Ben Does Burning Man (Not Quite…)

Scott Cohen the founder of The Lifecube Experience has brought his Burning Man installation to Downtown Las Vegas twice. The Lifecube is a wooden cube that Cohen invites locals to decorate with art expressing their goals and dreams.  It combines installation, architecture, sculpture, graffiti, murals, and performance art.  It is more than just art, it is an experience to behold!

I have been lucky enough to participate in this experience twice -as an artist, mother, and art teacher. Four years ago my art club students made canvas paintings depicting their future goals.  I created a painting of Ben’s ultrasound with Hebrew prayers and wishes written by my husband on the back in Sharpie.  Ben was my dream come true as he was an IVF baby that we had long been praying for.

As the cube began to take form and artists and musicians took up camp in the space the cube became a hub for locals.  Yoga was being taught on the weekends in front of the cube, parents brought their children to do chalk drawing on the lot, and a fire pit for locals to socialize around emerged.  After the cube was completed and was full of dreams painted, drawn, and written all over it Cohen set the cube on fire to a large crowd.  This event was televised live.  There were live dancers and musicians performing to the crowd bringing a taste of Burning Man to downtown urban Las Vegas.

 


Last spring the Lifecube returned to Las Vegas while I was on maternity leave after having Adam.  The boys created a painting for the Lifecube and we visited it twice.  Ben played with hula hoops and chalk the first time on a quiet weekday afternoon as some neighborhood locals warmed themselves around the fire pit.   The second time we went the day of the burning.  There was a live DJ and Ben danced while drawing on the cube with oil pastel.  We dropped off our painting-Ben painted an abstract background and Adam made black footprints across the canvas.  Around the edge of the painting I wrote “Parents don’t dream their children will follow in their footsteps.  They dream they will go further.”

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Art History Gameboards

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I am truly an art nerd.  Who couldn’t be when artists have such interesting lives?  From Frida Kahlo’s bus accident and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera to Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying experiments kids are fascinated by the lives of famous artists.

One year I broke my art club into teams of 4 kids (I had 40 art clubbers).  Each team would research an artist in the library, come up with a timeline of that artist’s life, and create a game board game based on their research.  The school librarian helped the kids research the artists they chose and write their timelines.  When I approved their timeline they began building their game boards using cardboard boxes, duct tape and white butcher paper.  Then they had to design their game board in pencil using facts from the artist’s life, a portrait of him/her, and motifs found in works of art by that artist.  They used Crayola Model Magic to model the pieces that would move across the board and tempera paint with glue to paint the pieces. Once all the game boards were finished we had a party and the kids played the games while they munched on chips and drank soda.  We hung the game boards around the art room for years to come as they were full of factual information I wanted my students to learn.  This is a lesson I loved and would definitely do again!

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Modigliani Self-Portraits

Amadeo Modigliani was an Italian Modernist painter during the 20th century.  He is best known for his minimalist portraits of women with strange almond shaped eyes that are completely colored in.  The faces are nearly alien and the bodies are linear.  The backgrounds are non-descriptive and surreal.    Upon looking at his art kids will often remark about how alien the women appear and how strange the portraits are.  This lesson  is an excellent introduction into basic facial proportions as the students don’t have to worry so much about the realistic shapes of the face, just the correct placement of simplified facial features.
I posted before about DBAE (Discipline Based Art Education) and this particular lesson plan has a strong art critical component that leads into an understanding of Modigliani’s aesthetic.  The students will go through with the teacher all of the Elements of Art and Principals of Design and how they relate to Modigliani’s paintings.
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Art Lesson Plan

Modigliani Self-Portrait

Grade: 3rd-6th

# of 50 minute sessions: 4

Art Resources: visuals from the Girl series by Amadeo Modigliani and teacher exemplar
Art Materials: one 11”x14” sheet of white paper per student, pencils, erasers, and oil pastels.
Objectives-
Student will:
– create a self-portrait in the style of Amadeo Modigliani.
– create a drawing using pencils and oil pastels.
– learn about the art of Modigliani.
– discuss the artwork of Modigliani according to the Principals of Design and Elements of Art.
Vocabulary: Amadeo Modigliani, Modern Art, Principals of Design, Elements of Art, and Self-Portrait.
Procedure:
Day 1: Teacher will introduce visuals from the Girl series by Amadeo Modigliani. Teacher will discuss the art criticism part of the lesson with the student and go over vocabulary. Student will view the visuals and begin discussing with students the work of art according to the Elements of Art and Principals of Design. The teacher will demonstrate how to draw a self-portrait in Modigliani’s style. Student will draw his/her self-portrait using pencil (lightly).
Day 2: Student will review vocabulary, the art critical component from the prior week, and teacher product/visual aide.Student will begin coloring in self-portrait.
Days 3-4: Student will review vocabulary and teacher product/visual aide. Student will finish coloring his self-portrait and present his artwork to the class.  Student will share with the class using the Elements of Art and Principals of Design how his self-portrait is similar in style to Modigliani’s portraits.

Patriotic Playgroup Activities  for Presidents’ Day

This week we had our playgroup on Presidents’ Day. I decided to go with the theme of patriotic crafts and I did some research on Pinterest. I found a really cool pasta sensory bin that was cheap and easy to make.  I will attach the pan below in case you’re interested. The century vent was a blast and the children really enjoyed it. It did not take a whole lot of work to make. In fact I made it just in a few extra moments that I had over the weekend. Obviously the pasta is reusable, so I can use this for future crafts to come.  Once the bin was assembled I added in some plastic cups, plastic spoons and forks, and a little car for the kids to play with.



I also did a patriotic star craft. We assembled stars using Elmer’s glue with red and blue popsicle sticks. Then we attached the start to some white card stock. The kids could use glue sticks to collage paper tissue squares in red and blue or red glitter on their star.  This was sort of a problem-solving craft in the fact that the kids had to help their moms put together a star which is not easy to do as far as it coming out symmetrical. The kids also had to learn how to use a glue stick and choose the materials that they wanted in their star.  For a two-year-old that is definitely some higher-level thinking. They are analyzing, synthesizing, and creating.


My last activity was a so-called free painting in red white and blue. This particular project has some art historical significance. The style of Abstract Expressionism  which was made popular by Jackson Pollock in the 1940’s was an exploration of paint itself. No longer was paint being used to depict a person, place or thing – the artist was just creating a painting to depict the paint.  Their style of art marks the transition of the center of the art world from being Paris to it being in New York City. This is a truly American art movement.  So as the kids dripped, swirled, and explored with paint, they were actually creating works of art that tied into an American historical style of art.


When I do my playgroup every month I like to have a variety of activities. I like for there to be something for the kids to craft or collage, something for them to model or experience such as a sensory activity or clay, and of course a drawing or painting material. At this age it’s really important that kids just experience as much as they possibly can. By giving young children art materials and allowing them to create they’re using their higher thinking skills, they are exploring their imagination, and they’re expressing their unique individuality at a very-which is a character builder.  Young children experience a level of confidence in themselves and their artwork and like teenagers who typically are shy about their accomplishments. If we can encourage  young children to to be proud of themselves and build up their confidence at a young age then hopefully they’ll be more confident when they enter their teenage years and adulthood. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and if you have any thoughts about how art builds character in kids please share them in the comments below.

I Used to Be an Artist

Some artists create everyday like clockwork.  They take their canvas and easel and go to a mountain top or a cliff and paint for hours on end until they have a masterpiece or hurl their canvas over the cliff like Cezanne in a fit of frustration.  I am not that kind of artist. I have never been that kind of artist and yet my whole life I have been Liza the artist.  I was the girl in high school who spent countless hours in the art room listening to Depeche Mode on her headphones shading and mixing colors. I attended art school, have a B.F.A. in painting, and went onto a successful career as art teacher in the public schools.  I created my own art and displayed it in galleries in my spare time.  Then one day in October of 2013 I got the call that ended my artistic career: I was finally pregnant.  I had tried for several years to create what would become one of my two greatest masterpieces, not knowing that this news would make me completely redefine myself.

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Maybe you’re reading this saying I shouldn’t have to give up my artistic pursuits to be a mom.  You’re right.  There are plenty of people who have babies and manage with a helpful family member, daycare, or sleep schedules to continue their interests.  I have fully committed myself to being a mom and put this part of myself on the back burner.  My practice as an artist has ebbed and flowed throughout my life.  Three summers ago before my pregnancy I was creating art everyday, and now nothing since.  The blog is filling the creative void to express what art left behind.  I do miss it, but not terribly because I know one day it will consume my life again.

Georgia O’Keefe Unit

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Georgia O’Keefe is so inspiring as a woman and nature lover.  I did this unit as part of an Environmental Art art unit exploring the Enduring Idea of Nature and Art.  It took the better part of the spring to finish, but my students were very familiar with her work and what inspired her afterwards.

 

Art Unit: Georgia O’Keeffe

Grades: 4-6

# of lessons: 3

Art Resources: Artists in Their Time Georgia O’Keeffe by Ruth Thomson, examples of pueblos and adobe homes in photographs, photographs or actual animal skulls, examples of Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings, pictures of flowers (I got mine from a calendar), and teacher products.

Art Materials:1 sheet of white 9”x12” paper per student, watercolors, water cups, pencils, paintbrushes, glue, 2 sheets of 8”x8” white paper per student, 1 11”x14” sheet of black paper, cups of glue and water mixed together, oil pastels, and 1 11”x14” sheet of white paper.

Objectives- Student will:
– create a multimedia southwestern landscape
– create an observational collage and pencil drawing of a flower
– create a painting of animal bones of flowers
– learn about the process of collaging- use various watercolor techniques
– shade using a pencil and create a grayscale
– draw using oil pastels
– learn about the life and art of Georgia O’Keeffe
– work in groups and individually
Interdisciplinary Connections: Science and Social Studies
Vocabulary: Georgia O’Keeffe, still life, landscape, Southwest, grayscale, shade, and adobe.
Lessons: The unit will consist of the following components:
A. Multimedia Adobe Landscape– Each student will paint a watercolor sunset on 9”x12” sheets of white paper. The student will then draw adobe homes using oil pastel.
B. Georgia O’Keeffe Flower Study– Each student will create an 8 square grayscale using pencil on strips of scrap white paper. Student will share a photograph of a flower with a group of 3 students and individually draw/shade a flower composition on 8’x8” white paper in pencil. Then he will redraw the outline of his flower composition on another 8”x8” white sheet of paper and collage with tissue paper scraps. Student will mat his work on 11”x14” black paper with glue.
C. Flower and Bones Painting– Student will draw in pencil on 11”x14” white paper a skull and a flower from studying photographs. Student will paint the picture using watercolors.

Psychedelic Self-Portraits

On of the most exciting periods of music and art to study when I was a teenager and pre-teen was the Psychedelic era.  It seemed radical, revolutionary, and free.  Freedom is what those pre-teens and teenagers are craving so why not peak their interest with a lesson on John Lennon and Richard Avedon?

 

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Title:Beatles Psychedelic Self-Portraits

Grades: Gr 4-8

Art Lesson Plan-4 50 minute sessions

Enduring Idea: Heroes and Heroines

Rationale: Throughout, time humans have created or selected heroes to teach lessons that portray virtuous characteristics and noble archetypes that help an individual, a nation or a culture survive and thrive.  Artists, have often been influenced by heroes and have portrayed real or mythological heroes in their artworks.

Materials: pencils. erasers, markers, 12″x 18″ white paper

Resources: Beatles by Avedon, John’s Secret Dreams: The John Lennon Story, examples of psychedelic art (Peter Max, Richard Avedon, concert posters), self-critique form

Preparation: precut white paper to 12″x 18″, gather examples of psychedelic art, and create an exemplar, create a self-critique form students can use to check their work according to the criteria they were given to complete the assignment

National Arts Standard Anchor (s):

#2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
#8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Objectives:
*Students will learn about the life of John Lennon and the Beatles
*Students will learn why John Lennon is considered a hero
*Students will become familiar with the psychedelic art of the 1960’s
*Students will create a self-portrait in the style of Richard Avedon’s portraits of the Beatles.

Vocabulary:
Psychedelic, Abstract, Self-Portrait, Repetitive Pattern

Interdisciplinary Standards:

  • Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

Procedures: Day 1:  S will view teacher exemplar. T will review the lesson steps. S will listen to the book John’s Secret Dreams: The John Lennon Story. T “Why did John Lennon stage a bed in?” “What did John Lennon believe in?”  “What can we learn from his actions?”  S will pair up and trace their heads on a white paper in pencil.  Day 2: T will review the lesson steps.  T will review with class the examples of psychedelic art using the Elements of Art and Principals of Design.  S will use a ruler and pencil to add a psychedelic pattern to his/her self -portrait.  Day 3: S will review the steps of the lesson and vocabulary.  S will begin coloring in his/her self portrait with bright colored markers.  Day 4: S will finish coloring in his/her self-portrait.  S will use the self-critique form to self-critique his/her project using the elements of art and principals of design. S will hand in his/her project along with the self-critique form for grading.

Assessment:

S neatly and carefully drew the outline of his/her head on the paper and added a repetitive pattern. 3/10
S neatly and carefully colored in his her self-portrait using bright bold colors to create abstraction.  4/10
S answered all the questions on his/her critique form, demonstrating thoughtfulness as to how they describe their project using the elements and principals. 3/10

 

Ice Fishing Sensory Activity

ice-fishingWe don’t get a winter vortex in Las Vegas-and I don’t miss the 23 years I scraped windshields in Buffalo.  I do miss the beauty and quiet of snow.  Snow insulates sound.  I grew up next to a busy four lane street and when it snowed there was hardly any sounds from the traffic.  It’s peaceful and there’s nothing more fun as a kid than playing in the snow.  I went sledding and snowman making every winter. My friends and I threw snowballs at each other in the school yard.  My boys will be growing up with palm trees instead.

Since the boys won’t be seeing much snow or feel bitter cold I thought it was time to try some cold sensory art experiences out.


We did this activity with the My Petite Picassos Playgroup and t was a hit.  I used Swedish fish silicone trays from Ikea and filled them with water. After, I added a drop of gel food coloring.  I mixed it using a baby foods phone. You can also use a toothpick or straw.  I pop them in the freezer for about an hour and a half and they were all set. We used it on card stock so the paper wouldn’t buckle. The kids had so much fun!  One little boy painted for an entire hour!

Envelope Animals

envelope-animalsThis was a simple rainy day activity.  It’s gotten to be pretty cold here in Las Vegas believe it or not. This morning it’s 39° out -i’m from Buffalo,  New York that’s cold to me. Even though it’s called the sun is out and shining and it’s a beautiful winter. It even snowed a couple days ago. So as the kids have been inside more we’ve been doing more arts and crafts activities.  The other day as I was paying bills I put some envelopes inside and took out construction paper. I cut out different shapes and show them to Ben and we talked about with the shapes were.   He repeated after me triangle an oval. Then I helped him glue them onto the back of the envelope to create years. I took out some googly eyes we glue those on to the top of the envelope to make guys. Then I added some details to create the face so he could see the animal. I told him what type of animal it is in English and in Hebrew because he’s bilingual.  Then he had fun playing with his new markers and coloring them in.  You could easily include a book like Where the Wild Things Are to this activity.  You can make a whole zoo!  It’s a really cute, fun, cheap art activity with supplies you already have around the house!

Art and Literacy Lesson: Where the Wild Things Are Masks

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Grades: PreK-2nd

#of sessions:2 50 minute sessions

Resources:Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Materials: 1 9″x 11″  sheet of black paper, One 9″ x 11″ white sheet of paper, a black sharpie, a pencil, crayons, scissors, a sheet of lined paper, and glue.

National Arts Standard: organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Enduring Idea: creativity, reality and fantasy.

DBAE: art productions, aesthetics.

Cross Curicular Connection: Literacy (students respond to the text by creating a character based on the characters in the story).

Procedures: Day 1: Teacher introduces the lesson and presents the exemplar. Teacher gives an overview of the steps involved with completing the project.  Teacher reads Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and teacher reminds students to pay close attention to the visual appearance of the monsters in the story. After the story is read teacher asks students what animals they think the monsters were based on in the story.  Teacher writes down the responses of the students on the board. The teacher says “We will brainstorm a monster using parts of animals that we are familiar with and mix them together to see what we can make. What animal parts are interesting to you like a giraffe’s neck or shark’s teeth?” The students take turns responding while the teacher writes down their answers. After a list of animal parts are compiled the teacher shows the students how to combine the parts into the drawing of a mask on the board. She that instructs the students to use the list that they came up with and draw their own unique mask in pencil on white paper. The students draw their mask on white paper in pencil and trace with black sharpie marker. Day two: the teacher reviews the steps of the lesson. The teacher reviews the story with the students and how it relates to the lesson. The teacher hands back the artwork and goes over the steps for the day. The children finish tracing with black sharpie marker their mask and begin coloring it in with crayon. When they finish coloring with crayons they cut it out and glue it onto a black piece of construction paper. On the back of their paper students can write on a sheet of lined paper what parts of animals they chose to create their monster.  Older students can name their character, they can describe the character: what it eats, where it lives, what it’s personality is like.
Rubric: /10

Student listened and participated actively in the class discussion of the character development. 1/10

Student neatly and carefully drew in pencil hey mask of the character using compiled animal parts from the list. 5/10

Students work is well crafted and neatly colored. 3/10

Student body list on the back of their project the compiled animal parts they used in their project. 1/10