August 21st, 2008

pinhole camera

Student Redons: Teaching Reflections

As a result of attending the intensive in Portland, I've remade my draw-by-the-numbers class into a much more Leigh Hyamsish experience for my students. 

Wild Garden by Leigh Hyams

I cover a whole section of tables with 3-mil paint tarps and I herd everyone over to the protected side of the room and give them lots of strongly pigmented and crumbly art supplies.  I also show slides of some master artists who used charcoal and pastel to share ideas beyond the boringly illustrated textbook. I conduct critiques using the Socratic method to build student critical vocabulary to get them out the "It looks like --", and "I like it."  habits. 

The new weekly pattern is producing some quick turn arounds in these fairly art-timid techie, and some not too motivated students.  I bought a roll of the brown construction paper at Home Depot and rip off big pieces for them. - free paper and free pastels - what's not to like -  and pastel loves brown paper. As a result, I'm turning out a class full of fledgling Odilon Redons.  Much more fun than turning out a class of Betty Edwards.  No offence meant, Betty, the Right side of the Brain is a great book for online teaching but I'm finding that it doesn't work as well for an 11 week on ground class.

Redon's Profil de Lumiere in charcoal
15-1/4 x 11-3/8 inches,
Musée du Louvre

For yesterday's class I brought some veggies and spot lights and wow...some amazing drawings emerged.  I made students listen to the eggplant and listen to their drawing.  "Stand back", "turn it upside down", "work on the composition", "where is the negative space?" "What's it doing?", " What's happening at the top of your drawing - what should happen there - work on it now."  I give orders like an artist drill sargeant at unpredictable intervals to move the students out of their habitual practices and into the right sides of their brains and it works pretty fast.  They were so interested when I gave the "free models" away there was a scramble to take home the veggies to do more drawings - except the funny shaped green red and yellow peppers.  Poor peppers.

One problem with this system is that I'm also on the right side of my brain as a teacher. As a result of the not-naming-things right side energy, I often cannot remember the names of my students.  This is almost OK because they just chalk it up to my being old, even though they also told me I was "bubbly" compared to the substitutes they had when I went to Portland.  I can connect a face to a set of drawings but the names are not there when I want to talk about a student's work.  I do remember some students' names but I should know all of them.   If I am hired next semester I have strategies to fix this problem (such as a photo roster, name tents, and introducing themselves with each presentation) but with the current two classes I just have to wing it this late in the semester.  I have them print their names and class information on the back of their drawings so by connecting the drawing, the name, then the physical student I will have evidence-based grading.

students creating pastels
Students creating still life compositions with pastels and brown paper