Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers is a monthly roundup of advice and wisdom
from fellow art teachers, put together by the intrepid Glenda Lubiner.
Feelings for Art
“I use color in terms of emotional quality, as a vehicle for feeling… feeling is everything I have experienced or thought.”
— Adolph Gottlieb
We’ve been at it for a few months now and the highlight of this month is Youth Art Month. In our school, we team up with the music department, as it is Music in our Schools month as well. This is the month to showcase your kids, your program, and to advocate for the arts.
This month is also Woman’s History Month, a great time to spotlight those famous women artists that so many do not know about. This month we are focusing on drawing, color media and projects inspired by literature and music.
MEDAL WORTHY. Lauren Greene from Coastal Middle School in Savannah, Georgia, has her students do a project inspired by literature—this isn’t exactly one book per se, just a project about illustration. She shows her students videos on character development and they create their own character for a children’s book. They sketch out their character from multiple different points of view and then do two composition sketches of either the cover page or an inside page in the book. They talk about spacing and font, and they practice with materials (whatever materials they like). The end goal is that they create an illustration worthy of the Caldecott medal. (See p. 20 to read about Caldecott Medal winner, Matthew Cordell.)
SHARING IS CARING. It is always nice when someone posts a tip on Facebook and agrees to share it with Tried & True Tips. Sean Hunter from Kannapolis Middle School in Kannapolis, N.C., shared this tip that he received at a conference. To keep your colored pencils from breaking when you sharpen them, put them one layer deep on a flat tray and microwave them for five seconds. Do not go over five seconds. This heats it up enough to re-fuse the wax core to the wood.
TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND. Blending colors is an art, but when using colored pencils this can sometimes be difficult. Blending stumps are mainly used with graphite pencils, but they can also be used with colored pencils. Lately, I’ve started using watercolor pencils with my middle school students. Drawing and shading with colored pencils is hard, when you do it the right way. But, when you add water to this combination it makes it even harder.
I started by teaching my students just how to use the watercolor pencils. We did small grids of color, using different pressure with the pencil and different amounts of water. I had them experiment with dry paper and wet paper. The final drawings were pretty good.
AT LEAST 10 SHADES OF GRAY! When I teach drawing, my kids moan and groan. They hate it! I hear mumbles of “not another still life,” and “oh no, I’m so bad at this stuff!” So, I had to find a way to make it fun.
I did make them draw a value scale. Students created a 1″ x 10″ rectangle, divided it into 1-inch squares and added their values. They then had to bring in something they wanted to draw that had to be three-dimensional and had to show at least 10 values in their drawings. I dimmed the lights in my room and hung my spotlights so that the students could see different values. Most the drawings were superb. It really helps when they get to choose what they draw.
INSPIRATIONS. Here are some great ideas for using literacy and music in art. Have your students paint different textures on paper and then create an Eric Carle–inspired collage. A great book to use, especially for the primary grades, is Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andreae. I had my students draw giraffes and paint them, then glue them onto a crayon resist background of stars and a moon. I then had them make a very colorful frame that had a jungle feel to it.
Older kids can be inspired to use Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to create their own wild thing in pen and ink. Camille Saint-Saens’ musical suite, Carnival of the Animals, has 14 movements that explore a variety of animals using different instruments. As they listen, students can create the carnival using a variety of media.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Balthus (March 1, 1908), Howard Pyle (March 5, 1853), Michelangelo (March 6, 1475), Adolph Gottlieb (March 14, 1903), and Fra Bartolommeo (March 28, 2019).
Thank you Lauren and Sean for your great tips!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.
If you would like to share some of your teaching tips, email them to: