Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Flag for Art Advocacy

I needed to find a way to grab art colleagues' attention for the upcoming deadline for the TAEA Youth Art Month Flag Design contest. One entry per school per TAEA member, with art work focused on Texas/art education themes. I look forward to all the great ideas from art students in Kindergarten through 12th grade!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Creating with iMotion HD for iPad

Arts 2012 from Samantha Melvin on Vimeo.

In class today, I needed a sample video to demonstrate how iMotion HD works, so I created this short. I have students who are working on a claymation project and I think this tool will work really well! It is a free app, and I was able to export to Vimeo, as you can see. How will you use iMotion HD with your art students?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Learning through Art with Jacob Lawrence

Our art classroom discussions since the start of school have been about art, how we all interact, and how artists represent the variety of relationships we have through art. As part of the focus, we used Jacob Lawrence's piece, The Builders, as a springboard for conversation about collaboration.

In a press release issued for an art exhibition of the Builders series in 2011, DC Moore Gallery wrote: "Jacob Lawrence: Builders features paintings, drawings, and prints that communicate the artist’s belief in the possibility of building a better world through skill, ingenuity, hard work, and collaboration. For the last three decades of his life, Lawrence (1917-2000) consistently pursued the Builders theme, creating a sequence of vibrant modernist images that highlight his pervasive humanist vision. The Builders concept first appeared in Lawrence’s work in the mid-1940s, but assumed greater importance in the late 1960s and soon became a major focus. His subjects were carpenters, cabinetmakers, bricklayers, and construction workers in a variety of workaday and family situations. Overall, they came to symbolize some of his larger ideas about American culture, hope, persistence, and the shared responsibility for transforming society, inspired, as he once said, by his 'own observations of the human condition.'"

Jacob Lawrence wrote: "I like the symbolism. … I think of it as man’s aspiration, as a constructive tool— man building. "

We, in turn, think about his work and discuss what it means to build a collaborative environment where we are safe to create and exchange ideas. That is what the Fine Arts Studio aims to be.

As an extension of the conversation, and to learn more about Jacob Lawrence and his work, take a look at this Artsology online art game, comparing two images of Lawrence's Builders. The website is a great resource about art history, as well. Click here: Artsology Jacob Lawrence art game

Image source:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A New Tool for Advocacy

I recently discovered a new tool for sharing information on the web. It is from Smore which allows us to create online flyers which can be embedded into blogs and websites, shared via Facebook and Twitter, and emailed to a distribution list. I created one to share with members of the Texas Art Education Association as a reminder of our TASA/TASB convention art exhibit. I love how easy it was to create. I see lots of possibilities for sharing news and announcements with parents and colleagues, as well as publicizing art events and opportunities for the art education association. In case you were wondering, the TASA/TASB convention is for Texas superintendents and school board members to learn more about best practices, new ideas in education and participate in workshops and presentations. TAEA participates annually through an art exhibit of K-12 student work from across the state. This is a great advocacy opportunity for schools and districts around the state as board members and superintendents search high and low for their district's art work. They want their district represented! And we, in turn, are there to advocate for art education. The new deadline is September 15th! If you are a TAEA member, be sure to register online and mail your students' work to me directly. There is information in the TAEA YAM booklet on the TAEA website. If you would like to become a member of TAEA, you can join online at

Monday, June 25, 2012


What an honor! I was just recently nominated for the 2012 Most Fascinating Art Teacher Blog. I just think being considered for this is wonderful, and I appreciate the nomination! Please take a look at the other nominees as well--there is some great reading to be had about art education practice. It all comes to down to "What is Art Ed?" which was the post for which I was nominated. As we continue to look at our teaching practice, we need to eliminate that which does not push our students and add to what does. We need to shift from the one artist/one product model in art education and allow students to pursue their own artistic question within the constraints of media and time. How can we challenge our students to think more divergently? How can we challenge our students to be "problem-finders" rather than just problem-solvers? Today is the last day for voting for the Most Fascinating Art Teacher Blog, enjoy the reading.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sharing a Part

As I reflect on the lessons of the year, there is one that caused the students to ponder what it means to create, to share with other artists and to take their works and create something personal and original. The lesson started with the technical aspects of monotype printmaking using ink and plexiglass. We observed several different examples of Jim Dine's hearts, as well as Peter Max's hearts and other prints. With the constraints of time and materials we focused on hearts as the theme. However, we emphasized how as artists we could express our individuality and create original works by using different colors and patterns in our work. We explored color with loaded brushes as it mixed and created new colors as well as designs. The first session allowed each student to create at least one monotype print.
We began the second session by discussing what we thought would happen if we shared with other artists: exchanging parts of our own work with others. We had experienced collaboration via TASK (see Oliver Herring) and watched Janine Antoni's "Moor" where she integrated others' contributions to her work. They then were instructed to cut out the heart and divide it into quarters. Some were horrified that they were expected to take their work apart. Others were excited to share with specific individuals in the class. Other students decided the work was most important and judged which works were to be part of the final work. It had to fit artistically for them and they were ready to influence or beg to get the parts they wanted. It was fascinating. As the students worked through the problem of exchanging the quarters to form the heart, they also became aesthetically critical, deciding how to transform the collage into their own once more using color sticks on the background. Their artist statement, which they shared on the back of their work, focused on one of the following prompts:
What surprised you by using someone else's work in your own work of art?
How did you feel about sharing your work with another artist?
How did you integrate other artists' work into your original art?

I think the process caused my students to evaluate their connection to their own work. As they continue to develop a relationship to their art making and with other artists, I wonder how they will grow as artists.

What are some ways you push your students to re-evaluate their process?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Liebster Blog Award!

Many thanks to Theresa Gillespie of for my nomination for the Liebster Blog Award! I accept gratefully, and will share the love. The origins of the Liebster Blog award are somewhat unclear but the general consensus is that it originated in Germany, "Liebster" meaning favorite or dearest, to showcase bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. Upon accepting the award the recipient must then pass it on to five more blogs of note.

Here are the rules:
1- Choose FIVE up and coming blogs to which you award the Liebster. Blogs must have less than 200 followers.
2- Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
3-Post the award on your blog. List the bloggers you gave the award to with links to their sites

Here are my nominees:

1. Atelierista Blog at for her Reggio approach to teaching
2. New City Arts at for Shannah's wonderful ideas and her creative approach integrating the multiple intelligences
3. Artful Artsy Amy at for sharing her middle school art class "life" and the realities of teaching
4. Modern Art 4 Kids shares exploration in art in a homeschool setting
5. Art Class Works with Lori in NJ Lori shares advocacy, and interdisciplinary projects.

I can't wait to read more from you all. Which blogs will you nominate?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coming Face to Face with Contemporary Art

As I prepare for the NAEA convention in New York City, the experiences from my last visit come flooding back: I was a 2011 participant in the Art:21 Educator Institute. The week-long journey in contemporary art, contemporary themes and contemporary artists was eye-opening. Previous examples of good art "teaching" were firmly entrenched in DBAE approaches--a focus on an artist, a style, a technique and more importantly, the elements of art and the principles of design. We talked the "talk" of art educators across the country saying how important it was to focus on line, color and the use of space. Meanwhile, in contemporary art education circles, a contrasting dialogue about the rules of art making was developing: a product of constructivist theory. As we build on our experiences, we develop new ways of communicating them to others. What ideas will our students generate and how will they express them?

In preparation for the institute, we were asked to read Olivia Gude's article, Postmodern Principles, featured in Art Education, January 2004, and here published on her Digication portfolio. We then just recently had the opportunity to visit with Gude as part of our online sessions, and this is where I heard about her work entitled Principles of Possibility. I was excited to read her article, as it dealt in part with raising the bar for individual student's connection to their own works of art. While I maintain that a broad understanding of art history, that includes artists from a variety of periods and styles, where students can also develop beginning technical skill in a variety of media is important (especially at the formative elementary level) I see her point. She refers to Terry Barrett's "Principles of Interpretation" as an excellent framework by which teachers:

can organize instruction and students can search for meaning within artworks. Principles such as "Artworks are always about something" and "Artworks attract multiple interpretations and it is not the goal of interpretation to arrive at a single, grand, unified, composite interpretation" focus students on making thoughtful evidence-based investigations of the meanings generated by visual images, including theartworks they themselves make. (Barrett,2003, p. 198)

Engaging students in the conversation about themes and the big ideas behind art encourages them to be involved with their artwork. The understanding of how the work evolved would be purely superficial if the whole discussion dealt only with the elements of art, like line and color, that were used to create the work. Why did the artist create? What story is the artist trying to tell? What point is the artist trying to make about what is happening in society? What is the reason for the work? What does it mean?

This year, with my integration of Art:21 materials as well as other resources, I am focusing on the big idea of "Art is relationships." In coming face to face with contemporary art, we reason with ourselves to understand the meaning behind the artist's work. What does it connect to and why? A lot of our work in the studio evolves through a collaborative engagement in the medium. We are all part of the work: we learn from each other, we share our ideas, we grow and develop as artists. Oliver Herring's art work: TASK, is decidedly the best example of "Art is relationships." that I can find. I am excited to participate in the NAEA Task Party, as it will take TASK to a whole new level. Gude writes: "Artists create social spaces -temporary and permanent opportunities for people to connect and interact." TASK is an artistic experience in creating an evolving, creative, interactive social space.

Have you ever been a part of TASK? What was your experience?

Photo taken at Oliver Herring's studio with "Gloria" by Oliver Herring. Summer 2011

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peephole Dioramas

My students took their enthusiasm from reading The Sixty-Eight Rooms, by Marianne Malone, and created their own peephole dioramas. We referred to the Otherworldly exhibit held at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, which I saw with my Art21 colleagues. We had created our own dioramas using a variety of materials, and showcased our finished work at the museum.  Each had a unique perspective and engaged the viewer in a narrative informed by the design. My students each determined the look they wanted by adapting cardboard, paper, paint, designer fabric remnants, and Model Magic for furniture and accessories. Each had to determine which aspects and details of an interior space would define the person who lived there. Which details would be omitted and why? 

“First we shape our buildings, then they shape us”  --Winston Churchill, 1943

Or do they? As my students explored interior spaces and the view from their space, they also had to consider what interests and needs this individual had. What was happening at that moment for this character when time stood still? 

Each student created the diorama and wrote a story about the character. They recorded these last week, perhaps a podcast of these stories will come next. What I thought fascinating was that these characters were not defined by the space in which they lived... That was just a part of the story. The rest was "out of the box."

The peephole dioramas are on display on our Artsonia Gallery.

More connections:

If your students have read The Sixty-Eight Rooms, I encourage you to give Escape from Thorne Mansion Interactive by the Art Institute of Chicago a try. You'll find a review by the Teaching Palette here: Escape from Thorne Mansion Interactive. I found it was good to allow students to partner with each other. Also, be sure your school filters don't block the pop-ups! You need those for the clues!