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Relief Sculpture #7-Artist Statements

Years ago (way back in the 1970s) we only had to make art in high school.  We didn’t write about it, or critique it, or talk about it using the language of art.  My suspicion is that we missed an important element of art education.  We did not learn to understand either our own art-making process or the art of others.  I had to wait for university for those insights.  For my fellow art students who did not continue on to an art degree in college, the idea that we (all of us) can understand something about art may seem baffling.  I have heard hundreds of people tell me when they hear I am an artist that they don’t know anything about art but they know what they like.  The students in my sculpture class will know WHY they like an artwork and why they may not.  They will be able to see things like line, color, texture, movement, and pattern, and be able to explain how those elements and principles of art are combined.

Our sculpture students have completed their artist statements for the relief sculptures.  They first worked on a rough draft, using a graphic organizer as a guide.  After that, they brought in their rough drafts and traded with another student for peer review and feedback.  Then students completed a final artist statement.  I am always amazed to read what the art students write.  Not only is it fascinating that they are so insightful about their own artmaking but it really helps to gauge the effectiveness of the lesson.  The art piece os only one part of what students should get from an art class.  they should learn to problem-solve, work together, learn to be self-motivating, think critically about the artistic process and the end product, and learn to use the language of art.  Here are a few artist statements:



Relief Sculpture #6-Painted!

Our relief sculptures got painted after we returned from break.  Once all of the sculptures were done, students reflected on their work and on each others’ work.  We did what my mentor teacher calls a Gallery Walk, where students walk around and look at other students’ work.  Students then write about each other’s work and talk to their table group.  Each group chooses something to share with the class.  They may talk about what was particularly effective or share their reactions to a piece.  Here are some of the finished pieces along with their Van Gogh inspirations.

20 Vincent VanGogh-Straight Road in Winter


5 Vincent VanGogh-Olive Trees


13 Vincent VanGogh-Orchard in Summer


Relief Sculpture #5-Collaborative work log

Teaching is something rigid people probably never choose to do.  It is a constant adjustment.  A teacher has to adjust to the changing needs of her students, the administrations, the curriculum standards, her colleagues, her classroom space, and her resources.  This project is one adjustment after another.

My mentor teacher assures me that this is just how it is with teaching.  One cannot anticipate everything but one must be able to make adjustments and not feel tied to an original plan which is not working.  I really felt that there could be a way for students to work collaboratively on this project but even after the second day of working, some students still had trouble with partnerships.  Several felt they were doing all the work, some felt their partner was bossy, some felt their partner did not listen.  I introduced a new component to the collaborative process.  A collaboration log.

Each student has a paper with their name on it, on which they note the date and write what work they did toward the project.  They write how they collaborated with their partner.  They can also write if they think it is going well or poorly.  If they feel they have done all the work, they can write that. This is their exit ticket.  Each day, during the last few minutes of class, they reflect on that day’s progress.  They turn in the log and get it back the next day to write more on.  It gives both me and the students a great reference for when we assess the projects.

Students are working together better and I am really enjoying reading the collaboration logs.  The students who were resistant to partners have been the best at reflecting on their process and have written things like “Today we collaborated on the sky, brainstorming about what materials to use.” and “We worked together really well today.”  I will certainly use this idea in my own classroom.

Relief Sculpture #4-Collaborative Work introductions

I went home and worried about the collaborative partnerships I designed, wondering if I had gone wrong in my planning or if this kind of thing would work.  By ‘work’ I mean, I want the students to learn how to work together and learn that they can work with people they have not chosen.  I understood why the students asked to work alone but I really wanted this to be a big part of the project.  My mentor teacher and I had talked about it before I left school and I was almost ready to give in and let students work alone.  Then I had a chance to sleep on it and when I woke up, I had a plan.  One thing my mentor teacher reminded me was that many of the students didn’t know each other.  Even though they are together in class every day, they get to know the students who sit near them and don’t even learn everyone’s name.  Plus, they are not adults, they are high school kids.

I devised an introduction activity for the start of class.  Each partnership had a few minutes to talk to each other and find out their partner’s first and last name, plus two facts about their partner that most people in the class probably didn’t know (something their partner did not mind sharing with the class).   Students were to then introduce their partner to the class using what they learned.  My mentor teacher and I introduced each other as an example, so students would know what kinds of things to talk about.  I gave her name and told them she had visited Tibet and China and her favorite food was popcorn, and she introduced me and told them I had lived in Kuwait and I once milked a camel.  After four or five minutes, we went around the class for introductions.  We all learned that one student can read Braille, another can speak six languages, another has more than fifty first cousins (on her Mom’s side), and all kinds of interesting things.  The class then got to work with a much better attitude.

Relief sculpture #3-Partnering

One of the major components of the Nevelson/Van Gogh relief sculpture assignment is collaboration.  Students were asked what the artwork work would look like if Nevelson (1899-1988) and Van Gogh (1853-1890) could have collaborated.  What students are doing in this project is combining the found object assemblage technique of relief sculpture with the movement and texture found in Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings.  I talked to the students about the fact that collaboration is a skill-set they will use in every area of life and it is a perfect time to practice those skills here in sculpture class.  I explained that collaboration means people work together toward a common goal.  In life, we all must work with people we may not know, may not like, people who work harder than we do or not as hard as we think they should, or people we may disagree with.  When we collaborate, we do our utmost to make the collaborative efforts work, and we learn to set aside personal preferences in our desired to reach our common goals.

The idea sounded fine to the students until they found out they did not get to choose their partners.  Students were paired up by pulling names out of a hat.  The seating was then changed to accommodate the new collaborative partnerships while students worked on their planning drawings for their relief sculptures.  Several students were very unhappy about the partners they got and one student asked if he could work alone because his partner was not doing her part in planning.  What to do….what to do…

Relief Sculpture #2 -The Project

The second day of this project was spent talking about criteria and process. This project is a relief sculpture using found objects which will be painted all one color. Like Nevelson’s work, it will be black, white, or gold (students’ choice). Students will use a Van Gogh painting as a reference to work from and will make their sculpture look like the painting. They are to have low areas (1/4 inch high) medium areas) ¼ to 3 inches high) and high areas (4 to 5 inches high) in their relief. They must use at least five different types of found objects. I showed them my example which has driftwood, seed pods, reeds, cork, dried grapevines and clothes pins (among other objects) and reminded them that the color will not matter but the heights will create value changes with different kinds of shadows.


Relief Sculpture #1-A Collaborative Lesson

Last week I introduced a lesson I created for the sculpture class. It’s my only chance to design a lesson for sculpture because there is no sculpture class second semester. We are looking at the work of American sculptor Louise Nevelson and the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. Nevelson’s work was very abstract, using found objects and creating high relief sculpture which she painted all one color; black, white or gold. Van Gogh’s work is more familiar; Starry Night, Sunflowers. The lesson incorporates the methods of Nevelson with the movement and texture found in Van Gogh’s work. We started out looking at the work of Louise Nevelson through a video about her. Students filled out a thought worksheet as they watched the video, which asked them to find three things they liked about Nevelson’s work and two questions they have about it. Their responses were surprising and often insightful. They found her work profound and more complex than at first glance. I am sure the video made a difference in how they viewed the work.

Knitting Club

The knitting club has started.  It’s small, but students come in at lunch to work on knitting projects and get help with knitting problems.  One of my mentor teachers is the advisor and she is a long-time knitter herself.  She wore multicolored sock she had knit the other day, making me wish I had time to be in the knitting club myself.

One boy in the club knits beards for people.  Like a fake Santa beard but knitted, they hook over the ears.  He told me he and his Mom learned to knit together some time ago.  We have student clubs for all kinds of interests and as long as a group can find a teacher to be their advisor and provide a classroom for them at lunch, the club is a go.  I love the idea.  I don’t remember anything remotely similar when I was in high school and it gives students a place to learn new things and get together with others who share the same interests.  Knit one, purl two.  Knit on!

Musical Revue

I brought my granddaughter to see the musical revue over the weekend.  I figured it would be a good chance for her to see her first live performance.  She’s a few months shy of three and is learning how to behave in different social situations.  We saw several teachers I knew and quite a few students from my classes were there in the audience.  The choir teacher must be a miracle worker because the entire show was superb.  It was truly a musical revue, with songs from The Age of Aquarius to Ave Maria.  There were serious song, funny songs, toe-tapping songs and jazzy songs.  There were lots of parents and students in the auditorium and the music was well-received.  My little granddaughter and I had a fabulous time and by the end of the evening she was worn out.  She talked about it all the next day.  So did I.

I saw the choir director this morning and told her how we enjoyed the show.  I hear she works with the drama teacher for the spring musical, so I am already making plans to attend.  It’s so fun to see the students shine.



Last weekend I attended the Girl’s Varsity Basketball game.  The stands were not very full, perhaps one-sixth of the bleachers were occupied.  It seems we have a great deal more community attention paid to the boy’s teams (nothing new but I had hoped we were heading toward gender equality along with all the others we strive for).   The girls’ varsity team is weirdly small, so there is not much enthusiasm in school for them either, though they are working on recruiting more members.  The parents and students who attended the game were enthusiastic and noisy, and the evening was fun, even though we were a small fan base.  The girls played hard and beat their opponents, which always helps when drumming up more support.  I hope they gain many more fans over the course of the season.