February 2022

Mark Making

Art teachers offer studio lessons that utilize unexpected mark-making materials. Young students draw large-scale insects with sidewalk chalk, elementary students and adults collaborate in a virtual drawing activity to celebrate Black historical figures, middle-school students discover upcycled Haitian metal art and create ink-embellished designs on metal tooling, high-school students combine digital photography and illustration to render thought-provoking compositions, and more.

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Highlights From This Issue

Editor’s Letter: Mark Making
Editor's Letter

Editor’s Letter: Mark Making

Mark making is a universal experience, practiced by people across time and around the world. Whether marks appear as lines pressed into wet clay, crayon scribbles on a wall, drawings in sand with a stick, handprints etched or stamped into stone, or fingerprints on paper, they represent a common human impulse to leave evidence of their existence. This month, SchoolArts offers studio lessons that utilize unexpected mark-making materials.

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Kindergarten Marks
Early Childhood

Kindergarten Marks

With a purple crayon in hand and a four-year-old’s imagination, Harold creates an alternate reality that includes a frightening dragon, a picnic lunch with nine kinds of pie, and more. Harold ends his long eventful walk by drawing his bed and dropping off to sleep. I read Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (published in 1955 and still in print today) to kindergartners as an introduction of using one’s imagination.

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Out on the Town
Elementary

Out on the Town

Italian physician Maria Montessori wrote, “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” Embracing these words as an art educator, I used this quote as a catalyst in planning an enriching summer art camp week for lower elementary students at St. Joseph Montessori School.

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It’s All about the Tubmans
All Levels Elementary

It’s All about the Tubmans

For our art activity in 2021, I prepared a list of important people from Black history. Each student took a turn picking a name from the list. I asked them to choose a name they didn’t recognize. I displayed that person’s picture, gave a brief description of who the person was, and the entire class took seven minutes to draw that person. We shared our drawings. Then another student picked another person for us to discover, and we continued the cycle.

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Metallic Imprints
Middle School

Metallic Imprints

After visiting Haiti twice to take photos for my BFA senior show, I fell in love with the people, culture, and vibrant art of the Haitians. One of the art forms that I absolutely adore is Haitian metal art—truly the definition of upcycling. Beautiful, intricate art is made by flattening and cutting old steel drums and creating designs in the metal with chisels and ball-peen hammers. Texture on the front and back of the metal is then added with chisels and awls of various sizes. Because of the sporadic availability of electricity in most areas of Haiti, power tools are not used.

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Expressive Stick Drawings
Middle School

Expressive Stick Drawings

Drawing Stick Monday has become a tradition that my previous students talk about, new students ask about, and other students watch with wonder. It’s all about expressive mark making and drawing from observation. There’s a small twist—students are given a dowel rod one meter in length. One end has a piece of black charcoal taped to it, and the other end has white chalk taped in the same way.

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Between Two Worlds
High School

Between Two Worlds

In 2014, I began teaching digital photography when my faithful darkroom students of two years inquired about it. One student in the class, already passionate about digital SLRs, gave us the simplest of tutorials, later suggesting equipment for a lighting studio. He provided us with fascinating insight into this new world of screens, flashes, and pixels. While still holding onto film and chemistry at heart, the curriculum expanded tenfold when we developed a digital photography curriculum and digital art classes that welcomed Photoshop manipulation and an infinite reservoir of new possibilities.

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Fingerprint Portraits
High School

Fingerprint Portraits

One lesson that really pushes students out of their comfort zones is finger-painted portraits. It’s a fun way for students to get loose and relax because they have to get a little messy and don’t have to worry too much about being precise since they aren’t using paintbrushes. My students are usually excited by the challenge of only using black paint (or a stamp pad) and their fingers to produce their self-portraits. They are intimidated at first when they learn about the limited materials, but when I tell them they will use the grid enlargement technique, they feel more confident that they can do it.

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The Art of Advocacy
Advocacy

The Art of Advocacy

Think about a time you had to stick up for a friend. Maybe there was a miscommunication, and your friend didn’t know what to say or what to do. You had to step in and be your friend’s voice. That’s what being an advocate is! This was how I started the class conversation about art advocacy. I asked my third- to fifth-grade students if they had ever heard the word “advocate” before and if they knew what it meant. It was an unfamiliar word for them, and we spent some time breaking down the meaning together.

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Nontraditional Textiles
Contemporary Art in Context

Nontraditional Textiles

Natalie Baxter (b. 1985, Lexington, Kentucky) is a sculptor who uses sewing and quilting to explore perceptions of place identity, gender roles, and the treasured nostalgia of Americana. She tackles controversial issues, dealing with them in a gently humorous and thought-provoking way. Based in New York, Baxter uses sewing and quilting skills passed down to her by the women in her family to create eye-catching artworks such as Bloated Flags and Housecoats.

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