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Drawing Act150/Human Made Object/Wk8 Remote Learning

“The teacher showed us how to see proportions, relationships, light and shadow, negative space, and space between space – something I never noticed before! In one week, I went from not knowing how to draw to sketching a detailed portrait. It literally changed the way I see things” Daniel H. Pink

This post features the work of my fifth and sixth grade art students who have been exploring drawing through lessons primarily derived from the Drawing Instruction manuals of 1872 by Walter Smith, which he developed to guide educators after the establishment of the Drawing Act of 1870. May 13, 2020, marks the 150th anniversary of the Drawing Act of Massachusetts.

Lizzy S

This is the third of three posts about our work with Drawing Instruction as defined by Walter Smith. I recommend the reader (that’s you!) begin by reading Drawing Act 150: Let’s Celebrate followed by Drawing Act 150/Light on White/Wk 7 Remote Learning before reading this post. This post, Drawing Act 150/Human Made Object//Wk 8 Remote Learning, showcases the culmination of the exploration of contour, light, and shading for my students. Their artworks from this post and our online gallery at Artsonia will be emailed as digital artworks to be included in the statewide celebration. Everyone from across the state is invited to participate in this event:

NEW 2020 05 Drawing Act Flyer summer edition

The assignment for this final phase of the project, Human Made Object, called for students to choose a human made, manufactured object from around the house to draw. These are the instructions they read in Google Classroom:

✍️Once you’ve watched the video, choose a human made, manufactured object from around the house. Set it on a white surface and illuminate it with a flashlight or lamp.

✍️Sketch the edges/outlines of the object. Add a grayscale at the top or bottom or on another sheet of paper if you forgot to leave room.

✍️Add shading to your drawing making sure you find areas in the human made object that correspond to every section of your gray scale.

✍️Blend with a tissue or soft paper if you choose.

✍️Erase any extraneous marks. Use your eraser to bring back the bright white areas.

✍️Take a photo of the page to include only the sketch, no background, no grayscale. Crop these out if they are included.

✍️Type your first name and last initial using the Mark-Up option in the regular iPad photo editing tools. See how-to links in earlier assignments.

Still of lesson video

Had we been at school rather than in our homes with remote learning, students would have had charcoal pencils, kneaded erasers, blending stomps, as well  as Yours Truly looking over their shoulders offering suggestions and demonstrating technique as needed, AND providing reminders about how to photograph artwork, I expect the final drawings would have blown our socks off. However, given that was not the situation and my students were working with #2 pencils and tissues for blending on paper on hand, these young artists knocked it out of the park! (But then again, they always do!) See for yourself (click on a drawing to view as a slide show):

I’ve documented our process with this project for myself as well as art educators across Massachusetts who would like to celebrate the Drawing Act 150th anniversary by submitting student drawings. These were my plans based on the resources I gathered. Feel free to use as much of this as you’d like and to tweak it to make it your own great fit for your demographic of students.

I had planned to have a drawing table set up at our spring art show where visitors could create a drawing to submit to the celebration. Because of school closure due to Covid-19, that didn’t happen. I look forward to doing this again in the fall, maybe even in physical school, and will reach out at that time for submissions from the community. I’m really glad to have had this trial run, even as remote learning. It has given me a good sense of how my students will respond (eagerly) when I facilitate this again. I am looking forward to celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870 with a lot of artwork and a whole lot of people in the future!


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DrawingAct150/Light on White/Wk 7 Remote Learning

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For the past two weeks, we’ve been looking at the way light falls on an object and trying to capture it in a drawing with pencil on paper.

Our focus on drawing is directly influenced by the celebration of the Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870 and the opportunity to submit drawings to a statewide celebration. You can read all about the Drawing Act in this post from March 16, 2020: Drawing Act 150: Let’s Celebrate. At the time of the post, we had just been released from school for what we thought was a two week quarantine due to the rise in incidents of Covid-19. Since then, schools have been closed through the end of the school year. Despite this shift, the Drawing Act Coalition, with the leadership of House Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester) and MassArt Chief of Staff Susana Segat, continues to meet to entertain ways to adapt, revise, and continue the celebration. At this time, entries are still being accepted via email. Because my students have school iPads at home, the Drawing Act unit is still viable. And so we soldier on.

For a couple of weeks, early in the time of remote learning, students copied the drawings of Walter Smith, who (literally) wrote the book on drawing instruction. This is the video I released to students to introduce the lesson and share information about the Drawing Act and Walter Smith: Drawing Instruction

At that point, ALL assignments were optional, so I know not all students participated in the lesson, although many did. Here are a few examples of the work that was submitted:

We took a break from the Drawing Act unit during Week 5 of remote learning – the week before April vacation – to lighten things up with the Make A Chicken project. Once we returned from vacation (staycation) and were energized and ready to get back to the business of drawing, I shared the skill builder lesson video with my students for How to Draw and Shade a Sphere. In teaching remotely, we are limited to the assign/submit method of instruction rather than the casual over-the-shoulder glance at student artwork during class in the physical classroom. We also have limited opportunities for communication. Normally, in a unit such as this one on Drawing, kids would enter the classroom and take sketchbooks from the class bins, read a prompt on the white board and start sketching. This is when those over-the-shoulder glances are so important, both as checks for understanding and as formative assessments. Then we’d move on to direct instruction in the form of a 5 minute demo with the document camera while all looked on. It’s at that point, currently, where remote learning begins, without the benefit of the “bell ringer” or warm up exercise. The video above replaces the 5 minute demo in remote learning, except it isn’t in person AND there’s no “ask me a question” opportunity. Despite the physical disconnect, my students did well with the assignment. Some chose to blend with a tissue or their fingers. Here are two of the 100+ spheres turned in to the Draw and Shade a Sphere assignment:

During week seven of remote learning, I shared the video Light On White  as an introduction to the lesson. The goal was for students to explore the way light falls on a white surface and the grays that are created by multiple geometric planes receiving the light at different angles. As you can see in the video, I offered the idea of folding paper with origami and sketching it, or randomly folding paper and sketching a less organized subject. I wanted it to be open to individual creativity (always) while exposing all students to the concepts of value, shading, and light. As you can see in the artwork below, there is a nice range of organized and random paper foldings. You can also view these artworks on Artsonia here. If you click on one of the photos below, you can view the gallery as a slideshow.

During the week that my students were working on this project, I invited them to join me for a half hour virtual class to fold paper with origami. Electives class live sessions are optional in our district, so I was happy to some have kids attend the sessions. Although I originally invited them to make paper cranes or to show me how to make something, I came across an easy way to make Baby Yoda with origami.

That option met with universal approval. We had a lot of laughs and bantered back and forth, yet made some pretty sweet Baby Yodas!



Make A Chicken Project/Wk 5 Remote Learning

“Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.” – Aesop

Because if you do, surely you will have underestimated. Both the quantity and quality of the Make A Chicken project assignment far exceeded my expectations for my art students in grades 5 and 6 at Miscoe Hill School, in Mendon, MA. Three key events came together as I assigned this project on April 13:

  • My husband and I had added eight chicks to our little farm on April 8. They were precious and sweet and truly brought much needed joy to our lives as we quarantined due to COVID19
  • On Facebook, I had seen the work of Massachusetts College of Art and Design Professor Chuck Stigliano and his students as they responded to his Chicken Challenge assignment: https://www.facebook.com/MassArtBoston/posts/10157789254776201
  • My school district was set to enjoy a school vacation from April 20-24. As we entered our 5th week of remote learning on April 13, I wanted to assign something cheerful and engaging to be accomplished with found materials already at home.

Patrick C

As we approached the fifth week of remote learning, I still hadn’t seen or heard from about half of my 196 students. Families were adjusting to learning at home and the many challenges they were suddenly confronting. Students weren’t yet sure what their responsibilities were and it was a nebulous time for many. I had been pushing out simple drawing tasks along with a weekly wellness check-in, where I asked students to send a photo or short video of themselves or what they were doing to pass the time to share with the rest of the class. I would upload the photos and videos to Animoto and create a weekly video to share via Google Classroom and as an unlisted video on my Youtube channel. More students participated in this weekly check-in than with the weekly drawing assignments. After a few weeks, my district shifted from “practice” and “optional” assignments to “regular” assignments and participation grew immediately.

During the week of April 13, I pushed out the Make A Chicken assignment with an introductory video:

I fielded questions throughout the week and shared creations on social media as they came in. It was a daily delight to look at the fun submissions to Google Classroom. And curating chickens for publication became my morning focus.

Liam F

That week, students were also asked to complete a survey about the art materials they had at home. As it turns out, many did not have colored pencils, chalk, crayons, or paint. The only items 100% of my students had at home were pencils, paper, and scissors. The Make A Chicken project allowed for everyone to create and create they did! Here are just some of the chickens that were submitted (you can click on a photo and view the collection as a slideshow):

In all, about 160 hand-crafted chickens were submitted. Some are shared above, and I’m happy to add that you can see these chickens and more on Artsonia in our Make A Chicken gallery: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1981037

My principal, Jennifer Mannion, was inspired to Make A Chicken and I was delighted to find this image in my email one day:

Jennifer Mannion, Principal, Miscoe Hill School

How creative is that?

And it just kept happening that people from all aspects of my life shared their chickens with me! This is the absolutely magical thing about the Make A Chicken project! For the first time in all my years of facilitating art making in school and sharing artwork via social media, this project is the first that knew no boundaries. Art teachers reached out to me for the lesson and family and friends across the United States shared chickens with me that they had made. Here is a special gallery of “affiliate” Make A Chicken submissions:

Sarah G of New Boston, NH – Granddaughter


Nellie M of Denver, CO – Great niece

Julia G of New Boston, NH – Granddaughter

Jayne M of Somerville, MA – Sister in Law

Pam S of Bridgewater, MA – Second Cousin

Penny S of Raynham – First cousin once removed (my father’s cousin)

My father’s cousin, Penny Sawyer, not only shared the quilted chicken (above) with me, she shared the story of the original quilt maker, Barbara LaFlamme. Barbara was a friend of Penny’s who I had also spent time with visiting quilt shows with Penny and my mom. Barbara passed away after a long illness in June 2019. When Penny introduced us, she knew we would enjoy each other’s company because Barbara was a former teacher, retiring after 30 years of teaching art. In her spare time she enjoyed quilting and crafting. And indeed we did enjoy each other’s company, especially when Penny and Barbara would drive up to visit the Thimble Pleasure quilt show at Blackstone Valley Tech with my mother and me. The photo below is from a visit to my home after the quilt show, apparently around St. Patrick’s Day, 2018:

When Barbara’s family was going through her home after her passing, they found some unfinished quilts, including a collection of chicken squares. As Barbara and Penny often worked together (at least conspiratorially) on quilts, Barbara’s family gave Penny the unfinished quilts.  Penny took the chicken squares and sewed them together to make this beautiful quilt:

Barbara and Penny’s Chicken Quilt

I especially enjoy the stitched sayings around the edges(Penny) and the incredibly detailed stitchery and beadwork on the individual squares (Barbara):

I’m grateful to the Make A Chicken project for taking on a life of it’s own as I stumbled through the middle weeks of COVID19 enforced Remote Learning. I have enjoyed sharing the creations across social media where I believe they were enjoyed by all. As we go forward into the final six weeks of remote learning, I’m focused on maintaining the joy, creativity, and humor the Make A Chicken project fostered. I thank everyone for participating and once again thank Chuck Stigliano for the idea. Thanks for reading, “peeps”:

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5&6 Art Show at the Miscoe Hill EXPO 2020

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Before quarantine, tonight I would have hosted the annual Art Show at the #Miscoe Hill EXPO for my 5&6th gr art students & their families. Believing exhibition is important for young artists, I created a virtual show via ThingLink and my students and I would be honored if you could attend. Simply click on the photo below to get to the virtual art show. Once there, click on the targets to view the artwork and read project descriptions. Thank you for viewing! Enjoy!

Click on the photo to go to the show


“Do You Feel The Vibes?” Art Club Interactive Bulletin Board

“Do you feel the vibes?”

In October 2019, the Miscoe Hill 5/6 Art Club created an interactive bulletin board to represent emotions through paintings and music. They traced each other in positions that represent the emotions they were trying to convey and then used tempera paint on cardboard to fill the tracings in with color. They then selected musical compositions from around the world and tied them to each figure with a link via QR code. The mural was designed and executed by the Art Club members from vision through QR codes.

Left half of the interactive mural

Right half of the interactive mural

Center section

Art Club


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At Home With The Every Day Drawing Challenge

Happy Saturday! I’m happy you can join me for this presentation! Please feel free to add comments below the video. I’ll respond just as soon as I can!

Thank you for coming!



Drawing Act 150: Let’s Celebrate

“Drawing depends upon two faculties – understanding and taste; skill being the result of practice or experience. It is of the utmost consequence that the first faculty should be developed in harmony with the second.” – Walter Smith

Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870

This May we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Massachusetts Drawing Act. On May 16, 1870 legislators in Massachusetts signed into law “An Act Relating to Free Instruction in Drawing”, also know as Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870.

The Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870 is regarded as a benchmark in the history of American education. With ratification of this legislation, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate drawing education in its public schools, thus placing drawing alongside eight other subjects required in Massachusetts public schools during the late-nineteenth century. These subjects were orthography (the study of spelling and word structure), reading, writing, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, the history of the United States, and good behavior.* (Richardson & Sanger, 1860, p.215)

Drawing Act 150 Celebration

The Representative’s Conference Room at the MA State House

In my position as Advocacy Liaison for the Massachusetts Art Education Association, I was invited to a meeting at the Massachusetts State House on February 13 to discuss a possible statewide celebration for the anniversary of the Drawing Act. State Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester) and Massachusetts College of Art Chief of Staff, Susana Segat, worked together with their staff to pull together a group of collaborators from various arts affiliates to be known as The Drawing Act Coalition*. Together we developed a celebration called Drawing Act 150, to be celebrated at the State House in May*. All of the information can be found here:


A PDF of this flyer can be found here: Drawing Act 150 call for art 2020

Please note: Keeping in mind that schools have recently been closed throughout Massachusetts until at least April 7, our plans for the Drawing Act 150 celebration may change. I will update this post when that happens.

MAEA Drawing At School 1870-2020 Exhibit

In conjunction with the State House observation and celebration of the anniversary of the Drawing Act, the Massachusetts Art Education Association is hosting an exhibit at the State Transportation Building in Boston at the end of April. All details and registration for this exhibit can be found here:

Note: Again, should exhibit plans be altered by current school closings, I will update the information.

Walter Smith, Art Master

In order to facilitate implementation of programming for the then new Drawing Act, Massachusetts hired Walter Smith of England to serve as the State Director of Art Education. Smith was also named General Supervisor of Drawing in the Boston Public Schools. The first order of business was for Smith to develop a program of study in drawing and to create resources for classroom teachers to use as they instructed students in drawing.

“What we are trying to do in our lessons is to make the children know how to draw, not how to make drawings, and I hope you see the distinction. And the great reason for them to draw is, that the process of drawing make ignorance visible; it is a criticism made by ourselves on our perceptions, and give physical evidence that we either think rightly or wrongly, or even do not think at all.”* – Walter Smith

Walter Smith authored several books about drawing instruction, and over the past few months, I have acquired a few of them through eBay and abebooks. I am especially pleased to have acquired an original 1872 edition of The Teachers’ Companion to the American Drawing-Slates and Cards by Smith.


Original 1872 edition

To add to the excitement, the book is inscribed by J.W.C. Gilman to Lucas Baker on November 17, 1872.

It also includes these notes on the otherwise blank first page of the text:

And there are margin sketches throughout the book presumably made by Lucas Baker. I love that!

I was able to find the book through the digitizing of library books by Google. I downloaded the book, cleaned up the digitizing by discarding sloppy scans, added a copy of the cover, and uploaded it to my drive. you can see the book and download it in its entirety here.

In researching J.W.C Gilman, I learned that he is a co-author of Manual of Freehand Penmanship published in 1877. I was also able to find this book through the digitizing of library books by Google. You can see and download the book in its entirety here.


Drawing Cards

I have an especially keen interest in the Drawing Cards (see more about the Drawing Cards below). I am curious how my fifth and sixth grade students would respond to learning to draw this way. With that in mind, I isolated the Drawing Card images throughout the book and compiled them in a new document to share with my students. The collection of Drawing Cards can be found here.

Drawing card

As the Drawing Act was instrumental in establishing art education in public schools, it is understood that teachers of the lower grades taught all subjects, spending the full day with their students. Therefore, whether or not the teachers possessed an ability of their own, they had to learn how to draw well enough to demonstrate for their students.

Teachers carefully made the drawings on a blackboard, and students imitated them using chalk on slates. Walter Smith’s recommendation was for drawing instruction four times per week of a half an hour each or six of twenty minutes each for children under 10 years of age. Older students could have longer, less frequent lessons.

From The Teachers’ Companion to the American Drawing-Slates and Cards

Drawing Slates 2020

Because I now have the document containing all of Walter Smith’s Drawing Slates from The Teachers’ Companion to the American Drawing-Slates and Cards, I will be sharing it with my students through Google Classroom. Imagine how Walter Smith would react to that! I am going to encourage my students to follow the sequence of the cards and to draw in their handmade sketchbooks using pencil. I am excited to hear how they respond to the challenge and to see their drawings. here are some more of the Drawing Card images:

Passion Project

When I first heard about a celebration of the Drawing Act, I was immediately interested. It wasn’t until I started researching the act and those who implemented instruction that I realized I had included a paragraph about the Drawing Act in my Master’s thesis back in 2002! No wonder it was so familiar to me!


Master of Education in Art Thesis

For the past few months I have been busy searching out resources and reading the books I’ve acquired. This has become a bit of a passion project for me. Along with the digital books with links included in this post, I have physical copies of a few others:

At this point in the process I am ready to attempt the drawings along with my students. I am looking forward to starting my own sketchbook of drawings and promise to share as I go. I’ll be posting on social media with the hashtag #DrawingAct150 Please join me!

* Notes courtesy of Billy Claire

*The Drawing Act Coalition affiliates include Massachusetts House of Representatives, MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, MA Department of Higher Education, Mass Creative, Mass Cultural Council, Massachusetts Art Education Association

*See notes above about possible changes due to state mandated school closings

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