Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

Please click on my page to see my personal artwork and artist statement: http://thehelpfulartteacher.blogspot.com/p/the-art-of-rachel-wintembe.html

Please contact me at thehelpfulartteacher@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Claymation Mandalas

Claymation by a 7th grade student

Step 1:
Place iPad on wire shelf so that the eye of the camera peeks through the holes. Place clay on white paper below

Step 2:
Make sure the camera is oriented horizontal, with the bottom of the camera towards you. Check the icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen. 

Step 3: 
For the rest of the instructions, watch the video below and start creating!


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dragons of Ancient China

Traditional Chinese Dragon Designs:

Traditionally, Chinese artists depicted water using intricate rhythmic line designs to show waves and movement. Imagine a dragon swimming in this ocean. 

To learn about Chinese dragons, visit the links below:

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia about Chinese dragons. For the complete article follow this link: 
"From its origins as totems or the stylized depiction of natural creatures, the Chinese dragon evolved to become a mythical animal. The Han Dynastyscholar Wang Fu recorded Chinese myths that long dragons had nine anatomical resemblances.
"The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail. Further, there are expressions as 'three joints' and 'nine resemblances' (of the dragon), to wit: from head to shoulder, from shoulder to breast, from breast to tail. These are the joints; as to the nine resemblances, they are the following: his antlers resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyesthose of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam (shen, 蜃), his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow. Upon his head he has a thing like a broad eminence (a big lump), called [chimu] (尺木). If a dragon has no [chimu], he cannot ascend to the sky.[11]"
Further sources give variant lists of the nine animal resemblances. Sinologist Henri Doré lists these characteristics of an authentic dragon: "The antlers of a deer. The head of a crocodile. A demon's eyes. The neck of a snake. A tortoise's viscera. A hawk's claws. The palms of a tiger. A cow's ears. And it hears through its horns, its ears being deprived of all power of hearing."[12] He notes that, "Others state it has a rabbit's eyes, a frog's belly, a carp's scales." The anatomy of other legendary creatures, including the chimera and manticore, is similarly amalgamated from fierce animals.
Chinese dragons were considered to be physically concise. Of the 117 scales, 81 are of the yang essence (positive) while 36 are of the yin essence (negative). Initially, the dragon was benevolent, wise and just but the Buddhists introduced the concept of malevolent influence among some dragons. Just as water destroys, they said, so can some dragons destroy via floods, tidal waves and storms. They suggested that some of the worst floods were believed to have been the result of a mortal upsetting a dragon.
Many pictures of oriental dragons show a flaming pearl under their chin. The pearl is associated with wealth, good luck, and prosperity.
Chinese dragons do not have wings. Their abilities (to fly and control rain and water) are mystical. 
The dragon has also acquired an almost unlimited range of supernatural powers. It is said to be able to disguise itself as a silkworm, or become as large as our entire universe. It can fly among the clouds or hide in water. It can form clouds, can turn into water, can change color as an ability to blend in with their surroundings, as an effective form of camouflage or glow in the dark (according to the Shuowen Jiezi).
In many other countries, folktales speak of the dragon having all the attributes of the other 11 creatures of the zodiac, this includes the whiskers of the Rat, the face and horns of the Ox, the claws and teeth of the Tiger, the belly of the Rabbit, the body of the Snake, the legs of the Horse, the beard of the Goat, the wit (or brain) of the Monkey, the crest of the Rooster, the ears of the Dog and the snout of the Pig."
     How to draw a Chinese dragon step by step.              Once you have drawn this dragon, get creative and invent your own. Try starting with different types of curved lines to draw your dragons in different positions. 


Monday, April 6, 2015

Draw a Bird Day:STEAM in the middle school art room Using science toteach art

In the 1800's naturalists used their scientific knowledge to draw birds with great detail. If I taught my students to observe like naturalists would it make them better artists? The answer turned out to be yes.

Each one of my students drew a bird and cut it out for our 'Draw a Bird Day' group mural project. I started out by video taping birds in pet stores, taking a walk outside with binoculars and photographing my father in law's pet parrots. In addition to looking at my photographs and videos, my students and I examined bird paintings by the naturalist artists John Gould (1804-1881) and John J. Audubon (1785–1851) in the hopes of observing the common characteristics of all flying birds.  

First we watched this movie to learn how birds fly:

After making our observations, we turned to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Feather Atlas to find out more about the common characteristics of all flying birds. Using the information we gathered I created this worksheet:

 Students were given the option of inventing their own imaginary birds, drawing realistic birds, or creating whimsical cartoon birds, using the guidelines on the worksheet above. They were able to use the iPads in our classroom to look at John J. Audubon's classic book, 'Birds of America' and John Gould's stunning bird illustrations. Most students elected to invent their own birds and color them in a whimsical fashion. 

I created this time lapse video on my cell phone to demonstrate how students can use their new found knowledge to create their own birds.  

Before we colored our drawings we reviewed basic color mixing using the Bird Color Wheel

I showed my classes my own bird color wheel painting 
and encouraged them to experiment with blending colors. Since we would be cutting our pictures out, they were free to experiment with color combinations on the rest of the paper before deciding how to complete their birds. We used pastels and mixed the colors with tissue paper. I created a time lapse video using iMovie on my cell phone to demonstrate how to follow the direction of the bird's feathers and how to layer and blend the pastels.

As the students cut their birds out, I collected them in pocket folders to keep them safe. My sixth graders used fan brushes and acrylic paint to create clouds after I hung blue paper in the hall way. My 8th graders created giant trees to add to the mural and my 7th graders added grass. Early finishers in every class created flowers to create a beautiful environment for our birds to land. We were all set for the spring bird migration.

We hung our murals in the hallway near the cafeteria to insure that the whole school had a chance to enjoy the artwork. Several 6th graders gave up their recess in order to hang the trees and birds using loops of masking tape. My only rule was that everyone's artwork had to be included.

Finally, I typed up an explanation of our project and hung it in the corridor where it became a handy spot for our birds to rest from their long migration.

Who was John Gould and how did he inspire my students?
John Gould (1804 – 1881) was an English ornithologist and bird artist. He published many illustrated books on birds and is considered the father of bird study in Australia. His identification of the birds, now nicknamed "Darwin's finches", played a role in the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Gould's work is referenced in Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species. Source:
All of Gould's books and drawings are in the public domain and available for free on the Internet.
Here are a few of his illustrations, drawn in the age before color photography,when naturalists could rely only on their pencils and the power of observation:


For more information and resources on drawing and painting birds, please visit my earlier article on this subject: 
On Painting Birds, by clicking here.