19 March 2018

Brookwood Art: Holidays, Parades, and Art Making . . . Oh my!!

Grab a cup of tea. This post is going to be a long one . . . I have put off a month of blogging due to job responsibilities--some of them written about below--so prepare to be inundated with lots and lots of information! Or feel free to scroll through and stop when something piques your interest. Enjoy!!  

Let's talk about parades, shall we? I love them. I adore them. I get chills of excitement just thinking about them . . . No, no. Not watching them (although I think watching the big Macy's parade on the telly at Thanksgiving is fun and nostalgic). But standing on the sidelines watching it come down the street? No thanks! I want to be in it! 

I want to make paper flowers to deck out a trailer. I want to hold the rope of a very large balloon character. I want to dance and march and MAKE SOME NOISE

For years, parades have been on the periphery of my art research. Whenever I am thinking about things I might want to make or trying to figure out how I can include something festive in an installation, I turn to parade footage and photographs. I mean, aren't these three images from parades in the 1940s interesting? 

While I was living overseas, I got to see so many amazing parades. There were parades for funerals, to celebrate families, for religious festivals that I had never heard of. IT WAS AWESOME!! The best one was during Singapore's National Day celebration. There was a float with a giant cake on it with firework candles because Singapore was turning 50 at the time. And there was another one with a giant head of the Prime Minister on it, with his mouth opening and closing . . . When I say giant, I mean this head was like 2 stories tall, you guys. THAT'S HUGE!

This is why it thrills me to no end to share with you all a fabulous parade-based opportunity made available for the Thomasville community by You're Maker! and the City of Thomasville!


You're Maker! is partnering with the City of Thomasville and me to bring four fun and unique MAKER opportunities. "Let's Have a Parade!" is a 4-part weekend workshop focused on parades from around the world and how to create interactive props and floats. The City of Thomasville's partnership means that we can provide these workshops for FREE! (Yep, you read that right: FREE!!!) We will be making banners, flags, noisemakers, decorated hula hoops, costumes, a ginormous float that will be featured FIRST in the lineup, and so much more!! Spots ARE LIMITED, so grab yours now: click here! 

PS: if anyone actually knows the person in charge of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, where I can volunteer to be a rope-holder, please let me know. This is on the bucket list and I have yet to make any inroads for this task to be completed!


With my last Brookwood check-in, I had not yet moved to Thomasville. But now I'm here! You can see above my guest bathroom shower curtain that was delivered shortly after I permanently came to town. It was a wild goose chase, actually, because it was delivered to a house down the street from Brookwood. Can you imagine someone opening up this fabulous Jeff Goldblum shower curtain? I never would have seen it again. Luckily it was found!! **See also similar pic to shower curtain: me decked out in antlers holding my cat, Sir Rigby. #twinning

It should go without saying that we are having a fabulous first couple of months in Thomasville, Georgia! Thank you for the warm welcome! (And to our awesome Thomasville Post Master person for finding my shower curtain!)

THANKSGIVING. Do you see how far behind I am?!

Never in a million years would I think that the art teacher would have anything to do with Thanksgiving. But it's true! My students and I had to decorate a gym, tables, and the cafeteria. It was exhausting and sometimes stressful. But in the end it was very rewarding to see almost 500 people coming through and eating a wonderful meal surrounded by the art pieces that the students made.

A gym is huge. And Thanksgiving can be, um, complicated--both historically and in color palette. So I decided from the get-go that we would theme everything in sticks/pinecones, feathers, and gratitude.

My lovely third graders collected tons and tons of sticks. We used these sticks in our centerpieces, and as rods for hanging flags where students drew thankful hedgehogs and grateful squirrels. We collected pinecones to display drawings of both turkeys and cornucopias. And each student (grades JK - 5) made two giant feathers each, decorated in colored pencil and finished off with watercolor.

With the feathers, we made the most amazing set of wings for people to have their picture made in front of whilst waiting in line for their foods. You can see how great little Ms. Reagan and Mrs. Newcombe look in their wings (above). We used the remainder of the feathers as table runners and swags over doorways. I sewed them together on a sewing machine, tip to tail, so we would have giant lengths of these paper feathers to work with. I had the most incredible sets of parents helping me to hang everything and lay out the tables. It was so wonderful!

I still have all of the feather swags, the set of wings, and the center pieces (above) in my room because I could't bare to part with them . . . I need my own personal storage garage for student artwork!! Thoughts, feelings, emotions!! Discuss.


In a past life, I was a Christmas Elf. This is not a joke.

I love Christmas more than anything else in the entire world. I think Santa and his spirit of giving is wonderful (although his methods of chimney shooting and sneaking around are a bit questionable). I love that the extended belief in Santa lends itself to active imaginations and excitement that can last sometimes up to three months prior to his visit.

Elf is my most favorite movie. So much so that we maybe watched it at least 6 times alone in that last week of school before our Winter Break. And, to be honest, sometimes I watch it mid-summer . . . Just because.

At Brookwood, another event that falls onto the shoulders of the art teacher is Christmas. Not "the holidays" or "winter-y themed" artwork, but Christmas--in all of it's red and green goodness. Under direction of the art teacher, each student in the Lower School makes a gift for their parents, guardians, or grandparents. Canvases are ordered that fit a specific envelope, and I figure out what needs to go on said canvases while the homeroom teachers have the students decorate the envelopes. Trying to find a balance between my personal beliefs around the holidays and gift-giving, I mustered up all of my "elf" spirit, and created the following works with my kidlets. (Projects by grades 5 and 6 are not pictured.)

My tiniest of students made stockings that "floated" on modern canvases. The students each drew in pencil their own stockings and watercolored them. Classroom assistants traced each of the stockings whilst the students painted their canvases with acrylic paints. And I cut out cardboard pieces to mount the stockings on, before gluing the stockings to the canvases.

I've chosen some of their modern backgrounds (pre-stockings) to show you below. I LOVE THEM! Look how great the colors and compositions are!!



Kindergarten students practiced their cutting and shape/line-drawing skills by making hats and gloves on a snowy background. I added the faces peeking out and the fabric scarves. Depending on the size of their hats and scarves, the faces were either large or barely peeking out . . . I found these pieces humorous.

My lovely Grade 1's made one of my two favorite projects from the season . . . There was so much learning involved in this project! That's what made it so great!

We started off by looking at cardinal images by the illustrator Charley Harper. Then the students split into groups: half of them painted white paper with sticks while the other half painted their canvases navy, and then they switched so that everyone had a turn to paint with sticks. During the next class period, the students cut a simple red circle into half, and then one of the halves into thirds. And using those parts and pieces of the circle, they created a cardinal. And using strips of the white paper that they painted with sticks, they created alpine trees. So the cardinals appeared to be flying through an alpine forest. The students used the wooden end of their paintbrush to create snow, and some of them cut out small wreathes to go around the cardinals' necks. I just love how these turned out! And, on instagram, the Charley Harper Foundation reposted our cardinals on their IG site to show the process of learning. So fun!!

In Grade 2, we looked at cities that were organized by brownstones or row homes. Then we looked at gingerbread houses that mimicked these types of city homes. Each student designed their own construction paper version of a gingerbread city home complete with decorations and snow. 

Grade 3 students were inspired by The Nutcracker. We watched several videos in class of this ballet, and the students had mostly all seen the live performance of The Nutcracker at the Thomasville Center For The Arts.


Grade 4 students were tasked with creating self-portraits standing out in the snow, catching snowflakes in their mouths. This was a challenge because they had to think about how their face would be positioned and what that viewpoint of their head would look like drawn out. This was the second of my two favorite projects that we created during this season. Didn't they do a fabulous job? Each one was so different, yet each one completely represented the child who made them. Can you guess which students made these three featured pieces?


Somehow Winter Break happened and 2018 was upon us! I went to Nashville and Wisconsin. You can read about my trips here.


Once back in the classroom, we prepared for a semester of so many things! We started off by ringing in the Year of The Dog. Since teaching in Southeast Asia, I have made a point to ring in the lunar New Year with each of my classes. And since it was the Year of The Dog, and Brookwood LOVES dogs, I thought we should create a dog wall and share with the world our beloved pets. You can learn more about Chinese New Year in the video below. The kids LOVE this video, and it gives a lot of information that I find interesting.

Mavis was particularly excited about the Year of The Dog, which gave me more incentive to show my favorite music video in my classes. (Anytime I can share my undying love of music videos with my classes, I am the happiest of humans.)



I have to admit. I may have gotten carried away with the Olympics. When our PE teacher, Ms. Cheney, asked me to make some specific things for her celebration of the Olympics with her classes, I went whole hog. 

We made signs and drew snowboarders, made country-specific flags and watched live streaming videos of what was actually happening in Pyeongchang, South Korea. One of my lovely fifth graders drew the most incredible portrait of snowboarder Chloe Kim. Isn't it wonderful?


Things got real crazy when I started channeling vintage Shawn White. Not to worry, though. After he won his third gold medal, things went back to normal.

While most of my students worked on collaborative projects centered around the Olympics, my Junior K students got to make their very own gold medals and torches to take home. Aren't they the sweetest?

Clay Month was for the entire month of January. My friend Gary and his wife Rebecca stopped by for a visit and did a demo for my first graders. They loved watching him throw on the wheel.

Clay Month happened so that we could prepare for our school's Empty Bowls project. I've been involved with lots and lots of Empty Bowl projects throughout my life as an artist, especially since I have a 15 year history with clay. But organizing and building clay work for an Empty Bowls campaign with elementary students is waaaaaaaaay more challenging. 

Here's the thing about clay. It's gooey. And wet. And messy. And comes in a block that weighs 25 pounds (and a box holds two blocks which is 50 pounds). So, it's also heavy. And there are kids. So many kids. And they love gooey and wet and messy. And sometimes they get more obsessed with the gooey and the wet and the messy--more than they do with the actual making of something. So for me to get 15 classes on board with the actual making of things is a FEAT. When this happens there should be a NATIONAL HOLIDAY, people. That's how big of a deal this actually is.

And then once said clay object is made/finished/completed, getting it in and out of the kiln without breaking it is a whole other celebration that should be had. Have you ever tried to keep students away from touching all of the clay items that are finished and drying in a very crowded classroom? No? It's a challenge, to say the least. Oh, and did I mention drying time? Yeah: drying time for a typical, average-sized clay bowl is about 3 days. In a humid climate? Maybe a week. So imagine trying to keep all ages of hands off of finished work for that long . . . 


Again: waiting for the ticker tape parade here . . . 

Here's my room, mid-Clay Month, down to one table. 


I am not against clay or the making of clay things for other things. But students LOVE WORKING IN CLAY. And so to have them do a single project where they then have to turn around and give that project away is hard. So refiguring this event so that the students get to experience the greatness of making something out of clay in a more timely, less hurried manner AND can donate work for a wonderful cause is my personal goal. 


I will say that we did get some awesome and inspiring bowls completed for this event, though. With all of the stress and pressure that took place, the kids did have an amazing time and worked really hard. Fourth grade made the sweetest blue, yellow, and white bowls based on Chinese pottery. My Grade 1's made penguin bowls, complete with the most wonderful preliminary drawings (see above). I enjoyed the flower bowls that the kindergarteners made, and the buggy bowls that my Grade 2's made. The food bowls made by my lovely third graders were interesting and incorporated the bowl form in an abstracted way--which I thought was great!! I always tell my students, "it's okay to make the viewer or audience member work a little bit for the art."

And Maureen Harrer, our fabulous Upper School art teacher, did an amazing job loading and unloading the kiln. AMAZING! Remember how I mentioned how weighty clay is? Well, kiln shelves are just as heavy. Loading a kiln takes patience, balance, Tetris-style space organization skills, and steady hands. And things sometimes explode in the kiln which ruins other pieces and causes a major mess, which means there even may be vacuuming and gluing involved. So, um, in the lead float of said ticker tape parade of greatness should definitely be Ms. Harrer. She is the bomb.

The fox above was created by one of my lovely sixth graders. He even made four legs for him, but I couldn't wait for the legs to take this pic. 


So a few new things have been on the horizon since the beginning of spring . . . One project that the students need to work on is all of the artwork that we will be displaying at the Thomasville Center for the Arts for their school wide gallery show for next year. Yep, you read that right: NEXT YEAR. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you see it), we are the first school to install our show next year. This means that our school wide gallery show goes up in August. We won't really even be in school during that time, so um, yeah . . . We're getting things done now.

Our group show is focusing on artists from the Bay Area in San Francisco from the 1950's through the 1970's. Doesn't that sound fancy?? We are looking at Richard Diebenkorn in kindergarten, Joan Brown in Grade 2, and Wayne Thiebaud in Grade 4. I am still working on choosing the artists for the remaining grades to look at. But we have started off really strong!

Because it was spring, and I really wanted to see some color, I had my lovely little Grade 1's making giant bugs using chalk pastels. Aren't they awesome?? We will be putting these around the school somewhere. Just not sure where, yet. They are gorgeous, though. I can't wait to hang them around! Please always remember: messy hands make beautiful things!

My Grade 1 students also had a few "free make" days . . . Jasmine is showing off the mask she made during one of our "free make" days. 

In Grade 2, we started our Joan Brown-inspired paintings, but also had a few free make days thrown in there. 

And, below is a wonderful *surprise* note that I received from Kennedy. I love my Grade 2 students so much!

Right after all of our clay work, I challenged my Grade 3 students in making radial symmetry squares. They are like mandalas, but square. And it teaches them about symmetry and how to achieve symmetry, which is a really tough concept to grasp. 

You guys! This is a middle school level project and they freakin' killed it! I will be hanging these up where we currently have our Year of the Dog wall. I just love them!!




My Grade 4 students worked through a chalk pastel project where they paired up and drew each other's portraits. Isn't Eva's face magical? Doesn't she look like the happiest person on the planet? She paired up with Lulu. So the portrait she is showing us is a picture of Lulu.


I also had a couple of students bring in their instruments. I would love to do this more! Open mic art classrooms are joyous places . . . Please encourage your children to share their musical talents with me! 


I have decided to embark on my most favorite elementary art project with my lovely Grade 5's. We have had a bit of a tough go at the school year together. But I felt like since I care about this project so much, maybe they will also care about it a lot. And, you guys, it's working!!!! They are doing an awesome job! Look at the expressions on these pieces?! I can't wait to see all of these finished in watercolor!


My second group of Grade 6 students came in around Halloween and left around Valentine's Day. I was so sad to see them go--such a creative and sweet group!

We made clay pieces for Brookwood's Empty Bowl event together, we made slime, they created awesome sketchbooks, made wonderful self-portraits based on movie characters, and curated the concept and idea behind the Charlie Brown work at the Thomasville Center for the Arts (see below).


I really, really loved this group of students! Each of the groups have their own style and energy!


These pictures don't even do justice to the amount of work that went into these pieces for the Thomasville Center for the Arts. The show is up NOW through April 4th--stop by and have a look, or check out the video below . . . Way to go Grade 6!


(This is Grade 4 playing with the work . . . )


(This is Grade 3 visiting the show whilst on a field trip.)


I don't have pictures of all of the auction art that my students participated in, but here are a few really fun examples. In the photo above, my Grade 3 students are painting a floral piece that each student worked on individually. We created some wonderful colors and textures in this piece.

Below is a piece of fabric that my kindergarteners worked on. Each student colored in one of the animals or flowers pieces. And then Ms. Emily from You're Maker digitally placed them in a design that was then printed on fabric. The fabric was used to tuft the top of a bench. Isn't it fun?!


My Grade 1's worked on tiles with alcohol paint. These tiles were installed in a tray made out of a beautiful dark wood.

My Grade 4 students each created a feather using black markers and acrylic paint. The feathers were placed in a digital file and then printed on a scarf by Ms. Mallory at Rinnovo--isn't it beautiful?



In January, I started a Lower School Art Club and a Middle School Art Club. 

My Middle School students--there are 5 of them--are working primarily on building a rocket ship out of cardboard, foam, paint, and plastic. We are hoping to have it complete by May 1st. After Spring Break, these students will work on a project with guest artists Dixie and Burl from Friends & Stars, Inc.


My Lower School students--there are 20 of them--have made everything from pet rocks to tiny rocket ships, slime to crystal paintings (see above). And this week, Fuzzy Goat from downtown Thomasville will be facilitating a fun project with everyone. I am excited to see what they make!


Last Thursday, I gave an artist talk as Brookwood educator and community enthusiast at the First Center For The Visual Arts. It was an amazing experience, and it helped me flesh out some ideas about art education that I have been thinking about for a long time. The talk has been turned into a podcast, which I will be posting on my website soon.

Additionally, Nadia Watts wrote a wonderful article about the art program at Brookwood. Half of the article features the work I do in my classes, and the other half of the article features the work that Ms. Harrer is doing in her Upper School art classes. A portion of the article is featured below by clicking on the image. The full article is available online through a paid subscription with Thomasville Times-Enterprise.

I have also started teaching private art lessons, after school, for students wishing to grow their skills and creative time. We work on what the student's personal goals are and projects they would like to complete. It is very individualized, and each student receives a sketchbook. Feel free to contact me for more information. Please find two images below of artwork created by Lulu Watkins, Grade 4.

Lastly, I have been creating some pretty ginormous banners as of late . . . All custom made and hand sewn out of felt. Most recently the orders have come out of DC, Florida, Papua Indonesia, and Ohio. And a lot of them are for educational facilities. I really LOVE sewing these big banners. So, if you are ever in the market for something--especially for a bedroom, a library, a classroom, or to kick off a parade--please feel free to contact me via Etsy or my website.

More soon! Go. Make. Fun. XO