November 22nd, 2017
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Amy Brown: Mastiff Studios' Newsletter
May 10th, 2017
Gingerbread Houses to Build Community
How can you build trust and community in a school easily? As the art teacher in a small school district, I utilize creation. In the picture, you will see a group of preschoolers getting help from the “big kids” in the high school to make their own gingerbread style homes. The creation of these homes has become a tradition at my school. The preschool kids have no idea what is going to happen, but the high school art students as me every year when the day will be.
If you are interested in trying this in your school, I have some tips and tricks to make this day go smoothly and be a positive experience for everyone involved. As the high school art teacher, you will need to communicate what you want to do. Sometimes staff members are resistant to anything that may throw off their groove, but over the years, I have discovered preschool and kinder are always up for a trip to the art room. I firmly suggest doing this in your art room so you can control the mess.
I would suggest scoping out your teacher(s) to work with in early fall. If you wait too long, planning becomes a logistical nightmare because high school students will need to build the house forms to decorate. I have recruited the art club for construction for years, but I have also given this job to a special student. In the past, we created the houses out of 6x6” cardboard pieces. These were really nice to work on especially when they were glued to a pop flat. At that time, there were only about twenty-five to thirty kids to work with, and they were broken into small groups. After I changed school districts, my new school which is a small pk-12 public school, serves about seventy preschool students. The cardboard method simply took too long to create all of the houses. My awesome problem solving art students tried a variety of different things, but the unanimous choice based upon building time, stability, and overall gingerbread look was the graham cracker house. The houses are hot glued together and then glued to a piece of cardboard. After coming up with a plan and assembling the houses, I always make sure we have extra because inevitably a house will break, fall apart, get dropped, or tragically flooded by a runaway water bottle.
About two weeks out, the preschool teachers send home notes to parents to bring in candy, frosting, marshmallow pine trees, etc. The day of the event, I make sure that my students know what they will be doing, cover a few tables with paper from the paper roll (this will make clean-up much easier), put decorating equipment out, and then let the games begin. When they preschoolers come in, I match each child with a teen to ensure that no one is left out. The high school student makes sure that the house goes together according to the vision the preschool has. Sometimes art club makes a ceramic ornament for the kids to decorate or creates multi-colored crayons in decorative shapes for the houses. I’m not sure if we will do the crayons again. One confused preschooler took a big waxy bite.
When the houses are done, each youngster is escorted back to class with their big buddy. This way there is a much lower chance of the house meeting the ground before he or she even gets to show it off. The preschoolers and teens have ear to ear grins, the room smells amazing, and clean-up is easy because I make sure almost everything we use is disposable. I just roll the paper up and throw it in the trash. Clean up takes about ten minutes, and all that is left by the end of school day are photos of a great experience.
April 27th, 2017
Three point perspective is a tricky technique to teach high school students. One and two point are pretty smooth, but adding the third point as the vertical completely throws them off. When they start, many students cannot visualize that the work will actually look correct once they are finished. Usually I spend most of my time trying to get my students to understand the concept of using the third point, but this year things went a bit smoother. I got the opportunity to demonstrate in an actual image how to do it along with shading, composition, lighting, and accurate drawing.
The piece posted is not finished, but it is far enough along you can see what will happen.
The image is of a Native American tipi juxtaposed with a home from the early 1900's in Russia. The assignment requires students to do research on how the environment and natural resources effect how housing is developed around the world. In my example piece, I explore the notion of "what if history had gone differently"? I figured if people are still utilizing a yurt, why not the portable tipi? I used the Russian home to represent a standard European style house. The image is place in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with aspen trees. If you look at the tipi, the supports are emphasized to draw attention to how the aspen trees could have been used as supports.
Part of the instruction process was to expand the vanishing points beyond the edges of the paper in order to create angles that were not harsh. I wanted the piece to demonstrate pleasing perspective usage, This helped the students who were reluctant to understand that three point can be useful in the depiction of space.
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April 19th, 2017
Blogging. The thing that people are supposed to do to brand themselves, their work, their website, etc. I had a little blog years ago about work, myself, etc., but I wasn't great about updating it. That is why I decided to try a Facebook business page. I figured short updates might be easier. That page is Facebook.com/amybrownmastiffstudios.
I am a high school art teacher. I've been teaching kids for over twenty years as a professional educator to make art. I actually taught k-12 for a couple of years. That was truly a struggle. I'd like to say to anyone who teaches middle school age kids that you are blessed with a special gift. Middle school kids were tricky for me to teach. I've taught at two high schools during my career, Brush High School in Brush, Colorado for ten years and the school I am currently at. I've been here for 9 years, and I subbed for a year when I got out of college. I really like what I do. I'm one of the lucky ones who love what I do about 80% of the time. Why only 80% and not 100%? I would say bureaucracy and stereotyping. In my opinion, the government has people making rules about how and what to teach, but most of the time the people that are put in charge of this type of decision making have never actually taught kids. I have also noticed that when people talk about what is wrong with kids, often the burden of disobedience is places on the shoulders' of educators. As you you can tell, I'm very opinionated about educational practices in the US.
My studio is in my home. I actually set up in the living room. The huge 4x4' canvases take a big chunk out of it.
My first blog is out of the way. I will do my best to blog on a regular basis. Feel free to ask me questions.