Summer Learning 3: TABnology

“I do it/You do it. I challenge/You wrestle. You choose/I support” – John Crowe, Theory of Everything

This isn’t the first time I’ve used this quote. It was at the top of the post I wrote about attending the TAB Institute at MassArt in the summer of 2017. If you read that post, you’ll understand the impact the course has on participants – art teachers from around the world. My sketchnotes from that week of professional development can be found here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/54797245/Teaching-for-Artistic-Behavior-2017

One of seven SketchNotes from TABweek – this from a field trip to a MakerSpace

There has been a real shift in art education away from the Pinterest derived, product-focused, cookie cutter art lessons of a decade ago thanks to the well-shared Studio Thinking and Teaching for Artistic Behavior philosophies of TAB. Many art educators today are integrating more choice than ever before in their art classes in an effort to engage students and provide the opportunity for students to discover their unique artistic voices and express themselves through their artwork.

TAB teachers typically set up their art classrooms to facilitate centers focused on different mediums, and minimize whole class instruction to demos and “bootcamps” where skills and challenges expose young artists to concepts and materials. One area that many art teachers find challenging is technology integration. When I participated in the course in 2017, I was called up to provide some impromptu tips and tricks about technology and that has evolved into a more formal arrangement where I prepare an actual presentation to share over a few sessions and provide a whole boatload of resources for art teachers. We affectionately refer to my session as TABnology. Thanks to Diane Jaquith for coming up with that title. I love it!

This year, TABnology took place on Thursday, July 11, in the afternoon. I went in early to socialize with old friends from the program and to catch a few sessions. I had a chance to sit in on the session Ian Sands was presenting about the Units he has developed for his advanced TAB high school program. And I got to spend some time in the TAB studio, which has enlarged to encompass three rooms, up from the one room we had in 2017. I should have taken photos, but didn’t. Bummer. Sorry.

Here is another quote I should share that compels me to add this post to my series of Summer Learning/Self-Directed Professional Development posts:

When I put together a presentation like the one for TABweek – I learn SO much. A lot of that learning is derived from reflection on my own classroom practices and the moments I witness my students catch on and run with specific elements of the program, especially with technology. As I fish through files of videos and photos of kids with their work or talking about their work, I am reminded of moments of their realizations and am also propelled toward developing new lessons around ideas that come from watching the way the kids interact with different media. For example, below, Matthew dS talks about designing a bridge with Morphi App for our “What’s in a City?” PBL unit:

As I presented on Thursday, I started the TAB presentation with a quick Mentimeter poll to gauge experience level within the group. I have used this poll before, and the results fall in line with past groups.

I have learned there is a difference in presenting to teachers with limited technology experience versus teachers who feel they are in the middle somewhere. Especially art teachers. There is a faction of art educators who are distinct purists about their approach to art education. These art teachers are committed to hands-on art making in the art room from the moment a student arrives until the moment class is over. I know this because I was once this way, too. However, through my own exploration of technology for art making, chiefly through the Every Day Drawing Challenge , which I developed and executed in 2013, I came to understand the power of technology in opening up possibilities for sharing ideas, stories, memories, and voice with art as the vehicle. Technology expedites the process and empowers artists to say what they want to say and move on. Here is an example:

An example of iPad art from the Every Day Drawing Challenge – this one about the moon landing 50 years ago: Draw a mailbox and the most important piece of mail you’ve ever received App: ArtStudio My dad wrote a letter to me when I was in Girl Scout Camp. He excitedly told the story of the moon landing on July 20, 1969. He described Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon with awe and expressed regret that I had not witnessed them while at my rustic camp. In the letter I wrote back to my dad I excitedly described how a TV was brought into the mess hall where all the campers and counselors gathered together and stayed up late watching the historical event. I still have my dad’s letter and it is one of the most important pieces of mail I have ever received…

Is it the best artwork I’ve ever produced? No. But it was executed within half an hour and provided an illustration for a story I wanted to tell. Could this have been done with traditional art materials? Yes. But I would not have learned any more about creating digital artwork. And I would have had to photograph the finished drawing to post it to social media, which is one of the goals of the challenge. The Every Day Drawing Challenge project was not only about learning to use an iPad to make art, it was about sharing the work on social media as part of a community of artists united by the year-long challenge. Did I learn to make art on an iPad with this challenge? Yes, I sure did. I also learned that there are infinite solutions to each prompt and design idea, because I could switch between ideas and designs immediately, without being bogged down by the trappings of traditional media.

That being said, I also love working with traditional media and in fact, am currently working with watercolor and clay, but I go to those experiences knowing I crave the messiness and challenge of a non-forgiving medium. There is no “back arrow” on the potter’s wheel. As it turns out, creativity through art making for me is all about intent, both in the end AND in the beginning.

There is no back arrow on the potter’s wheel

Many artists are working in digital media with phenomenal, museum-worthy results, from painting to animation to 3D modeling. That’s a topic for another day, the day when I reflect on Media Arts. Stay tuned.

In working with the TAB teachers, I share painting, drawing, collage, 3D modeling, graphic design and photography apps and corresponding online web platforms for both iOS and android devices, MacBooks, and ChromeBooks. I also share effective ways to get the most out of Google tools for both creation and classroom management. We also explore several sharing sites for artwork and assessment. We had just 50 minutes for each session. With more time, we could have engaged in “hands-on” art making and exploration.

The beautiful thing about integrating technology into the TAB art classroom is with just a few devices (iPad, tablet, laptop), students can work in centers or individually on their own pursuit of creating. The learning is then self-directed or collaborative. One thing I know for sure is that students love to assist each other in explaining and demonstrating technology tools. In a busy TAB classroom, this is a chance for the teacher to take a step back.

I recently reread The Open Art Room by Melissa Purtee and Ian Sands, and found I relate well to the concept of Units at the advanced level of TAB because of my own development of project-based cooperative learning units for my middle level art classroom. When students have access to resources whenever they need them, all types of learners will benefit and feel in control of their learning. I have found technology to be a huge asset in the centralized delivery of instruction, namely with Google Classroom and Google Sites. I see these working very well in the TAB art classroom for sharing resources, “bootcamps”, and critiques. Here is an example Google Site for our Imaginary City unit: https://sites.google.com/mursd.org/imaginarycity/home

Home page for the Imaginary City PBL unit

At all levels, sharing sites are important. One long time favorite is Artsonia. If you can see the numbers in the screen capture below, you’ll see that in the seven years my students have been using Artsonia, they’ve uploaded almost 8500 artworks, 4500 of them had accompanying artist statements, and there were 1800 comments from friends and family (feedback). That’s a lot of community we’re creating by sharing artwork.

Artsonia by the numbers

And here is a screen capture of this past school year, including artist fans and artist awards:

Numbers from just the past school year 2018-2019

Using Artsonia in the TAB art classroom works well with just a few iPads or tablets, or even phones. Artsonia is just one example of many ways to share artwork. The reason I’m sharing it here is that I’m not sure I would have taken a look at the numbers if I hadn’t been including Artsonia in the TABnology presentation. Because I was reflecting on my experiences and assessing the value of one site over another in order to share only the most relevant with the art teachers, I’ve now taken stock and have a renewed commitment to include Artsonia in my art program.

Preparing for presentations is an authentic reason to assess your educational program as you reflect and ultimately rediscover the sparks you may have forgotten. Presenting and sharing opens you up for questions, connections, and feedback about what you’re doing. In the end, the audience gives to you as much as you give to them. Thank you to MassArt, Katherine Douglas and Diane Jaquith, and the TAB Institute for giving me an opportunity to learn.

This post is part three of a group of posts about my self-directed professional development in the summer of 2019. To see the others, search Summer Learning or 2019 Summer PD.


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Summer Learning 2: The Rodin Museum

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Auguste Rodin

We went to Philadelphia for a wedding during the last week of June. In the time around the wedding events, my husband, Dick, and I explored the city on foot taking in artworks of all kinds. The first morning we were there we walked to the Rodin Museum after a quick stop at Federal Donuts. That’s a Smore’s donut I’m holding:

Easy breakfast at Federal Donuts

The walk over to the Rodin Museum was full of sights along the way, especially on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I’ll share more about them in the Public Art post. The museum presents itself with a shaded patio and pillared facade in front of which sits the ever ponderous Thinker.

Parkway entrance to the Rodin Museum

Facade with the Thinker

A walk up the gentle incline and around the facade and one encounters the incredibly impressive doorway surround The Gates of Hell, based on The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. The Thinker sits front and center over the door.

Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, based on The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.

Once inside, the works are rich and diverse in their themes and are cast in bronze or carved from marble.

Either lush and sensuous:

Copy of Rodin’s “The Kiss” – Henri Gréber – 1929 – Marble

Or tender and sensitive:

Young Mother in the Grotto – Modeled by Auguste Rodin – Carved by Jean Escoula – Marble

I had been to the Rodin Museum in 2002 and the object that stood out in my memory from that visit was the giant head of Balzac:

Colossal Head of Balzac – Rodin – 1898 – Cast in Bronze – 1925

Some of my other favorites at the museum are the expressive hand sculptures:

Rodin – The Cathedral – Modeled 1908; cast 1925 – Bronze

(Although this one certainly reminds me of that scene in Carrie):

Rodin – The Hand from the Tomb – Modeled 1914; cast 1925 – Bronze

I really enjoyed this statue of Jules Bastien-Lepage. I love his palette and brush. I also can’t help wondering if this is the person after whom the glue was named (?):

Rodin – Jules Bastien-Lepage – Modeled 1887-1889; cast 1988 – Bronze Bronze

Outside the museum stands a sculpture of The Three Shades. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the shades, (the souls of the damned) stand at the entrance to Hell, pointing to an unequivocal inscription, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”. Originally created much smaller as part of the Gates of Hell doorway surround, Rodin made this larger model years later.

Rodin – The Three Shades from Gates of Hell – Modeled 1886; Cast 1928 – Bronze

Dick as the fourth shade as I’m singing “all the single ladies”…

This post is part one of a group of posts about my self-directed professional development in the summer of 2019. To see the others, search Summer Learning or 2019 Summer PD.

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Summer Learning 1: The Philadelphia Museum of Art

“True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” – William Penn

We went to Philadelphia to celebrate my nephew’s wedding. Congratulations Courtney and Brendan! We brought my mother (91 years young – don’t tell her I told you her age), so flew in from Providence to Philadelphia. We stayed near Rittenhouse Square, nicknamed The French Quarter, which is an area of the city I love for its charming character and ease of access to restaurants and landmarks by foot.

Dick, my mom, and me on a park bench in Rittenhouse Square

There is so much to see in Philadelphia, from both an aesthetic and historical perspective. Fortunately, I have been there several times, including one visit in 2002 with my then 12 year old, and during that trip we visited many of the historical sites. This trip, I gladly set my sights on the aesthetics, specifically visual art. Knowing the wedding related events would occupy the evenings, and my mother would be visiting with other family while we were gone, my husband, Dick, and I set aside Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings to go exploring.


Dick’s absolute “had to” was to see the Rocky statue, placed at the base of and beside the steps Rocky ascended in the first Rocky movie. The statue was created for Rocky III and was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Sylvester Stallone. He envisioned it at the top of the main entrance steps, but the museum had other ideas, placing it out of the way yet accessible to the bus loads of tourists who visit. You can read more about that here.

Dick at the Rocky statue

The "Rocky Steps"

And after running up the steps

Conveniently, Dick’s “had to” landed us at the front door of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The PMA is a great institution with many masterpiece works – a joy to visit when in town. Another great institution is the Barnes Foundation, which I visited a few years ago and couldn’t find time for this trip. We also visited the Rodin Museum, written up in another post. Some of the museum’s renowned collection of artworks we visited in the museum include:

Winslow Homer – A Temperance Meeting (or Noon Time) – 1874

Winslow Homer – The Life Line – 1884

Vincent Van Gogh – Sunflowers – 1889

Pablo Picasso – Three Musicians – 1921

Jasper Johns – Painting With Two Balls – 1960

Bruce Nauman – The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths – 1967

With a personal and professional focus on learning about Media Arts throughout the past year, I was pretty excited to see Bruce Nauman’s media art piece – Clown Torture (I’m Sorry) – 1987:

Dick was perhaps less enthralled. As he was by this Jasper Johns installation:

Jasper Johns – Lightbulb – 1960

Of course the art historians among us know that Johns was simply emphasizing the role of light as a fundamental formal element of art. Of course. Speaking of art historians…

One reason I love to visit art museums in cities around the country is because each major museum has collections by regional artists. In Boston we have John Singleton Copley and John Singer Sargent, for instance. Also an early colonial city, Philadelphia has its own regional artists, including Charles Wilson Peale, Edward Hicks, and Thomas Eakins. Let’s start with one of the more challenging pieces, which begs you to look because of the mysterious curtain.

Charles Wilson Peale – Mrs. Peale Lamenting the Death of Her Child – 1772 Rachel, his first wife, weeping over their daughter Margeret, who died of smallpox – For a description of this unusual painting and the curtain, see placard below

A lighter Peale – this troupe l’oeil piece is remarkably well situated within the museum and catches one by surprise:

Charles Wilson Peale – The Staircase Group – 1795 Trompe l’oeil by Peale depicting his sons Raphaelle and Titian Peale I

And the Quaker painter, Edward Hicks:

Edward Hicks – The Peaceable Kingdom

Lastly, the Philadelphia Museum of Art holds a comprehensive collection of artwork by native son, Thomas Eakins, whose paintings and story are both interesting and compelling.

Thomas Eakins – Home Ranch – 1892

Thomas Eakins – Between Rounds – 1899

Thomas Eakins – Antiquated Music (Portrait of Sarah Sagehorn Frishmuth) – 1890 (look at the peacock musical instrument)

Thomas Eakins – Pastoral – 1884

A small confession here, I usually stick with painting, sculpture, photography, and media arts when visiting museums, but Dick was drawn to the fine craftsmanship of colonial and shaker furniture at the PMA. Here are two pieces from that wing that stood out:

Frank Furness, Designer and Daniel Pabst, Maker – Desk – 1871

Félix-Joseph-Auguste Bracquemond, Designer and Eugène Delaplanche, Modeler and Haviland & Co., Limoges, Maker – Vase Commemorative 1776 – 1876

Nourished and refreshed by silent reflection on beautiful artworks, with renewed spirit we walked out of the museum into the heat of the city.

View of the city from the museum steps

Facing left from the front steps

This post is part one of a group of posts about my self-directed professional development in the summer of 2019. To see the others, search Summer Learning or 2019 Summer PD.

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April Showers Bring May Flowers

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” – Stevie Wonder

For the last few classes, students have been working on drawing flowers. The focus of this project is on drawing from observation, abstraction of composition, and color, light, and contrast. But they have held their mothers in their hearts as they worked.

I introduced the project with a demo on oil pastels and looking closely, my drawing as I did so projected on the screen through a document camera. Students then had time that first class to practice using the medium. When they were ready they bravely took a 12″ x 18″ sheet of black construction paper with the intent to cover the page in flowers – not in a row, not all going in the same direction, but as if they had been strewn across the page. Students were encouraged to allow the flowers to break the boundaries of the page by drawing partial flowers on the edge. Throughout three classes they looked closely, sketched what they saw, revised and persisted. I think they came out beautifully, especially as the sky darkens with clouds again today. The flowers are hanging in the lobby for all to enjoy.

These fantastic flower drawings have been uploaded to Artsonia and the students have written Artist Statements about their work there. They can be found at this link: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1773743

Enjoy! And Happy Mother’s Day!

Flowers on the lobby boards

Kyle Miller

Hannah Le

Nick Martin

Ella Martin

Elizabeth Soares

Isabella Papamitrou

Hayley Gibson

Elyse Rich

Susan Barrows

Paige Anderson

Charlotte St. Pierre

Ben Krause

Marlee Briere

Samantha Carroll


The Names Dress (With My Name!)

“There is no limit to beauty, no saturation point in design, no end to the material” – Salvatore Ferragamo

Today I’m honored and excited to share the news that my name has been included in the Names Dress, which is on display at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, Italy! The Names Dress is a wearable, compostable conceptual art piece engineered with over 300 handwritten, 3D printed names of women in STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) designed by Sylvia HeiselI’m incredibly flattered to be included in the same company as the other women whose names comprise the dress – I am in awe of them. For example, just look at these inspirational names: Elizabeth Blackwell, Florence Nightingale, Hedy Lamarr, Hypatia, Jane Goodall, Laurie Anderson, Margaret Atwood, Marie Curie, Rachel Carson, Sally Ride, and SO many more! What?! WOW!

The Names Dress is a tribute to women, known and unknown (yours truly), historic and contemporary, in the interconnected and evolving STEAM fields. The Names Dress is also an exploration of the use of sustainable materials and techniques in creating innovative textiles and garments. It is a magnificent creation by the brilliant Sylvia Heisel and partners, including Sophia Georgiou, developer of Morphi App, which is the 3D modeling app we use in my art classroom.

Here is a photo of the Names Dress:

The Names Dress

You can see a video of the Names Dress here: https://vimeo.com/314050520

Some of the “A” names

My name is here and looks like this:

Sketch of the Names Dress

The 3D printed “fabric”

The Names Dress is currently on exhibit for a year at the Sustainable Thinking Exhibition at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, Italy from April 12, 2019 through March 8, 2020. Florence! Italy!!!

Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Art Show at the Miscoe Hill EXPO

The Art Show at the Miscoe Hill EXPO, being held Wednesday night in conjunction with a French class showcase with Mrs. Shilale, and Crossfit in the lower gym with Mr. McInnis.

On this magical evening, the red wing hallway will be illuminated only with luminary lights in decorative vessels prepared by the 5-8 art students. As you continue down the hallway and make a left turn by the district office and go left again, you’ll find artwork on display in the art hallway as well as in my classroom and Mr. Hansen’s classroom.

The artwork in the show is from all three terms thus far. All of the artwork not included in the show due to spacial limitations can always be found in the Miscoe Hill galleries at Artsonia.com here.

The Art Show at the Miscoe EXPO is open from 6-8pm. It is a drop-in, not drop-off activity, We are very excited to showcase the Miscoe Hill artwork. Please join us!

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Charcoal Still Life Drawings at the Art Show at the Miscoe EXPO

“All the visible world is only light on form.” Andrew Loomis

For the past few weeks, my fifth grade students have been creating charcoal still life drawings. They began by sketching a still life positioned in the middle of the table, while observing light, shadow, and form in their sketchbooks. We had explored ellipses just before undertaking this assignment, and this was a great chance to employ that knowledge in an authentic project. Students were learning to see, yet also un-see labels on containers and decorative motifs on vases, to focus on light, shadow, form, shape, perspective, and spacial relationship.

Still life

For most students, this was their first experience with charcoal and found themselves either impressed or dismayed by the dark darks they effortlessly achieved. Blending with blending stumps or tortillas was also a new experience, as was using a kneaded eraser. Most exciting was learning that both the stump and eraser could be used as drawing tools, especially when using the eraser to return light to the form.

Maya Williamson: First, I drew out the outline of the shapes I saw from my angle of the table. Next, I shaded and blended in the shapes where the objects looked darker or lighter. I also drew a horizon line, the table, in the background. To complete my still life, I shaded in the background, and erased the finger prints. I feel like I got better at blending, and I learned that things look different from far away. I also had lots of fun making much still life come to life.

Students then took a photo with her/his iPad, cropped out everything but the drawing, and uploaded it to Artsonia where they also added an Artist Statement.

Ryan May: This charcoal still life took about 4 classes to finish but I’d say it was worth it. I had to mostly do shading and lighting to make I look like it had a shadow. I maybe could have erased a lot of the fingerprint marks and marks around the still life but I also feel like if I did was this whole thing again, I would probably do better shading on the shapes. The process to make this artwork was drawing out the shapes, shading them in, then coloring the background, and then after doing the shadows around the still life, blending the all the charcoal together. So, after those 4 classes, I think I did well on this artwork.

Estella Soares

Marley Loucks: First, I started by sketching the still life and drawing the shadows. Then, I shaded all of my sketches and started to do the background. Lastly, I shaded in the background and erased all of my fingerprints off the bottom. I feel like it came out good but I could have done better. If I were to do it again, I would make the background a little bit more down and I would make the shadows a little bit more dark.

Ella Martin: First I drew the objects. Then I shaded the objects. After that I drew the shadows. And finally I shaded and blended the background. I feel that it came out good. I might make the background better next time.

Kaycie Gardner: I made this art by first looking at the still life then I drew it with charcoal pencil. When I was done I started shading to make shadows by using some of the charcoal tools. Then I drew a horizontal line in the back and then shaded on top of it so that it made it look like it was on a table. Then I I made it lighter in some spots and darker in the other spots to make it look even more real. I feel that my art came out good, I may be able to do a little better next time, but I think I did my best and it came out real good! What I might do differently next time is that I might put my shadows in different spots, and I may put the still life more in the middle of the page. But I think it come out good, and that is how I made my art!

Anna Tsuchiya: I think that if I was going to do it again then I would try to get less finger prints on my drawing because I spent a lot of time trying to erase them. I think my still life is pretty good compared to how weird looking some of my art is. My favorite step was the blending because for some reason it satisfied me to see the lines I made combine together. It looks like it could do with some improving but I think over all I did a pretty good job!

Aiden Fayer: I started by making a light outline.Then I made the shading then the shadows and last the back ground.I really like how it came out.The only thing I dont feel goodd about is the background. I woulldd make the background lighter and more blended.

Orianna Murphy: To make this artwork I used a charcoal pencil and a eraser. I first sketched the basic shapes in. I then shaded by blending the charcoal with a blending stick. I finally did the background creating a dark shadow line giving the effect of a table. I feel like this art came out very well, the shading turned out better then I thought it would. If I where to do this project again I would spread the shapes out a little more instead of having them all clustered in the center of the page.

Devan Rankins: I used techniques such as shading, light, shadow, and blending. I don’t think it came out that good. Be neater. I first drew what thing I saw, then I drew some details. After that I started drawing shadows, then the background.

Michael Albert: My process was first I put all of the objects down and then I started to shade then I used the shading stick and then I started to do my backround.How I feel about how it came out, I thought it came out pretty well it just that I need to shade more and try to erase the finger prints. If I were to do anything differently I would shade the objects more.

This artwork and so much more will be on display at the Art Show at the Miscoe EXPO on Wednesday, April 10 from 6-8pm.

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