Thursday, December 9, 2010

Community Gardens: Experiential Learning with GTGK

Green Thumbs Growing Kids is a Toronto-based group that provides experiential learning in environmentally sustainable community gardens for urban youth and their families.

I had the opportunity to volunteer with them a few summers ago and had a great time in their Winchester community garden learning about plants and drawing some of the helpful pollinators.

This is a recent video of theirs, produced by an OISE teacher candidate.
To find out more, have a look at their site.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Third Teacher

I have to link to the site for a fantastic book that I just got: The Third Teacher.
This book is the result of a collaboration of three design firms, one in engineering (OWP/P | Cannon Design), one in educational furnishings (VS America) and one in culture (Bruce Mau Design).

The focus of the book is the role that the design of the physical environment plays in supporting or inhibiting learning. This is a question that every teacher should consider: how does your classroom help or hinder your efforts as an educator?

Class Activity: ask the students, what elements of the design of the classroom and of the school help your learning, and why; and what elements are obstacles, why? How can we address these issues?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stefan Sagmeister: Don't Take Creativity For Granted

This presentation addresses the great challenge of the creative process: how to keep it new.
They come up with some pretty fascinating results including an interactive digital spiderweb with type  and animals eating their way to produce type...

Stefan Sagmeister,

Class Activity: This would be good to show to get students thinking about where they find inspiration. A survey could be completed by the class before watching this about typical sources of inspiration. We could suggest some different approaches to try after watching the video and having a class discussion.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

AGO and TDSB negotiating art collection

The TDSB may be lending the AGO a substantial collection of Canadian art. Negotiations are currently underway. Here is the article from the Globe.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Emily Pilloton: Teaching design for change

"Emily Pilloton: Teaching design for change."

"Design is education. 'In order to do something good you first have to do something'"
An inspiring story for design and for public education.

Class Activity: In groups find some issues or problems in your community and suggest some ideas of how art or design could be used to better them.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Surrealism: "Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express (...)the true function of thought. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason and outside aesthetic or moral preoccupations." (Andre Breton)

Presented in 1924 by Andre Breton in the First Surrealist Manifesto.

Class activity: "Exquisite Corpse" practiced by Andre Breton.
Start with a big piece of paper. The first student draws something and folds the paper to conceal most of what they drew, leaving only a few marks visible, and then passes it to the next student. The next student continues to draw from the marks left visible by the previous student and then folds and partly conceals their addition. This process is repeated for every student. At the end you can unfold the paper and present a collaboratively drawn surrealist work.

"I believe in the future resolution of these two states- outwardly so contradictory- which are dream and reality, into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak." (Andre Breton)

There is lots of fun surrealist work to explore with students by Salvador Dali and
Rene Magritte.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scott McCloud on Comics

Class activity: This talk would be a great way to introduce a narrative project. Scott McCloud addresses the essential elements of narrative work and presents them through the medium of comics. Part one: have students research one comic and use the critical analysis process to identify some of the main elements of narrative and how they are applied. Part two: students apply the information they gained from part one in the creative process by producing their own narrative.

A List of Artists to Know

Charles Burns
Leonid Gore
Edward Sorel
Winslow Homer
Ivan Chermayeff
Frances Jetter
Edel Rodriguez
Chester Brown
Ludwig Bemelmans
Nick Bantock
Kinuko Craft
Maurice Vellekoop
Women Painters of Mithila
Tomio Nitto
Peter Collington
Julie Doucet
Paul Zelinsky
Saul Steinberg
Kay Nielsen
Rose Cecil O'Neill
Orson Lowell
Akira Yokoyama
Olga and Andrej Dugin
Nicolas Debon
Gennady Spirin
Peter Kuper

Class Activity: A good way to develop interest is to allow students to explore various artists and their work and to decide which one appeals to them. From this they can research their chosen artist and submit a short written report with a brief class presentation. This would work as an individual or as a paired activity.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

David Bryne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve

"David Bryne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve"

Class activity: I would like to use this video as a way in to a unit on architecture. Students could choose any work of architecture and discover how it's design helped shape (or was shaped by) a cultural phenomenon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education

"Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education."

Two great quotes that he mentions, from Arthur C. Clarke: "a teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be," and "when you have interest, then you have education."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Visual Rhetoric Toolbox

Here are 11 ways of using visual rhetoric:

1. Substitution: an element of the image is replaced by something else
2. Repetition: an element appears more than once
3. Addition: a new element is brought into the image
4. Subtraction: an element is removed from the image
5. Distortion: an element is altered, perhaps exaggerated
6. Scale: a kind of distortion, elements are increased or decreased in relation to something
7. Juxtaposition: an unlikely combination or improbable setting
8. Personification: applying human qualities to an inanimate object or an abstract idea
9. Reduction: applying non-human attributes to a human
10. Metaphor: a comparison that implies a likeness in things that are not literally alike
11. Catalogue: lists or represents the components of an object or an idea
(from Ted Zourntos's Conceptual Process Class, Sheridan College, B.A.A.)

Here is the Purdue OWL link for visual literacy:

The work of the best graffiti artists is a good place to find excellent use of visual rhetoric such as Toronto based artist Dan Bergeron(fauxreel):,

or UK artist Banksy:

A good place to find weekly international examples is the Wooster Collective:

Milton Glaser, Art is Work

Milton Glaser quoting Horace: "Art at its best informs and delights."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

"Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity"

It is so refreshing to hear him speak of creativity as being just as important as literacy and numeracy. I love that Picasso quote that he mentions, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

The Psychology of Colour

"colour is a psychological phenomenon that exists in our mind" 

The psychology of colour focuses on two main approaches: symbolic and formal.

The symbolic considerations are personal, communal and cultural. 
The formal considerations are empirical and include these basics: 

blue: cold, depth, spatial, calm
red: warm, moves forward in space
white: overflows its boundaries
black: contracts

An interesting observation: almost all logos and most flags are predominantly red, blue and white or a combination of these three colours.

Class activity: have students write down their associations with different colours. Compare with the whole class and make lists noting which are common to all or many (communal, cultural, empirical) and which are personal. 
A follow-up exercise: look through magazines or other texts with images to find examples of different functions of colour.  

Some important and frequently confused terms:

Primary Colours: Red, Yellow and Blue, can't be mixed from any other colours
Secondary Colours: Two primary colours mixed together to make violet, orange and green
Tertiary Colours: One primary and one secondary colour mixed together
Chroma: the intensity of a colour
Hue: another name for colour
Tone: Colour + Gray
Tint: Colour + White
Shade: Colour + Black
Value: the lightness or darkness of a colour
Mono-chromatic: using any shade, tint or tone of one colour
Analogous: Using any shades, tints or tones of colours that are at 90 degrees on the colour wheel 
Acromatic: using only blacks, whites and grays
Complementary: opposite colours on the colour wheel (and their shades, tints and tones)
Split Complementary: choosing one colour and using the colour on each side of its complement on the colour wheel

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ben Cameron: The true power of the performing arts | Video on

Here is a great TEDtalk by Ben Cameron, "The True Power of the Performing Arts."
He addresses the current "democratization of the arts" with new media and the resulting monumental reformation of the arts: "we now live in a world defined not by consumption but by participation." If you have a few minutes it's a great talk.

Abstract Expressionism Toolbox

1. Quality of line
2. Movement- direction/speed
3. Placement/Proximity
4. Cropping
5. Distortion
6. Form
7. Colour
8. Composition

Abstract Expressionism: expression of a quality through form and colour
(denoting a quality or condition rather than a concrete object)
Abstract: not concrete; general, ideal, conceptual, theoretical

Class activity: (with newsprint and conte)
Make marks that convey the following states:

State                   Usual Result

Greed:  mark moving out or into a central area
Ecstacy:  light, floating, lines emanating
Anxiety:  small, not in the centre
Lonliness:  many contained smaller shapes
Wrath:  up close, jagged lines, dark values
Apathy:  smaller, over to one side, no highlights or deep shadows
(From Ted Zourntos' Conceptual Process Class, Sheridan College, B.A.A.)

Follow-up Exercise: Make lists noting which responses were common throughout the class (collective/cultural) and which were unique to individual students (personal).

Art Matters + Mayoral Arts Debate

This is the first post! I'll start with the basics: the A.G.O. info and a link to the arts debate that just happened.

    Last Wednesday evening was choatic outside the A.G.O. with a massive crowd full of political types, the media and members of the Toronto arts community. All gathered to witness the Mayoral Arts debate that filled up so fast they had to run a live feed next door. 

from the A.G.O. blog ( The main A.G.O. website is: