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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Draw a Geometric Still Life by Playing With Blocks

Geometric still life

 Watch my video on drawing cubes and rectangular solids:

Practice drawing cubes using the video and step by step worksheet.

Start out by arranging the blocks so that they overlap each other on the table. Draw the top and sides of the blocks with the forms in front lower on the page than the forms in the back. To make things easier we will all assume that the light source is off the edge of the page at the upper left. So let's make the right side of each form darker. Then add a cast shadow on the table.  Watch the video below before you start. Your 3D drawings will get better with practice.

Now it's time to play with blocks. Each table will get a small set of wooden blocks, two plastic bugs and two toy cars. You are going to have to both draw and write a story about whatever you build with the blocks so be as creative and imaginative as possible.

Protagonist, place and problem
Your story must be original (but is okay to be inspired by a movie, video game or book).
Your story must have a protagonist (main character) based on YOU. You need to add details that get your readers to identify with and like your hero. Are they brave? Are they resourceful? Are they smart? Are they loyal? Show them having traits that you value in yourself and in your friends.
Your story must have a place (setting) based on whatever you and your classmates at your table can build with the blocks. This could be a castle, mansion, city or any other place you can invent using blocks.
Your main character must have a problem. The problem must be potentially disastrous or life threatening. That problem can include giant bugs but it doesn’t have to.  Your character can even BE one of the giant bugs. A giant bug could be your pet or help you escape or fight a battle. Look beyond the obvious.
At some point in the story the problem must seem insurmountable. Draw your readers in and get them worried.
Your story must end in a cliff hanger, with the reader forever wondering if the hero managed to get the happy ending they deserve.

Check out this short clip from the Disney film, Honey I Shurnk the Kids:

The characters are obviously all brave (they took on a giant scorpion) and they are obviously loyal (they didn't abandon each other or their friend the ant). The movie doesn't tell you that the kids are brave and loyal. It shows you and makes you feel it by portraying their actions. 

Did you notice the giant Lego piece in this scene? Imagine you are very small and the blocks, cars and bugs you are playing with are very large. Imagine details on the buildings. Be inventive. 

No paintings remind me more of a child's imaginary block cities than those of Giorgio de Chirico. He used one point perspective to create surreal imaginary worlds, filled with simplified buildings that look as if they might have been built from wooden blocks.

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street

Italian Piazza

Italian Plaza With a Red Tower

Melancholy of a Beautiful Day

Piazza d’Italia

Plaza Italia (Great Game)

The Disquieting Muses

The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon

The Great Tower

The House in the House

The Nostalgia of the Infinite

The Great Metaphysician

Friday, February 10, 2017

Drawing a Dr. Seuss Inspired City Scape

Solla Sollew by a 7th grade student

Thursday March 2nd is Dr. Seuss's birthday, also known as 'Read Across America' Day. Many schools across the country hold celebrations every year and plan special projects incorporating literacy and the arts. To learn more about ways your school can celebrate this special day, please click here.

My students will spend the weeks leading up to Read Across America Day creating their own unique Dr. Seuss inspired cityscapes. This lesson also introduces concepts like color theory, overlapping, foreground, middle-ground and background, linear perspective and atmospheric perspective. Best of all, it encourages literacy, story telling, creative problem solving and fun! Here is how you can create your own whimsical, playful imaginary world, just like Dr. Seuss:

This art lesson is inspired by the Dr. Seuss story I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew  and by an art lesson by Phyllis Levine Brown from the blog 'There's a Dragon in My Art Room' on warm and cool city-scapes. You can find her original art lesson here.  I was able to draw inspiration from her ideas and modify them for my older students.

Below is a wonderfully narrated read along version of the Dr. Seuss story that inspired this art project:

Nobody knows what Solla Sollew actually looks like, since the hero of the story never actually manages to get there. All we know of it is what he imagined. It could look like anything we can envision. Here is the imaginary city that I drew after reading the book myself:

My classes started out by creating the sky and learning how to mix colors. On the first day we learned how to create concentric circles and then create tints by gradually adding white to each color. 

On the second day we mixed two primary colors using the same method. One primary color was painted in the outermost circle. The other was painted in the center circle. And then the colors were gradually mixed to create a gradient.

Instructions for creating the cityscape:

Cut out your concentric circle color studies and glue them onto a piece of construction paper to create the background.

Overlap the circles and glue them so that they go slightly off the top and sides of the construction paper to create the sky.

Flip the paper over and trim the excess from the back, without cutting into the construction paper.

Use another piece of construction paper to create the horizon line. The horizon should be higher than the bottom of the circles. Draw it with a piece of chalk before cutting it out.

Overlap the horizon line so that it cuts off the bottom of the circles, lining the bottom edge of the construction papers up exactly. Glue it down to form the sky, horizon line and land.

Here is an easy method for drawing wacky Dr. Seuss style
 3-D buildings. Start out by drawing a curved arrow and then turn each arrow into a skyscraper by adding the sides. Group the buildings together and use overlapping.

Please watch the video below for more detailed instructions on how to draw the 3-D cityscape and complete your collage:

My unfinished cityscape 
(student art gallery coming soon)

How to draw a Dr. Seuss style staircase

Student Art Gallery
6th and 7th Grade Cityscapes

Saturday, January 7, 2017

SOLE Witness: Responding to the Holocaust with shoe sculptures

1.5 million children perished in the Holocaust, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies and the disabled were labeled as degenerate and exteminated. These children kept walking in these shoes, enduring unimaginable hardship, right up until the day they were murdered. If they had a chance to grow up, what might they have done with their lives? Each of my students was assigned the identity of a child who experienced the Holocaust and created a sculpture of a shoe to honor them. They explored the hopes and dreams of children who would never be able to realize those dreams for themselves.
Memorial art instillation to the children who perished in the Holocaust, created by my middle school students.

Shoe sculptures by 6th, 7th and 8th grade students, Samuel E. Shull School

To see more photographs of the belongings of Holocaust victims please visit the website of the Auschwitz museum by clicking here and here.

1.5 million children died in the Holocaust. Together, can we create enough sculptures of shoes to memorialize all of them? Some of these children were very young at the time of their deaths. What would they have been able to accomplish if they had a chance to grow up? Can we imagine futures for all of them, free from war? 

If you would like to participate, watch the video above and create your own art instillation with your own students. Then photograph their work and send the pictures to thehelpfulartteacher@gmail.com
If your students created artist statements to go with their work, please share them  here too. Let me know how many children you memorialized and how you publicized your students work. If you blog about it, I will add the link to the bottom of this post.

I showed my students some photographs of these horrifying piles of shoes and told them about how the victims were transported in filthy cattle cars to what they thought were relocation camps. Once they got to their final destination, everyone's head was shaved (supposedly as a precaution against lice). They were directed to remove their clothing and shoes so that they could be showered off, deloused and disinfected. Once they entered the shower house the door was locked. Instead of water, poisonous gas came out of the shower heads. The bodies of victims were then cremated in giant ovens. The victims' hair was used to stuff mattresses and pillows, the discarded clothing could be salvaged for rags but the broken worn out shoes of the victims continued to pile up. When the allied forces liberated extermination camps throughout Europe at the end of the war these towering masses of footwear were one of the first things they saw. In many cases these anonymous broken shoes were all that was left of the millions of victims of Hitler's 'final solution'. Every single one of those shoes had a story to tell. The people who wore them had ideas, hopes, dreams and ambitions that were all taken away. 
Those shoes were worn by people who suffered persecution and starvation but still kept walking right up to the very end of their lives. If those shoes could talk, what would they tell us?

In contrast to these brown piles of anonymous shoes, I showed my classes the sculptures of several contemporary artists. Here are some shoe sculptures by Robert Tabor:
 In a New York Minute by Robert Tabor
"Little Red Fire Island Wagon" by Robert Tabor
To see more of Tabor's shoe sculptures, click here. He calls his work 'Sole Sensations'. Unlike the ragged discarded shoes of the Holocaust, each one of Tabor's creations is hand crafted to express an idea or tell a unique story.

The sculpture below, "Gold Digger" by Sebastian Errazuriz is part of his series, "12 shoes for 12 lovers". What do you think he was trying to say about the ex girlfriend who inspired this shoe? Why do you think he designed the heel that way?

Here are some examples of Willie Cole's artwork:

To see more contemporary shoe art and learn about these and other artists, browse through the images at the "Virtual Shoe Museum" by clicking here.

George Segal was a very famous artist who created sculptures using plaster bandages, in much the same way you will create your shoes. He made very detailed plaster casts and was best known for his expressive people. His work often addressed important social issues.  Below is the Holocaust Memorial sculpture in San Francisco that he created using the same materials you are using in class. This art instillation shows a survivor and victims. 

You will be assigned either a survivor or victim and asked to put yourself 'in their shoes'.

To learn more about the artist George Segal, click here.

You will only be able to see the full alphabetical list if you use a desktop computer or 'request desktop site' from a mobile device. Since my students would be using their own old shoes to create their sculptures I separated the piles of identities by gender, however I also honored student requests if they wanted to memorialize a victim or survivor of another sex.

We discussed how the Holocaust involved the extermination of many different types of people. You can read about the persecution of non-Jewish victims by clicking here.

The assignment was to imagine an adulthood free from war for the youngest victims and survivors of the Holocaust. 1.5 Million Children died in the Holocaust. Gypsies, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Polish Children, disabled children, children with epilepsy, children with autism. What might they have done with their lives had they had a chance to grow up? What diseases might they have cured? What novels might they have written? What paintings would they have painted? What inventions would they have envisioned? Let us pull their shoes out from the pile of anonymity and use our imagination to explore that question through our artwork.

There are as many different techniques for creating shoe sculptures as there are artists creating them. I introduced my students to several different techniques. Here is a simple, non-messy technique that you can use in your own classroom.
 Step 1: Trace the soles of the shoes onto cardboard

 Step 2: Cut the shapes out

Step 3: Trace the side of the shoe onto tag board or poster board leaving extra room at the bottom and at the heel 
 Step 4: Create a fringe along the bottom of the shoe
 Step 5: Cut the shoe silhouette out and bend the fringe in
Step 6: Before attaching the side of the shoe to the sole, trace an exact copy of it onto another piece of Oaktag and cut that out the same way.
 Step 7: Begin attaching the sides to the sole using flat pieces of tape. Match the two halves at the toe of the sole. 

 If necessary, cut an extra strip of Oaktag and attach it to complete the heel
 Step 8: For the tops of the shoes and the tongue, trace the sole of the shoe again, this time onto Oaktag
 Tape to the top but stop half way up

 Cut the top of the shoe like this. Save the top half for the tongue
 Tape the tongue underneath using a flat piece of tape

Here is the assembled paper shoe. My students were required to complete their shoes with Plaster Craft bandages. In order to do this, without the sculpture collapsing, the form will need to be completely covered with tin foil.

Here is a short video tutorial outlining the shoe assembly  process shown above:

The easiest way to create a shoe sculpture, using plaster bandages, is to cover your foot with saran wrap and simply mold the wet bandages around your foot. You can also make a cast of an old shoe after first covering it with saran wrap. Watch the video below to see how:

Many of my students found that they needed to cut the plaster bandages at the heel in order to slide their foot or shoe out of the mold. They then became frustrated that their sculpture was broken. Here is a quick tutorial on how to repair the heel of the shoe by using tin foil and then applying another layer of plaster craft over it to make it good as new!

The video below shows the variety of ways my students used to construct a three-dimensional plaster shoe. In art, as in life, there is no single correct way to solve a problem. 
This project promotes 'design thinking' and
 'creative problem solving'.

Adding detail to your sculpture
Sculptural details may be added with clay and then covered with Plaster Craft. As you can see from the video below, much of the detail will be lost when you cover the clay with with plaster bandages. This can be remedied by wetting small pieces of plaster bandage, mushing them up, sculpting them into the shape you want and then smoothing them into the wet plaster. 
You can also use a pencil or the point of a scissors to sculpt back in any details you have lost in the process.

 Please remember that you will eventually be painting your shoe and will thus have the opportunity to add the details back in later using line and color.
I added a hand holding a camera to my shoe, with the camera strap doubling as a shoe lace. My father, a Holocaust survivor, has always loved tinkering with machines, especially mechanical cameras. He loves to take photographs and brought his camera everywhere he went throughout most of his life. In all my childhood memories he his holding a camera. My shoe represents him, his individuality and his unique personality. It is my way of saying that he is not a label, a number or a member of a group that Hitler despised. He is an individual, with hopes and dreams. 

Some of my students decided to design ladies shoes and needed to add a high heel after casting their foot. Here is how they did it:

High heeled shoe designed by student. First she made a plaster cast of her foot. Then she added the heel, using tinfoil. Finally she coated the tinfoil in Plaster Craft.

My students, in grades 6-8, are required to create artist statements to go with their sculptures. As they are working they use the worksheet below to help them to take notes in preparation for their writing:

Here are my specific guidelines for  developing an artist statement for this shoe project:

My students will get one full project grade for their sculpture and another full project grade for their written artist statement, connecting their artwork to the victim or survivor they were assigned.

The video below showcases some of my students' sculptures and artist statements:

 "When I was creating this shoe I felt a little sad because she would never be able to see the shoe. Lisl Winternitz never got to even wear high heels because she died at such a young age. I chose the colors pink and purple because when I imagined a girl dressing up as a fairy princess I imagined her wearing those colors." 

"I put two pieces of paper with A+ on them because she was a great and smart student. I included a dance costume because she loved to dance. The story that I invented was that her brother and her are dance partners. The are so talented that they win first place at every competition. Paula was shot by Nazi soldiers at age 14. I felt sad that she never got to live the happy life she deserved to have."

"He worked in a metal shop so I imagined he might have become a car designer."

"This shoe represents Nadine Schatz, a girl who could have become a famous artist, loved being creative and colorful and loved animals. It is made of hearts, galaxies, art utensils and a cat."

"A dog is her spirit animal"

"Peter Ginz might have become a famous journalist because he was already writing books by the age of 8. He died in a concentration camp when he was 15. I want to think that I made him nice shoes that would have cost a lot. I was sad when I did the shoe. It made me cry that he wouldn't become famous and rich."

To learn more about how Hitler persecuted artists and musicians during the Third Reich, please visit my blog post on the subject by clicking here.

To learn about the artwork of the children of Terezin Concentration Camp, please click here.