Sunday, December 2, 2012


Plagiarism and the arts is a very gray area. It isn't as clear cut for the Visual Arts as it is in other disciplines. I think we can all agree that blatant copying and passing it off as our own is unacceptable. It is the influenced by, inspired by, and subconscious strokes of genius that create those "gray" areas we question. In a teaching situation, we often have students attempt to recreate the masters. It is how we learn techniques and process. We look to artists of the past and modern day masters for reference and to instruct our students on timeless themes and concepts...... but where do we draw the line of what can be considered truly influence and what is considered plagiarism? I spend a fair amount of time in my classroom discussing plagiarism with my students because of this, grayishness.

In an attempt to help students begin selecting their works and understand the quality that goes to competition, we look at slides of past artworks and online galleries of many competitions. It is inevitable that we will find an example of questionable plagiarism and sometimes blatant plagiarism. While it is a wonderful discussion and life lesson for my students, it puts a sour taste in my mouth thinking that an original artwork by a student somewhere was passed over for a plagiarized one.

This year was no different, we looked through the online galleries of one competition with strict guidelines on plagiarism. This time I had multiple students react to an artwork that was shown. They had all seen the original image on Pinterest. It led to a discussion on responsibility. Ultimately, my students felt it was the responsibility of the artist/student to inform and that they should voluntarily pull their work. The discussion was immediately followed by students pulling out smart phones frantically searching for any projects online that might resemble anything close to what they were already doing or had plans to do.

The question that remained however, was who...if anyone..should contact the sponsoring arts competition and inform them, do we as educators and artists have an obligation to inform them, ........or do we just let sleeping dogs lie?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Conference Survival Guide!

Art at the Cinci Bridge
The 2012 Ohio Art Education Conference has come to a close and it is with a sad heart that we say goodbye.  All in all I would say another successful year filled with lesson ideas, new state initiative-eh, and new art media to explore :).  and now.........I have the post conference blues. You know what those are. You are a little saddened because you are out of the highly creative environment filled with like minded artists and educators who feel like you do about sharpies, kneaded erasers and mini art samples and happen to be for the most part over the age of 22.  I don't want anyone to think I don't enjoy the creative energies from my classroom, but it is nice to be around individuals who have voted at least twice in a presidential election-no matter who they voted for;)

The bonus from conference, the stuff that isn't in the daily list of classes, meal topics or event the simple collaboration and time spent with other arts educators. Sometimes it seems as if you glean more from those sessions than scheduled and planned events. The cross collaboration between districts, the simple solutions to problems you thought you were the only one experiencing, a fresh perspective on a piece of art and celebrating each other's successes and failures together.

So for those of you who have never attended a conference, or are about to go to one, here is a simple Conference Survival Guide.

1. Leave space in your suitcase to bring back samples and other stuff you accumulate. I always take a huge suitcase but forget to leave space, so I look like a bag lady when I leave.

2. If someone offers you a tote bag, even if you have gathered 25 of them......take it. They are like gold in the classroom. Kids always need bags!

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And alternate that with copious amounts of coffee. and breath mints.

4. Dedicate a note pad or sketchbook just for the conference. Jot down everything you think is important. You won't remember it otherwise. Get contact info for new people in there too.

5. Write down presenters names. If they were awesome, you will want to seek them out the next time. And if they were awful, you want to avoid them next  time.

6. Have lots of pens and pencils to suit your moods and pens to give to people who forget theirs. You don't want to give away your favorite super skinny green sharpie on "accident".

Missing Pig Sculpture
7. Remember, everyone has a camera at conference. Don't do anything stealing someones pig sculpture. And you can use it to get pictures of all the projects too!

8. Sit in the back at regional meetings, unless you want to be volunteered for a duty or position. (Just kidding-sort of)

9. Keep your conference guides from year to year to help jog your memory on sessions attended and because it usually has contact info on the important people from the conference and the vendors as well.

10. Whatever you felt was missing from conference, make a plan to research it, and present it at the next conference! Remember conferences are made up of educators educating each other! Chances are, someone else, felt the same exact way you did.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

mmmmmmmmm coffee

I know, another post about coffee but after the crazy and hectic few weeks I have had I think I probably could use it in an IV drip! Among the changing of major projects in the art room  for my Intro students, frantically setting my room for my sub and typing up all of the plans and handouts, and the Ohio Art Education Association Conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio, I had also been selected to Host a Barista Prima Coffee party from

It was the perfect way to unwind after spending days with my brain being overloaded with new arts techniques, new state initiatives, new artists, arts advocacy, and new media options. After all the learning, all the socializing, and all the art, I just needed a night to unwind with a few (10) of my favorite people relaxing with a cup of joe and massive quantities of delicious desserts to pair the coffees with.

After driving from one side of the state to get home, I made fresh biscotti, and did some last minute house maintenance and set up the table and counters with desserts, creamers, specialty sugars, and all of the amazing sample boxes of coffee from Barista Prima. It was a perfect way to sit back and round table the events of the week with other arts educators, other educators, friends and family. What a great way to remember why being an arts educator was so important and some of the hysterical conversations that happen in the art room. I wonder if everyone has stories from their conferences like we do. Thanks to Barista Prima, this may become an annual way to end our conference! By the way, my favorite cup of coffee, was the Italian roast.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Well....they are up!!!

They are set, kids are drawing, and as much as I want to be able to say YAY and WOOHOO..............I just can't get past the the crazy mess my classroom becomes when still life season descends. My desk becomes covered...and it stays covered pretty much for the remainder of the year after are misplaced by students and myself........projects get placed in nooks and crannies from my advanced kids...... and the room becomes almost claustrophobic.

This year I handed boxes filled with items to my students and asked them to set the displays. We spent approximately 2 full days arranging, rearranging, and evaluating each others displays. I am very happy with giving them ownership of the process. There are a total of 7 still life displays available for the students to choose from. As we normally do, we started off creating thumbnails to help narrow their choices down. But this time I also asked my students to use their cell phones to develop and choose their final compositions. 

One of the bonuses to using the technology is that many of the students can send their images to my school email and we can print them in black and white to further explore values. For students who don't have this technology we have a classroom camera that they can use to snap their composition and print it out.

Don't get me wrong, it isn't that I don't see a value in the still life process. On the contrary, I think it is an essential part of any art program, just like color theory, 3-d explorations, and other areas of art.  Students need to be able to learn to use their observational skills and refine them. It helps them to develop and create important details in other art areas and disciplines. Developing the ability to identify details  is a skill that can be used in many professions.  I just have a hard time with all of the crazy disarray and piling  that occurs with the set ups in the room.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee...............please

Some of my favorite ideas for lessons come at those strange hours between 3 and 5 where it seems I wake up so often. Unfortunately, it makes for a seriously long day and a vicious cycle of coffee consumption. I am comforted in knowing that I am not the only educator in my building with this affliction. Many times we are united by the late night facebook posts of "anyone else up?"

For whatever reason while I was unable to sleep, I remembered attending the Ohio art Education Association conference in Toledo, Ohio where I was lucky enough to have my hubby join us for the last day. One of the evening events was a special trip to the Toledo Museum of Art to see their exhibits. One that really stuck with me, and not because Mr. MAC set off the museum alarm while looking at it,  was an installation by the artist Marisol Escobar called the Cocktail Party. A room filled with mixed media, life size figures with cast faces, painted wooden block bodies and other added elements. I knew I could never have my students work in the scale she did, but I could at least expose them to her. As it turned out she was a hard artist to find a lot of readily available info so she went to the back burner and was filed away in one off the many holy grails of lesson ideas. However, right before school was in session this fall, and right after the 4th cup of coffee on one of these 3 am wake up calls,  I figured it out. A combination of recycled materials, a combination of artists, on a scale that was acceptable for 50 plus kiddos, and in my budget............. thus was born "the classroom!"

I have asked my students to trust me on the results. Not every student in my Sculpture classroom has had experience in sculptural techniques, so before starting our actual large scale project with the expensive materials, we spent the last week working with white clay creating fist sized works of wonder. Noggins in such detail that they created an eerie collection as they were put out to dry this weekend before firing. While this was an introductory lesson on basic modelling skills, it will finish as a project they can be proud of. It addresses many of the state standards for Art Education in Ohio, and can stand alone as independent sculptures or as combined as a group installation project. A win-win all around. I am so impressed with what they have done so far and I can't wait to see their new creations and how they finish these over the next few weeks. As a reminder, these are unfinished.....we will be finishing them up with acrylic paints (ohhhhhhh trust me they won't look painted, I know what you are thinking) and some mixed media techniques as well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

MAC'S Top 10 reasons to be Excited for Back to School!!

I don't think I have ever not been excited to go back to school! These are my top 10 for this year!

10. Shiny waxed floors and a clean sparkling classroom!!
Let's be realistic, in the art classroom, even when we try, this only lasts a few short weeks. With about 165 "official" students in my classroom a day, this room quickly self-destructs in just a few short weeks but our maintenance department works miracles!

9. New students and of course returning ones!
Oh my goodness!! I ADORE my new classes!!! It might be too early to say that and hopefully I won't be jinxing myself, but they are AWESOME!!! And it is so Nice to see some familiar faces returning  with their creative energies restored after their summer breaks! After spending the summer revising, adjusting, and creating new lessons and projects they are finally going to be put into action!!! I am so excited to see what they do!!!

8. Sample Materials from Arts representatives!!
Who doesn't love free stuff!! Especially free stuff that encourages us to play and explore our creative sides! and as a bonus there is usually a sharpie in there someplace!!
7. Getting back into a regular routine..............
because really that sleeping in until 7 thing, not showering until 2, and taking a nap whenever was starting to get old!

6. more coffee:)
I just love my coffee:) even more so if someone else makes it! Since at least two of my lessons will be focused around a coffee cup this year, it would be safe to say, it is a BIG part of my day;)

5. NEW SHARPIES!!!!!!!
I will admit.....I have a sharpie addiction. It isn't to the point of becoming a real problem, but it would be very easy to start hoarding them!. And going back `to school in the fall just gives me an excuse to buy more.

I love my aprons!!! I started this year off with a ruffled zebra apron! My color wheel apron, Halloween and Election day aprons are almost finished!

3. Did I mention Coffee?
2. The 2013 high school musical announcement!!!!
This year they have selected AIDA!!!!!!!! Who wouldn't love a love story set in Egypt! The costumes and set on this are going to be out of this world! I can not wait! And the student response so far is awesome!

1. All things Autumn!!!
The smell of new pencils! A fresh tub of Ink! New glue! HOMECOMING!!!Football, bonfires and hot chocolate.......the colors of the changing leaves, and Halloween and the crazy creative costumes the kids come up with are just around the corner!!) The new videos over school procedures from the award winning VP staff!  New lessons, new ideas, new inspiration! and cut out cookies. I know that last one is available at pretty much any time, but my favorite is to dunk a cut out sugar cookie in hot chocolate-not nearly as much fun in July!!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Treasure hunting.............

Still life season is upon us! and that means Treasure Hunting!!! I have my trusty hunting license (driver's license) and my weapon of choice (cash) and I am ready to stalk my prey through yard sales, thrift shops, eBay and auctions but alas I have no idea what I am really looking for. Setting me loose at any of those places without direction, is just an accident waiting to happen. One of the hardest things for me to determine is what goes into the still life set ups every year. I try to have at least 6 different set ups so students have choices and space to work.  I want each of my still life set ups to tell a story that the artist and the audience can connect with. It should have varying degrees of difficulty through textures, reflections, and composition possibilities to allow students some flexibility. The objects need to make sense together as well.  I don't want my students looking at their piece later asking why was an egg beater next to a soccer shoe.  I have set up faux vegetable displays and not faux-(I don't reccomend using real food), a pirates paradise with treasure trunk and skeleton, Holiday decorations for fall and winter(Halloween and Christmas), farmhouse abundance themes with metalware, crocks, and tins,, primitive themes with crocks, ball jars, eggs and apples, musical instruments, sports themes,  and the usual fall squashes and gourds to name a few, but this year I am at a loss. No brilliant ideas yet and we have hit the July 4th back to school countdown. I was really hoping to bring in all new or at least some new set ups this year.  Right now I am getting a little nervous. The last time this happened I wound up with lots of junk from the Goodwill, (yay for me) but still no set up.

What is your favorite still life set up to draw or to use in the classroom. or your least favorite!  What have you done that you feel is the most successful or enjoyable. Or if you were drawing the still life, what would you like to draw?  Please leave some suggestions as my pirate skeleton, Mr. Bones, is really ready for a vacation himself this year. Unfortunately, he lost a few toes last year and probably should stay off of his feet. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

I can't wait to get out of here..........................

Far too often I hear "I hate this town", "There is nothing to do here", "I can't wait to get out of here" from my students.  Truth is, they don't really hate it, they are just anxious for the change that comes with graduation.  I always tell them someday you will miss a part of this place, you may not return, but you will miss something about this town. They don't believe me.

I will admit, I said pretty much every one of those comments myself when I was in high school. and I did leave, moved to a bigger city,  but when the opportunity(JOB) arose I came back to a smaller place very similar to home. It was about 25 minutes away from my job. It took a little time for me to really appreciate it though. Last night I was reminded about what makes this place so special. Mr. MAC and I went with our good friend Steve to the downtown area of Mansfield for some live music. We saw an amazing Gospel Blues Band at the City News ; a newspaper, magazine, and cigar shop.  We followed that with a cheese plate on the patio of another downtown establishment so we could sit and hear the Bands on the Bricks, which is the outdoor courtyard/parking lot made entirely of bricks. At the end of every month in the summer they bring in live music. Great music, great company, and great cheese. We continued to Relax....a coffeehouse and gallery open late to hear several small sets from different musicians, with the headliner being Jeff Bell, an artist and musician.  This was all in the same city block. An area of Mansfield called the Carousel District. I would be remiss not to mention the other businesses that were already closed at 5; the galleries, the antique shops, the yarn store, bakery, hair salon, yoga studio and the famous Mansfield Carousel.

The town that I teach in is similar to where I went to high school. A farming community with a great little downtown area, with eclectic shops, local events, fantastic coffee house with a university right up the street with tons of events the entire community can participate in. They don't have a mall, or a Panera,  but those are only 20 minutes away. They do have a Starbucks though. I am blessed because both communities are arts rich and value the arts. They have embraced the arts for the cultural, social, and economic benefits. They recognize their importance. This year, I am going to ask my students to investigate their communty a little bit more, and find some of those special places and arts opportunities to appreciate, and ways to invest in the arts for their entire lives. I am doing this for two reasons, one because we have added some emphasis on arts advocacy in our State Standards, and two, because I think they should see what their community really has to offer. Some day I know my students will miss their community, but if they learn to appreciate it now, maybe this will help them remember.  But until then, I am glad to be home..or at least a place very much like it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

top 10 perks to being an art teacher

You should know, these are not reasons for teaching art, or reasons for having art, but rather subtle and sometimes under appreciated perks to the job of being an art teacher.



No one thinks twice when your clothes don't match. or have paint on them. or have holes. or have tape. or coffee. They actually kind of expect it.


It is acceptable for you to dumpster dive, in fact people kind of expect it. A big bonus is when you can convince someone else on the faculty to do it with you.


28 students, 4 different levels, all on different time lines, and with different needs. You can tackle that with only one cup of coffee.

7. APRONS!!!!

You have a wardrobe of funky aprons that you can use to cover up the spilled coffee, unmatched clothing, or paint stains.


It is never boring! In fact, it is almost like having a different soap opera every period, every day.


or hobby knives, hand drills, and coping saws and spray paint.


You have an appreciation for what paste, plaster and clay all taste like.

3. SHARPIES!!!!!

No explanation really needed.........and in a pinch they serve as makeup as well. 


You keep current on all the new slang and the surprised look when you catch students using some of that slang is priceless. "YES, I know what that means, and no... you can NOT say that in here or even talk about it"


and my number one bonus to being an art teacher


It is what keeps usand so many of our students coming back every day to school.

What do you think is the best perk for your job?




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Vacation? ummm.....huh??

I am not going to lie, I am sure there are teachers out there who do nothing their entire break but vacation...but I don't personally know any of them. I usually spend my summer vacation working.yes... working. Working on being a better artist, on being a better teacher, on building connections, on reorganizing and restructuring my classroom, and working on that massive pile of laundry that accumulated between the early May arts festival and the June graduation ceremonies.

Michael DeMeng demo on paint
I realize that because I don't have to punch a time clock and I can actually sit with my coffee and catch up on facebook before I start most people don't consider it work.  But, everything I am doing is bwork-related.  For example, I am in the process of completing 17 hours of online coursework through ed2go(CRAZY I know) and I only have 9 more to go. I can now be the master of my own wiki, create beneficial pod casts, use Microsoft Word 2010 and PowerPoint 2010 with incredible ease and have created a workbook and other learning aids for my classroom. soon I will be the master of differentiated instruction and assessment. And while I am really enjoying the online graduate work, I do like the hands on workshops just a tad bit more. Especially when they are taught at the Small Studios in Westlake, Ohio by the illustrious Michael DeMeng.
Watchmakers results

If you look closely,
you can see the blue
Demeng's workshops are all about assemblage, or Ahh-sem-blahge. They cover techniques that I can use in my own art and teach to my students. They are filled with laughter, anecdotes, and plenty of puns.  I started the first workshop, Mad Watchmakers,  the next day after school was out. I should admit, I hardly considered it work though. It was very relaxing and enjoyable. As a teacher DeMeng is encouraging, knowledgeable, and comical. While I was learning from Michael and the other artists in the group, it was the perfect way to start the summer. Two whole days of tips and techniques, and creative influence and two fully finished, well almost finished, projects......well worth it.

The second workshop with Michael was creating a shrine to the Saint of Discarded things. This is my piece. Not finished of course but I had a creative block early on. I plan on adding lights, a footing, and maybe a mini handle for the top. I also still have a lot of painting to do yet. I plan on leaving it the vibrant yellow. I have already located a place in our home for display and have sketches started for a few more variations from all the junk I took with me.
After the DeMeng workshop I had a breather for a few days before attending the Golden Acrylic Paints workshop in Ashland. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the instructor was CEO Mark Golden. What a fantastic person. I was amazed at the generosity and responsibility that Golden paints feels towards their employees and their artists. Their humanitarian actions are humbling.  I already use their paints with my sculptures but their mediums I wasn't familiar with. I can foresee a huge monetary commitment on my part for home and for school! I can't wait to incorporate some of their products into my classes!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Little Redirection.......

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but growing up I always knew I wanted to be an artist...or a dancer(HA).......but really, I knew I wanted to be an artist. I loved that when I put pencil to paper people really saw what was there, unlike my dancing which was met with averted eyes. I didn't really want dance lessons, or piano lessons, or baton lessons, although I did like being in parades, but what I did want was an easel and all the things that might go with it. Pencils, charcoal, I loved to paint and ultra fine pens and permanent markers!! A little slice of heaven.

I don't think I ever expected to grow up to be an art teacher. In fact, I know I didn't. I was only in FTA(Future Teachers of America) for the letter and honor points. But when I went to college, I had a long discussion on the financial aspect of being an artist, mainly that I wouldn't be receiving any help financially from my parents if I went for "ART". So I declared physical therapy my major and signed up for as many general ed and fine arts classes(as electives of course) that I could. Eventually, I started researching art careers and I stumbled across Art Education. I changed my major and yes, eventually told my parents. I actually liked education. I transferred to a school that had a better arts program, (GO FALCONS!!) and started on my way with methods courses and some heavy studio coursework.

I think everyone of us in that ART ED graduating class thought that being an artist and an educator would be easy because they go hand in hand. But there is a fundamental difference between being a professional artist and a professional educator and juggling both is something that I struggle with. I am not going to pretend I am in galleries, that I am represented, and that money is rolling in, although I wouldn't mind it, but I am producing and creating.  Mostly small commissioned pieces and work for friends and loved ones. It took a long time to get to the point that I could even want to do both again.

But I did find that there are a few things that I needed to help make me more successful...first ..a dedicated work space other than my classroom or kitchen table. Actual work time while at not gonna happen at least not with my high schoolers. They keep me busy enough.   Second, I needed a dedicated work time. It just so happened that I had to sacrifice my daily walk on the treadmill. Um yeah, that "sacrifice" isn't really working out though so I will be adjusting the schedule to include both this summer.  I also needed my own "holy grail". Something I could jot down ideas in whenever they hit or wherever I found inspiration. I have one for home and one for school. Actually I have about 15 total because I always misplace them. Sometimes they are old abandoned sketchbooks, or a moleskin journal-still missing, or a new sketchbook from a vendor, and sometimes they are just a yellow legal pad but I always have a sharpie or a uni ball to jot with. and last, but not least, I needed to have a sense of humor to deal with everything life tends to throw out at you at one time

Anyways, this blog is mainly about that struggle, the choices, we make to do both, the experiences, influences and everything else that shapes us into artists AND educators, with some of those classroom escapades thrown in for some comic relief. Just be thankful it isn't a video of me dancing.