Sep 012014


The first project of the 2014-2015 year for Kapa’a Middle School’s art students was to create a mandala design that would also be used for their sketchbook covers. This multimedia lesson served as an introduction to radial symmetry and repetition of line and shape.


The underlying colorful circles were created by brushing liquid watercolor onto a paper spinning on the pottery wheel. Although it isn’t clay, this gave students an opportunity to use their all-time favorite tool!


Starting from the center, bands of watercolor were applied until students reached the outer edge of the paper. Students also created interesting streak and drip affects by blowing the wet paint through a straw while the wheel was spinning.


Once the watercolor paint was dry, students used colored pencils to draw a mandala on top of the colorful background. Tools such as rulers, compasses, and circular objects helped to create accurate lines and spacing.


Students also enjoyed learning about the symbolism, history, and cultural practice of mandala creations. They were especially fascinated by Tibetan sand mandalas, and puzzled about why the artists would eventually destroy the intricate design they so painstakingly created.


Finally, students incorporated inspirational quotes or affirmations to inspire them every time they look back on their mandala design.


 Posted by at 1:16 pm
Apr 012014


Copper Tooling has become a favorite medium that I bring back every year due to popular demand. Although the same techniques are employed, I always change the project theme to keep things interesting. In past years we explored abstract designs with colorful borders, and Hawaii’s endangered species. This year’s theme involved exotic animals from lands far away.


This art teacher believes in research and planning before launching in to any major project, and copper repousse is no different. We spent two full lab days exploring various animals, sketching ideas, and taking notes on common names, species, habitat, and interesting facts.


Once a basic contour of the exotic animal face was established, students filled it in with designs and textures. For ideas I had them enter “zentangle animals” into their search browser. Stylizing the frontal image and adding additional texture to the face resulted in a much more complex and interesting design.


A final drawing on paper followed the sketchbook planning activities. This drawing was transferred directly onto the copper foil, leaving a slightly indented image. The longest and most labor-intensive part of this project involved tooling and chasing techniques to create a 3-dimensional relief using wooden tools to rub and stretch the copper.


Final steps included antiquing the copper with liver of sulfur, polishing with steel wool, and protecting with a high gloss acrylic varnish. For display, students used colored pencils on black railroad board to finish the composition with a creative border.

 Posted by at 12:26 pm
Feb 212014


While making and creating original Artwork is the main focus of my instruction, students also gain important skills through the study of Art History, criticism, and analysis. I’m careful to embed these connections and critical thinking elements within every project, but for this particular assignment they were the main focus.


Students worked in groups to complete a graphic organizer (above) that helped them navigate through the steps of Feldman’s Model of Art Criticism. Students’ understanding was evaluated on the level to which they completed the graphic organizer in their sketchbooks, and their ability to explain it to the class during a final group presentation.


I designed this project to accomplish one Student Learning Objective (SLO), a component of the new Educator Effectiveness System (EES) required by Hawaii’s Department of Education this year. Multifaceted and demanding components of the EES system were rolled out during this “practice” year. Unfortunately, this new expectation lacked the necessary structure, models and training to support success. As a result, many teachers were overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged. I am attaching all of my planning documents, rubrics and results (excluding any confidential information), in the hopes that it will help other teachers accomplish their goals (see the links at the end of this post).


A Student Learning Objective (SLO) is a broad overarching goal that embodies the core of instruction. Student achievement is measured by individual growth toward understanding and mastering the SLO. Hawaii teachers were required to design and implement two SLOs this year. My first SLO may appear simple, but requires a solid understanding of the fundamental principles of Art: “Students will apply an understanding of the Elements and Principles of Design when interpreting, evaluating, and/or creating Art.” Click the links below for documents.



 Posted by at 3:44 pm
Sep 072013

The first drawing assignment I presented to Kapaa Middle School’s 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Art students requires some imagination! I stumbled upon this lesson idea while exploring Jodie Hurt’s website (another middle school Art teacher who posts on the web!), and decided that it would be a fun way to start off the new school year.


Students learned how to look at a picture of an animal or object and break down the complex image into simple shapes. First we practiced contour drawing before adding the pencil drawings and color inside.


After completing their drawings, students wrote EXPLANATORY PARAGRAPHS about the artistic process. Even after successfully completing the artwork, it was a challenge describing what this “pencil drawing” was all about!


I’m including the ASSESSMENT RUBRIC for the assignment, which includes both Hawaii’s Content & Performance Standards as well as Common Core, for any other teachers out there who might want to try this out!


 Posted by at 8:48 pm
May 202013

01 half

This project was one of several end-of-year activities focused on drawing the human face and figure. When I surveyed students at the very beginning of the year, many of them expressed an interest in learning how to draw people. What started off as a quick introductory lesson resulted in some fantastic final drawings!

02 half

Requirements for the picture selection were fairly open as long as students chose a photograph of a person and cut it so that they were able to draw at least half of the face. Some students opted to print a picture from the Internet, while others hunted through my magazine collection for a good portrait.


I allowed students to choose whether they wanted to use colored pencils, or do a value study with regular graphite. In many cases students completed one of each! Dividing the photograph could be approached in a creative way as well, with zig-zag cuts, torn edges, and interesting angles.






 Posted by at 1:16 am
Apr 152013

cover contest

Kapa’a Middle School held a cover-art contest for its annual Literary Magazine publication. This was an optional assignment for students who had extra time in class or who were motivated to create something at home. Here are a few entries that students submitted…


Below are the 2013 winners! The left image was used for the front cover, while the right was printed as the inside title page for the magazine.


 Posted by at 8:02 pm
Aug 302012

The 2012-2013 school year is off to a great start in the Kapaa Middle School Art classroom! It is becoming my yearly tradition to begin with the construction of a sketchbook that each student makes and then uses throughout the rest of the year. I try to come up with a different theme or design for the sketchbook cover each time because it keeps things interesting for me and also for my repeating students. Here is a sample of some of this year’s student cover designs…

The final covers are laminated and folded vertically down the center so that “Sketchbook” appears on the front, and student names are on the back.

This year’s theme involved vertical “stacks” of letters and shapes. The lesson explored letter design along with the element of texture, and principles of pattern and balance.

Although students were given the same steps and basic instructions, they still came up with a wide variety of interpretation and unique perspective.

Great job to all of my Art students! I hope that you become good friends with your hand-made sketchbook over the year, and that you spend many creative hours together!

Now for a weekend of grading! Here they are all color-coded, lined up, and ready for evaluation…

 Posted by at 9:38 pm
Mar 072012

KMS Art students worked on this art activity alongside the Pop Art linoleum block printing assignment. After exploring the artistic themes and subjects of the original Pop Artists of the 1950s and 1960s, students brainstormed a list of popular icons and products that would be good modern Pop Art subjects for their own generation. I chose a handful of images from their list to print and xerox, making enough gray-scale copies for every student to color.

Students used colored pencils to imitate the Pop Art style, emphasizing bold solid colors, sharp-edged lines, repetition and enlargement. Several middle school students (not in my classes) got wind of this activity and came in to ask for their own copy to color… evidence that our Pop Art themes were spot-on!

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Aug 272011

The project I like to begin every Art class with is the making of a personal sketchbook. The sketchbooks will be used throughout the rest of the class to plan out art projects, take notes about artists, write reflections, and practice artistic techniques and skills. This time the assignment was to create a mandala design on the front cover that included symbols that represented something about the artist. I also asked that they find a way to creatively integrate their name into the radial design.

My current classes are a mix of 7th and 8th graders who come with varying artistic experience and abilities. The results of this 1st assignment were impressive and inspired high expectations for what is to come! I have a good feeling that this group is ready to take on some challenging art adventures!

Not only can Kapaa Middle School Art students create beautiful masterpieces, but they can articulate their thoughts on the process and explain their intentions through written artist statements! Click here to read a sample Artist Statement by 8th grader, Kahi Davis.

 Posted by at 5:56 pm