Archives for category: illustrations

IMG_2582I don’t know about you, but I feel like the USPS really outdid itself with the release of this heart stamp… just in time for mailing out your Valentines the old-school way.

Have you ever stopped to consider postage stamps as art? (I’ll wait while you consider it.) They’re like teeny-tiny little canvases hiding out in plain sight in the midst of our everyday lives! By calling attention to postage stamps, you begin to get your students thinking about the fact that someone has to design those stamps. Someone has to come up with an idea and then create the artwork that eventually becomes the stamp that gets printed and used by many, many people! (Talk about great exposure!)

Now consider having your students design their own postage stamps. The beauty of this art lesson is that the subject matter is virtually limitless, meaning you can connect it to any subject you are teaching! Learning about geography? Students design stamps based on geography! Reading a certain book? Students design stamps based on something related to that book! It’s Black History Month? Your students can design stamps based on someone they admire that you are currently studying! Learning the alphabet? Students design stamps based on the first letter of their names! It’s genius, right?!

IMG_2583Keep the materials simple for this lesson: A sheet of 9X12 inch drawing paper (plain white construction paper — or even 8.5X11 inch copy paper will do in a pinch) for each child, with two 3X4 inch rectangles on it. (Depending on the age and ability levels of your students, this could be a great opportunity for them to practice their measuring skills.) Then you just need some drawing tools… whatever you have on hand like crayons, colored pencils, and fine tip markers.

I would spend a few minutes talking with your students about postage stamps and maybe even have some actual stamps to show them. There is a tremendous variety so you won’t have any trouble finding some that they will be able to relate to and get excited about. For example, click here to see some wonderful Harry Potter themed stamps. (Be sure to put all samples away once your students begin designing their own.)

Tell them that you’re going to have them work about 4 times larger than an actual stamp, so they’ll have a nice big surface to decorate. (For the very young, you might want them to work even larger than the 3X4 inch rectangle suggested.)

Then talk about the subject matter you’d like them to use for their stamp designs. As mentioned above, your options are many here. In my experience, it’s best to decide ahead of time what the “theme” will be rather than telling them they can design “anything”. Sometimes having no restrictions becomes almost paralyzing, and trust me — you’ll still get a tremendous amount of variety within your theme. (Unless you say something very specific like, “Everyone design a stamp with George Washington on it.” You get the idea.)

IMG_2585Depending on how involved you want to get, when the stamp designs are finished, you can use a single hole punch to punch around the edges of the stamps to make realistic looking perforations, or you can use scissors with different edged blades to get a similar look. Still looking for more? How about having your students write something about their stamp design and why they did what they did? Or perhaps they can write a short piece about the subject of their stamp? Ask them to share what they’ve drawn and written with a neighbor or the whole class, and you’ve got some oral language thrown into the mix!

Have fun with this, and please share your results if you try it with your students. I’d love to see how it goes!

IMG_2557Hello February 2014!

I’d like to celebrate this month by “sharing the love” with an art book giveaway! (Who doesn’t LOVE something FREE?!) Simply leave a comment on this blog post, and you will be automatically entered to win one of two brand new copies of the book pictured above entitled, “M.C. Escher The Graphic Work”.

This book would make a terrific addition to any art library. Your students will be intrigued not only by Escher’s incredible imagination, but also by his impressive skill. Here are just a few images you will find in this wonderfully illustrated book.

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IMG_2558Comment on this post anytime between now and Friday, February 7, 2014 by 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, and you could win! I have two copies to give away, so two winners will be selected at random from the entries. (Winners will be notified by email so that I may obtain mailing addresses. Of course, I will cover the cost of mailing. It is, after all, a FREE giveaway, so winning will cost you nothing!)

And while you’re here… consider for just a moment whether or not you need any professional development credits. Or maybe you’d like some easy-to-implement art lesson ideas for your classroom? If either of these sound like you, please click here to see the affordable, convenient and self-paced professional development art classes I teach through Fresno Pacific University. (Absolutely no art experience is necessary or required!)

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in the drawing for the books!

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I love this time of year! This season of magnificent color presents an exciting opportunity for students to notice and record what they observe happening around them. If your students aren’t already keeping “art journals”, I suggest that now is the time to have them start! You can read my earlier posts about the ease of setting up and using art journals here, here, and here. There’s also a post here about observational drawing that you might find helpful.

My proposal is simple. Have your students observe leaves, one at a time — over time — as they change colors throughout the fall. While many different approaches are possible, I would suggest that you begin by simply having them each select one leaf to bring into the classroom. For this first observation, I would encourage you to suggest that they look for leaves that are primarily green. You might say something like, “We’re going to go outside (to some specific area) and spend just a few minutes while you each find one green leaf to bring back inside our classroom.” This sets a few basic parameters as well as your expectations: A) we will all be staying in the same area together, and B) we will be spending a very short amount of time doing this.

Once back inside, the process of carefully observing their leaves can begin. (Having each student set his or her leaf on a small, pre-cut square of black or white construction paper will help simplify the background, and will make each leaf seem “special” as if on display.) I would not have any pencils or paper out at this time to help focus their attention on their leaves only, and on LOOKING. Oral language and sharing would be great here… what do they see? Students can share their observations with a neighbor. Perhaps you could make a list of class observations. Vocabulary words like line, form, shape, color, and texture can be introduced or reinforced.

When it’s time to draw, journals/paper, pencils, erasers, color pencils, crayons and anything else you might make available can be distributed and the drawing can begin. You might encourage your students to draw one large image, or perhaps you might encourage them to draw several smaller images — or “studies” — of the same leaf from different angles. (This is great for those students who always finish at light speed! Ask them to move their leaf and take another look at it from this different angle.) Most of all, encourage them to take their time, to slow down, and to really look at what makes their particular leaf special and unique. The trick to observational drawing is to actually draw what you see in front of you, not what you THINK you see. Every child in your class has seen a leaf, and generally knows what leaves look like, but today you want them to do the best drawing they can of the particular leaf that is right in front of them.

If you have the time and the inclination, you might attach a writing component to this activity, having students describe what they see, or perhaps how they felt looking at their leaf and trying to draw it, or maybe even compose a poem about it. This writing could be as structured or as “free form” as you want it to be. The writing and drawings can be shared aloud with a partner and/or with the class. Another idea is to have everyone leave their journal open on their desk (or their paper out) and everyone moves around the room doing a “journal walk” or “gallery walk” to enjoy everyone’s work. (If this type of activity is new for your students, you might need to spend some time talking about how important it is to value all efforts, and to stick to constructive comments.)

As you notice the leaves changing colors over the next several days or weeks, explore this same process all over again, but this time you will encourage your students to select leaves that are say, yellow. Maybe a few days or weeks after that, everyone will select red leaves. Reinforce for your students how amazing it is that while you are returning to the same area over and over again for leaves, they have changed color dramatically.

This simple, multi-step journaling practice can be repeated using a multitude of subjects, some of which include growing plants, trees budding out in the spring, or something rotting like a small piece of fruit — kids LOVE the gross-out factor of this last one! Once kids get the hang of what you expect from them out of this process, this type of drawing can even be something that your students can do independently like at a station or center, or perhaps when other work has been finished. When practiced frequently, observational drawing is so much more than an art exercise for students, but rather it becomes a thoughtful, meaningful way of viewing, thinking about, and of understanding their world.

IMG_1816In northern California where I live, May has arrived with an explosion of flowers. If this is true where you are too, why not take your students outside to enjoy some of nature’s splendor? Help your children really slow down and see the spectacular colors, the interesting textures, and the wide variety of shapes that spring flowers have to offer.

IMG_1819After some careful observation, consider giving them about 15 minutes or so to carefully draw what they see. Have them focus in on one small area. If your students already have sketchbooks, that’s great! If not, a sheet of plain while copy paper held on top of a book for support will work just fine. Don’t make it complicated… just don’t miss this opportunity to teach your students the simple joy of slowing down and really seeing the beauty of the world around them.

IMG_1820If winter-like weather is still in full swing where you live, bring a small potted flower or two into your classroom for your children to observe and draw. This small bit of color and cheer will help you all be patient as you look forward to warmer weather that should certainly arrive soon.

IMG_1763I’m so excited to introduce something brand new on my blog! I’m calling them “Art Kits”, and it’s super easy to be entered into a drawing to win one.

Each Art Kit is valued at over $100.00, and includes everything you see in the photo above, as well as an easy to follow, step-by-step lesson plan and 50 sheets of white drawing paper — And it can be YOURS for FREE!

I’ll be giving away a kit exactly like the one you see pictured above, every three months for the next year — that’s four kits in all! This is called Art Kit #1: Observational Drawing: Sea Shells. In addition to all of the fun stuff you see in the photo, you’ll also get a step-by-step lesson plan that you can use in your classroom immediately. (No art experience on your part is required or necessary.)

Students of all ages will love looking through their magnifying glasses to see a detailed view of any one of the interesting shells included. The lesson plan will walk you through an easy to present lesson that will encourage your students to carefully observe a shell and then create an original drawing of what they see. Soft lead pencils and special erasers will help them get their drawings “just right”. They will be thrilled to then add color with chalk using the ordinary blending tools of cotton balls and Q-tips! In addition to the excitement of creating art, you’ll see lots of valuable curriculum connection possibilities for your students in science, math, and language arts.

Here’s how to win!

1) Register for one or more of the affordable, convenient, self-paced Professional Development Art Classes that I teach through Fresno Pacific University here. Each registration will earn you 6 Entries into the Art Kit drawing.

2) Refer a colleague who registers for one or more of my courses and you’ll earn another 6 Entries into the Art Kit drawing. (I must be notified via email of the name of the person who made the referral in order for them to be given their 6 entries for that referral.)

3) Comments on my blog or Facebook page will each earn 1 entry into the Art Kit drawing. (Only one comment per person, per day will count towards entry into the drawing.)

Registrations, referrals, and comments will earn entry into the Art Kit drawings based on the following time table:

April-May-June: Winner’s name drawn on July 1, 2013

July-August-September: Winner’s name drawn on October 1, 2013

October-Nov-Dec: Winner’s name drawn on January 1, 2014

January-February-March: Winner’s name drawn on April 1, 2014

As you can see above, I’m breaking the year into quarters with April-May-June being the first block of time for the first Art Kit drawing. So for example, all course registrations received, colleagues referred & registered, and comments made from April 1, 2013 until June 30, 2013 will be included, and I will draw the winning name on July 1, 2013. Then the process begins again for July-August-September and so on, until the fourth and final Art Kit winner is drawn on April 1, 2014.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Fresno Pacific University and register for one of my art classes! Then get a friend or colleague to do the same! While you’re on a roll, comment on any of my blog posts or head on over to my Facebook page and get typing! You can’t win one of these great kits if you don’t enter… so get going and get excited!

(If you’d like to purchase Art Kit #1: Observational Drawing: Sea Shells, please contact me via email for information at JGomasFaison@gmail.com)

IMG_1688In my last post, I talked about the importance of having images available to your students for use as visual references when having the real thing in front of them just isn’t possible or practical. Today I’d like to help four lucky people get started on the creation of their own image files by giving away some beautiful National Audubon Society field guide books. (These books are brand new and cost about $20 each.) Each of these books is full of gorgeous, full color photographs that will make excellent reference images for any artist. Each book is focused on a different subject group — one for reptiles & amphibians, one for mammals, another entitled fishes, and finally one for insects & spiders. The pages measure about 3.5 X 7.5 inches, so if you tear them out as I suggested in my blog post, they will fit neatly into a file folder for easy retrieval and distribution later.

If you’d like to receive one of these spectacular National Aububon Society field guides, just leave a comment on this blog post. The first 4 people to leave me a comment by Wednesday, February 20, 2013, by 5 p.m. (PST) will each get one free book. (Subject of the books vary and cannot be specified by the recipient. One comment/entry per person, please.)

And teachers… don’t forget that spring break will be here before you know it. Plan your professional development now by checking out my affordable and convenient art courses offered through Fresno Pacific University. Registration is always open for these distance learning courses — you can view all of my course listings here. No art experience? No Problem! My courses were written specifically with YOU in mind! Imagine yourself completing the units you need on your schedule, from the comfort of your own home. I’d love to see you in class!

Like the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”. In so many ways, this wonderful season is especially beautiful, and I encourage you to take a few moments when you can, just to notice it. Really look around you right now. This time of year is heavy on the sparkle and glitter, the warm glow of candles, the riot of color, pattern, and texture. Savor it. Let your eyes just drink it all in. And while you’re at it, why not help your children and students notice this bounty of beauty as well? Amid all the hustle and bustle, show the children in your life how easy — and rewarding — it can be to just stop for a moment, take notice, and enjoy.

In the classroom, this type of “visual study” could be the jumping off point for some very meaningful writing, whether it be reflecting on past holidays, thinking about wishes for the future, or writing about what’s going on right now. Maybe it could be a piece of descriptive writing, filled with as many adjectives and details as possible. Observing something thoughtfully, and then drawing it as carefully and as accurately as possible, is also another worthwhile experience. (This is especially good for quieting down energized little ones while helping improve their focus too.)

Teachers: don’t forget that winter is the perfect time to sign up for professional development courses! The art classes I teach are affordable and convenient — and you have up to one year to finish your course work! Picture yourself… hot cocoa in hand, with warm slippers on your feet, earning 3 units of graduate credit in the cozy comfort of your own home… Click here to find out more.  🙂

Welcome to the WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Stop #7. If you’re just joining us, head back to the BLOG HOP LAUNCH POST to find out how the Blog Hop works so you can collect all of the necessary clues for a chance to win an iPad, a $50 gift card and much more!

As a participant in this blog hop, I’ve been asked to write a review of my favorite educational gift. I’ve chosen:

Products: My First Crayola Triangular Crayons in Storage Container, Crayola Colored Pencils, and Melissa & Doug Sketch Pad

Age range: 3 years and up

Subject areas: Art — and virtually any other subject!

Hot Deals: On Amazon.com

In the high-tech gadget oriented world of today, why not give your child something refreshingly simple and fun this holiday season? (Not to mention, deceptively educational!) Offering limitless opportunities for creativity and self expression, the gift of crayons, colored pencils, and drawing paper is sure to surprise and delight your recipient. Though these tools might seem a bit “old school”, consider the fact that they are completely user-friendly, are one-size-fits-all, and don’t need batteries, or require an electrical outlet and a charge to be played with. Brilliant!

Children of all ages will benefit from time spent exploring their creative potential with these simple yet empowering art tools. Not only does drawing and coloring help develop small muscles and fine motor skills, but it also helps kids learn how to approach and solve problems. Countless decisions are made while drawing, whether the budding artist draws something they are observing, or develops creatures unknown and lands unseen. Stories are created and imaginations are strengthened. All of this helps develop critical thinking, which is an essential component of the Common Core State Standards being implemented in schools across the country.

While any type of crayons or colored pencils will do, Crayola is a trusted brand in the industry and one can be assured of their product quality, which ultimately results in a more satisfying experience for the artist. The triangular nature of the crayons in this pack means they won’t be rolling around the work surface, and the storage container keeps them tidy when not in use. Colored pencils are still fun for little hands, yet will allow the more mature artist to add detail to their work. Having lots of paper on hand for your young artist is a must! With 50 sheets of 9X12 inch paper, this sketch pad ensures the fun and creativity can go on and on.

As a teacher, and as an artist, I believe meaningful art experiences play an integral part in discovering who we are as individuals. Art helps us see ourselves and the world we inhabit more clearly, while also helping us to imagine future possibilities. Giving the gift of creativity through the tools of artistic expression is a gift that is truly priceless.

WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Clue #1: BUT

The next stop on the blog hop is: Teacher Gear We Love

More chances to win: What’s more, as part of this blog hop, I am offering a $10 gift card to Amazon! To enter, do one or both of the following by 11/23/12:

Today’s post is about a really great series of art books that I think would make an excellent addition to any classroom library. These little books, “Getting To Know The World’s Greatest Artists”, are written and illustrated by Mike Venezia. Apart from their availability (Amazon.com) and their great price ($6.95), each of these terrific little books presents a succinct focus on one artist in an informal, engaging, and highly informative way.

Whether teaching first grade or high school, I always kept a variety of these books in my classroom’s library. When I taught first grade I read these books to my students, and they loved hearing them over and over again. When “reading” on their own, my young students would consistently select these books to enjoy by themselves or with a reading buddy. My high school students perused these same books, and I believe they enjoyed and appreciated learning about the famous artists in a more “relaxed” way than they might otherwise have through a typical art history textbook.

One look through these books will win you over to Mr. Venezia’s engaging, conversational style. He makes the artists seem like people who might have lived in your town and perhaps even been a neighbor. Through words and pictures, he brings each artist to life by revealing them to be real people we all can relate to. People who accomplished great things — yes, but people who struggled and suffered through hardships as well. Reading these books is so engaging and is so much fun, kids of all ages might not realize how much they are actually learning!

If you’d like to receive one of these books by Mike Venezia, just leave a comment on this blog post. The first 10 people to leave me a comment by Friday, November 30, 2012, 5 p.m. (PST) will each get one free book from this series of “Getting To Know The World’s Greatest Artists” books. (Artist subject of the books will vary and cannot be specified by the recipient. One comment/entry per person, please.)

Giveaway Update: As of 11/14/12, I still have 4 books left to give away!

Very often I’m asked by students and teachers if it’s acceptable to look at something as a reference while they are creating. My answer is always yes. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect students  — or anyone for that matter — to be able to recall exactly what any given thing/animal/place, etc. looks like from memory. Using some sort of visual reference is a great support for the creative process. But here’s the thing… I think it’s imperative to make a distinction between the different kinds of visual reference materials available.

Of course working from life is the best of the best. But if one is trying to recall the facial details of a lion, for example, getting a peek at the real thing might not be possible or practical. As the next best thing, I strongly suggest using photographs — as opposed to drawings — when some type of reference is needed.

The reason I prefer photographs over drawings is simple. If I want to draw a flower for example, maybe even something like those pictured above, by using a drawing that someone else has done as my reference, all of the decisions have already been made for me by the person who created that drawing. Things like, color, shape, shadows, highlights, details, and on and on, have already been determined by the artist who drew that flower. By using a photograph for reference, everything is there for me — all of the visual information, and I — as the artist — can make the decisions for myself about what I want to include, add, or leave out of my piece as it suits me and my creative experience. The interpretation of that photo is mine and mine alone as I create.

As a classroom teacher, I would purchase books on sale that were filled with color photos of all kinds of things… birds, reptiles, mammals, fish, flowers, you name it, and then tear the pages out and keep them in files. This made it easy to pull them out and allow students to sort through them and find what they were looking for, and then take the individual photo(s) back to their desk to reference while they worked. Having computer access in the classroom provides a virtually limitless source of reference photographs as long as students can find what they need quickly without being distracted.