Tag Archives: art

Thanksgiving Special

Last year, Colossal did a story on artist Hannah Rothstein’s “Thanksgiving Special” series.  Rothstein imagined the Thanksgiving plates of 10 famous artists.  It would be fun to show students one or two examples, and then have them choose an artist to represent in their own Thanksgiving plate art.  This activity would not only amp up creativity, but also be a lesson in art history and in seeing things from another perspective.  You could also use it to teach about parody.

My favorite piece is the Mondrian.  But, you should definitely check out the others on Colossal or Hannah Rothstein’s website.

Thanksgiving Special Mondrian by Hannah Rothstein
Thanksgiving Special Mondrian by Hannah Rothstein

Is String Art Making a Comeback?

String art fascinated me as a child.  Creating circles out of straight lines of thread seemed so delightfully oxymoronic that I would mesmerize myself for hours doing it over and over again.  Since the only string art projects I did came from kits bought at the local hobby store, there wasn’t a lot of creativity embedded into my “art.” Like most people, I confined myself to following instructions, and never considered constructing my own designs.

I'm pretty sure this exact masterpiece used to hang in our living room.
I’m pretty sure this exact masterpiece used to hang in our living room. Image from: Darwin Bell on Flickr

In the last week, however, I’ve found articles about three different artists who would scoff at my string art portfolio.

Julian Saluud makes "cave paintings" using fluorescent string.
Julian Saluud makes “cave paintings” using fluorescent string.
Zenyk Palagniuk used 13,000 nails to make a portrait of a famous entertainer
Zenyk Palagniuk used 13,000 nails to make a portrait of a famous entertainer.
Son Lux animated the video for "Change is Everything" using pins and thread.
Son Lux animated the video for “Change is Everything” using pins and thread.

Now I realize just how unimaginative I’ve been all of these years.

If I was really creative, I  would have made a wall-sized owl with big lips using fluorescent string.

Another missed opportunity for fame and fortune.

Kindergarten Class

For Phun Phriday this week I want to share with you an artist who is, quite simply, incredible. I love the work she does on both of her blogs – Nicole Smeltzer and The Middlest Sister. She meticulously cuts paper to make amazing scenes and tell stories.

One of her latest projects is to make a book for her daughter’s kindergarten teacher.  The picture below is the “setting.”

Setting: Kindergarten Class, by Nicole Smeltzer
Setting: Kindergarten Class, by Nicole Smeltzer

When I saw the above picture, I couldn’t wait to see how it would look once she added the students. It already looks perfect. Can’t you just smell the crayons and Elmer’s Glue?

However, she blew me away when she posted the completed image. I won’t give it away – you will have to visit her blog to see for yourself. And this is only the first page!  What an incredible gift this will be for her daughter’s teacher.

If you need to brighten your day, I strongly urge you to check out the amazing art of Nicole Smeltzer on both of her blogs.  You will simultaneously laugh at her family and marvel at her talent.

Painting with Sphero

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on a #makered Twitter chat and somehow the conversation turned to using the Sphero robots to paint.  I was hoping to do this with my 4th graders because we are studying mathematical art and I thought it would be a good way to tie it in with the programming they have learned – but I had no idea how to go about it.

My colleagues on Twitter immediately offered fabulous suggestions: use tempera paint, try it with the “nubby” to give it texture, and buy a cheap plastic swimming pool to contain the mess.  One teacher offered to try it the next day with her students and, as promised, sent me pictures of the results.  Claire (@pritchclaire) also gave me the suggestion to stay away from red paint as it kind of stains the Sphero.

image courtesy of @pritchclaire

After receiving all of this great advice, I introduced the topic to my 4th graders.  Then we set about coming up with a plan.  First, they learned how to program the Sphero to make polygons using the Macrolab app.  (We used the free 2D Geometry lesson from Sphero offered on this page.)  There is an app that allows you to drive the Sphero free-hand, but it’s difficult to make exact shapes that way.  Macrolab gave us the tools to be more precise.

The students needed a good 90 minutes to practice making different polygons.  The next step was to sketch a design. I absolutely loved listening to the conversations about the math involved as they tried to figure out the angle degrees for each command.  Despite their experience with the complexities of Sphero programming, the students started out with grand, complicated sketches.  After doing dry runs, however, they realized they needed to scale things down a bit.  Sketching and practicing took about another 90 minutes.

After many practices, each group came to our improvised drawing board.  Although I loved the plastic pool idea, I realized that the bottom wouldn’t be flat enough to keep the Sphero in control.  I brought a piece of drywall to school that had been sitting in our garage.  We used some extra cardboard to add some sides to it.

With disposable gloves on, the students manually rolled the Sphero around in a puddle of paint, then set it up on the “canvas” and started their program.  I should mention here that I was describing my day to my husband and he said, “You should have just put the paint in a plastic baggie and rolled the Sphero in that.”  Hopefully I will remember that idea next year…

Photo Apr 01, 12 58 59 PM
Preparing a nubby-covered Sphero for making art

As you can see, the results of using a programmed Sphero were a bit different than the above photo.  Personally, either method looks fabulous to me.  The students agreed.  As soon as they were done, one of them immediately said, “We should find out if we can hang these in the front foyer!”

Can you identify when they used the nubby for their lines?

You can see some video of our “technique” below.

After the experience we got into some good discussions about what art is and why the Sphero might not have always acted according to their expectations.  Although this probably isn’t a lesson that could happen in the regular classroom due to time and equipment constraints, I think it worked well for my little group of 6 students!


For today’s Phun Phriday post, I encourage you to look at the series of art by Andrea G. Portoles and Bea Crespo called, “brunchcity.”  These enchanting food and drink sculptures caught my eye this week, probably because I  just read Iggy Peck, Architect to my 2nd graders and the main character makes the St. Louis Arch using pancakes and coconut pie.

I usually strive to keep my Phun Phriday posts free and clear of lesson plan suggestions, but wouldn’t it be fun to see the “brunchcity” ideas your students might come up with for your specific geographic location?

By the way, if you should happen to show these pics to students, I would steer clear of the Dublin example, even though most elementary school students probably can’t identify Guinness unless it’s a book about world records :)

Beijing by Andrea Portoles and Bea Crespo
Beijing by Andrea Portoles and Bea Crespo
New York by Andrea Portoles and Bea Crespo
New York by Andrea Portoles and Bea Crespo

But Does It Taste Good?

It’s my first Phun Phriday post of 2015, and I must apologize to any of you who made a New Year’s resolution that has anything to do with dieting ;)

One of the many delectable creations posted on the anne2matthew Instagram site
One of the many delectable creations posted on the anne2matthew Instagram site

I can’t attest to the yumminess of her creations, but Anne Widya’s masterpieces are definitely a work of art.  One look at her Instagram feed, and you will most likely marvel at her creativity and ask yourself two questions: “Where does she get all of these ideas?” and “Where does she find the time to do this?”

If you feel inspired to attempt one of two of these gourmet treats, you can visit Anne’s blog for recipes and instructions.

Or, you can just do what I did – show them to your daughter and say, “Don’t you wish your mom could do that with Hamburger Helper?”


Technically this should be a Phun Phriday post.  Because it’s seriously, addictively P.H.U.N.  However, my Friday posts in November and December are devoted to my “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  So, we’re going to break the mold and make it a Phun Thursday.  And even though that’s not quite as alliterative, it’s still fun.

I saw this tweet from @shannonmiller this week.

Spirograph TweetOf course, I immediately investigated the link.  I actually have an old Spirograph kit that I bought from E-bay a few years ago and I’ve been debating whether or not it would make a nice center in my classroom. The reason for the debate is the pins involved.  I think I can overcome the pin issue, but for those of you who don’t have a kit or prefer not to deal with pins Inspirograph is a perfect solution.  You can even download the image when you have finished your masterpiece!  Can you imagine trying this out on an interactive whiteboard?!!!

Some people, of course, prefer a more tangible experience.  But what about an edible one? If you head on over to The Kid Should See This, you can see how you can have your Spirograph Pancake and eat it, too

For those of you who might be appalled that I switched Phun Phriday to Phun Thursday, I have a couple of Spirograph math links for you from Dr. Mike’s Math Games and Mathematics Teaching Community.  Ann Pool has a GCF lesson that goes with Spirograph, too. I don’t really understand them, but don’t tell my students.

Here are a couple of masterpieces from the Inspirograph gallery.  Can you tell which one is mine?  (Hint: the less good one!)

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