Tag: art teaching

Visual Journal Page 40: Accidental Artwork Collage


At times I truly believe my students think I am a maid rather than their teacher. If this isn’t the explanation for why they continuously leave a mess behind, they must think small elves skip into our room every night, do sing-a-longs, and joyously clean as if there were nothing greater in the world.

The truth is there are no elves and I am in fact a teacher not a personal cleaner upper. I would much prefer spending my mornings, planning periods, and afternoons actually prepping for new lessons and my next class, rather than picking up scrapes of paper, wiping down tables, and sticking my hand in yet another mystery blob of paint. If I turn my back for a second at the end of class, my kids will zip out as soon as the bell rings without a second thought to their mess. It amazes me how they think I won’t realize they didn’t clean up when a pile of paper and unwashed paintbrushes are sitting right in front of their seat. The next day all I get are blank stares and I must have forgotten excuses when I approach the subject.

I hate to admit it but the thought “what would your mother think” often rolls through my head and off my tongue. I am turning into one of those teachers. The type that points and shakes their finger, taps their foot with a hand on their hip, and questions student behavior outside of school. I blame it on the students, they drive us all to that point eventually.

Although I strive to keep a clean room and hate to see a mess left behind I can find a silver lining on the trash cloud that hoovers over my classroom tables, countertops, and floors. As I pick up projet leftovers I often stumble upon the most beautiful accidental works of art. Streaks of paint are left behind a poor attempt to clean off a brush. Random doodles grace scrap papers that have been abandoned. Experimental colors and techniques appear, and are quickly forgotten as the end of class bell rings.

These are my students’ after thoughts, their progression of style and discovery of their voice. I love finding these gems, it almost makes cleaning up worthwhile. I take these accidental works of art, stow them in my visual journal, and incorporate them into my own works of art. However, these particular pieces were so special I had to create a page celebrating them, because I wish they would clean up… even though it is fun to find their accidental artwork.


  • Visual Journal
  • Rubber Cement
  • Accidental artwork
  • Colored pencil


This page is all about the student work, which made my job easy. I simply took the painting scraps I had hung onto, and ripped them into more manageable sizes and layered them into a collage. I glued them down, overlapping them between the left and right pages (in order to get the paper to stick in the crease I use a credit card to push it into the crease of the book), and overlapping the torn edges. As I glued the pieces down I made sure I allowed a blank space in the center to write my words.

Once all of the pieces were glued I used a pencil to lightly write in the words. I wanted them to fill up the space, look messy, and blend with the background. After I was satisfied with the wording and placement I traced over the words with colored pencil, alternating between colors. I made sure to choose colors that were similar to the background to help it blend in.


Take a blank sheet of paper, a variety of paint colors, and have fun. Blend colors, create patterns by playing with brush strokes, or even finger paint. Allow the paper to dry, then rip it up and use it in your next visual journal collage.

This for visiting my blog! I hope you find some useful tips to help you in your next visual journal collage. Help me spread the word about my blog by liking, tweeting, sharing on facebook, e-mailing to others, subscribing, and please feel free to comment! Thanks for stopping by.


Art Lesson: Clay Whistles

Art Lesson-Clay Whistles

While I was in college one of the ceramics teachers did a clay whistle project with their class. When I heard about it I was bummed I wasn’t in his class, because it sounded like a fun project. However, after hearing all of the moaning and groaning from the students in his class about how difficult it was, I was thankful I wasn’t in his class, but the project still stuck with me.

As a teacher I try to choose projects that will challenge my students, but still allow them to be successful at varying levels of ability. This is as difficult as it sounds, which is why it took me three years to gain the courage to try this project in my sculpture class. It all came together at the beginning of the school year when I was trying to map out my projects for the year. I was talking with the middle school art teacher about project ideas, who is very knowledgeable about clay. I was trying to come up with an introduction to clay project that would include pinching, slab rolling, and coiling techniques all in one. After chatting for a minute he made a good point, they are all important enough skills to focus on individually, and not skim over with one quick project.

That solidified it for me. I would come up with a project specific to each technique, and what better pinch project than clay whistles? I took a deep breath and sat down with a pile of clay and began making my very first whistle, and it was hard. It took longer than I expected to get it to whistle, plus two failed versions in the trash. This youtube video ending up helping me get that first whistle working. The minute I heard the nice sweet sound my whistle produced, I was hooked! I started a second one just to make sure the first wasn’t a fluke. The second was quicker and even more successful. The whistle was clearer and deeper, it was perfect! Now it was time to introduce it to my students… I wasn’t sure how this was going to pan out.

Art Lesson-Green Abstract Clay Whistle

I always use PowerPoint to introduce my projects, and this assignment was no different. Since it was the first clay project I started by introducing the history of clay, crash course style. We talked about how far back clay sculpture dates, we looked at some of the earliest discovered clay pieces, and we moved into discussing the clay itself. We discussed wet clay vs. leather hard vs. bone dry vs. bisqued, etc. We talked about the kiln, how it worked, and the steps they would have to take to create a finished piece from wet clay to glazed. Typically I also include an artist exemplar, but I didn’t run across a clay whistle artists, so in lieu of an artist I included examples of whistles I found on the internet. If anyone knows of a clay whistle or pinch pot artist I can include in my presentation next semester please let me know! (The following images are all student examples from this past Fall semester, if you have questions about any of them please ask!)

Art Lesson-Train Clay Whistle

In the PowerPoint I also included images of the steps they would take to create their whistle, for this I relied heavily on this website which had great graphics of the steps(which also has other great lessons if you haven’t already discovered it!). I also printed the images out, made copies, and gave one to each student to reference while they made their whistle. In addition to going through the steps via photographs, I also did a demonstration after the PowerPoint. This may seem like a lot of repetition, but it helps the students to see it multiple ways before they try it out themselves.

Art Lesson-Penguin Clay Whistle

Once I was tired of talking I set the students out to create their whistles. They¬† all had to start with the basic round shape, but once they had a whistling whistle they could turn their shape into anything they wanted, as long as they included both additive and subtractive techniques (scoring and slipping something onto it and carving something out). They could do something more abstract, like my examples, or create an animal or object form, which a lot of the internet examples were. Whenever possible I like to have an opened assignment to allow my students to personalize their creation. They all have different tastes and interests, so why force them all turn their whistles into animals or patterns if they don’t want to?

Art Lesson-Fish Clay Whistle

I was shocked at how quickly some of my students got their whistles to work. Others struggled, but I encouraged them to help each other out, and more often than not the finished early kids got the other students’ whistles whistling. At some point in time every students’ whistle worked. Once they began adding to their designs, sometimes their whistles stopped working, and it took adjusting to get it back again. I did have a couple that didn’t whistle by the time it was turned in, which cost them a few points, but the majority of them worked. If you do this assignment remind your kids to continuously check their whistle.

Art Lesson-Duck Dynasty Clay Whistle

Once they were finished and dried out, we bisque fired them, then glazed them. I had everyone use underglazes for this first project, and we put a final coat of clear glaze on top to make them shiny. I chose underglaze to allow them to paint their creations with specific colors and patterns, that would stay put during the glaze firing process. When we were done we did a group critique, each student blew their whistle for the class, and we discussed the sound, design, and glazing techniques.

Art Lesson-Bird Clay Whistle

Overall the students were really invested in this project. I cannot even express the sense of accomplishment they displayed when their whistle started working. It cracked me up to watch all of their heads jerk up every time another one found it’s sound! I will definitely be repeating this for my 3DI class in the spring!

Art Lesson-Abstract Swirl Clay Whistle

I apologize for the slightly dark images and not having any in progress images! I plan on being more diligent about photographing my students at work next semester. I hope you enjoy the post regardless, and I hope it helps you plan future assignments! Please share the love by liking, tweeting, sharing, e-mailing, subscribing, and commenting!