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Grid Jig

I have a couple of projects that make use of a 2″ grid. Students create their own grid for use in a drawing but there are always a number of absent students, students who fail to complete the grid correctly, and students who have to begin again. There are also new students added mid-project sometimes. In these situations, a grid shortcut is very handy and I finally caved in and spent a little time and effort creating a 2″ grid jig out of wood and masonite that I had laying around. I put together a wood frame and spaced strips of dense fiber board for straight-edges. I can produce a grid in about 20 seconds and they’re back to work. The advantage, of course, is time saving for the students and teacher. Also a little conservation of materials. The disadvantages are the time to make the jig (30 minutes for me) and certainly if your focus is to make sure each student knows how to create a grid on their own, this doesn’t accomplish that.  The jig is also not adjustable. It is for a blank grid of two inch squares and that’s it. For me, it will be a great time-save for those compatible projects I repeat each year.

Easy Re-Entry

While the security policy allows teachers to have classrooms unlocked on my campus. For a number of reasons, I prefer to leave the actual mechanism in the “always locked” configuration.This way I don’t have to lock and unlock it every time I step away. Students who arrive late, hall pass users, students who are called away and then return…They all knock politely and wait for me to answer. It sounds ideal but I have stop what I am doing and walk across the room to answer the door. This can happen several times in a single class. Students often knock even if the door is unlocked. This is likely because they assume it’s locked without trying.


Metallic Scratch Art

Students recently completed a scratch-art project on silver or gold metallic scratch board. In this example, the student used a reference animal graphic and chose to fill in the sections on the design using intricate patterns and designs. The lesson emphasizes the use of texture shading and using value and contrast to make details easily discerned. We also try to eliminate resorting to simply outlining in the designs. The scratch material used to be an actual metal foil with a black coating and has now been replaced with a metallic film, possibly mylar, in place of the foil. I miss some of the characteristics of the foil media but I suppose the plastic has it merits.

Linear Perspective Demo

We’re working with one-point linear perspective in 6th grade at the moment. I like to use my TV display for demonstration. I’m having pretty good results from laminating drawing paper and using wet erase fine-point markers to draw the steps while students follow along. Dry erase was handy but I prefer pens with a finer point than I have been able to find in dry erase. I keep a box of baby wipes at my desk for several uses but they are great for removing lines of wet erase marker from the demo sheets.

Resource Booklets

I have a library of resource folders, booklets and sleeves for student use. I keep all resources for a project together in a set for each table that I can provide year after year…updating them as needed. I have manilla sleeves, plastic sleeves (all color coded) containing laminated sheets or stapled booklets of handouts, examples, and instructions. Sometimes a booklet of sheet-protected pages is best. I have found Nicky’s Folders 8-pocket model to be perfectly awesome. They are durable and colorful. Most recently, I have complied some texture shading examples from various artwork that I found online for students to study as we lead up to a scratch-art project.

Beste Liner Brushes

I recently purchased some Beste Finest Golden Taklon Hair liner brushes from Jerry’s Artarama for use on our comic panel paintings in tempera paint. I chose these brushes primarily because of the price and I was particular in wanting a long haired liner brush for those students who wished to try outlining their paintings in black paint rather than marker. I selected sizes 4 and 6 and purchased about 15 of each. (more…)

Publishing on Demand

Last year I decided to experiment with on-demand publishing. This refers to companies who offer to print your publishing projects one unit at a time as needed. Automated printing and binding technology now allows this to be done in an affordable way. (more…)

Mechanical Drawing Heart Designs

This week, students began creating Kaleidoscope Heart Designs. I like to have them do some variety of this type of art each year. Our first step is to create a blank heart template on 18×18″ white paper. Each student creates theirs from a demonstration I lead using a compass and ruler. One of the primary challenges is getting students to draw very lightly on what is essentially an under-drawing that should disappear behind the finished art in marker and colored pencil. (more…)

64oz. Yeti Growler Handle

I’ve always like taking something to drink to work in a large container. I like to make a beverage (ice tea for example) in the morning, have it last all day at work, and even have quite a bit left to finish up at home. I’ve been through a number of refillable convenience store mugs and bubba kegs. Most recently, I’ve been enjoying the 64oz Yeti Growler. It stays cold all day and I never run out. There are several brands of this type of container, The drawback of the Yeti verion…No handle.   (more…)

Surplus Glitter

When I was hired for this job, I inherited a drawer full of glitter from the previous teacher. All colors. I’ve never found a better use for it than visits from the “glitter fairy” when a student decides to take a nap in my class. The best scenario is to do it right before dismissal. I really like it when they don’t wake up right away even after being generously coated in glitter.

Wander-proof Tables

This semester, I glued my furniture cups to the floor with a clear variety of Gorilla glue. The glue drying clear is an improvement over the amber-brown color of original Gorilla Glue I have used in the past. I tried one in an inconspicuous area first. After a few days the cup was easily removed from the polished floor tiles by tapping it on the side with a hammer or other tool. The thin residue is easily removed with a blade scraper. I am also still lashing pairs of tables together at adjacent legs. I originally thought maybe the tables being attached might be enough to help keep them in place so I didn’t begin the year with the furniture-cups. Unfortunately, although the lashings helped some, the table still moved around too much to satisfy me. This semester I am using the cups again. I am trying it with less cups to see if it works…two per table. I can always add more if needed. Gorilla Glue is supposed to be activated with water so I took a wet sponge around with me to slightly dampen the base of the cup before applying the glue. This type of glue expands so I just used a pea-size drop in the center of each cup.

Sanitary Wipes

One of the handiest things I have “discovered” for art class use are Pampers Sensitive Wipes. When working with messy materials, chalk pastels for example, my hands would tend to get very dry from all the excessive washing throughout the day. These wipes have a bit of moisturizing effect and are quick and easy for clean up so I don’t have as many trips to the sink. They remove a surprising amount of filth, but when ones take into account what they are made for…I guess it makes sense. They are also great for initial removable of spills from clothing. (more…)

Painting in the Classroom

I have had good results using tempera paint for middle school art. Being water soluble means that I never have to be concerned about paint spills or brushes and materials not being cleaned completely. Tempera paint can sit for a year and still be dissolved easily in water. I recommend avoiding the cheapest tempera and go with the higher-end products. It is still student grade paint but you get what you pay for as far as brighter colors and better coverage.  I purchase mine in pump-top gallon jugs. I use tempera in an opaque painting application. I prefer watercolor paint when I switch to those projects but I’ve found that liquid tempera also works well for watercolor techniques. My projects make use of primary colors, plus white and black. (more…)

Mail Mirror Man

My box is up pretty high in the mail sorter this year. I like to check it as I pass by the workroom but I couldn’t tell if there was a page or two in it without walking right up to and even putting my hand inside the shelves. I ran across a little convex mirror in a box of junk recently so I stuck it on the back wall of my box.  Additionally I stretched a smiley guy image and stuck to the shelf itself. Now I can pass by the window in the door to the workroom and tell if I have mail without even stepping inside. I don’t need to go in if I can still see the grin.

Photo Booth

Each year, my more advance art classes do a project using a photo of themselves as a reference. I have a number of projects that may use these and I add to the list regularly. Earlier in the year, I have the students take digital photos which I keep on file until we are ready for them. I always had to set up my camera in the back of the room for a week or two while the photos are taken. I quickly found that students are more at ease and it is less distracting if I set up a screen of some sort with the camera behind it. I have used cardboard and other things for this set up. This year, I decided to build a free-standing screen to be a “photo booth” that doesn’t use up a table and takes up less room. I can also mount some lighting easily on it. It’s working out pretty good.  (more…)

Grip strips

In searching for a solution for hanging art in my newly renovated classroom, I settled on Grip Strip rails. I purchased three 4 foot rails and three 8 foot rails for the wall in my room. Inside the rail is a series of plastic cylinders. Slide a paper in the rail and it tucks behind the cylinders. Gravity pins the paper inside. To remove, you just gently lift the paper up and forward and it falls out. So far, these things rock! No more poster putty, tack board, etc.

Camera Rig

Moving into my renovated classroom required me to design a new camera rig for my display system. I still haven’t seen a better adjustment solution than the long handled mount that I took from a discarded video camera tripod. I had to purchase a 1/2″ steel rod, which fit perfectly in the camera mount. The rest of the rig is just an arm built of steel pipe and fittings. It is mounted to a wood panel that replaces a ceiling tile. It will accept any camera with a video output. Next time, I will get one that has a remote control for the zoom. (more…)