Monthly Archives: October 2016


dsc_0025In 6th grade art we just wrapped up the Zentangle/Pattern project.  I love doing this project in the younger grades, because it’s one that many of them can not only practice their fine motor skills, but also feel a great deal of success.  It’s very difficult to ‘mess up’ on this project, but it also teaches students to take their time and work on craftsmanship with their marks-since once you lay down sharpie, it’s pretty much forever.  This isn’t always the easiest thing for students, because when the unfortunate mistake does happen, the student needs to then problem solve on how to make that a part of the work.  White out is never an option, more often than not, it just makes it look so much worse.

dsc_0017The requirements for this project were to create a zentangle drawing with a colored pencil portion incorporated into it as well.  I want students to continue to practice colored pencil (even though we did an entire unit on it to begin the year), because the techniques we learned in the color pencil unit are the foundations of all other art making processes.  I expect not all students will love colored pencil, or pursue it when they get to the higher grades, but for now every grade level practices it over and over again.

dsc_0019I really enjoy seeing how each student approaches this project.  Some take to ‘fine detailed’ patterning like fish to water, while others need more encouragement to add more lines, and make more detailed work.  It’s sometimes difficult to explain to a student that they just don’t have enough lines to meet the requirements of the project, at at some point (especially if they’ve already started coloring) they just end up needing to accept that they won’t get all the points for techniques.  Since I grade with only 25% of the grade as technique-based, this never causes a student to fail, they just won’t get an “A”, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t the end of the world.  There’s always the next project to improve their (listening) skills on.

dsc_0026One thing that I struggled with on this project, compared to others, is reminding the students to not take too much time on their rough drafts.  Although it’s important to plan and experiment before starting a final draft, at the same it’s also important to not turn your rough draft into your final draft.  It leads to nothing but disappointment for all parties, but it’s difficult for the students to remember that I only need to see a glimpse of their vision to make sure it’ll work, not the entire masterpiece.  Usually it’s not a huge problem, but this such a detailed project, some students really lagged behind in the rough draft department.  It’s definitely something for me to keep in mind for the future.


dsc_0004 Critique is hard.  No one really likes critique at first, and some never like it at all.  It’s scary, putting yourself out like that.  It’s one of the most important parts of making art, though, so starting in the 7th grade we do critique.  Critique begins with a presentation of their artwork answering: 1. What did you create and why did you choose your imagery? 2. What are the techniques you used to create your artwork, and 3. What are the things you like/would improve on your artwork?

After the presentation critique begins.  Critique is when we take our artwork, present it to someone (or someones) and then we ask for their constructive compliments and constructive criticism.  The key word being ‘constructive.dsc_0003

Constructive compliments don’t just
say “I like it”.  They say instead phrases
like “I like the way you colored x”, or “I like the way that you used contrast to make your object stand out from your background”, etc….  Only stating that you like something in general does nothing but inflate the ego.  We want the artist to be able to know exactly what is working, so that they are able to incorporate similar techniques into their next artworks.

The same goes for constructive criticism.  It does nothing but hurt feelings to say “I don’t like it”, “This is not good”, “your artwork doesn’t convey any feeling”.  None of those statements, or similar statements, help the artist improve.  They come across as personal attacks, and don’t offer any significant information for the artist to take with them.

dsc_0005Instead, I ask students to offer solutions to specific problems.
Comments could include
“I wish you had used coloring techniques we used to even out your
ackground”, “I wish you had added some more detail in the left hand corner because it’s empty”, “I think you could have taken a little more time with your lines”, “I think it would look better with more contrast”, etc….

Often it’s easy to take these dsc_0006constructive criticisms personally, but
it’s important for theartist to remember that all the comments being made are about the technical aspects of their artwork, not the emotional aspects.  No one is saying their artwork is not good, but instead that there are still areas to improve.

Usually after the first few critiques students feel much better about presenting and listening to what their peers have to say, and there is a feeling of trust that goes both ways between all my students.  Everyone understands that nothing is personal, and that we all just want the artwork to be amazing, to always be better.