Monday, October 21, 2013

Hurray for Paperclay!!!

I think that Paperclay is the wonder medium. It deserves it's own superhero cape in the world of sculpture materials. It can be modeled, painted on, molded, cast and recycled and it is fabulous for high school students. I think it could be adapted for many grade levels though depending on the project and your budget. have never heard of Paperclay? Paperclay is an air dry modeling medium that is water based and can be cleaned up easily, dries in 24 hours and works a lot like clay.  You can make your own, there are several recipes on the Internet that use easy to locate materials, but I can not testify for their quality.  I have used a variety of brands but I personally prefer one from School Specialty. It is Sax Paperclay. As far as the cost per student and per project it really can vary. I spend less than $4.00 per 1 lb block of paper clay. The students use what they need, put back what they don't. We have used it to create all kinds of sculptures, jewelry pieces, ornaments, figurines. Anything you really can think of.

A few tips:
1. You can use solid Paperclay to mold an object or you can apply it over an armature. We usually apply it over an armature of newspaper and tape covered in Plaster gauze.
2. You can recycled the Paperclay if it has dried out by soaking it in water. You can create slip if you use more water than Paperclay and stir. Although, you will be stirring for a while.
3. Use water to attach the paperclay to the armature, also a wet sponge or papertowel will help to smooth out the texture.
4. Apply it in thin layers so it doesn't crack. It doesn't crack normally but if it is too thick all that moisture has to get out somehow.
5. You can sand the Paperclay to smooth it out but it needs to be wet sanded.
6. Acrylic paints are fantastic to finish it off with. Just apply them in thin layers so that they don't get too glossy.

If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Still life season: Don't forget to renew your artistic license!

It is here and I have to admit I am anxious for it to be over already. Still life season. The weeks in the year where nothing gets put away where it SHOULD go, the room is in total disarray and my desk becomes completely lost for the remainder of the school year. So long fancy glitter desktop that I spent a week coating and layering.....I won't get to see you again until probably June. I should explain why the room transforms into a possible episode for the show Hoarders. I don't set one still life, I don't set two still lives, technically I don't set any, but in my room there are 7 still life sets AND many students set up a personal still life as well. So there is no counter space, extra table space or any extra space period. Which, in a classroom where there are almost as many sculpture students as introduction to art students that can be issue when it comes to storage space and places to put "stuff."

                      Getting back to the part where I don't set the still lives anymore........I bring in boxes and boxes of interesting items junk for the students to peruse. We spend almost a whole week setting them. A day or two "playing with the items and arranging them at seats and then begin placing them in a final setting over the next few days. While they are setting them they start creating thumbnails, and then begin final sketches in pencil, charcoal and also white charcoal on black paper. During this time we also talk about what a still life is and why artists have used them forever.  We begin discussing what makes an artwork successful, and how the arrangement and the objects of the still life can affect the final drawing. We look at what might be communicated to the viewer of the artwork.  Then we brainstorm lists of "have to find" items to truly complete their sets and finalize their message.

I am a firm believer in the idea that students will do better if they draw what they love, if they have a say in what they use to draw with and if they feel that they have ownership over the whole process............and why shouldn't they. Honestly, it is more enjoyable for them and less stressful for me to allow students to set them and the majority of the time they are better than what I would have tossed out there all on my own. And the really cool thing is that it is a perfect example of practicing 21st century skills (Collaboration, Creativity, Communication), not just with me but with their classmates and between classes as well and they still have the opportunity to have their independent and individual style show through in the final work. 2 more weeks and we will package up and put it all away, ending the season. But who am I kidding, we will still be a top contender for Hoarders: Education Edition.