Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lesson: IDENTIFYING MY SKETCHBOOK: An Identity Collage

My example:  I focused on the elements of Value, Color, and Line.
In my piece, I was able to speak about how I used warm and cool
colors to emphasize different areas of the collage.  I talked about
use size of objects to create emphasis.  And I used materials like
sharpie, or the element of line to create unity throughout my
entire piece.
Over the past four weeks, I have been teaching the process of art-making to my students.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from my students is "Why do we have to do this?"  But, if we don't "do this" I always hear, "I can't do this.  I don't know what to do!" 

In the first week, I attempted to put the kibosh on the second question/issue... and in fact spent a full week hearing about the first.  I first explained how artists come up with ideas through brainstorming, associating, symbolism, then how they begin to create artwork through planning and choices.  Our artwork?  An Identity Collage that would become a significant piece of artwork- their signature, really... Their Sketchbook Cover!

Over the past quarter, students have mainly been working on exercises and small projects mostly within their sketchbooks.  This was a way for students to use what they have learned over the past quarter to create a piece of artwork that was truly, uniquely all their own.  Students answered questions about themselves (which they were really into!), created a word web to help come up with visual examples (that they could include in their collage), that was all about who they REALLY are.  One thing I did emphasize during this discussion is that we are always changing our identity, and that parts of our identity are hidden or disclosed when around different people.  Students were to really take time to reflect on who they are... not two years ago, not once they graduate high school, but right now, this minute.  Students were surprisingly incredibly honest with themselves!

What were my expectations?  

This student focused on texture,
color, and shape.  I really like his use of
positive and negative space with the
music notes as well as with the stencil.
That pink stuff coming out of the note
at the bottom was from one of his
childhood stuffed animals!
This student focused on color,
line, and value.  What you can't tell
 from the photo is that the dreads on
Bob Marley are actually coming off of
the page.  He also made this great pop-
out of the basketball and hoop, but
unfortunately I had to adjust it to being
"puffy" because we laminated the piece
with tape for durability.
Students were expected to create a watercolor ground to start their collage (we spend a few days practicing different watercolor techniques), students had to use one of their own drawings within the piece, they had to use some sort of text or writing, they had to use 3 elements of design in which to focus on, they had to use these elements to show emphasis and unity.  Lastly, I required students to type a two page paper discussing their artwork.  An artist statement?  INDEED!  (If only I could have tape recorded the whining that went on about THAT one!)

Oh the woes of planning your own lesson.  

This student worked hard to used warm and
cool colors to create emphasis in her piece.
I suppose I'm still getting use to my students and what to expectfrom them.  That isn't to say that I won't continue to push them to the next level.  However, I think that the more I teach, the better I will get at trying different tactics to help my students "see."  No matter how many examples of collages I showed them, no matter that I worked on my collage along side them and pointed out various aspects along the way, no matter how I repeated, reviewed and emphasized composition and other areas of importance each and every day, I still had quite a few students who didn't seem to quite "get" the concepts.  Now, I'm still unsure of how many didn't necessarily "get" the concepts... or how many (I'm sure quite a few) could not simply care less.  Many students, I think, just wanted to glue things on the paper and were quite happy with that.  Maybe I should be more pleased with this than I was? 

Last year, I taught 5 classes of photo 1.  I found a really great pace with my students.  I pushed them when they needed to be pushed, and slowed down when they needed to slow down.  I found I was able to get some really outstanding artwork out of these students.  This year, however, I am really struggling with what I should be defining as success.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I am finding myself more closely connected with having social and behavioral successes with my students this year than I have had to in the past.  

This student is an incredibly
talented graffiti artist.  
This student really loves to draw (and
actually states that he hates collaging).
However, when I told him that he could
collage his drawings, that made him love
collage in a whole new way!  I particularly
like his use of the grayscale and red palette.

This student is about to graduate
and really thinking about her
future.  She used shapes within her
piece to unify the different topics
on her mind as well as warm and
cool colors.
Anyway, I digress.  

What would I do differently?  I think that because this is such an identifying piece of artwork, I would probably just make this a two week assignment in the beginning of the school year.  I would introduce collage and talk about the different ways one can collage.  Then, let the students have at it, guiding and reviewing along the way.  This would be a really great beginning project because students (I think) will take ownership of their sketchbook right off the bat.  It will also give me a chance to see where students' talents/abilities are, and since students are moved in and out of my classes very frequently in the beginning, students who come in later would not feel as though they have missed a lot (easy for them to catch up).  Students still had a difficulty with composition and overlapping items, so I would probably do a composition exercise as well.

Did I mention that I also teach autistic students?

Well, it certainly does present a whole other set of challenges when teaching a class of 35 students, when 14 of them (2 groups of 7 in 2 of my classes) are autistic!  Depending on these students' abilities, I had them create a collage using small assignments in class.  For example, I had students draw pictures of themselves, or of themselves doing their favorite activity.  The aid(s) helped a ton by employing parents to bring in photos or magazine clippings or 3D objects that related to the students.  They were still required to create a watercolor piece to include in their project as well, and were able to follow my basic instructions.  Here are a few examples of their pieces!  I love the use of the puzzle pieces, and the outlines of bubble letters, and other overlapping items.


  1. I think your lessons are cool and I have done lots of things in a similar vein. I start my course with a similar assignment. Sometimes I teach basic Photoshop skills in the portrait "collage".
    What I want to say is to not let your expectations get in the way of your students' creativity. I am a fan of not showing examples at the beginning, and doing exercises in our drawing/imagining time in class that totally take students into their lives, their histories, etc.Then we can start drawing or photographing, collecting, thinking about words describing me right now- you may do all this.
    Then comes the design requirements and format if applicable.
    They will tell you what they do and don't want to do, so let them make a substitution you both can live with.
    If it is very personal to them, does it matter if we teachers are happy with it? It has taken me a long time to be fine with this. We won't know what fruit encouraging creative thinking and original work will bear. except when old students friend us years later on Facebook and wow us with their stuff.

    I don't mean to be anonymous but I don't have any of the other profile things.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement and thoughts, Mia! I really appreciate it! The work is always changing and in progress and I think... hope that it gets better each year as I tweak or change it altogether!
      Please feel free to give pointers or thoughts at ANY point! :)