Posted by Amy Kerner

Hi Everyone! This is Mrs. Kerner from Woodrow Wilson High School! So far it has been a great year, students are working hard and creative art is underway! The project I would like to share about in this entry is one that I feel like is very accessible for all students no matter what skill level or experience level they may be at when they enter my Art I class. It is a project I have students do when learning value and art basics. I have students measure and cut drawing paper to 8 x 8 inch squares. Then I have students fill the page space to create organic pebble shapes (in the future I plan to make the square smaller and have them create a border and possibly use it to incorporate more writing.) I also explain the importance of variety and discuss using various sizes of pebbles. It also is motivational to nervous students that no two pebbles are exactly alike so there is no “wrong” way to draw one. Once they have filled the space with the organic pebbles, I teach them how to shade the pebbles using ebony pencils and blending stumps. This creates an excellent opportunity for them to practice the skills of applying value REPEATEDLY! I once had an art teacher tell me the best way to learn to draw something is to practice it 80 different times and 80 different ways. Well, using that line of thinking, once the students create these they will know how to shade a pebble FOREVER.  After they have completed shading, I have them choose a quote, saying, or song lyric that has meaning to them, and show them how to make the lettering appear “engraved” into the pebbles. It is a really neat effect, and the students really think hard about the sayings they choose for the pebbles.  I have students “scatter” the words as well so they don’t bunch them all up in one area to move the eye across the pebbles. They come out wonderful and the students are very proud of them, because they look very realistic and require craftsmanship and patience.

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Posted by Bill Tippit

Greetings fellow teachers and parents,

Remember when we were just wee lads or lasses, there were so many toys that helped foster the creative spirit that exists in each of us. The illuminated Light Bright, the majestic Erector sets, and countless foot destroying Legos. One such toy inspired my imagination and creativity like no other, the infamous Spirograph.

Tippit 2       Tippit 1

I remember searching the house for typing paper and straight pins and spending countless hours carefully rotating the plastic gears and alternating different color ink pens to create intricate and mesmerizing designs.

Now there you can recreate the fun of this creativity inspiring toy using modern technology. A software designer Nathan Friend has an online version of the classic Spirograph called Inspirograph, that may well suck up the next few hours of your time. As a teacher I hope to use it as an activity for students who finish an assignment early or as an independent practice tool to help teach the concepts of Non-Objective art, radial balance and bilateral symmetry. It can even be used to express math functions visually.

Unfortunately at this time Websense is blocking the sight but I have used it from home and it works fine. You can even export, edit and print your designs. I have asked our Internet security forces to look into allowing access to the site but for now, check out some of the samples below and play around with it from your home computer.

The website is and examples are in the gallery .

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This year, the art teachers in Portsmouth VA were asked to write our two blog entries according to two specific categories; one relating to our art class and one relating to our personal artwork. Since I usually write my blogs in October, and since I,  like a proper professional art instructor,  teach to the pace of a curriculum guide, I was afraid to write about the same project that we did at this time last year! SO, what to do? Well, I decided to do something near the midpoint of the semester that most teachers do near the end of their semester. I did a class survey! It was a little daunting because you know how the saying goes… “If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question!” And yet, I certainly and totally embrace self improvement and growth in ANY endeavor I take on… especially as a classroom instructor! Will I ever fully master the “Art of teaching Art” to students? Nope. I suspect I will be learning everyday how to teach better until I hang up my smock. So here are the results of my survey. I asked three questions and students were instructed to submit their answers anonymously if they so desired. That way I was sure of getting down and dirty honest answers! I was shocked at some of the answers, disappointed in some of the others and yet pleased with some of the others but all in all I learned from them all. The questions were as follows:
#1 What has been the biggest challenge of being in this art class?
#2. What has been the biggest surprise about being in this art class?
#3. Would you take another art class—Why or Why not?
60 kids were surveyed. In response to question 1, over 30% said that drawing contour line drawings was their biggest hurdle! This is totally valuable to me! I must find a way to make drawing contours from observation more attainable! Shhhh, don’t tell my students but perhaps I will add more contour line warm up sketches throughout the year?!?!
In response to question 2, the most repeated answer was “Quizzes and Notes”. Exactly 20% gave this answer; or 1 out of very 5 students… I must admit that this year more than ever before I am giving my students more “Pre Quizzes” to see what they remember from my lectures the day before… The students may be grumbling but I am hoping that in the long run, my Exam grades will skyrocket!
Lastly, Question 3 yielded the most answers in the affirmative with 60% saying YES or MAYBE! That’s an ego boost! So what’s the final take-away? Keep it up fellow art teachers. 2 out of 3 kids maybe kinda yes want to be in another art class! Oh wait, you’re saying that was only MY class? Good point…maybe you should do your own survey and post the results here! Go get ‘em teachers!!!

By Imagene Mallory, Victory Elementary
October 2014
This is a beginning of the year project that I sometimes do as a “loosening up” activity. I did this project with my 2nd thru 6th grade students and I found it on The name of the project is called “A Unique Drawing Experience”, and the objective is for students to create an abstract following a set of directions given by the teacher. And the experience would be for the students to draw and color creating their own abstract design. The students are to draw what they hear and listen carefully to directions while not looking at anyone else’s work. For example, I would tell them to draw 5 straight lines from one end to the other end making sure the lines always touch the edges of the paper to create space and then draw 5 different size circles anywhere on their paper large enough to create more spaces. I decided to change my directions a little, for example I told one class to trace their hand. They loved that part because it made their artwork a little more personal. By the time all of lines and shapes are made there would be lots of geometric spaces and organic shapes. A pencil was used first just in case any mistakes were made and after they were pleased with what they’ve done, I demonstrated using a black marking crayon to go over the pencil lines to make the spaces stand out more, plus a regular crayon would not smudge when they started coloring the empty spaces. They were very excited to discover that they would be using oil pastels to color in the spaces being that that medium is very vibrant, soft in texture, and bold. They were explained that simple lines and shapes added with color will create the most interesting abstract art. The results were awesome especially when they the finishing touch was going over those black crayon lines with black oil pastels. They really made the shapes POP! This was a very enjoyable and simple abstract art project in which the one set of directions really created a unique drawing experience for the students.

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Posted by Eric Baur
My sixth grade students began the school year by discussing value. We started by tracing circles then slowly adding value with pencils to create a sphere. Doing this project first, helps the student build confidence in their ability to create different levels of value. Towards the end of the lesson I start showing the students artwork by M. C. Escher. The subject matter instantly gets their attention. They also have a better understanding of value and are able to appreciate Escher’s skill as an artist. This helps introduce the second value lesson.

Students begin by tracing their hand then going back and correcting any slips or bumps. Once the hand is traced students add details like fingernails and joints. Finally the students begin adding value to the hand. I have a variety of images for the students to view while they are working on their hand drawings, and a few of these images are x-rays of hands. This year two of my students wanted to incorporate bones into their hand drawing. I will admit at first I was hesitant. I explained to the students that if they chose to incorporate bones they must look realistic and not cartoonish. The two students are still working on this project and I am pleased at their progress.

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By Linnea Barth

This year I decided to try something new in my photography class here at I.C. Norcom. I am allowing the students to use their iphones to take pictures! This was a difficult decision, because as we all know as educators, the cell phones tend to be one of our biggest behavior challenges. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve told a student to put their phone away during my instruction, I too would have an iPhone 6! So, I did not take this decision lightly. In the past I have mandated that students in my photography class have, at minimum, a point and shoot digital camera. Some of the problems associated with this policy have included lost chargers, broken and damaged cameras, incredibly low image quality, dead batteries, no memory cards, unusual software that is not compatible with our school hardware, and children forgetting their cameras for days on end, just to name a few. By allowing students to use their iPhones, and Androids I have eliminated the majority of those problems and improved the quality of the images the students are taking! The children have their camera phones every single day, without fail. They are always charged, they always have memory, they always have their camera with them (I think some students even sleep and shower with them!)  And they are never broken or lost! Additionally, many of the newer droids and iPhones have as many megapixels as low end digital cameras did just a few years ago, so our image quality is beautiful!

The students have also been editing their images with ease and skill since allowing them to use their camera phones in class. They are able to crop their images, adjust the color and contrast, make them black and white, and even create collages without ever having to move the image to a computer. In fact, many of the images I have shared with you were taken with a phone, edited then turned in without every have touched a computer!  This is especially convenient for us here in Portsmouth Public Schools where some of the computers are nearly as old as the students themselves, and have trouble running cumbersome programs like Photoshop.

Another unexpected benefit of this shift has been the ease with which the students can turn in their work. I have always used as an easy way to turn digital photographs in to me for grading. In the past, sometimes it was very difficult to get the images from the camera to the computers for many of the reasons I listed earlier. Now, the students can text and email their images to themselves, or me, or simply hook their mini-usb charger (which they always have too!) to any computer.  Additionally, I have had a number of them download the edmodo Ap, which is free and allows them to upload their work directly to me without even using a computer!

While this was a slightly risky decision on my part, and I’m sure I’ll refine some of my policies as the class evolves and I learn some of the pitfalls associated with cellphone photography, but as a whole, I have been pleased with the decision and the way it is working out in the classroom; so don’t be surprised or dismayed if you walk into my photography class and find everyone on the phone!

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By Jamie Cosumano, Churchland High

Finding self requires looking inward and subjecting subject to space; to environment.

Desert and cactus inspired my senses in travel. Sea water and fresh water dazzled my eyes in all traveling directions. All surfaces intrigued, but home would never let go of my aesthetic understanding born early and on a very personal level. As a young child, I wandered deep into the woods, short of getting lost, intent on immersing my senses in the beauty of all things called nature. It draws me today to earth’s clay. I feel much closer to art if I can push and manipulate the media with my hands, without tools separating the two. Pastels allow me to touch and move color on surface, physically connecting myself and allowing a more personal engagement.

Nature is so beautiful in its natural state and manmade materials originally from nature: charcoal, stains, paper – all find interest, and invite interaction. I want this to happen in my art. I want non-objective structure to emerge without intellectual thought or left brain thinking to interfere. I want to develop relationships that just feel right.

Oct 2014

My name is Thomasina (or Ms. D!), & this is my 1st blog, not just as a PPS Art Teacher, but, well…ever! So, to introduce myself a little, I am 30 years old- despite my young & enthusiastic demeanor ;-) –I am from a small town in central Pennsylvania, am a proud pet-momma of a German Shepherd, 2 turtles, & 3 cats, & often frequent places with beautiful scenic views, concerts, & destinations to visit family & friends. Besides teaching public school studio arts, I also teach Introduction to Art History online for a community college where I grew up. Finally, I’m a bit of a nerd…however, I like to refer to myself as a “Renaissance Woman!” My heart is warmed by so much wonder in the world & my soul enjoys the thrill of discovery, which means that my brain must act as both a sponge & a web browser (with 100s of tabs open at once), & my body must take me to parts unknown & often far from where I started. Throughout my journey I have had many adventures that resulted in experiences & lessons learned…which is awesome! To teach art & art history, I, myself, have to be determined, strong, & in a constant state of learning. In the classroom, as in life, some things come easy, while others must be re-adapted several times, &, yet every so often, things still fail miserably & I have to pick myself up & say, “Let’s try that a different way next time.”

One thing that I’ve become quite skilled at is interweaving studio arts & art history. About 2 years ago, I decided that my art history students were missing out on true art experiences…plus, 2 hour lectures with Power Point presentations were killer for me, so I know it was rough for the 18+ year-olds at 8 am. I decided students needed to learn what artists of each decade struggled with, experienced, learned, & loved, so I created a series of simple art projects with rubrics that made sure students knew they’d only be graded on following instructions & effort.

To understand prehistoric cave paintings, students use charcoal, chalk, crayons, or oil pastels to draw the valuables from their everyday lives on a crumpled paper bag.


To understand patterns & the effort in creating stained glass during the Gothic era, students create a paper “stained glass” sun catcher out of construction paper & tissue paper.


Surprisingly enough, students (despite age, major, or year) loved the projects, saying they gave them a break from “typical” college work. They thought of them as a time to relax, have a little fun, & still enjoy a challenge (many consider anything above stick figures to be difficult).  I still have students email me about “stumbling” on a work that they remember from my class…I repeat, they – remember – from – MY – class…not only do they remember my class, BUT ALSO what they learned! Every teacher’s dream-come-true! :-)

The positive experience from introducing studio arts to my art history students gave me more incentive & more optimism of the possibilities of art history in my studio classes (despite age level). I teach as I would in my art history course, I discuss the time period, an interesting fact (sometimes disturbing works even better) about the artist & his/her works. I emphasize the main point (such as technique, medium, etc.) of why we’re looking at the works (or let the students discover it on their own) & then I plant the seed for creativity by giving a concept, rather than step-by-step instructions. None of my students are Vincent van Gogh, so why have them replicate his work?! Allowing students some artistic freedom should be a law!

The most important thing I try to remember is that these students do NOT live in the 1400s or 1700s or even 1900s (feeling old yet?!)…& unless they’re an art history nerd like me (& unfortunately we seem to be a minority), students – don’t – care. They don’t care about the “old dude” or his “lame painting of fruit”…unless I make them understand it instead of just see it. In order to make any sort of an impact, a connection needs to be made. To be brutally honest, a connection to another subject or class might have a 50/50 chance of sticking. What the lesson NEEDS to be connected with are the students. What are they into? More than that, it must reach them on individual levels, meaning: How can this lesson give students the information & techniques I want to deliver, while giving them the freedom to decipher the lesson by their own means?

Teach glazing, atmospheric perspective, & landscapes while introducing John Constable.

D3Dedham Vale (1802)

D4Wivenhoe Park (1816)                                                    

D5 The Hay Wain (1821)



In It’s All Good! (2008), two personal photographs (the land from a camping trip & the sky taken in the backyard one lazy evening) were combined together for an intimate painting of the artist’s euphoria.

Introduce Jasper Johns & create critical thinking by assigning the re-design of a common subject, like the American Flag.

 D7 Three Flags (1958)

D8Flag (1954-5)

D9Moratorium (1969)


Influenced by the rhythmic flow of music & the bright, colorful lights that are present at concerts, America becomes a land of musical freedom in Flag (reprise) (2005).

Georgia O’Keefe invites people to look closer…no, closer…closer! Nature’s beauty is endless & examining it in detail, deciding exactly what & which part of it to connect with & capture, can create an engaging, personal experience.

D11Red Poppy (1927)

D12White Flower on Red Earth (1943)

D13Grey Line with Black, Blue, & Yellow (1923)

D14Created as a birthday present, Beauty (2010) depicts a rose, a favorite flower & an object almost as beautiful as a sister’s life-long friendship.

Create an emotional tone for a portrait by utilizing colors & shapes as symbols like Pablo Picasso.

D15Mother & Son with Handkerchief (1903)             

D16The Old Guitarist (1903)

D17Harlequin with Glass (1905)

D18A forced smile for a school picture that should capture a happy memory & stepping stone in a youngster’s life, in Blues Kid (2004), actually shows the sadness & unsettling emotions of abandonment & separation.


Depict a dream & practice perspective, shading, & figure painting while studying Salvador Dali & surrealism.                                                 


D19Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943)

D20Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand (1931)

D21Keep Going (2013) shows the dream of a girl on a journey from a bad situation &, besides having some big, hairy, man-eating spider parts, gave the feeling of going in the right direction, towards something amazing.

I don’t think of teaching students art history…I think of inspiring them. As for teaching students art…I’m just giving them the means to express themselves. Teaching art history in studio art can not only be beneficial, but it can be fun for students as long as they can form a connection. In my experience, allowing students to show their individuality in their artwork makes their art class experience all the more meaningful & allows a means to learn the material & remember it. The “famous” artist images shown here were found on the Internet through Wikipedia & Wikiart. However, the project examples are all mine. In them you can get a glimpse of my life, not just my fondness for learning from the Greats, but my love for nature, my pets  & family, music, & my gratitude of all the experiences I’ve encountered on my journey (some of these go way back). Anybody can appreciate others’ art, but to appreciate your own art means you put your thoughts, feelings, blood, sweat, & tears (sometimes literally) into your work…only then will it be of value, & only then will it carry significance. As an art teacher, I refuse to believe I’m not an artist. I may not be in galleries or be able to pay a bill from a sale, but I appreciate my art…& that feeling I get when I finish a piece I’m proud of…well, that feeling is what I try to teach. Few students will walk out of my class & into art careers, but most will walk out with an appreciation for art & its history, & all will remember it.

Thanks for reading! :-)

Thomasina Durkay

By Erin Griffith-Mosley

Since I have been a full time art teacher and mother of school age children I really haven’t had much time to concentrate on my own art.  So this summer, while contemplating the next school year, I decided to write some new lessons.  Before I write any lesson I try the project out first to see all the steps necessary and if the assignment is appropriate for the grade I want to teach.  This summer I decided to use my sketchbook to do my examples in and also decided to use the same sketchbook to teach my lesson on sketchbooks to the older grades.  I explained how I did quick sketches and only colored the sketches if color was part of the learning process.  I made notes about medium and grade and what I wanted the students to get out of the lesson.  (Mainly because I am getting older and more forgetful but I told the students it was because artists write ideas down and make notes in their sketchbooks.)  This excited the grade 3-6 students however some of them were disappointed that what they saw may not be taught to their grade.  Another advantage to doing the examples in my sketchbook is I saved paper and all my examples are in one place.  All in all I felt like I had a productive summer and many great ideas.

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Jesse Boone Art 1 Foundations  at Cradock Middle School

Students completed a brief study of different parts of Western Art history from Prehistoric until 1400.

During that time students learned that the primary use for art was to communicate with one another.  We discussed how Prehistoric man drew on the ceilings and walls of caves, while referencing the “Cave Paintings” in Lascaux, France.

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“Cave Paintings” in Lascaux, France.

Also, discussing how ancient Greeks and Romans not only used pictures to communicate but had developed a written alphabet.

We compared Ancient Greek and Romans’ form of communication to that of ancient Egypt.  We talked about how the Egyptians used a more pictorial type of writing, while the others used an alphabet that more resembles our modern alphabet.

When discussing Ancient Egyptian art we referenced the “Fowling in the Marsh: fragment of wall painting from the tomb of Nebamun (no.10) Thebes, Egypt, 18 Dynasty, around 1350 BCE.

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“Fowling in the Marsh: fragment of wall painting from the tomb of Nebamun (no.10) Thebes, Egypt, 18 Dynasty, around 1350 BCE.

Studying that Egyptian art followed strict rules of style.  There artwork lacks three dimensional depth, very little overlapping and a persons size in the picture indicated their importance in society, not their placement in space.   Egyptian artwork is very conservative.

After studying this part of Western art history, students created their own rock wall painting.

1st they answered a series of questions based on who they are?  These answers were then translated into personal symbols.

2nd students created a sketch, arranging the symbols from the answered questions into a pleasing well balanced composition.

3rd Students created a single layer of plaster tape, let it dry and transferred the sketch to the plaster.

Finally, students painted their design using acrylic paint, being very careful to observe the Egyptian rule of style, no depth, important images are the larger images.

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