Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Willy Pogany: The Tale of Lohengrin

Happy New Year!

Here's a quick reference/inspiration post about one of my favourite illustrators, Willy Pogany (discussed in an earlier post) and some of his magnificent work for "The Tale of Lohengrin."

These are just a few examples of the wonderful illustrations found in this book. The book is in the creative commons domain and can be downloaded for free as a pdf. An original is expensive and hard to find (ranging from $500 to $2000).

- Patrick

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Studio Project: From a freehand sketch to a finished work in three stages

Merry Christmas & happy holidays!

I finished this one a few days ago and had a lot of fun making it- it's called "New King" and is based on some photos I took of a great tree just off of Steeles Ave. in Toronto. 

Stage 1: Freehand sketch
Students brainstorm an idea for a sketch and collect reference images as research. Next, students work out a rough sketch, considering composition and any elements and principles of design to use in the project.

Composition: off-centred; focus on the crown of the tree
Elements of Design used:  line, shape, form, texture
Principles of Design used: contrast, variety, emphasis

Stage 2: Refined Sketch
Students work up their freehand sketch and then draw over it with ink. Transferring the image or using a lightbox might be required.

Stage 3: Finished work
Students colour and complete the final work from the refined sketch. Suggested media, any one of the following: Photoshop, Illustrator, Watercolour, pencil crayons, markers, pastels.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Studio Project: An Illustrated Verse

Step 1: Choose a favourite song, and pick one verse to illustrate

Step 2: Brainstorming: use various brainstorming techniques to create a list of relevant imagery to use in the illustration. It is important to consider a colour palette at this stage as well as dimensions and media.

Step 3: Research: do some background research about the song, the band, and allusions/imagery referenced to in the verse. Compile visual reference material for all the imagery chosen in Step 2.

Step 4: Thumbnail Sketches (visual brainstorming)

Step 5: Experimentation: media exploration/ Rough Sketch

Step 6: Final Sketch/ Final Work

Step 7: Presentation, Group Critique and Reflection.

Here's an example, using a piece that I made a few years ago, based on the Grateful Dead song Jack Straw (words by Robert Hunter, music by Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia).

The verse that I chose to illustrate:
Leaving Texas,

Fourth day of July

Sun so hot, clouds so low

The eagles filled the sky
Catch the Detroit Lightning

Out of Santa Fe

The Great Northern out of Cheyenne

From sea to shining sea

The Final Sketch:

The Final Work:

The final sketch was done with pigment liners on hot press paper. The sketch was then scanned and coloured in Photoshop. 

See more examples of this project in an ongoing series of illustrated Grateful Dead songs here:

What I like about this project in the classroom is that it offers a way for any student to get involved, inspired and excited about creating a visual representation of their favourite song. 

- Patrick

Monday, November 17, 2014

A few great sites to liven up your classroom

#1. (online interactive pinboard)
-          Allows students to move items around from their own computers and, as long as they participate one at a time, they can each change the pinboard.
-          Good for timelines, sorting activities...
-          Good for labelling, exam review
-          Assignment idea: have students create padlet walls for submission.

#2. (must create an account, everything saves automatically to your account)
-          Good for definitions and terms and activities
       Create glossary
-        Provide the link to the students
-        Use the icons at the top from left to right
-          Flash cards/ with timer
-          Speller/ audio review format
-          Print the test (test button)
-          Scatter activities
-          Race activities

 #3.  Socrative ( (create a quiz)
-          Students can use their phones or laptops (with internet access)
-          Students can anonymously answer questions
-          Quiz
-          Quick questions
-          Space Race: teams compete to answer questions
-          You can generate reports, print excel spreadsheets...

-          Works best with phones
-          Timed responses to questions you create
-          Interactive
-          Easy to make quizzes, surveys
-          Can add images
-          Can download spreadsheet
-          Can access other people’s quizzes as well
-          Good for exit tickets

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Where to find inspiration for artwork online

We are bombarded with images all day from every direction. Especially through our devices: phones, tablets, and computers. The students rarely tear themselves away, (except in my class, when I will confiscate the phones if they are not actually part of the lesson- but that's a classroom management issue that we don't have to get into here).

Many teachers try to take advantage of this electronic compulsion, to harness the power of this addiction for good instead of evil. Sure, phones and laptops can be great research tools, and as long as the students are engaged in the project that they are researching, it can work.

To support this initiative, teachers of all disciplines must build lists of good sites for students to visit. For artwork, there are plenty, the trick is to find ones with classroom-appropirate content. Many online sites are great but veer away from PG content too easily. So teachers have to preview the sites regularly. Here are a few for art classes that are amazing for research and inspiration:

This next one has the best currently-created work from creatives around the world, but unfortunately is only suitable for senior level classes as the content can easily become questionable. Definitely one for teacher preview, however, worth the effort for the wonderful variety of artwork:

A few more with a similar situation:


- Patrick

Monday, September 22, 2014

The best book ever for learning about Pen & Ink

I do not usually recommend specific books or products, however, this is one must-have item for anyone interested in learning about pen & ink. The book is: "Rendering in Pen and Ink" by Arthur L. Guptill, edited by Susan E. Meyer.

I was given this book as a gift when I was a teenager and was inspired to start drawing immediately. I still use it all the time to get inspiration or to try a new technique.

It's great for beginners and for experienced artists. It features exercises, and explains techniques as well as providing some of the best work in pen and ink from a variety of fields. Here are a few examples:

This book will provide more than enough material for a strong and engaging unit on pen and ink drawing and rendering. 

I hope you and/or your students get the chance to find inspiration from its pages!

- Patrick

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cool Light, Warm Shadows Landscape Painting

Here's a recent pen and ink sketch that I enjoyed putting together- scanned, and then coloured in photoshop. This made me think of an art history/ studio project that would be fun to try out in class.

Project: cool light, warm shadows landscape painting

Part One: students analyze oil sketches and paintings of winter landscapes by Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris with attention to the colour they used for light and shadows.

Part Two: students complete a Creative Process booklet to develop their own sketch and painting about light and shadows.

Part Three: final painting and group critique.

Here are a few of Tom Thomson's:

- Patrick

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day!

In spirit of our national day of celebration, here are a few quick and easy photography projects.

#1. Create a series of 5 photos with the colours red and white as the focus.
#2. Take a photo that would make a good poster to celebrate a Canada Day celebration.
(either of these would work for other countries' festivities as well)

Here are two shots I took just walking down the street the past few days. It goes to show how you see what's already on your mind.

- Patrick

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Mural Project

This mural was completed by students from grades 9-12, each contributing a small part and working together over the course of two weeks.

The process for the project is described here:

I really enjoyed this project because it's flexible and adaptable - it's easy to let students take the theme in various directions. It was a fun, collaborative project and everyone enjoyed making it.

- Patrick

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Guest Speaker Scott Mills on Social Media for Success and Safety

(Laurie Stinson, Angel Freedman, Scott Mills, and me)

Today at Blyth Academy Thornhill we had an inspiring guest speaker, Constable Scott Mills discuss how to use social media for success and safety. Scott engaged the students with fun, fascinating and thoughtful stories from his experience working with the Toronto Police and Crime Stoppers and explained effective and smart ways to use various social media.

He did a live video to youtube during his presentation that you can see here along with some helpful community links:

- Patrick

(Me with the wonderful social worker Angel Freedman, who set up the presentation)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mandala Mural Project

In a few weeks I will be co-ordinating a group mural project in the school with the grade 9 and 10s. The mural will cover a 10 ft X 10 ft wall in one of the common areas. The theme of the mural is "school spirit" and it will take the form of a mandala.

I like the mandala theme because it solves the overall design problem and leaves a lot of room for changes along the way and input from students and teachers. It also solves the problem of varying levels of skill among the students since they will be applying their contribution to the mural by using stencils that can be carefully drawn and cut before any painting happens.

The biggest concern for mural projects in general is how to avoid any free-hand painting on the wall to make sure there is no build-up of thick paint, no mistakes and no high-pressure situations.

The Basic Steps:

Step #1: BRAINSTORM images that represent school spirit to each student
Step #2: RESEARCH the chosen image
Step #3: SKETCH the image on bristol board
Step #4: CUT a stencil of the sketch (repeat as necessary)
Step #5: the teacher will work with the group to create a mandala pattern using the students' stencils
Step #6: PROJECT a geometric guide on the wall for each layer of the stencil using masking tape or a pencil as a guide (each student will paint their stencil on one layer of the mandala)
Step #7: One by one, the students tape their stencil and paint it over and over around their layer until the layer is full of their image
Step 8: use a paint marker to add detail
Step 9: remove any tape guides and enjoy!

Pencils, erasers, masking tape, bristol board (for stencils and tape guides on the wall)
House paint: 1 off-white for the background and 2 tones for the mural
Brushes/ paint tray
Drop sheet
Acrylic paint markers for details and writing on the wall

* As a side project, have someone film/photograph the mural as the students create it for a fun video of the process. See my tree mural project for an example.

** For some mandala inspiration see this great post on boooooom.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Golden Age of Illustration: Jessie Wilcox Smith

Art history focuses too often on male artists. I made the same mistake with an earlier series of posts featuring artists from the Golden Age of Illustration. One of the leading female artists from that time is Jessie Wilcox Smith. Here is some of her her work.

She studied art at university, taking classes taught by Howard Pyle, who seems to have had a magical influence on many of his students who went on to become some of the greatest illustrators of all time.

Her work focuses on girlhood adventures and references to mother and daughter relationships. She was a master of various media including pastels, watercolour and oils, and frequently combined the material in new ways to achieve a specific effect.

 - Patrick

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Celtic Knots

I've always wanted to do a class project on celtic knots. They look complicated but they are actually fairly easy to do. The trick is to create some guides and grids to use as a basis for the knot-work.

I would break the unit up into three main tutorials, leading to a culminating task. The first lesson would introduce the project with some cultural background and a look at the art history of the Picts and the Gaels. This would show students the cultural context of the work and how math and patterns are used in design- on paper and in stone.

The first lesson would end by watching a demonstration or video- the first tutorial.  This would give students a chance to practice the initial exercises and create their first knot based on a simple rectangle.

A clear and easy to follow video can be found here, and a variation can be created for demonstration

The second lesson would start with a review of the first tutorial and the art history and then a look at the second tutorial. The students would then spend some time working in their sketchbooks on the next exercises.

The third lesson would build on the first two with a more complicated knot. This would be a longer project, lasting at least three classes- and ending with the submission of the culminating task.

- Patrick