed them all the painting and explained to them what "satire" was.  We then brainstormed ways to change the painting.  I had them pick two things that either commonly went together or didn't go together.  For example salt and pepper, or a Yankee and Red Sox fan.  Here are a few examples along with Grant Wood's original. 

Matisse's Icarus

Henri Matisse was a French painter who became very famous for using extraordinarily bold colors. Later in life, as his health began to fail, Matisse turned to making collages. His last, and most important works were a collection of mixed-media collages. Matisse arranged boldly colored paper cutouts into striking compositions, and added text in his own handwriting to produce a book that has been referred to as "the visual counterpart of jazz music".

Henri Matisse made his famous collages from white paper hand-painted with specially pigmented gouache. (He was sick, so he had an assistant prepare the paper. The pigments Matisse selected were the same pigments he planned to use when printing the book.)

Henri Matisse wrote: "The paper cutouts allow me to draw with color. For me, it is a simplification. Instead of drawing an outline and then filling in with color - with one modifying the other - I draw directly in color... It is not a starting point, it is a completion."

Henri was is also revered as a beloved painter, but his paper cut outs add another interesting chapter to his life.  I show the work of Matisse to my fifth graders and then teach them body proportion.  I focus on the Icarus picture of Matisse's.  Next students cut out shapes out of paper in 3 colors and glue to a background.  Next they cut a figure out of black paper inspired by Icarus.  Last they cut out a few shapes to glue on top. 

Fine Arts Night

My school has a Fine Arts Night every year.  This is a night dedicated just to Music, Art, and Physical Education.  I hang up work in every place I can find, the music teacher puts on a few amazing plays, skits, and performances, and our phys. ed teacher does movement and exercise activities.  Because this is my first year I didn't know what to expect, but was blown away by the turn out, excitement and participation.  Here are a few pics of the artwork I displayed for our fantastic artists. 

Friday, March 18, 2011


                                Mosaics are everywhere in NY.  Here is a great one at a Subway Stop
                          I have always loved Picasso Three Musicians and always include it in my lesson plans. 
 My favorite thing of the entire city.  I sometimes would stare endlessly at this Roebling Masterpiece. 
 Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest wonder....the Guggenheim.  When I nannyed for a family in NY, the girl's school was a block from this museum.  At least once a week I took a stroll by and always snapped some pics. 
                                                 A Roy Lictenstein in Time Square Subway Station. 
                                                                   Calder Wire Circus
My favorite art in NYC....street Art. 

So, if you don't know by now  I am obsessed with New York City.  I feel so blessed to have been able to have lived in this amazing city filled to the brim with everything....including art.  I was fortunate enough to have lived a "fairy tale" life in NYC of working part time, and in the other "part time" I painted, went to art museums and tried to search endlessly for everything I could find in NY.  Obviously, you could live a life time in this city and never see all of it's wonders but I am going to post some of my very favorite ART wonders.


I hadn't taught Frank Stella and didn't know much about him.  When Curtis worked in NYC his office building had a huge gorgeous Stella in the lobby.  When we returned to Ohio I decided it was time.  First the students took a black piece of tag board.  I then wrapped newspaper in bubble wrap for a ball about the size of a lemon.  They chose a color of paint and stamped the bubble wrap on the tag board.  Then I cut up white cardboad (copy machine paper boxes) in all different squares, triangles etc. I let the kids go how wild with permanent markers making "non objective" symbols such as lines, circles and dots.  Next I used scrap tag board of all colors and let them use crazy scissors, and hole punches.  I explained to them what a relief sculpture was and the difference between non-objective and objective work.  They glued all their shapes and pieces on the board for some fantastic mini Stellas.  Above you will see the work in the law office in NYC and some in my "office" in Ohio. 

The Marker Cap Color Wheel

For a few years now I have been semi-trying to think of something fun/creative to do with marker caps,  It always bothered me that the markers my students used just got pitched after awhile and were done.  At the beginning of this school year I was laying in bed thinking that I wanted to make something and wanted to do it now, so the marker caps from this year would be put to a good use.  I had thought of a famous painting done "mosaic" like and then realized you would new a bunch of certain colors and none of other colors.  I didn't want the student to think they should throw away some.....but not others.  So, it hit me.  What more appropriate in an artroom than a HUGE color wheel.  I went to my principal the next morning and asked him If I could hot glue the caps right to the wall and he agreed it would be a great addition.  My principal was a math teach too, so he helped me with the drawing and measuring of the circle.  The kids all hand me caps as soon as they think the markers have no ink, give me some from home, and other art teachers have donated.  This picture was taken in's much further along now, but not finished!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The walls outside my art room were a little white and blank.  All year long I wanted to add som pizazz but it's hard to come in on the weekend.  I decided this years Fine Arts Festival was perfect timing so with no time to spare I called my mom the weekend before to help me because time was running out.  It was a lot of hard work and long hours but the mural has given the hallway some new life and fun.  Here are a few pics!

Kente Cloth

During African American History Month (February), I like to do a second grade weaving project.  I read kids the book Kente Colors and then have them make their "cloth" out of paper.  I explain to them what each color symbolizes in the traditional African cloth and they pick accordingly to the things they identify with.