An Artist After My Own Heart

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – African American History (Martin Luther King Jr.), Empathy, Self Esteem, Acceptance, Cultures Around The World (Africa)

Language Arts – Literature, Science – Go Green (Recycling/ Repurposing)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Nick Cave, Karen Katz, Todd Parr

 Art Mediums–  Costumes, Sculpture, Recycled Art, Fiber Art, Illustration, Art Careers – Sculptor, illustrator

Nick Cave, who includes fibers, upcycling and dance in his work, is truly an “Artist After My Own Heart”. Being a fiber artist and recycler myself and having three daughters who love to dance, Cave’s work is right up my alley. I have been intrigued by his work for the last couple of years. I first saw examples of his work at the Hirshhorn Museum and a short time later at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  BUT, I found true love when I recently saw a whole room of Cave’s colorful soundsuits in the NICK CAVE FEAT. exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, TN.

Working in three disciplines gives Nick Cave’s work an array of ways to integrate into your curriculum.

The soundsuit, full body costumes created from items found in thrift stores, were inspired by the Rodney King slaying years ago. Cave felt African American people, like himself, were not valued, that they were a discarded group of people. The soundsuits are a sort of armour to camouflage the wearer, so people will not “judge a book by it’s cover”.  To date, Cave has created an army of over 500 soundsuits to battle social injustice.  So, if you are teaching a Self Esteem, an Acceptance or Martin Luther King, Jr. (“I have a dream!”) unit in your classroom, Nick Cave would be a GREAT artist to introduce. We are all different in some way. Different doesn’t need to be a negative experience. We all want to be accepted. Some books that accentuate this theme are The Color of Us by Karen Katz and It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr. Videos of these stories can be found here and here. Talk to students about how they feel different. Why does Nick Cave feel different? Find a lesson including Nick Cave’s feelings  here.

Making the soundsuits from thrift store items brings a new life to discarded items. Here is another place to introduce Cave’s work, as a part of a Go Green science unit. Students could create a simple mask shape from discarded cereal boxes in the shape used by Kinderart for this lesson. Then create the features for the mask using recycled items such as cardboard, bottle caps, lids, etc, like Adventures of an Art Teacher did here Toys, dolls, stuffed animals and buttons can be found on Cave’s soundsuits also. Students could also bring in old small toys to incorporate into their masks. If you would like to explore recycling fibers, try out Babble Dabble Do’s Pieces Dolls or KROKOTAK’s Rag Dolls to create miniature soundsuit dolls. The dolls can be made from leftover fabrics from around the house or old t-shirts. Buttons and beads could be added to create sound. Check out a 5 year old’s soundsuit themed birthday party here.

As an extension to the above activity, share  this soundsuit dance video with your students.  Then, while wearing their masks or holding soundsuit dolls, students could  choreograph a dance of their own.

Cave’s work could also be shared as a part of a Cultures Around the World unit.  His whole body soundsuits are reminiscent of costumes and dances from Africa, the Hopi Kachinas,  and Mardi Gras or Carnival.

Other contemporary versions of whole body costumes are Jim Henson’s Big Bird and Snuffleupagus and Julie Taymor’s Lion King animals. And let us not forget Wookie from Star Wars.

So, what do you think? Could you interject some of Nick Caves works in one or more of your classroom units? I’d love to hear how. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!



What’s With The Impressionists and Bridges?

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science– Engineering (Kinds of Bridges)

Social Studies – Countries Around the World (France, Japan)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Ukieyo-e prints

Classifications of Paintings – Landscapes, Cityscapes, Media – Painting, Printmaking

In my last post, I talked about bridges and storytelling. While researching bridge artworks, I noticed a recurring theme.  Impressionists/ Post Impressionists, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley loved their bridges and painted not only one kind of bridge but varying types of bridges. This can easily be explained. The Impressionists were shunning the traditions of the past. Traditional artists painted history and mythological paintings. The Impressionists wanted to paint everyday people and modern life. They went out to the countryside and into the city and painted what they saw. There they would see both the old cart/foot bridges and the newly built train bridges. It makes sense that they would include them in their paintings.

Wouldn’t it be great fun to include some of these paintings as part of an introduction to, a review of or as part of an assessment of different kinds of bridges. I was thinking that the teacher could either make a powerpoint of some examples or print out reproductions of Impressionist train paintings. Students could then identify the arched , beam, draw and suspension bridges. Yes, there were draw bridges and suspension bridges way back in the late 1800s.

Side Note: An art teacher friend shared with me recently that Leonardo da Vinci  designed a suspension bridge way back in the 1400s. Check out information about it here along with some of his other inventions.

Okay, back to business. I prefer the reproduction cards, so students could also categorize the paintings in other ways. (i.e. by artist, by bridge)

These artists tended to paint the same bridge over and over. Monet would paint a bridge at different  times of day or in different kinds of atmospheric conditions. In the past, I talked about Monet painting in all kinds of weather here. Pissarro also painted different atmospheric conditions. All of them painted the same bridges from different points of view. Which Impressionist painted the most bridges?  Here are Impressionist bridge paintings that I found. Simply click on their title to see them. I wasn’t kidding when I said they liked to paint bridges, so pick and choose which paintings best match your curriculum.

Arched Bridges

Camille Pissarro’s Pont Boieldieu in Rouen, Rainy Weather, The Great Bridge, RouenThe Boieldiieu Bridge at Rouen, Setting Sun, Foggy Weather 1896

Vincent Van Gogh’s Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy (Asnières) , The Seine Bridge At Asnieres

Vincent Van Gogh’s Pont du Carrousel with Louvre

Claude Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, Sun Effect, 1903 Monet painted Waterloo Bridge’s fog at many different times of day. Look here to see them.

Claude Monet’s The Bridge at Argenteuil 1874The Argenteuil Bridge 1874, Bridge at Argenteuil on a Grey Day

Claude Monet’s Le Pont de Bois

Alfred Sisley’s The Bridge at Moret at Sunset

Alfred Sisley’s The Bridge at St Cloud

Alfred Sisley’s The Bridge at Argenteuil

Alfred Sisley’s Under the Bridge at Hampton Court

Alfred Sisley’s The Bridge at Saint-Mammès This bridge is half arched and half beamed.

Camille Pissarro’s Little Bridge on Voisne, Osny

Camille Pissarro’s Pont Royal and the Pavillon De Flore

Beamed Bridges

Claude Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1901 Monet painted many versions of this bridge. Look here to find more examples.

Claude Monet’s Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil

Claude Monet’s The Grande Creuse at Pont de Vervy

Vincent Van Gogh’s The Bridge at Trinquetaille

Vincent Van Gogh’s Bridges across the Seine at Asnières This painting also shows an arched bridge in the background. This painting is also featured in the new movie, Loving Vincent, which is animated totally with paintings. A beautiful tribute to Van Gogh.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Railroad Bridge Over Avenue Montmajour  This painting is also in Loving Vincent!

Vincent Van Gogh’s The Promenade With the Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil

Camille Pissarro’s Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1890

Camille Pissarro’s Old Chelsea Bridge, London 1871

Camille Pissarro’s The Railway Bridge, Pontoise There is also an arched bridge in the background.

Draw Bridges

Vincent Van Gogh’s  Langlois Bridge at Arles Van Gogh painted several versions of this bridge. You can find examples of them here.

Claude Monet’s The Bridge, AmsterdamCanal in Amsterdam1874 The Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam

Suspension Bridge

Alfred Sisley’s The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne

Students could also draw/paint their own bridge example to show their understanding of bridge types. Simply write down the different kinds of bridges on slips of paper, have students choose one and draw the basic characteristics on a piece of paper. Students could then follow blogger, Art With Mr. Hall’s lesson, that can be found here. This is a great way to assess visual learners.

Before I close, I’d like to talk about one more influence on Impressionists/ Post Impressionists. It was the Japanese. Yes, I said the Japanese. At this point in time, all things Japanese, including Ukieyo-e prints were very popular in Paris. This Japanese influence was called Japonism. Blogger, www. Art Smarts for,  explains Japonism very well here.  Many artists owned Ukieyo-e prints, especially Monet and Van Gogh. Van Gogh copied his own version of Hiroshige’s  Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake.

Monet went a step further and built a Japanese arched bridge similar to Hiroshige’s “Wisteria at Kameido Tenjin Shrine” #65 (seen above left) on his property at Giverny. Monet’s painting, The Japanese Footbridge , is probably one of his most recognizable works. Another bridge art project you could do with your students is a styrofoam print. See steps below.

Bridge Prints

For more bridge art examples, check out my Pinterest page here.

So, if you are studying different kinds of bridges, why not let the Impressionists help you out? What do you think? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!


A Bridge Pic, Just Because

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies (State Waterways and Bridges), Language Arts – Literature, Storytelling,  Science – Engineering (Bridges)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Faith Ringgold, Media – Quilts, Painting, Principles of Art – Proportion, Art Careers – Fine Artist, Commercial Artist, Illustrator, Point of View

                                                     Because I hail from Maryland,                                                                             And because Maryland has a big ole bay nearly splitting it in two,                                             And lots of rivers, creeks and streams peppering through it,                                             And because there are two bridges connecting the eastern and western shores of                                                                         Maryland.                                                                                                             And because fourth grade always studies Maryland,                                                                    A bridge project was always on my art teaching bucket list. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. However, if a bridge lesson had come about, I would have gone straight to Faith Ringgold for inspiration.


You probably know Ringgold as the writer /illustrator of the book,  Tar Beach, but those illustrations are actually her artwork. She is an artist who creates painted storytelling quilts. Quilts are a part of her African American Heritage and the stories come from her childhood memories . The George Washington Bridge and other bridges are frequently depicted in her storytelling quilts. Sonny’s Quilt”, Dancing on the George Washington Bridge”, and Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge: Woman on a Bridge #2″ are three bridge examples. What do these three works have in common? They all show people doing something on a bridge. In my virtual lesson, I would ask students what experiences they may have had on, under or around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or other Maryland bridges. (Road over, ran/ walked over in a marathon, a boat ride under, fishing under, hung out at Sandy Point Beach nearby, flew over in an airplane). Do you have famous waterways and bridges in your state you could include in a social studies lesson? As an art teacher, this project would follow a lesson on creating a proportionate person using ovals.  We would begin by reviewing drawing people, discuss the basic shapes involved in drawing a bridge, and then discuss point of view. Look here, here, here, and here to find Ringgold and other artists who made the Brooklyn bridge from different points of view.  You can find some simplified bridge drawings in this post.    Students would then illustrate their own real or imaginary bridge experience including the bridge and at least one proportionate person. I would have the students watercolor over the entire drawing in sky and water colors and then paint in the details with tempera paint. For classroom purposes, this may take too long. If so, simply have students color in with crayons, colored pencils or markers. If you wish to take this in a storytelling quilt direction, students could write their experience across the bottom or top of the drawing. Students could then glue squares of wallpaper or patterned scrapbooking paper around their drawing/painting to create a boarder. See my example below.



All the quilt blocks could be displayed together on a bulletin board or blank wall to create a class quilt.

A cool extension to this literature lesson would be to read Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty with your students and see the cool suspension bridge he comes up with in a pinch. Also, see some extensions for this book here at Carrots are Orange.

All the bridge paintings highlighted in this post were suspension bridges. So, if you simply want to stick to science objectives, you could display them as examples of suspension bridges.

So, whether you’d like to investigate bridges through Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, or all of the above, enjoy. How do you teach bridges in your classroom. I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

A New Way to Look At Color

Classroom Concepts: Science – Color

Language Arts – Vocabulary, Literature, Social Studies – Famous Women

Art Concepts: Art History – Mary Blaire

Elements of Art – Color, Art Careers – Commercial Art (Illustration)


I recently discovered a new book about Mary Blair entitled, Pocket Full Of Colors by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville. I have talked about Mary Blair before here and here. If you don’t know who Mary Blair is, she was one of the first women illustrators for Walt Disney.

I love Blair’s work. So naturally, I bought the book to give as a Christmas gift. I was not disappointed. It was even more than I expected. It’s not just a biography. It’s so much more. The book is centered around color. Young Mary collects and saves colors to be used later on in life. It is also marvelous that the colors mentioned are not your plain ole red, yellow, blue, etc. They are russet, azure, veridian, etc. I also love how the illustrations by Brigette Barrager echo Mary Blair’s work in both color and style.

I can see this book used to reinforce a color unit, a women’s history unit, to help students beef up their vocabulary or all of the above. So check it out. I’m sure glad I did.

If you love the Mary Blair’s work, you might enjoy the recently rereleased books by Disney illustrated by her, Cinderella by Cynthia Rylant and Alice in Wonderland by Jon Scieszka.

I’d love to hear how you teach color in your classroom. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

Back to Basics

Possible Classroom Concepts: Mathematics – Number Recognition, Number Sets

Language Arts – Poetry, Storytelling, Writing, Fairy Tales

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charles Demuth, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana, Paul Gauguin, Horace Pippin, Paul Cezanne

Portrait, Media – Paintings, Sculpture

Principles of Art – Repetition, Perspective, Rhythm

With everyone going back to school, I thought it might be nice to go back to basics, specifically math basics. I’ve discussed some basic geometry skills in the past here, here, here, and here. However, artists also use numbers in their artwork.


Charles Demuth’s “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold”

Some artists will use the number itself in their work. Probably the most recognized number painting is Charles Demuth’s “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold”. For primary teachers, this painting could be used to find and count all the fives in the painting, but this painting is so much more. This painting is actually a portrait of William Carlos Williams and his poem about a passing firetruck entitled “The Great Figure”.  Intermediate level teachers could use this painting in a poetry unit. Find some lessons including this painting here, here and here. Jasper Johns and Robert Indiana have also created artworks which include numbers. I love how Robert Indiana talks about numbers here. In an introduction or review of numbers, you might ask your students where they use numbers every day and then share Indiana’s thoughts. Indiana, like Demuth, uses symbolism in his number masterpieces.  Find Indiana’s  symbolism explained  here . Also, find a video explanation here.  Students could then hand draw or trace a number between 0 and 9 which has meaning for them. I love the way that the numbers are made (emulating the textures Johns would use) and science is incorporated in The Nurture Store’s   STEAM number lesson. After your students have completed their number creations, check out the extentions portion of Robin Ward’s lesson found here to see how to use them.  Jasper Johns also overlaps numbers in his work entitled 0 Through 9. I love how Art With Jenny K. incorporates a short bio of Jasper Johns and Robert Indiana, and incorporates overlapped numbers in this lesson.

Paul Gauguin’s “Still Life withThreePuppies”,  Horace Pippin’s “Interior, 1944”

Artists also incorporate sets of numbers in their works of art. Paul Gauguin and Horace Pippin seem to like to work in sets of three in the above paintings. You could ask the students to find the sets of three found in these paintings. I found three puppies, three goblets with three apples and three sections of the painting (the puppies, the goblets and the still life). Can you find any others? Pippin includes three people, three rugs, and three holes in the wall in his “Interior” painting. Find an NGA Language Arts and Math lesson about this painting here. I love how the lesson talks about magic numbers. There are also magic numbers in fairy tales. Paul Cezanne’s ” Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses”  can also be used in a number sets unit. Cezanne has arranged the apples in varied numbered clusters on the table. How many number sets of apples can the students identify? Which set is used the most? Could the students make a graph of the different number sets? I found four sets of one, two sets of two, two sets of three, one set of four and one set of five. Find an interactive site about Paul Cezanne and his apples here. In the story, “An Apple a Day” found on the site, how many days did it take for Cezanne to complete the “Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses” ?

So, if you are tired of using worksheets to teach numbers and number sets, why not turn to some paintings for help? I’d love to hear how you teach number recognition and number sets. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

“The Eclipse Is Coming! The Eclipse Is Coming!”

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Astronomy, Anatomy (The Eye), Ecology (Recycling,Repurposing)

Social Studies – Inventions

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Raphael, Cosmas Damian Asam, Roy Lichtenstein, Alma Thomas, Rufino Tamayo, George Grosz, El Anatsui

Art Medium – Photography, Painting, Printmaking (Engraving, Silk Screen), Metal Art

Art Movements – Pop Art, Futurism

Principles Of Art – Pattern/Repetition

isaac-and-rebecca-spied-upon-by-abimelech-1519-1.jpg!LargeRaphael and his workshop’s “Isaac and Rebecca Spied upon by Abimelech”

With all the excitement about the solar eclipse, which will cross the USA on Monday, I was reminded of my first experience with a solar eclipse as a young child. I distinctly remember not being able to look directly at the sun and using some sort of box to view the event. This got me thinking. I remember that event ever so clearly even today. If a nearly 65 year old woman has such vivid memories of a solar eclipse so might today’s students. Let’s face it, we’re in the remembering business, so why not capitalize on this event? Find a video on how to make a solar eclipse viewer box here. So, once students view the eclipse, here are some extension activities. This viewer box the students just used is essentially a pinhole camera known as a camera obscura and the basis for all photography?  Look here for a slide show with a concise history of the camera. Look here for a video on camera history. Students can convert their eclipse viewer into a pinhole camera using the directions in  this video. (An Interesting side story, a man named, Tim Jenison, believes the artist, Johannes Vermeer, painted his very detailed paintings using a camera obscura. Tim spent five years going about proving his theory. There is a documentary called “Tim’s Vermeer” which chronicles his journey. It is a must see.) could also point out that the way the pinhole camera works is also the way the human eye works.

Artists often record experiences through their art, so, I went searching for solar eclipse masterpieces. I wasn’t disappointed. The Princeton University Art Museum had a whole collection of  eclipse works on their site. What did surprise me was when these works were produced. I fully expected to see lots of paintings from long ago, such as Cosmas Damian Asam’s “Vision of St. Benedict”. Surprisingly, there were more works from the modern age and from other countries. I love this engraving of people watching an eclipse in 1865.  So many were abstract (you can tell what they are but they are not photographically real looking). My first surprise came with  the work entitled, Eclipse of the Sun, by Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein is a Pop artist, famous for his comic book theme. His eclipse print is in his graphic style, but looks more like a futurist work (where artists repeated a shape over and over again to simulate motion). Can you see the eclipse happening? I had seen Alma Thomas’ Eclipse painting before, but had never scene the title. Wow, so GREAT! Now let’s travel to some other countries. Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo painted “Total Eclipse”. German artist, George Grosz painted Eclipse of the Sun foreshadowing WWII. Ghanian artist, El Anatsui, created his Solar Eclipse from recycled metal pieces. Notice the repetition of circles in this one also. So, students can view these artist’s interpretations of a solar eclipse before or after they create a drawing or painting of their own eclipse experience.

How are you planning to experience or teach the eclipse? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!






Looking At Clouds From Both Sides Now!


Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Cloud Formations

Language Arts – Literature, Reading For Information

Possible Art Concepts: Art History –  Rene Magritte, John Constable, Armando Pollini, Samantha Fields

Drawing (Observational Drawing, Illustration), Art Careers (Illustrator)

Well, it’s happening again. What you ask? Frequency Illusion! I’ve talked about this concept in the past.  Frequency Illusion is when you see something and then you start seeing it everywhere. This time I keep seeing Clouds.


So, it all started when Armando Pollini’s Pump (a walk in the clouds) made an appearance on my Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Masterpiece a Day Calendar. Then a friend sent me an email with all kinds of fantastic cloud photos. To top it off  my new blog obsession, The Jealous Curator, posted some paintings of clouds by Samantha Fields that look just like photographs.  So, I think the universe is trying to tell me that I should talk about clouds.

A funny thing about the sky and clouds. I’ve always loved them and considered them an ever changing canvas. I once mentioned this to my husband. Now it’s a running joke with us. Every time I point out a beautiful sky or cloud formation, he pipes up, ” The sky is an ever changing canvas!” Now everyone thinks he’s so clever! LOL! Well, I’m not the only one who loves clouds. Keith Christiansen, Chairman of European Paintings at the Met, NYC, talks about clouds and art here. So, if you are looking for a different way to introduce or review the different kinds of clouds, you could always visit the art world. Some science teachers seem to agree with me. Check out this interactive post that shows  paintings featuring clouds and cloud photos as reference.

Pollini’s Pump reminds me of the many cumulus cloud paintings of Surrealist artist, Rene Magritte. Look here for some excellent examples of Magritte’s cloud paintings. As part of a literature unit that includes Rene’s clouds try Dinner at Magritte’s  by Michael Garland  or Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson.

Before the invention of the camera and all the electronic devices we have today, scientists,  like artists, observed and drew objects to show the structure of the natural world. Your students could create these small sketchbooks. Then each day for a week, they could go out and do some observational drawings of clouds, figure out what kind of clouds they are and label them. This would be a GREAT activity for your visual learners to help recognize and identify cloud formations. Students could also use their imaginations to see objects in the clouds, like we used to do as kids or those found in Eric Carle’s picture book,  Little Cloud. John Constable, mentioned in the interactive post above, did a number of observational paintings of clouds. Find a lesson on Constable’s Cloud studies here. Find a science lesson on scientific sketching here.

For an intermediate level Language Arts lesson on reading for information, try out Tomie de Paolo’s The Cloud Book. Find a video of the book here.

Also, when teaching any of the picture books mentioned in this post, remind students that illustrations are works of commercial art and that illustration is an art career.

So if your students are having problems understanding clouds like Joni Mitchell, why not use artworks or illustrations in picture books to help out? How do you teach clouds? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!