Tag: art lesson

The Halfway Restart, Art Teacher Style

Have Heart, a collage of text and magazines.
A snippet of a visual journal page created by one of my talented Painting class students, Fall 2020.

The day before school started, spring 2021, I laid in bed and felt something I had not felt in the last nine years. Dread.

Dread is a mental state and physical sensation of distinct weight that I often felt at my first art teacher job. Since moving schools and finding a supportive, happy place, I haven’t felt this in years. But, here it was again, reacquainting itself with me. And I hate it.

I love my job, I love my coworkers, I love my school. But, after a tough pandemic controlled first semester, it was hard to imagine going back. I felt more pessimistic about the start of this semester than I did the first semester because I knew what was coming. The combination of in-person, full virtual, hybrid feels like you are juggling and teaching three different classes in one. (Check out my survival tips here)

I hadn’t even closed my eyes and the exhaustion of what to come was already washing over me.

The next morning my husband asked how I was feeling and I was honest, I was unsure and wished I could just call it quits. He told me I couldn’t go in that way, I had to pull through because of my students.

He is so right.

We can’t let this get to us because we are responsible for so many others’ emotions. We provide care, support, and education to very malleable young minds. How we feel matters because it impacts how they feel.

I had to pull it together.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit I lamented with many others. That deep sighs hit me during my drive in and planning period. But, everyday, I will pull it together before my students step foot in my room. That is my goal, my motto for wrapping up this year. I plan to go out with just as much enthusiasm as I came in with nine years ago.

I’ve got this. We’ve got this. You’ve got this.

PREPPING FOR NEW CLASSES

The syllabus, contracts, and bathroom passes I use every year.

This semester, like many other middle and high school art teachers, I have three brand new classes. This means I get to hit the restart button (for better or worse).

Before I left last semester I printed and made copies of all my typical first day of school paperwork. Starting a new class with clear expectations, requiring parent signatures, and holding students accountable for turning them in is an important way to start the semester. (Check out my first day of school pack on my TPT and in my blog shop).

A few years ago I updated my get to know you sheets, creating a unique one for every class. I love using these as a time filler the first day, and I read every one to help me get to know my students from day one.

On the back of each get to know you sheet I always include a brief survey. I ask questions such as, what other art classes have you taken, what is your favorite art material, what is your least favorite project from another class? This helps me understand where each student may fall in terms of experience and gauge interest in different types of projects.

TIP: Include a favorite song or band question on your sheets. Use their responses to build a class playlist using Spotify or similar. Always check song ratings/warnings to make sure the music is appropriate before adding it!

ART KITS, TAKE 2

Art kits and brush tube sets to send home with students.

Before school started I once again prepped my art kits and brush tubes for my students to take home. Since we are starting the semester in hybrid mode, I need them to be able to make art at home. If we ever go full virtual, I know what is in each kit and what they are capable of creating.

All my art kits have paper sheets I have the students use as a check-off when they first go through their kit. If they are missing any supplies, they have to touch base with me to get them. This helps them see what they have in their kit and confirms they got everything (holding them accountable for it all at the end of the semester).

I have been using the brush tubes for years and swear by them. Each student gets their own set of 5 brushes that must be turned in, well cared for or replaced, at the end of the semester.

How to you keep the kids accountable? Give them a grade for turning everything back in. This won’t work in every circumstance but it is the best solution I found.

I am sending as many good vibes and happy thoughts to all you art teachers, general teachers, administrators, and more out there. If we can survive this year, we can survive anything.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. You can read more art teacher related posts here, visual journal posts here, and check out my teaching resources on my TPT and in my blog shop. Thanks for stopping by!

Distance Learning – Visual Journals

A visual journal page of a sign that says "don't stop art."

I recently got word from my school that we wouldn’t be back before April 13th. I have doubts that we will even return the 14th, but only time will tell. This means no students, no hands on learning, no art show, so many other cancellations of events and what we all consider the norm, gone.

Just two weeks ago I walked the line between is this really serious? and will we actually have school cancellations due to an illness? It only took until the end of that week to realize the severity of the situation we are in. I immediately began planning how I could continue to push art into the lives of my students during this, because at a time like this an outlet for our feelings is as important as hand washing (although wash your hands FIRST then start the creative outlet for your mental health).

What is most important to me is that we don’t stop art. That my students continue to flex their creative muscles in this time of isolation. So what do I do? What do educators do? How do we continue to provide for our students without having a face to face with them? These questions are what pushed me into the next phase of dealing with COVID-19, I was long out of denial, it was time to take action.

Luckily, I have a project that fits well into distance learning, visual journals. Before my students left I had them take their visual journals home. If you have not started this project, all your students need is a used hardback book that they (and their family members) no longer want. If paperback is all they have, use it! If a sketchbook or notebook is all they have, give it a go! If they have no bound book option, use a piece of paper. That most important part is getting started and making something.

MY DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN

For the next two weeks I have a solid distance learning plan that focuses on visual journals. Luckily, if we continue to teach and learn from home, this project can be extended. You can find all my resources, including a presentation, handouts, and more, on my TPT here for free. I also have many how to worksheets on visual journaling you can check out here. You can also continue reading below for the general outline of my plan.

TOPIC: VISUAL JOURNALS & COVID-19

For the first week of distance learning my students are focusing on what this current crisis looks like, by reading information on reputable websites such as the CDC. They then reflect on how this crisis is impacting them, their friends and family. Next, they begin planning out a spread (two facing pages) in their visual journal that sums up their coronavirus experience in one image.

My school is using technology already put in place to support us through distance learning. All assignments are posted to our class Blackbaud page. Completed assignments can be uploaded through the same system. This organizes who submitted which assignment when, without me doing the heavy lifting. In addition, we are using Microsoft Teams as a discussion board and file holder to organize all our documents into one place and as a secondary option for students to access what they need for their assignment.

If you don’t have technology in place to support you, it will take extra work, but it can be done. Google classroom is free and an amazing way to connect with your students in one place. E-mail is another option to at least get assignment sheets and information into your student’s hands (or inbox). They can e-mail you pictures of their visual journal pages that you post to a Flickr or similar page where students can check out each other’s work and comment on them. If you haven’t started a class Instagram yet, now is the time! This could be your online gallery of work and community space. Worse case scenario, you could mail packets out, although not ideal, it is an option if it’s feasible for you (heaven knows we need to be taken care of too. Make sure you take care of you!)

At the end of the first week my students only have to submit their reflection sheet and start brainstorming designs for their visual journal spread. I want us all to take baby steps at the beginning so we don’t burn out by the end. I am taking the less is more approach, while still giving my students the opportunity to express themselves.

At the end of the second week they will submit a photograph of their completed visual journal page to me. My students will be graded on all submitted work, not every school is, but grades are great motivation to work, so I am thankful for that.

VISUAL JOURNAL SUPPLIES & HOW TO

To complete this project students can use materials typically found at home to create beautiful works of art. Included in my free packet is a list of supplies they can creatively use they may not think of as art supplies. Below is a basic list to get you started:

  • Used hardback book
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Sharpies
  • Tape
  • Paperclips
  • A computer to find images and a printer to print images
  • Foil
  • Paper bags
  • Wrapping paper

Because my students are already a couple of months into our visual journal project, we work on them every Friday at school, they have already been introduced to collaging, mixed media, and examples of visual journals and techniques. If you are starting from scratch, send them here to read through how tos or have them Google visual journal or altered books for ideas. Send the visual journal presentation in my free pack. Have the students take the reigns in their art making and find inspiration on their own. The internet provides almost limitless access to tutorials, information, and tips, encourage them to use it.

As your students work on their spreads don’t be afraid to create your own. Video your process, share what your reaction to coronavirus is. Be vulnerable with your students because we are all vulnerable right now. Although my school has prohibited video conferencing of any kind with students, due to the inability to oversee actions and to be free of liability of any inappropriate or poor conduct, I can share videos of me working. Although we aren’t in the classroom together, I believe hearing my voice my instill a sense of regularity into this process.

As we navigate through this unprecedented time, if we continue to be out of school I plan to post a list of visual journal prompts students can select from and create visual journal pages about. I will check in with their progress at least once a week, and have new spreads due every two weeks.

Your distance learning may look completely different from mine, but I hope this at least provides ideas to get you started. It’s overwhelming to change everything we have been trained to do, but we can do it and we can do it together.

OTHER DISTANCE LEARNING IDEAS

If you teach elementary school, middle school, or photography classes I have been working overtime to get distance learning packs put together for you! Read below for more information.

My retired art teacher mom and I created a distance learning pack for K-5 with projects designed specifically with the abilities and needs of each individual grade level in mind. Each lesson pack includes presentations, assignment sheets to help the parents and students, and step by step instructions through demonstration videos and handouts.

I have adapted my traditional artist trading card project into a distance learning focused one that includes a mail trading session between students. I know students miss each other and writing letters, creating art, and keeping in touch with something they can physically touch can make a huge difference. Check this lesson out here.

My coworker and I have put together four photography focused distance learning packs for you. One is a free pack that includes prompts for students to explore while at home. Two lesson packs focus on setting up and taking pictures at home through constructed landscapes indoors and a social commentary on the COVID-19 crisis. The fourth lesson takes an art historical approach looking at photographs that have changed the world. These packs could cover your class for the rest of the semester if needed.

In addition, I have two art history lessons up on prehistoric art. One is designed for upper elementary and young middle schoolers, while the other is designed for late middle and high schoolers. Art history is just as important to art making and could be a good solution to art distance learning for you.

Check my distance learning category on TPT and follow me to stay up to date with new products I get posted!

Ya’ll I miss my classroom, my students, my routine. Before this all I wanted was one snow day, now I would give anything to be back in my room looking at my kiddo’s facing and talking about art, or whatever topic was important in the teenage world that day.

Good luck to you as you go through this journey. Please reach out with questions, comments, or concerns. Click my social media buttons in the right menu bar to keep in touch.

A week ago I was at the beach (practicing social distancing but in a much more beautiful place) and now am I here. I am here and I am going to do this and soon this will be behind us. Thanks for stopping by!

Check out my most recent visual journal post that explains how to create a tape transfer in a visual journal using packaging tape and printing pictures.

TPT Cyber Monday Sale-25% off

It’s Cyber Monday on TPT and my shop blog which means it’s my absolute favorite time of year. The dropping temperatures, cozy fires, holiday shopping, smell of Christmas trees, and way too much eggnog gives me all the feels.

This time of year is also notoriously busy as I try to wrap up my semester long classes and finish up end of the semester projects in my yearlong classes. I am hopeful my students can cut up and display the me-sized laminated section of supply labels in the picture above before the year comes to a close (read more about these below). As a yearbook adviser our second deadline is on the horizon, which means I will soon be cross eyed with editing once again. As a wife and mom I have a lot of prepping to do as Christmas very quickly approaches.

Although life is busy as usual I had to take a minute to throw up a quick blog post to let you know about the cyber Monday sale that starts tomorrow, 12/2 and runs through the end of the day Tuesday, 12/3.

Although the school year has gone into full swing and my life outside of the classroom is always a hustle, I have been working hard on my TPT products. I have a bunch of new projects, bundles, and printable displays to share with you guys. Don’t forget to spoil yourself with a few TPT items this holiday season!

PINHOLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Pinhole photography has been a big theme in a number of my recent projects. I collaborated with my retired art teacher mom, Anne Ward, on a basic pinhole photography pack and an elementary through high school pack with everything you need to set up and teach pinhole.

My mom never ceased to amaze me growing up with her ideas and fearlessness for trying new things in her classroom. I remember when she began exploring pinhole photography in her classes, converting a storage closet into a temporary darkroom every spring. She ended up bringing her pinhole knowledge home over the summers by teaching classes to neighborhood kids and converting a bathroom and my Dad’s workshop into a darkroom.

I remember helping her out during summers in college. Teaching these classes helped us raise money to go on a trip to Italy and France, time that was so precious to spend one on one with my mom. Although she has retired from the classroom my mom continues to teach pinhole to neighborhood kids every summer. I was so excited to work on these packs with her so I could share her years of knowledge with you.

This basic pinhole pack gives you instructions on setting up a darkroom, building a camera, contact printer, and getting started taking and developing pictures.

This pinhole pack has everything mentioned above as well as lesson plans, worksheets, and additional projects for students to work on in elementary to high school. The lesson plan includes specifics on how to adapt everything to each grade level. You will have everything you need to get started with pinhole in your classroom.

In addition to working with my mom on pinhole I also picked the brain of my photography teacher coworker on how she implements pinhole photography in her class. I combined the resources created with my mom with Meagan’s project ideas to create a pack specific to upper middle school and high school age students.

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Digital photography products have been a major theme in my TPT shop over the last year. I had the chance to work with my photographer teacher coworker, Meagan Brooker, to share her amazing lessons and resources with you. Every year her students are recognized in multiple contests for their outstanding photography. Now you have the chance to use her ideas and implement them in your classes.

If you are looking to incorporate traditional photography techniques into your class, but don’t have a darkroom set up, give cyanotypes a try. Use digitally captured and printed images to create fine art blueprints using this classic technique.

This light focused bundle pack includes two projects that cover seven different lighting techniques. From light box still lifes to light painting to using found lighting outside the classroom, this pushes students to think creatively about how they use lights to enhance their photographs.

DSLR photography selfies project

Selfies are an undeniable aspect of current photography trends. Take back the reigns of social media photography and teach students how to create artistic selfies. How can you create a selfie using a DSLR camera? Require the students to take a picture of themselves using self timers, conceptual selfies, and more. Students select three out of four topics to explore, all focused on reflecting themselves.

Start introducing Photoshop basics with this fun “magic” themed photo project, invisibility illusion. Students are tasked with combining multiple images together and cutting sections out to create the illusion of a section disappearing.

A DSLR photography lesson on making ugly subject beautiful.

My latest addition to my TPT store is my making the ugly beautiful DSLR project. Students have to take two photographs that reflect two different topics: ugly subject, beautiful composition and glorifying the everyday. Link coming for this assignment tonight, in the meantime check out my TPT store and be on the lookout for this new addition.

SUPPLY LABELS

Colorful clay themed printable supply labels.

I finally took the time to add to my art pack of supply labels and create a stand alone set for all things clay. Clay supplies are their own special category and they are hopefully included in every art classroom. These are rainbow themed, easy to print, and easy to read. Two different styles are included.

Chalkboard themed printable clay supply labels

In addition to my rainbow themed clay supply labels, I also included chalkboard themed ones. Every classroom style is different, hopefully one of these will compliment your style and help your students find supplies independently. These are also included in my bundle pack of chalkboard supply labels for visual art supplies.

ART CURRICULUMS

It was a huge check on my to do list to A: Update my current AP art curriculums to the new standards and to B: add a 3D Design section to my curriculum. You can purchase this as a stand alone curriculum if you only teach 3D Design or you can purchase it as part of my AP studio art bundle if you teach all three. This is fully updated to reflect the switch to sustained investigation and selected works. Although I have never taught AP 3D, I did take it as a student (back in the day) and I work closely with two teachers who teach it at my current school.

I also finally got around to bundling all of my painting curriculums into one mega bundle. This includes my Introduction to Painting, Painting I, Painting II, and Advanced Painting. The painting I and II curriculums can be found here and here. The Introduction to Painting curriculum is separated out from my yearlong Intro to Art curriculum and the Advanced Painting is separated out from my yearlong Advanced Art curriculum.

After a quick getaway to Hilton Head Island for Thanksgiving I am back in the swing of things preparing for the holidays and the end of the semester at school. Treat yourself to the gift of time by purchasing one of my products and saving yourself all the planning that goes into lesson prep.

Thanks for taking the time to check out this post! If you want to read more summaries of products check out past sales updates here, here, and here. Help me spread the word about amazing art resources by sharing this with others. Don’t forget to follow me on TPT to get updated on new products and instagram for an inside look at my day to day classroom activities. Also check out my blog shop for 30% off all products that are included. Thanks for stopping by!

Teachers Pay Teachers: AP Art Curriculum including Breadth, Concentration, and Quality

For the past year I have been working crazy hard to get a comprehensive high school art curriculum put together on my Teachers Pay Teachers site. I started with my Introduction to Art curriculum, and it quickly gained popularity. I realized there was a market for complete curriculums so teachers can worry about focusing on their students and whats going on in their classrooms, rather than the lesson plans.

After the success of my Intro to Art curriculum I formulated a plan. I would create a curriculum bundle back for all the high school art courses I have experience with, then bundle all of those into a mega-super-TPT-art bundle. As of last week I completed my AP Art 2D Design and Drawing curriculum, which completed my 2D focused high school art curriculum. This huge bundle includes year-long intro to art, advanced art, and AP art curriculums and semester long drawing and painting curriculums.

This was a HUGE accomplishment for me and a goal I’ve been working towards for a year. However, for this blog post I am going to focus on the details of my AP Art bundle, and save the high school art curriculum for a later post. Check out the details of my AP Studio Art course below.

I taught AP Art for a few years at my last job, and loved it, but it was an overwhelming task to take on. It’s difficult to motivate students to produce the amount of work required for the AP art portfolio. After taking a break from teaching it and a lot of reflection, I began developing some material that would have helped me a lot in the beginning.

I did go through an AP certification course, but it’s a single week in the summer. I get a ton of good information and head start on the year, but the things we covered quickly left my brain as we got into the grittiness that is spring semester. If I make my way back to teaching AP art at my current job, I am excited to now have these resources to help me, and my students stay on top of the rigorous schedule.

In addition the meat of the AP art portfolio, projects for breath, concentration, and quality, I also include a yearlong timeline, printable calendar with every deadline, homework assignments, AP Art application, syllabus, parent and student agreement, summer work, supply list, sticker chart, and so much more. I have specifics that go along with each portfolio section as well as lesson plans, presentations, and evaluation sheets to go with each project.

BREADTH ASSIGNMENTS:

The breath section requires 12 works of art submitted (for 2D Design and Drawing portfolios), which can include details. I lay out 14 breadth assignments to be completed in semester one. This may seem like a lot, but some take longer than others, and it’s important for students to be able to select their best works of art, which means ideally more than 12 are created. In my breadth bundle in addition to project information I include lesson plans, handouts, evaluation sheets, critique sheets, PowerPoints, examples, and more for every project. Below are details on the 14 assignments:

Semester Long Canvas:

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • A focus on working on a work of art for an extended period of time, encouraging creativity and problem solving.
  • The ability to take breaks and work on it when inspiration hits.
  • Artist exemplars: Gustav Klimt and Pirkko Makela-Haapalinna

Bones and Exoskeletons

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • A focus on technical ability, value, and object studies.
  • Putting their own spin on a traditional subject matter.
  • Artist exemplars: Albrecht Durer and Jason Borders.

Perspective

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • A focus on technical ability, foreshortening, and displaying understanding of perspective in art.
  • Artist exemplars: M.C. Escher and Stephen Wright.

Design

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • A focus on design elements in both the 2D design and drawing portfolios.
  • Show an understanding of using the elements of art and principles of design in a work of art.
  • Artist exemplars: Jasper Johns, Leonardo da Vinci, and Barbara Kruger.

Portrait with Words

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • A focus on value, line quality, portraiture, and a connection between text and imagery.
  • Artist exemplars: Leslie Nichols, Jamie Poole, and Michael Volpicellis

Ordinary Behavior

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Focus on elevating the ordinary subject matter through the composition and medium.
  • Artist exemplars: Henry Mosler, Ralph Goings, and William Wray.

Action Portrait

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Artist exemplars: Edgar Degas and Nikunj Rathod
  • Focus on using the elements of art and principles of design to create a sense of movement.
  • Creating a dynamic work of art.

Abstract Acrylic

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Artist exemplars: Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and Mark Rothko
  • A focus on line, shape, color, balance, unity, and focal point.

Unusual Interiors

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Focus on light, perspective, and overlooked or not typically seen as “beautiful” interior spaces.
  • Artist exemplars: Edward Hopper and Richard Estes.

Layers and Mixed Media

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Focus on layers, mixed media, and blurring the lines between the figure/ground relationship through stable, reversible, and ambiguous figure/ground.
  • Artist exemplars: Juan Gris and Christina McPhee

Satire in Art

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Focus on a current issue through satire and humor.
  • Artist exemplars: James Gillray, Nate Beeler, and Paul Kuczynski

10 Interesting Photographs

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Turn one of the student’s 10 interesting photographs homework assignment into a work of art.
  • Artist exemplars: Student selects one through research.

Scan & RepurposeEverything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Take a work of art from earlier in the semester or a previous art course and turn it into a new work of art.
  • Scan the old work of art into the computer and digitally manipulate it or scan, print, and complete a transfer onto a new background.
  • Artist exemplars: Student selects one through research.

Visual Jourmal

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

  • Eight visual journal pages are due by the end of the semester.

CONCENTRATION:

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

The concentration section of the portfolio requires 12 works of art (for 2D design and drawing portfolios) that all fit under one theme. My concentration bundle pack includes 2D Design and Drawing specific introduction PowerPoints as well as lesson plans, handouts, information sheets, evaluation sheets, critique reminders and more. This bundle is meant to serve as a guide for how students can pick a topic that can last through at least 12 works of art.

QUALITY:

The quality section of the AP art portfolio has the students select 5 of their best works of art to be physically mailed in to be evaluated. My quality bundle pack includes details and information sheets to help guide the students, a PowerPoint, lesson plan, submission guidelines, teacher tips, planning an AP art exhibit, and so much more.

The AP Art bundle is my largest curriculum undertaking to date. I have spent endless hours putting it together, and I must say I am very proud. Since it was posted last week, I have already sold a few, and I can’t wait to hear feedback.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Help me spread the word by sharing with others. Check out my other TPT and art education blog posts here. Check out my other TPT products here. Thanks for stopping by!

Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.
Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.
Everything you need to teach an entire year in AP Studio Art including breadth, concentration and quality sections.

Teaching Abstract Art: When the Simplest Concepts are Actually the Most Complex

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Abstract art is one of my favorite types of art and it’s an art form that I always include in my high school art curriculum. It can be hit and miss, some years they get it and run with it, other years it’s like pulling teeth. Despite my mixed results I am committed to always including it in my lessons because it can be under-appreciated by those who don’t understand it. AKA, please don’t tell me “I could’ve done that.” Because guess what, you didn’t.

Abstract art may look simple, but it is in fact one of the most complex forms of art and reflects a much higher level of thinking (yes, there is a lot of thinking that goes on in art making). Because of this fact I was very wary of doing an abstract art project with my advanced class this year. They are a wonderful group of kids, but overall their technical ability and creativity level is lower than what I typically have in my advanced classes. My tried and true projects were very hit and miss this year, and I felt like a failure of a teacher. I just couldn’t figure out my “in” with them.

So of course, knowing all of this information I decided to develop a new abstract art project that was bigger than ever and more open ended than over. I was convinced it was going to fail miserably, but I continued down the path anyway.

I attribute the formation of this new lesson to watching cartoons with my two year old. We were deep into watching Inside Out for the 1000th time when the abstract thought scene came up. If you have never seen it, Google it, it’s an amazing explanation. The characters show the progression of abstract thought through verbal and visual explanations. The characters literally abstract before your eyes. The light bulb turned on.

I put together a PowerPoint including a link to the clip (plus a few other video clips) and three abstract artists to show examples of the three main elements in abstract art: Piet Mondrian for line, Wassily Kandinksy for shape, and Mark Rothko for color. The only guidelines I gave my students were it must emphasize either line, shape, or color (all three will be included, but one will be showcased) as well as balance, unity, and a focal point. The three elements are the building blocks and the three principles are what make it a successful work of art.

I was so worried. Typically with my abstract projects I have my students start with a concrete base, such as a photograph of a landscape or an object, and I help them simplify and abstract it before they start painting it. But this project took it to a new level, it was high level problem solving. I set them off to work and as always with a new project I worked on my example along with them.

Each student got a 36″x48″ canvas. This was the largest any of them had ever worked. I sent them off to sketch and I began to work on mine. I decided I wanted to focus on cool colors, with pops of warm, incorporate an acrylic pour somehow and emphasize line. In my head I wanted the organic shapes of the acrylic pour pattern juxtaposed with the geometric lines. First I painted the entire canvas using the cool colors I planned to incorporate into the stripes.

Next, I used a ruler to create a line pattern. I had a loose idea to focus on diagonal lines, but from there I started laying the lines out and made adjustments as I went.

Once I felt confident with my pattern I began filling it in.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I wanted the bright orange to help create a focal point.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Again, I had a loose idea of the colors I wanted and would scatter them around the canvas before starting another. I would periodically take a step back to make sure the colors looked balanced before adding more.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I wanted the background to make up some of the stripes and as I began filling in the lines I decided I wanted to have more of a variety of shapes, rather than the same width lines covering the entire piece. To create that look I didn’t fill in large chunks of the lines and instead left the background showing through.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I waited until closer to the end to add more orange stripes to make sure they remained the focal point. At this point I loved the piece. I began questioning whether or not to add the acrylic pour aspect. But, I decided to follow through with my plan. The organic look of the pour would either elevate it, or hurt it, but at least I had photographic evidence of this point in case I hated the final version. Plus, you can always paint over what you don’t like.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I didn’t want the acrylic pour to look like a paint spill on top of my piece. I wanted it to look intentionally included. To achieve this I decided to let it fill in some of the strips, but have clean strips cutting through it. I carefully taped up specific sections and tried to visualize where the paint would fall.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

At this point I had never done an acrylic pour before. One of my students was familiar with the process, and she did some on her abstract acrylic. I read a few how tos, watched a few videos and carefully watched her technique before trying it on my own (once my class had dismissed just in case it was an epic fail). I put my acrylic paint colors in individual cups and mixed it with water, floetrol, and tested some rubbing alcohol on a few. I poured the smaller cups into a larger one, alternating the colors.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Full discloser, the first pour was a HUGE failure! I didn’t thin the paint enough and it ended up being a huge glob of paint that would not spread. I quickly wiped all the paint off and had a moment of silence for the wasted supplies. Attempt two went much better. I still sweated a bit as I tried to spread the paint while maintaining the beautiful cells, it’s way harder than it looks.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

After layer one I decided I wanted a little more, so I did a final pour on the lower half.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

After letting it dry overnight the moment of truth came and I began peeling off the tape. I was slightly disappointed, the paint still seeped under the edges of the tape, which meant a lot of clean up, but I was excited about the potential. After a lot of cleaning up edges I decided I was very pleased with the end result.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

And the best part is the tape will make an amazing visual journal page in the near future.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

In case you are wondering this project ended up being the most successful project of the year. All of my students excelled and these large scale abstract acrylics made beautiful and impressive additions to our annual art show. I don’t know if I can attribute the success to my enthusiasm for it, working along with them, breaking it down into basics, or my Inside Out clip, but whatever it was I will take a win at the end of the school year.

If you are interested in learning more about this project check out my Teachers Pay Teachers lesson plan here. It is designed for advanced or AP art level high school art students, but I believe the basics can be kept and it be sized down for earlier high school or middle school students.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Check out more visual journal pages here and more of my TPT products here. Help spread the word by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.
How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.