Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Artists I Love: Tim Gagnon

Tim Gagnon is an artist that lives in Maine and was named one of the "Top 50 Emerging Artists in 2012" by Art Business News.  I absolutely love his "tree paintings," especially the abstract ones.

Gagnon offers dozens of painting tutorials on YouTube and more of his work can be seen on his website.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Renee's Cakes" (Original Painting)

This painting is from a photograph that I took at our friends' wedding a few years ago. Renee (the bride) is a WONDERFUL cook and an even better "baker" ... which is a good thing since her husband loves to eat :)

Aside from the appetizing nature of the subject matter, I was drawn to photograph this still life because of 2 main reasons. 

1. I love painting reflections. The glass cake stands and the coffee mugs sucked me in. 

2. The repetition in the objects on the table was so apparent that it seemed difficult NOT to come up with a good composition. There's repetition in the coffee mug, the icing drips, the texture on the cake stand and the baby's breath surrounding the roses. 

If you are interested in purchasing this painting, click HERE for more information.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Culture affects our perception

Image from "God Grew Tired of Us"
This post is devoted to a NC Essential Standard that I've been working on how to address in the classroom:
P.V.2.2: The student "recognizes how personal experience influences the perception of the environment."

Most adults don't completely grasp this, and I've really struggled with coming up with a way to get it across to teenagers. I chose to focus on this standard first because I think it will help them to be more accepting of differences they see in their peers.

After a bit of thought, here's my lesson plan:

Step 1: I will begin by giving them a short background of my personal education: the expectations that my parents, teachers and community had regarding post-secondary education (college was definitely an expectation). We will discuss how my background affects how I teach and what I expect from them. Once they understand this, they can help to explain their unique, individual needs to me.

Step 2: Each table will be given a question to discuss. Each person at the table will share their opinion regarding the question. Then, they will analyze how their opinions have been shaped by their environment.
Here are some sample questions: What is a good age to begin having children? When is it important to be on time? When is it okay to use your phone in public, and when (if ever) is it considered rude?

I teach at a very diverse school and sometimes the kids don't realize how often their actions are culturally driven. Hopefully, these table discussions will explain some reasoning behind beliefs/opinions.

Step 3: Some tables will be called upon to share their discussion with the class.

Step 4: I will show students an excerpt from "God Grew Tired of Us," a documentary about 4 boys who were orphaned in Sudan and came to America in search of safety. They are faced with many obstacles due to vast cultural differences. A portion of the documentary can be seen HERE.

Step 5: We will continue our class discussion, by applying these thoughts to how we critique and interpret art. We'll discuss the following questions:

1. How can we understand and appreciate an artwork made by someone from a completely different culture?

2. Can we determine if an artwork is successful if we know nothing about the artsit that made it or their background?

3. When, if ever, is it important to know the artist's background?

Please share any thoughts or activities that you've tried in your classroom related to this topic!

Friday, August 16, 2013

DIY mural for a kid's room

This is a mural that I painted in my son's room nearly a year ago.

First, I took tons of pictures of him blowing bubbles. I used a data projector to project one of them onto the wall, and I traced his silhouette. Then, I added the circles in a variety of sizes to be the bubbles. I found images that represent his specific interests and used those in some of the bubbles: breakdancers, cars, musical instruments and a soccer player.

You can find lots of good images to use for murals when you search "silhouette" or "vector" along with subject you are trying to find. Many of these are copyright free; just add that to your search.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pre-Assessment in Art

With only a few more days before the start of school, I've been thinking a lot about pre-assessment, especially for my Art 1 students. These students will be coming from different schools with varying backgrounds of art, and I don't know any of them.

At the beginning of the year, I need to know what technical skills they already have, their knowledge of the elements of art and principles of design, how much they know about art history, and their ability to critique art. 

Within the first week, I will ask them to complete 3 drawings: a drawing of their hand, a self-portrait and a drawing of the corner of the room. Then, after several weeks of intense drawing instruction, they will complete the same 3 drawings and I will check for improvement.

I have also started developing a written pre-assessment test. This is the first year that I have given one, and I expect that it will be modified A LOT over the next few years. It was very difficult to decide what to include on this pre-assessment without creating a 3-hour exam.  Hopefully, this will give me a broad view of what they know, and I can give more specific pre-assessments before beginning each individual standard.

For a link to the pre-assessment, click HERE

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Artists I Love: Karin Jurick

I've been following Karin Jurick's art for at least 5 years now, and I love it. She paints everything: landscapes, animals, portraits, food- whatever catches her interest. She is known for her portraits that she paints from photographs of unsuspecting art patrons enjoying artwork in galleries. In these paintings, she captures unique body language that gives personality to her subjects while sneaking her own renditions of famous paintings into background.

Here are two such paintings:

She has maintained the difficult pace of completing nearly "a painting a day" for over 6 years now. Her large quantity of paintings has kept her prices affordable, especially in her Ebay store.

Interesting fact about Karin Jurick: She is self-taught. She intended to go to college, but began her career working in her parents' picture framing shop. After losing both of her parents, she became the owner. She began painting again in 2004, after more than 15 years of not painting, and sold her work on Ebay.

She has a blog where she posts her daily paintings, and more of her work can be seen on her website.

Summer Project #2: Family Tree Mural

 Here's another project I've started . . . and not quite finished. I love the idea of having a visual family tree in my living room. I have a four year old son and another baby on the way, and I want them to know who their family is (even if they only get to see some of them once a year). I decided to include our (my husband's and my) parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. I found a basic image of a tree that I liked and used a data projector to project it onto the wall. After I traced it, I embellished it a little- adding extra branches, leaves, etc. Then, I added the frames and painted everything 2 shades darker than the background wall color. Now, I just have to print photos (in sepia tones) of each family member and attach them using double-sided mounting tape.

Attached to the tree is a string held by a bird. I added larger frames that hang down from the string which will include photos of our "core" family: me, my husband, my 4-year old son and our new baby (due Oct. 8)

So far, I've only added one photo- a recent ultra sound of "baby brother." (We haven't committed to a name yet). It's amazing how much he looks like our oldest already. Today marks 30 weeks! Another one of my summer projects is to get his room ready. . .

"Art with Mom"

I collaborated with Noah (my 4-year old son) to make this painting. I asked him to draw a picture for me (about 1 year ago), which I copied onto a 9" x 12" canvas in paint. Then, I painted the three crayons to look as if they are laying on top (trompe-l'oeil style). I went over everything that Noah drew with oil pastel to give it a "crayon look." I look forward to working with Noah on more paintings in the future- especially if we pass them back and forth.

Choosing a baby name for a boy

I have had the hardest time coming up with and committing to a name for this baby (Due October 8th). We have three names that we are considering . . . and are open to more- feel free to check "other" and leave a suggestion... although I hope everyone doesn't do that or we're back at the beginning of name choosing.

 I'm curious to see which name would win in a vote:
(not to say that this will, in any way, determine what we decide to name our son)

I'll post results on Monday

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

"The General Store" (An original painting)

I finished this painting a while ago, but it was in a traveling show for a year and unavailable for sale.

While painting this, I used a reference photo that I took at the Farmer's Market in Raleigh. They had all kinds of different soda in glass bottles soaking in ice, and the reflections caught my eye (I love painting objects with reflective surfaces).

If you are interested in purchasing this original painting, click HERE.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Survey Results: What should we name our son?

And . . . .the results are in.

Charles Jeffery Lampson (Charlie) came in first with 47.8% of the votes.

Samuel Jeffery Lampson (Sam) came in second with 39.1%

"Other" Names made up 21.7% of the vote- thank you to those of you who took this seriously, however, I did enjoy laughing at the less serious responses. (Glen and Patrick, I'm highly disappointed in your absence on this one)

Benjamin Jeffery Lampson (Ben) was the last choice with 8.7%

We still haven't decided on a name, but the poll did make me a little more confident about ruling out Benjamin. Over the past few days, I continue to go back and forth between Charlie and Sam. I never thought I'd be so last-minute, but I may end up waiting until after he's born to decide.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Still on the Easel

Here's a look at what I'm currently working on. I'm trying out a new process that has made painting even more fun. I started out with a photograph that I took (at the Durham Science Museum's Butterfly Garden). Up to this point, I've been using acrylic paint as well as collage to block in basic shapes.

Whenever I get the mail, I look through the catalogues to see if any colors/text/texture/etc. belong in the painting. Then I tear and glue. 

It has made junk mail much more fun.

Here's a close-up of the painting above. I think I'm finally at the point where I'm ready to continue on solely with paint so tomorrow, I'll break out the oils! I prefer oil paint to acrylic, but you can't collage over oil paint with gel medium (which is what I've been using). Since I've been alternating between painting and gluing, I've stuck to acrylic so far. I'm really excited to finally bring this piece together with some oil paint!

I'll post another picture when the painting is finished.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Grouping students in the classroom

I used to let students sit where they wanted in the classroom. I quickly learned that this is rarely a good idea. Now, I begin with assigned seats. They are posted on the Smartboard when they come to class on the first day.

On the second day of school, they have a new seating arrangement. In fact, they have new seats every day of the first week. This allows them to get to know the other students in the classroom quickly. After the first week of school, I change their seats every Monday.

The trick to this is that I use a completely random seating assignment. (I will explain my method for this below) The kids know this and accept their new seats with more grace because they know I am not purposely splitting them up from their friends.

However, I have had a class or two in the past that have required me to move away from the random seat assignments (and use teacher generated ones)- this is completely dependent upon their maturity and ability to stay on task even when they are randomly placed next to a good friend.

If you have a Smart Board in your classroom and Smart Notebook Software on your computer, you can follow the steps below to create random groups easily.

1. Open Smart Notebook. (I currently have Smart Notebook 11, so these screenshots/directions will reflect that.) Under the 2nd Tab on the left, click on "Lesson Activity Toolkit 2.0"

2. Scroll down to "Tools." 

3. Look under "Interactive and Multimedia" until you find "Random Group picker (text)" and insert it into the notebook.

4. At this point, I type in all the names of the students in one of my classes. Then, since I have seven tables, I select "7" as the number of groups. Then, I click "generate."

5. Now all of my students have been randomly placed at 7 different tables. I show my class this at least once so they know that it really is random. Then, I save it so that I can just regroup them whenever I want.

Monday, August 05, 2013

The First Days of School

During my first few years of teaching, I drastically underestimated the importance of building/nurturing/growing my "classroom family." Students are more likely to grow individually if they are able to work together as a group- developing ideas through conversation, debating multiple solutions and giving appropriate, constructive criticism. (This also simulates many work environments that they should be preparing for). During the first week of school (which starts in less than 3 weeks...ahhh! ) I spend time working on this.

Here are a few of my favorite games/activities (some taken and adapted from other teachers, some are original):

1. The "Wanted Poster": This is a way for students to share information about themselves in a creative way. I post them in the classroom as they finish. At the end of the first class, I ask the students to write one positive adjective on the poster of each person that sat at their table.

2. "Who Am I?" powerpoint: I go through a brief presentation that tells the kids a little about me. I make sure to answer questions that I will have them answer in later activities. (my favorite movie, things I do in my free time, my celebrity crush, etc.)

3. "Four Questions": I give each table a paper with four questions on it. They each choose a question to answer (verbally to the people at their table). Then, I call on students to share something that they learned about someone at their table. Here are a few examples of questions I use:

If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Were you named after anyone?
What word describes you best?
Who is your role model? Why?
If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?
If you could witness any historical event, what would it be?

4. Show and Tell: This may sound juvenile, but my students LOVE it. On the first day, I tell them they have homework . . . and they groan. Then, I tell them their homework is to bring in an item for "show and tell" that will teach us something about them. Some of them pretend to think it's silly, but they know they love it.

5. People Bingo: I give students 10 minutes to find other kids to sign their name in the appropriate Bingo space. Examples of spaces: "Knows the names of all 4 ninja turtles," "Is allergic to cats," and "Has fainted or thrown up in public." They can't use the same person for 2 separate squares. They get a small piece of candy for a line and a slightly bigger prize (like a free late pass) if they get a "cover-all."

6. Class Mailbox: This is a new thing that I'll be doing this year. (I actually dreamed that I did it and thought it was worth trying). I plan to make a mailbox for each of my classes. I'll talk to the kids about how important positive affirmations are and explain that any time they want to give someone a positive affirmation, they can write it on a piece of paper and put it in the class mailbox. It can be anonymous, or they can sign their name. Every Friday, I'll "deliver" the mail to the recipients. During the first week of school, I will ask them at random times to write something positive about everyone at their table and put it in the mailbox. This will get them into the habit of using it, and on Friday, everyone should have received "mail." Later on in the year, I'll write another post about how this is going.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Lego Art!

The Alamance County Arts Council is hosting "The Art of the Brick!" 

This exhibition features a traveling show of more than 30 Lego Sculptures by artist Nathan Sawaya. It opens to the public on August 3 and the community has come together to plan lots of activities around the exhibition. The Graham Public Library, the Children's Museum of Alamance County, Alamance Arts Council and The Burlington City Park are offering "brick building" classes, competitions and tons of other activities from now through October! For a complete listing, scroll down to the "Calendar of Special Events" on this page.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Painting Commission

Here's a painting that I finished about a month ago for someone that purchased a commission through an auction that I participated in hosted by the Alamance County Arts Council. I had an amazing photograph to work from taken by Josh Drye. 

The mother of these two beautiful girls gave me carte blanche with the background. I had recently covered Alphonse Mucha in my art classes at school, so that definitely played a part in choosing the circular design of flowers that seemed to fit so well in this composition. 

If you're interested in commissioning a painting, check out my prices on my Commissions Page!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Project #1: Website 'nip and tuck'

I only have 3 more weeks to finish all of my summer projects before the teacher workdays begin. I've been very unorganized this summer; I've begun multiple projects and have finished zero.

Project numero uno is to go through my website,, and give it a slight make-over. I have spent most of my time working on my "prints" page, and I'm going to start selling my prints via Canvas On Demand and Snapfish. This will eliminate a lot of the extra shipping and handling costs. I also added more choices. Here is an example of one of the prints that is now available.
To see other available prints, along with sizes/prices, and to "ooooh and ahhhhh" at what I have accomplished during my son's naptime over the last week, click here:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cultural Self-Portraits

Here's an assignment that I give Art 3 students. They are required to research a culture of their choosing and create a composite drawing that includes a self-portrait adorned in clothing, jewelry, make-up, etc. from that culture. Here are a few from this past year.
Arely chose ancient Greece. She also decided to include a pop of color.

Eddie chose to research the Aztec culture.

Here is Wynn as a Roman Gladiator.

Selena is a beautiful Egyptian Queen.

I love Usu's body language in his Japanese portrait.