Share Like An Art Teacher!

Debi Dunavant West and me at NAEA18.

Debi Dunavant West and me at NAEA18.

Debi Dunavant West has a saying she uses quite a lot, "Together We Art Better." She ought to know. She has received numerous awards for teaching including Georgia State Educator of the Year (2009) and National Elementary Art Educator of the Year (2005). There are more. Her students have received numerous awards as well. She is a powerful speaker/motivator. She also writes for several national publications. Debi believes in sharing. I do too.

Early in my art career, I was hesitant to share. Probably insecurity. It followed me early into my art teaching career. Not sure why. I guess I thought that I wanted to be the only person with such a great idea. Which in itself is a bad idea. Then after attending my first NAEA Convention, I realized that I was indeed NOT the only art teacher with good ideas. (Someone else designed cereal boxes? Really?) I was amazed at how freely the presenters shared what worked for them. That inspired me to "grab" what I could from others and give back what had worked for me in the classroom. 

Donalyn and me Co-Presenting at NAEA Convention in 2009.

Donalyn and me Co-Presenting at NAEA Convention in 2009.

Then in 2007, I was recruited by The University of Memphis to teach Art Education. Sharing became a way of life for me. It became the kind of giving with no regrets. My colleague at the university, Dr. Donalyn Heise modeled that kind of giving for me. Knowing that what I had learned, lessons that rocked, methods that motivated could be multiplied into the classrooms of others was exhilarating! When I returned to the classroom, I was then able to use my own advice, tweak some old lessons and create new ones, based on the feeling that what I was doing could be shared later with others I sometimes mentor. That's also where this blog came from as well as my YouTube Channel demos.

Nancy Walkup and me at NAEA 18 SchoolArts Vendors Booth.

Nancy Walkup and me at NAEA 18 SchoolArts Vendors Booth.

Writing has now also become a way of mentoring. I primarily write for SchoolArts Magazine. This has been a wonderful way for me to share and also inspires me to create new lessons, try them out and then write about them. I take lots of high quality images of students working, as well as photos of materials set up and products. When I know that I might write about it, I send out media permissions for parents to sign, so I'll be ready to submit.

If you have a great lesson, that's never been published, I highly recommend that you submit the lesson to a publication like SchoolArts in order to share it. Nancy Walkup is the Editor.
The link for the Writers Guidelines is below:

Here is one of the latest article I had published. It appeared in the March 2018 issue which was distributed at the NAEA 2018 Convention in Seattle. Enjoy and uh...feel free to Share Like An Art Teacher!



As we approach the last couple of months of the school year, my 8th Grade Honors Art students are working on a grid drawing of an assortment of candy. This project began as a photo project which began as a composition project. Since I love to weave "choice" into my lessons whenever possible, I asked students for a list of candy I should buy for this lesson. They complied. Imagine that! After I supplied all of the delectable delights Walgreens had to offer, students were instructed to choose an odd number and variety of candy, and to position the candy in a random fashion on a piece of white paper. Next students were to take a cropped photo of this assemblage. I spoke briefly to them about camera angles and lighting and showed them how to enhance the lighting on their iPhones. They then printed their photos out and, using a grid transparency, they made another copy of the photos. They could skip the last step, if they used a GRID App to take the photo in the first place. Next students lightly drew a one-inch grid on the surface of a 15 x 20-inch piece of illustration board. 

Since this wasn't the first time these students had done a grid drawing, I gave them a few tips and told them if they needed to review, they could revisit my YouTube Channel's Lesson on Drawing Using a Grid which is posted at the end of this entry. They began with a line drawing which I periodically checked for accuracy. Some of them are now at the point where they will begin shading the drawing this week, referring to the gradient scale they made back in the Fall.

After students finish shading, they will add watercolor and colored pencil to complete this realistic drawing. Yes, they will add these right on top of the graphite.

I have been working on this project along with the students; drawing and painting a little ahead, so that I can better guide them with this lesson. It also seems to be inspirational for them to see my painting develop. However, they are all working at a different pace. And this project is a perfect example of how students approach learning differently.

Some of the students who are naturally talented at sketching, or who sketch a lot, seem to veer away from the grid and use a little “artistic license” when it comes to using the photo reference. Others move slower constantly having to find their place on the grid, while still others who meticulously follow the grid are pleasantly surprised at how well their drawings are coming together. 

As a teacher, I want my students to know my expectations, but I do not want to “standardize” their outcomes. I want them to learn from this project, I want them to stretch their talents and skills, but most of all, I want them to have a positive learning experience. I know that not all of their drawings will be at the same skill level. But it is my hope that each child will find something learned from this lesson that will help them with the next, or cause them to look a little closer at a work of art in a gallery, or notice how the Friday night lights effect the Tootsie Pop they buy at the ballgame.