Changing Electoral Process

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Government (Elections), Careers (Advertisement, Writer)

Language Arts (Writing)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – George Caleb Bingham, Jacob Lawrence, John Sloan (Ashcan School)

Genre Paintings, Art Careers (Designing clothes, advertisement)

 Next November, we will be voting for a new president. Many individuals are out there right now vying to be the candidate for their party. I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about artists, George Caleb Bingham, Jacob Lawrence and John Sloan. They documented some of the evolution of the election process in their paintings.

Let’s start with Bingham. I talked about this Missouri artist in this post:

Bingham was also interested in politics and created three paintings to illustrate the electoral process of his time. The following two paintings, show some of the things current candidates are doing right now. The process is the same. The dress is quite different.

Bingham's Canvasing for a vote jpg

 George Caleb Bingham’s “Canvasing For Votes”


 George Caleb Bingham’s “Stump Speaking”

Ask students what other ways today’s candidates get the word out. (television ads, the internet) The above two paintings contain one event each. Bingham’s third painting, seen below, has many events in one.


 George Caleb Bingham’s  “The Country Election”

Ask your students to study “The Country Election” and explain what they think is happening. Next, go to this interactive site and learn the true story.

For further information and some classroom activities look at these sites:

For primary students, look here:

Like Bingham, Jacob Lawrence was a genre (history, storyteller) painter. He chronicled African American history by painting different series of storytelling paintings. His election painting entitled, “The 1920s…The Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots”, was one of many paintings in his Migration Series. Use this interactive site to learn more about Jacob Lawrence and the Migration Series:

Find a lesson on “The 1920s…The Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots” here

John Sloan depicted the celebrations after the polls close in the painting, “Election Night”. Sloan painted everyday life of everyday people in New York City. Since he and his contemporaries didn’t paint the city in a beautiful light, they were dubbed the Ashcan School. Read more about Sloan and “Election Night” here:

If you’re interested in when women got the vote in different states, look here:

The events in the painting,”The Country Election” were set in 1852. “The 1920s…The Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots” depicted 72 years later. Sloane painted “Election Night” in 1907. Using the knowledge gleaned from this post, the students can use a three part venn diagram to compare and contrast voting of Bingham’s time, the time Lawrence depicted and Sloan’s time. As the old saying goes, “We’ve come a long way Baby!”

Drop by again soon!

Keep Calm and ?

Possible Classroom Concepts: Self Evaluation


History (WW II, Propoganda Posters)

Possible Art Concepts: History Of Graphic Art (Posters)

Art Medium (Posters), Art Careers (Graphic Art)

So, the end of the first marking period is near (unless you teach in one of those states like Tennessee that start school in the middle of summer). Report cards will soon be coming out. I remember, when my children attended school, occasionally, along with their report cards came a self evaluation writing assignment. Included within this reflection piece were a few sentences about what my child did well and then a sentence about what she might do in the next marking period to improve. I’ve been thinking. As an extension of this writing assignment, why not create study improvement posters for your classroom or the halls of your school.

A great motivation might be to look at governmental propaganda posters. “What??????”, you’re wondering. Just hear me out. It can’t hurt to punch up a simple lesson with a little culture, in the way of WW II and poster history.


Have you seen this poster and the many parodies of it just about everywhere you look? It’s a new phenomenon, right? No, this poster is one of a set of three designed and produced by the British government to boost people’s moral at the beginning of the World War II. The first two posters were used. This one was saved in case of a real disaster that never came. So, it was never released. Many posters in the run were destroyed after the war. Some survived. Fifty years after the end of the war a copy of this poster was found in a box of old books by the owners of Barter Books in the town of Alnwick. They framed said poster and placed it over their cash register. The poster attracted so much attention, that the owners began reproducing and selling copies of all three posters. Read more about this poster’s history and see a video here:

America also produced propaganda posters during the world wars. Let’s look at two of the most famous. The Uncle Sam poster reproduced below was created during WW I and then this same Uncle Sam image was also used in WW II.


Read more about this poster and it’s artist here:

Another popular American poster is reproduced below:


Read more about this WW II poster and a video of the time here:

So, here’s my thinking. Review the poster making suggestions here:

 Look at the three posters. Ask your students what details make these good posters.

 Ask students if they’ve seen any of these posters or ones similar to these posters before. Explain that the similar posters are actually called parodies. Below find some parodies of these and other posters. Choose a few to include in a slide show on your smart board.

Afterwards, brainstorm with your students ways they can incorporate their improvement messages into a parody of one of these posters. I thought of three. For the KEEP CALM poster, switch out the crown for your schools mascot, write KEEP CALM AND….. , the student then adds their message below that. For the two American posters, students create self portraits in the poses of Uncle Sam or Rosie the Riveter and add their own messages.

More in depth information for middle or high school students can be found here:

with interactive activities here:

Do you have any poster ideas? How would you teach this lesson? I would love to hear. Simply tap the title of this post and scroll down to the bottom. There you will find a comment box.

Fall Family Traditions

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Economics, Family (Traditions), Seasons (Late Fall), Fall Crops

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth

Painting, Crafts, Drawing Forms (Outline, Surface Lines, Highlights), Creating Interest (Variety, Repetition)

Halloween is a very big industry in the United States. It is estimated that we Americans will spend 6.86 billion dollars on Halloween this year. Much of this money is spent on maintaining family traditions. In my family, we all dress in a theme for Halloween and create a family portrait. This portrait becomes the cover for our Christmas card. We’ve maintained this tradition for thirty years. Friends and family look forward to it each year. Ask your students about their fall family traditions. (Visiting a fall festival, pumpkin carving, parties, creating cool costumes, trick or treating)

Today I’m going to talk about an art family who loves Halloween. The Wyeths are an artistic family whose fame spans three generations. The first generation was N. C. Wyeth who was famous for illustrating classic novels, one being Treasure Island. His son Andrew became a fine artist and is famous for painting “Christina’s World” among many other landscapes depicting his farms in Pennsylvania and Maine. Jamie Wyeth, Andrew’s son, is famous for painting JFK portraits and farm animals. Read about the family’s Halloween traditions here:

Witches and Wyeths

In the fall, many families decorate their houses with pumpkins and/or carve jack-o-lanterns. Both Andrew and Jamie created pumpkin and jack-o-lantern paintings.

“Jack Be Nimble” by Andrew can be found here:

and “Mischief Night” here:

Some of Jamie’s pumpkin creations, including his pumpkin self-portrait, can be found here:

Find two pumpkin/ jack-o-lamtern lessons here:

So, if you’re studying family traditions or simply want to decorate your classroom for the season, I hope the above post will be useful. Please drop by again soon!

A Skeleton Is Not Just For Halloween

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Human Body Systems ( Skeletal System)

Mathematics – Fractions, Social Studies – Other Cultures (Mexico)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, Paul Cezanne, Vincent Van Gogh, Nick Veasey

Human Body Proportion, Armature, Collage, Mexican Crafts (Calaveras)

In my teaching days, I would always do an October skeleton project with my second graders. The students, especially the boys, were thrilled. Little did they know the method behind my madness. I taught the lesson to give the students a basic understanding of the body in hopes that it would improve their figure drawing skills. We began the lesson talking about the skeletal system (science). Without bones, we’d be a big blob on the ground with no way to move. (In the art world, we would call the skeleton an armature.)  We’d start our masterpiece by cutting out a skull from a small rectangle of white paper and glue it to the very top of a much larger piece of night sky colored paper. Next, we’d begin the time honored song, ” The head bone’s connected to the neck bone.” So naturally, we’d add the spinal column. We used thin strips of paper to create our bones. As we added the different bones, I would introduce their scientific names. We would add the rib cage and the pelvis. Next, we’d talk a bit about proportion. I had a life-sized jointed tagboard skeleton at the front of the room. The students were always amazed when I’d bend the leg up to the top of the head and they realized that where the legs join the hips is one half the body (mathematics). We then figured out the length of the arms. Our arms start at our shoulders and our hands touch the tops of our legs. Next we’d figure out that we needed at least two bones in our arms and legs. Otherwise, we’d walk like Frankenstein and wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. At this point, I encouraged the students to arrange the arms and legs into some kind of movement. (Not standing there gaurding Buckingham Palace!) Using a black marker, students then added details (facial features. bone shapes) to complete their skeletons.


Mankind can thank much of what we know about anatomy and the skeletal system to the artist, Leonardo da Vinci. He lived during the Renaissance, when people were very interested in science and nature. He spent many hours in mortuaries dissecting and drawing the cadavers in his extensive sketchbooks. He also figured out some key human proportions that he included in a work called “The Vitruvian Man”. He determined that a man’s outstretched arms were equal to his height. Look here to see a skeletal version of “The Vitruvian Man”:

Albrecht Durer, a contemporary of da Vinci’s, created the following very detailed drawing of a skull:



Paul Cezanne’s “The Three Skulls”


Vincent Van Gogh’s “Skull”

Cezanne and Van Gogh created paintings of skulls. Van Gogh even painted a skeleton with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Did he know something we didn’t, even way back then?

Check out the work of contemporary artist, Nick Veasey who uses ex-rays as his medium to create skeletal images.

A way to enrich your lesson further is to incorporate the skeleton with a study of Mexico’s Day of the Dead which comes the day after Halloween. Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book by Jeanette Winter is a colorful picture book which includes a fictional story about this special day and some Spanish words.

Find a nice Day of the Dead lesson here:

You can make your skeletons from several other materials including:

Q tips


Pasta Skeleton

Plasticware (I think that I would use fork tines for the rib cage.)

Even your student’s signature

As you can see, there are an array of ideas to make learning about the skeletal system a memorable experience.

I hope you’ll come back again real soon. Even better, how about becoming a follower. The ideas will come straight to your email.