Thursday, December 22, 2011

TDSB and AGO working together

    The T.D.S.B. and the A.G.O. are working together to enhance art education! This collaboration makes sense in so many ways and is based around the Weston Family Learning Centre. Find out more at the A.G.O. site, here. I am thrilled to hear about this great development in art education and look forward to seeing what the partnership brings.

    The A.G.O. is such a fantastic resource and can help educators make the curriculum more engaging and interactive for students. As a former gallery guide at the A.G.O., I have witnessed this first-hand and have always felt that more students deserve to benefit from what the gallery has to offer.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Imagination is the active ingredient of thinking."

As this article from The Star suggests, when finances get tight, art is the first program to get hit. The article provides some insightful arguments that show the true value of art education.

First off, Sara Diamond (president of OCAD) argues "that the benefits of such institutions far outweigh their costs" and explains that "we hear from employers across all sectors, ‘we need your students. They’ve got the thinking and skills to turn around big problems.’”

Second, John Kissick (director of the School of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Guelph) points out that "in terms of the skill sets needed in the marketplace today, that a studio arts education is as good as it gets outside of the professions."

Then Luis Jacob (a Toronto based artist) makes a great point: “an art school is really important for giving young people a community — a set of peers all trying to create their artistic identities together."

Having been part of such a community at Sheridan College, in the Illustration program, I can attest to the importance of social interaction for the arts. Good ideas take collaboration and criticism to flourish. Innovations build on one another in a community. This leads to critical and creative thinking abilities, confidence, and true grit (See earlier post).

The title quote from this blog sums it up well, from a great thinker of our age, Alan Fletcher:

"Imagination is the active ingredient of thinking."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lady Gaga submits a video to support tolerance campaign.

    A student at the Etobicoke School of the Arts wrote to a few celebrities asking for a video response to add to their anti-bullying campaign. Lady Gaga responded and the video was played at an assembly last friday at the school. The Globe covers the story here.

    By doing videos like this, celebrities call attention to these issues and get people talking. It is great to see them using their power to address such important issues, like Rick Mercers's rant about teen suicide earlier this fall (you can see it here).

Friday, November 4, 2011

For excellence, "true grit" may be more important than talent.

   In a recent post on the Behance network blog 99%, the idea that true grit is more important than talent to achieve excellence, is explored based on the theory of a Harvard researcher. The post contains the arguments and some great links to a supporting TEDtalk and the "true grit" test. See how you rate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Two Most Famous Paintings In Canadian Art...

I wondered what was going on when I was in the A.G.O. last week and noticed that Tom Thomson's "West Wind" was missing. Arguably the two most famous paintings in Canadian art are hanging side by side in a gallery in London, England this week: Thomson's "West Wind" and "Jack Pine".

Both images are considered icons of the Canadian spirit and it must be wonderful to see them together. They are part of a larger exhibit of Thomson and the Group of Seven that is touring Europe for the first time since the first quarter of last century. The Globe covers the details in this article.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Toronto's Urban Repair Squad's Lego bike lane

The Urban Repair Squad reinstalled a bike lane on Dupont this week that was recently removed by the city, and they used lego. Check out this blog:, for the full story and a video about the project.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Weston Family Learning Centre

The A.G.O. has opened the Weston Family Learning Centre this month with a newly designed educational space including studios and seminar rooms. I'm looking forward to checking it out with some students soon. The Centre features huge windows onto the street and open, interconnected areas throughout. Here is a brief video tour of the Centre on their site.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Two Stories of Algonquin Park

    I came across two inspiring articles this morning. Although both are about completely different people separated by almost a century, they share one common centre point: Algonquin Park.

    The first article is about a new film about the life (and not the death) of Canadian painter Tom Thomson that is opening this weekend at the Vancouver film festival.

    The second article, that features a beautiful short video, is about a Canadian Olympic Kayaker who trains in Algonquin Park, on the lakes that Tom Thomson painted. These articles make me want to get back up to the park to catch the autumn, and do some painting and kayaking.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Major Parties on Education

As the provincial election fast approaches, here's a look at where the major parties stand on education, written up in the Torontoist.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The ETFO's "Vote Against Kids" Campaign

The Ontario Elementary Teacher's Union has produced this brilliant add campaign, discussed here in The Star, to highlight the importance of education and to get more people thinking about it before heading to the polls.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Picasso Exhibition at the A.G.O. in 2012 confirmed

The A.G.O. has announced that they will be hosting a career-spanning Picasso exhibition in 2012,  you can find details at the A.G.O. site.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Financial Literacy

The Globe featured this article today about a new focus on financial literacy in the Ontario curriculum. I think it's important for kids to learn about money throughout school. This can be supported in any subject area to provide a comprehensive approach to financial literacy.

    An example of this for Visual Arts, that I would like to try, is how to plan an art show in Toronto. This would involve many related stages: planning the show, producing artwork, securing participants,  fundraising, organizing entertainment, booking a venue, promotion, establishing working relationships, opening night, sales, and a review of the overall experience from a financial perspective.

   Another example for Visual Arts is planning a small business in the arts or planning a freelance career as an independent contractor in the arts. This would involve writing a complete business plan and investigating need, cost, return, investing, borrowing and projecting results.

   Financial literacy is of course of utmost importance when students are considering post-secondary education and must be examined while addressing the careers in art lessons.

Any of these ideas would serve as the basis for a challenging and rewarding cumulative task.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Milton Glaser on the fear of failure

The Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm, Sweden has produced a graduate exhibit that focuses on the fear of failure, an important subject for students and artists. Part of the project includes videos of various people discussing their views on the fear of failure, here is Milton Glaser's- his conclusion: "embrace the failure."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Group of Seven paintings stolen from Toronto gallery

The Globe featured this article about last night's robbery of paintings from a Toronto gallery, including a few from the Group of 7.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thor Concept Art: Michael Kutsche

Here is a look at some of the concept art that went into the making of the film Thor. I enjoyed the film a lot, largely because of the visual beauty. It's fascinating to see how some of the characters and visuals come about. Here is some of Michael Kutsche's concept art for the film, and his website.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Developing Your Creative Practice: Tips from Brian Eno

What do you do when you're stuck on a problem that you need to solve?
Where do great ideas come from?

This article, written by Scott McDowell, provides some answers from musician/composer/producer Brian Eno. Very insightful!

In it, Eno recalls:
 "There’s a proverb that says that the fruit takes a long time to ripen, but it falls suddenly ... And that seems to be the process."

Monday, May 30, 2011

5 Manifestos for Art, Life & Business

The Behance network featured this article a little while ago and I think it's worth a read. It presents the manifestos of five interesting and influential people.

Manifestos are essential foundations for many fields including politics, business and art. At the end the author asks: "what's your manifesto?" This is a good question to think about as a teacher or a student and can be useful in any subject.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Art Students: thinkers as well as makers

The Globe featured this article about how art education is giving students the skills to succeed in careers that don't even exist yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Virtual Sistine Chapel Vatican Site

The Vatican site provides the link bellow to access the Sistine Chapel with superb visual resolution. This is a great resource for art history teachers and students, and obviously provides a much more interactive and memorable experience than looking at a dozen slides, enjoy:

The Sistine Chapel

Class Activity:
Students explore the site and choose one image/figure for a sketchbook assignment. Students choose any piece and research its meaning and complete a sketch using coloured pencils. Students must also come up with one puzzle or question about their chosen piece.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Surreal Drawing Exercises

Here are two surreal drawing exercises that can be effectively explored in  a 75 minute class.

#1. Homage to Andre Breton

Using an exercise handout that has four square grids of equally placed dots, draw and try not to think about what you are drawing. Try to allow the drawing process to be automatic. Do this with the first three grids and then use the forth to refine the composition in a conscious way, using a more usual approach to drawing.

#2. Illustrating a random phrase

Take any passage of text and randomly underline 6-8 words, not in a row, but sporadically throughout the passage. Work out some sketches to illustrate the random phrase. Try this a few times and choose the most interesting one to develop into a larger composition.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mick Ebeling: The invention that unlocked a locked-in artist

"Mick Ebeling: The invention that unlocked a locked-in artist."

This is an inspiring talk that shows how much difference creativity can make. Mike Ebeling had a far-fetched idea and with a group of creative people, made it happen. Towards the end he asks the motivational questions that many innovators ask, "if not now, then when?" and "if not me, then who?"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A.G.O. visit follow-up lesson and CPT studio project

Anticipatory Set: have students write a list of words, ideas, phrases that represent Canadian culture/identity to them personally, based on their experiences. 

Follow this with a powerpoint and class discussion, reviewing some of the Group of 7 work that was explored at the A.G.O. What would their list include? Review the creative process used by the Group of 7. Then introduce the studio project, which has three stages.

Stage one: for the rest of class today, students will look through magazines to find images of the items on their list (that represent Canadian identity). Students are encouraged to use the internet and print out search results. (15 Minutes) If they have time they will begin to create a collage that covers one piece of illustration board (16X20) using these collected images. To be completed during the following class.

Stage two: students will engage in the creative process used by the Group of 7, by outdoor sketching on a class trip to a nearby park. Sketches will be done in their sketchbooks and will focus on a landscape that must incorporate some wilderness. Students will take 3-5 digital photographs of what they sketched for reference, upload them to the class folder, and print them during the next class.

Stage three: students will explore composition in their sketchbooks based on their outdoor sketch and their digital photographs. After I approve their sketches and composition, students will begin an acrylic painting on top of their collage, based on their sketch, their digital photographs and their explorations. Students will paint over their collage but must leave some showing through. (For example, students may keep the collage as the sky, or as the background, or a texture). I will model each stage as we go. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education

"Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education."

Salman Khan presents an effective way of using video to instruct content mastery so that students can watch at their own pace at home. This opens up the class time for activity-based learning, more one-to-one time and peer interaction. I have seen so many attempts to shoe-horn technology into the classroom, this is an example of a way to really use technology to enhance education. This is an inspiring and motivating talk.

If you want to learn more about this, check out: The Khan Academy site.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

JR: Can Art Change The World?

French street artist JR's TEDtalk addresses the question: "can art change the world?"
He is this year's winner of the TED prize and his wish is: "use art to turn the world inside out".

Check out his site and get involved if you want to: inside out project.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


A map is a visual representation of an area, a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of space such as objects, regions, and themes.

Typically when the term map is used it is referring to a two-dimensional spatial map, like the map of the world. But maps can be used for much more, to visually represent information. We see them all the time and may not realize it. A basic spatial map that is not to scale or spatially accurate but quickly communicates order and direction is the TTC subway map:

This kind of map can be used to communicate basic information even though it leaves out most of the geographical features of the area that is represented, another example is how to get to the coffee shop from my house:

Maps can get more interesting when they use metaphor, here is an example of a metaphoric map of my route to school:

Another interesting way to visually convey meaning by using a map is a cartogram. A cartogram is a map in which a thematic variable is substituted for land area or distance. The space of the map is distorted to communicate the information about the variable in question. For example, M.E.J. Newman created this cartogram with each county of the U.S. rescaled in proportion to its population. The colours refer to the voting results of the 2004 Presidential election.

Maps can also reveal the scope of the knowledge of a time, such as the T and O maps of the early modern era, that reveal what they knew the world to be then: Asia at the top, Europe on the left and Africa on the right. This one was created by Gunther Zainer (one of the first printers from Augsburg) in 1472 illustrating the Etymologiae of Isodore of Seville.   

Class activity: 
Part 1:(Think/ Pair/Share) Start by creating a verbal, instructional map of how to get somewhere from the school, or another public place. Share with a partner so that they will be able to get there. 
Part 2: Individually create a basic spatial map, like the one from my house to the coffee shop. 
Part 3: As a first step in a long-term project, choose to begin either a metaphoric map or a cartogram and work on some overall ideas and themes that you want to explore. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Symbolism: Creating a Logo

Narrative: a literal scenario: time and place.
Example: King and his court
After working on narrative, (see earlier post: Scott McCloud on Comics) discuss the use of narrative vs. symbolism in visual communication.

Metaphor: an implied comparison between things that are not literally alike.
Example: King, Lion
Metonymy: the subject is represented by a thing that is closely associated with it.
Example: King, Crown

Class Activity Part 1: Create a logo from two random words using symbolism
1. separate words
2. write out associations (brainstorm)
3. make simple pictures of the associations (pictographs)
4. synthesis: make formal relationships between pictographs using shapes/forms (*not literal)
5. Assess: which synthesis works the best?

Part 2: Create a logo of a chosen subject using symbolism
Follow the same steps as in Part 1.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

School for low-income kids in Niagara region

The Toronto Star featured this article about a new low-income school in the Niagara region. Kids will only be admitted if their parents have not gone to college or university. Is segregation the answer to poverty? Should this deficit mentality be encouraged? Can't any potential resources that this school might receive be effectively used in inclusive schools? Separating these kids from their peers will only alienate and stigmatize them more. Strength and resiliency come from diversity even though it may be the more challenging alternative.

The TDSB offers a better solution. Extra classes with relevant goals are being offered on weekends for kids who need the help. This way specific areas can be addressed without the labelling and separating that the Niagara region is resorting to. Saying that this approach has worked in the States is not a valid justification. We can't keep comparing ourselves to a different country with different strengths and challenges. We're better than that, lets come up with our own solutions.