Thursday, April 17, 2014

Please continue to hold -- Thank you!

Original works of art by my almost 6yo daughter (left) and an artist I just love named Katie M. Berggren (right)
Popping on here to say hello just to see how you all are doing (albeit) without me.

Despite the quietness that has remained here on the blog, plenty has been going on for me! In my time away, I have still managed to occupy myself with more than enough that makes it even harder for me to want to come back - though I AM wanting to do that eventually and not just close this blog completely.

In my time away, I have come to realize how important it is to take the leave of absence that I have. I haven't been here on this blog and I even "pulled the plug" on my instagram as well!! My pause in blogging was something that I knew I needed but doing so on instagram too? That's something that just ended up happening just because I must say, it's been really Really REALLY nice. It's given me back something that I have lacked for quite too long - which is the real opportunity to be much more fully present in my life. Just as blogging stole that from my teaching and professional life, instagram definitely did that in my personal and family life. By taking myself offline though, I have reclaimed all of the things that I so willfully gave up without realizing that I ever did so in the first place.

I have a little more than a month and a half of teaching left and then I will be brought right to the start of summer - which already is chock full of all sorts of things to do. It's a wonderful and glorious thing to realize not only how full my life has become but also to not feel like I can't fully enjoy any of what I have been so blessed to receive. If you have ever considered taking a "leave of absence" from the online world? I would encourage you to not be afraid to just go for it. It will give back you in dividends what you never realized you were already giving endlessly of yourself within the virtual realms.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What to do now and next

Hi! Sorry for not being around for a long while. I don't have any good excuse of how/why it happened like this other than to just note that I really really needed a break from this blog.

I have been blogging on and off (but mostly on) for over a decade now and (if you've never tried to before) it can be quite a lot of work getting in the habit, staying in the habit, and delivering fresh content. This is especially true for content specific or niche blogging (which is what I do here). After I finished my masters degree (about October/November time) I found that I really and truly needed a mental break from writing papers and doing research and trying to get back on the metaphorical horse after doing such an amazing amount of blogging last year was only harder because of the break that I needed. So? I took the break and that's why it's been so radio silent here.

So I'm back here today to post this but honestly? I don't know when I will be back again and I am still trying to pray about what to keep doing beyond me just feeling like I need to be still and focus on other things (than this blog). I find that by not blogging here, I am much more connected and present with my 5.5 year old daughter and husband and students. I am thinking a lot less about how to churn the life and art teaching on my everyday into blog content and more about just being fully present and focused. This year for the One Little Word campaign I decided on the word "treasure" and I think it's going to work much better than last year's word of "joy" because it's been a focus of mine most recently in what I do, how I do things, and how I regard things before me. I've become so much more aware of the need for me to have less of a life virtually and more of a life actually.

I have loved this blog so much but I really and truly feel like I will probably not return to the posting schedule I had last year because it made it really difficult for me to have the time and energy I now know I want to have for my family and my students and to serve my school community. Blogging so much also makes it difficult for me to create artwork for my own professional development. I haven't painted in months and having realized this I decided that I needed to change that by trying to do something of my own art creation because I was starting to feel stagnant.

I have never kept up with a sketchbook OR done watercolor painting in all of my life but I recently started to do both in an effort to get beyond my own prejudices and learn something new that I had previously been so staunchly against. I got a visual sketchbook for both myself and my daughter and we have been trying to do a page a night in our books with either ink and watercolor or just plain watercolor. We both have less than a half dozen finished pages but it's been amazing so far and I am amazed that I was ever so against daily art creation (like in a sketchbook or visual journaling) OR watercolor. I have been "doing it wrong" the whole time. Thankfully, I have seen the light.

A page I finished last evening in my journal after everyone in the house was sound asleep.
I know I don't want to abandon this blog but I also know that how I have done it in the past is not a way that I can keep doing it in the present or in the future. I have a lot of content on here and I am regularly getting unique hits because of people finding things I have archived in the way of art lesson project ideas. (I'm so glad that what I have shared continues to be so useful to others!) Still, well... maybe it's time for me to deliver less that ends up being much more because it has greater substance at least as it applies to what I originally create - either in my painted sketchbook or with my own explorations of the creative process, creative callings, or what I am learning about the art of teaching art.

In any case, I hope you all are doing well in your classrooms and with your own artwork. I have previously "preached" the importance of being an artist as being actively creating art pushing yourself to do better design and stretching your creativity. I think perhaps it's time for me to do that sort of thing rather than giving myself endlessly to the efforts of others, the development and understandings of their creative processes, and enabling them to create beautiful works of art. That's what I do every day and when I leave work, I need to do a better job of allowing myself the same sort of gift.

So, I'm not quitting this blog or even taking it offline in any way. It'll keep being here. I just might be here less often but perhaps at the same time with a more worthwhile presence.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Save the Dry Erase Markers!

At my school, we don't have blackboards and instead we have white/dry-erase boards. When I first came to this school over five years ago I was really excited about this fact because in public school I had blackboards that I had a real love-hate feeling toward for all of the reasons you might imagine if you have any experience dealing with blackboards. Still, having white/dry-erase boards wasn't nearly as awesome as I thought it would be. They soon became just as annoying to me as the blackboards were but just in different ways.

(Now, I understand this is totally a "first world problem" that I am referencing but just please bear with me.)

One of my biggest issues with having a whiteboard in class is the marker issue. Markers go missing all the time but if they aren't missing, we have issues with them because the ink seems to run out very quickly. For this reason, I barely use my whiteboard and I'm almost always fussing about not being able to actually use it.

All of this in mind, a week or so ago, I started noticing that even though I wasn't using my board, the markers would always be arranged and positioned the way they are pictured above. While it seemed a little strange that they were like that (and seemed to always be put back to be like that), I didn't think much of it and I wouldn't disturb them either. Then the other day, I found the individual who was putting them like that! It was a STUDENT ARTIST!!! And almost every day, if the markers weren't like that, he would arrange and position them like that. While in the midst of him doing it, I commented and laughed and said, "Oh YOU'RE the one who is doing that! I was wondering what was going on!" The student artist, who is actually also one of our star football players and who is a really big and burly guy and sits very close to my teaching station in the front of the room, smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah... it's me." And then I asked him why he was doing it and he said, "Well... Mr. *so-and-so* does it all the time and it makes a big difference and makes it so the markers always have ink. It really does make a difference so I was trying to help you to have markers that wouldn't be so hard to use."

I gotta tell you - when he said this and said why he was doing it? It just about made my whole month and I feel like it's one of the nicest things any student has ever done for me - however small it might seem because it makes such a big difference. And OF COURSE it works, y'know? Because it helps to keep the ink flowing toward the writing tip vs. having it settle in the middle of the marker. Why didn't I think of that?

Anyway, surely you all have been doing this and I am the only one not doing this but I just wanted to share this little "feel good" anecdote because this kind of stuff is always nice to hear about in my book.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A mini walking tour of the Digital Art Studio Lab Classroom

I always showcase things of the studio art classroom but rarely do you see anything of the digital art studio classroom/lab other than finished artwork on occasion. So, here is a mini walking tour of that classroom.

The two courses that I teach in the digital art studio computer lab classroom are Graphic Design (which utilizes Photoshop) and Digital Studio (which uses Illustrator). Despite what the names of the courses imply or suggest, the Graphic Design is basically Digital Art I and Digital Studio is Digital Art II. One of my goals for this year is to change that within the course catalog so it makes a little bit more sense and there is better clarity with regard to how the two classes are connected.

Something else that you might have noted from the video is that I use a classroom management tool that is something I found from Pinterest. It's an "am I done" sort of check-list and I have it printed in color and laminated and then tacked in strategically decided upon places all around the classroom. The art teacher who originally designed it deserves so much credit for it and MORE because it is beautifully designed and created and BRILLIANT for the purposes of answering the question that the students always have of, "Am I done (yet)?" If you are interested in it, I wish I had the direct link to it but I cannot find it but the blog is HERE and it's called "The Lost Sock."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The things we all carry :: Arts Integration

What kind of arts integration are you doing these days? I mean, I know that you might be an art educator so art education is not only what you do but also what you do best but that wasn't my question. 

One thing that I am very aware of as an artist is the importance of connections and relationships. In order to design and create a successful work of art, one element or principle is not nearly so effective or meaningful if it's standing completely on it's own. Pulling the different elements of art and principles of design together - even if it's done in simple ways - is so powerful, communicative, and amazing to behold. Artist and art educators know this as fact but if we don't share that with others by INTEGRATING what we know with what everyone else knows (apart from the arts), we are keeping the richness and beauty of the arts to ourselves. And what fun is that? Seriously. Misery might enjoy company but happiness and delightedness enjoys a big ol' party that everyone is invited to, RSVP's to, and actually shows up to.

I mentioned last week that I am embarking on a new project with the 2D Design students that draws upon the power of using our lives to tell stories in order to explain how the sum of the parts is way more than the parts themselves. Every day I have been offering the students parts of myself and my story (as a way to practice what I both preach and TEACH) and I have shown them a different way to "read" things other than words on a page. Trying to do this on the daily has challenged me in all sorts of ways that I never thought it would because I'm literally trying to come up with more than a half dozen ways to say and show the exact same idea.

One of my favorite books that I have ever read is called "The Things They Carried." I read the book in my college freshman English class and it was one of the most illuminating and illustrative writings that I have ever read took a very VERY abstract concept and put it in words very simply and in a way that was easy to understand. And this concept made me think about what I carry and what my students carry on the daily that offer very interesting perspectives of who, what, and how we are in our lives. Want to see what I have been carrying out so far this school year (at least)? Here are the contents of my crossbody/shoulder bag (basically a purse) that I don't leave home without. These are the contents of what is in that bag without editing (well, photo editing not withstanding)

The contents of your bag can tell all sorts of things about you. Here's mine! What? You don't carry a tiny hammer in your purse too?

I have been hitting my student artists hard with the importance of reading beyond words on a page for the past week or so and while it's been incredibly taxing for me on any given day, it's been enormously rewarding for me to see their understandings and abilities "click" into place on the subject of non-verbal and written literacy.

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