Maryland’s Limners

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Colonial History (Trades, Slavery), Black History

Science –  Plant/Animal Classification

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charles Wilson Peale, Joshua Johnson, Gustavus Hesselius, John Singleton Copley,  Benjamin West, John Hesselius

Portraits, Portrait Painters (Limners), Proportion

It’s so exciting, Mrs. Hahn, the art teacher and creator of the wonderful Mini Matisse Blog has decided to create an interactive U.S. artist map. The goal is to be able to click on a state and find information or a lesson for one or more artists who hail from that state. What a great resource it will be. I looked on Hahn’s site today and there are already twenty submissions for the map. Check it out here. She is asking fellow art teachers for some help. As retired art teacher, I would love to contribute.

I hail from Maryland, so I thought I would begin there. In my teaching days, fifth grade students studied Colonial America. Some of the concepts they investigated were Colonial trades. Portrait painting was one of those trades. These portrait painters were called limners. It just so happens that two accomplished portrait painters, Charles Willson Peale and Joshua Johnson, were born in Maryland.


Charles Willson Peale’s “The Artist In His Museum

Charles Willson Peale was born in Chester, Maryland. Many portrait painters of his time were self taught. However, Peale studied a bit under Gustavus HesseliusJohn Singleton Copley and Benjamin West. Peale painted portraits of many prominent people of his time, including more than a dozen George Washington portraits. He painted over 771 portraits in his career. He loved art so much that he named many of his 17 children after famous artists.  The Ninja Turtles are not the only ones named after famous artists. Peale also knew a bit about the following trades: saddle making, engraving, and clock repair. On top of this, he was also interested in science.


Charles Willson Peale’s “The Exhumation of the Mastodon

After Charles Willson Peale created a history painting depicting the unearthing of mastodon bones, he began collecting many scientific artifacts and eventually opened the first natural history museum, that changed locations several times.  It was once even located on the second floor of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA. (So, Peale could also be included on Pennsylvania’s map.)  His museum was different from the others of his time. Artifacts were not exhibited like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, but organized the way Carl Linnaeus, a scientist of the time, classified plants and animals. So, if you are studying animal classification in science, you could give Peale a mention. To learn more about this amazing artist/scholar and see more examples of his paintings look here.


“Joshua Johnson”s The Westwood Children”

Joshua Johnson/Johnston was the first recorded professional African American portrait painter. He was born in Maryland a slave and was emancipated in 1782. Johnson was self taught. You can find some excellent Colonial portrait lessons highlighting Joshua Johnson and John Hesselius (Son of Gustavus Hesselius who taught Charles Willson Peale) here. Through observing portraits by these two artists, students can observe how slaves and girls were treated differently than a male heir. The props included in these portraits are also intriguing. I love the idea for students to create a self portrait, including props and a background to show the way they would like to be remembered in the future. Menlo Park’s Art Studio has an awesome chart to help your student’s create proportional faces for their portraits and can be found here. Or you could leave a cut out where the face goes and let students stand behind them for photo ops like this teacher did.

I hope you agree that Charles Willson Peale and Joshua Johnson would be valuable additions to your classroom or art room lessons. Have you taught these artists in your classroom? I’d love to hear how. Simply click on the title of this post 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.

Hope to see you again real soon!

Puppets, Puppets Everywhere!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts –  Reading For Information

Social Studies – Countries Around the World (Culture/History – Puppetry), People Who Make A Difference, Inventors

Science – Animals, Recycling, Repurposing, Earth Day, Light And Shadow

Possible Art Concepts: Art History –  Jim Henson, Julie Taymor

Art Media – Puppetry


March 21st was International Puppetry Day. Puppets are the best. There are so many ways to use puppets in the classroom:

  • The teacher can teach a concept through a puppet.
  • Students can make and perform puppets to demonstrate knowledge of subject matter or to perform an original written piece (possibly a book report) . Simply glue a stick onto the reverse side of an animal or person cutout and, voila, a puppet.
  • Speaking through a puppet may help a shy student come out of his/her shell.
  • Puppets have existed for over 2,000 years and are a part of the culture of many countries.  Find excellent puppetry overviews herehere and here. Puppetry can be added to a social studies unit for one particular country or a unit on countries around the world.
  • Jim Henson  was part of a “People Who Made a Difference” second grade social studies unit in my day. He made puppetry popular and innovated two new kinds of puppets. First he created a muppet which is a combination of a hand puppet and a marionette.  His Muppet Workshop also innovated  radio remote control puppets. (So, he could also be called an inventor.) The website, Wonderopolis, seems to agree. Find their excellent Henson reading for information post  here. He also made full body people puppets, a puppet concept which originated in Africa. Another contemporary puppet innovator is Julie Taymor.  The Lion King on Broadway is a giant puppet/mask show using variations of six different kinds of puppets and contains 232 puppets. She innovated the corporate puppet, where one puppeteer controls a flock of animals/birds. Watch this video of the circle of life to see the variety of puppets Taymor created. (Great to use in an animal unit. How many animals can the students identify?) The Broadway show, War Horse also contains some wonderful puppets.
  • Puppets can be made from recycled items as part of Earth Day activities or as an inexpensive way to make puppets. In this video, see Jim Henson, himself, demonstrate how to make simple puppets from things found around the house. His daughter, Cheryl Henson, has also written an excellent book entitled,The Muppets Make Puppets: How to Create and Operate Over 35 Great Puppets Using Stuff from Around Your House.  You can also find more puppet ideas on my Pinterest page. Love these puppets made by NYC lunch ladies to bring attention to all the trash created by lunches served on styrofoam trays.
  • Shadow puppets could be incorporated into a science unit on light and shadow. I’ve talked a bit about shadow puppets here.

Oh so many ways to use those puppets! I’m sure you could think of even more. I’d love to hear what you think. Simply click on the title of this post 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.

Hope to see you again real soon!

A Fashion Of Our Own

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – America (Going West, Clothing, Trades, The Fifty States), Countries Around The World (Ukraine, Mexico) [Traditional Dress]

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Nudie Cohn, Manuel Cuevas, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Alex MacAskill, Dave Wheeler

Pattern, Commercial Art (Fashion Design), Fiber Art (embroidery, applique)

A recent trip to Nashville, TN has been inspiring my blog topics lately. I’ve already posted about it three times. I talked about the Samurai: The Way of the Warrior Exhibit here and here. I also talked about The Hatch Show Prints here. I promise you this will be my last post about that trip.

My husband and I were on our way to the samurai exhibit when a very interesting storefront caught our eye. The windows were filled with fancy western clothing and accessaries. We decided to check it out. Upon entering, we discovered that this was the storefront and workshop of  Manuel Cuevas, country western clothes designer to the stars. I recalled from last year’s trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame that Nudie Cohn was the first country western clothes designer to the stars in the 1950s and that Manual apprenticed under him. Both men were immigrants. Nudie was from the Ukraine and Manuel is from Mexico. Both their native countries have a rich background in patterned embellished traditional clothing as can be seen here and here. These designer’s inspiration is clear, but what they created was new and unique. We are a nation of immigrants and, therefore, have no traditional national costume. The closest thing we have to American traditional clothing is the plain functional cowboy outfit which has evolved into what we call country western wear today. Nudie and Manuel elevated these outfits with embroidery, applique and rhinestones. Nudie and Manuel’s customers were TV cowboys (Gene Autry and Roy Rogers), country music stars (Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton) and even Rock n roll stars (Elvis and The Beatles). The list goes on and on, as can be seen on the page of Manuel’s client photos found here.

They even influenced the fine art world. Nudie and Manuel designed outfits for famous artists, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Contemporary printmaker, Alex MacAskill, was influenced by Nudie and Manuel’s outfits and made a large country western suit print. This work was recently exhibited at the Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery. You can see a photo of the print and a video of Alex talking about it here.

So, you’re thinking how can I use this in my curriculum?  Let’s begin with social studies ideas. In a study of cultures around the world, students could look at traditional clothing from the Ukraine, Mexico and other countries. They could locate these countries on a map. Next, broach the subject of our country not having traditional garments. Introduce country western ware. What do they think of this as our traditional costumes? If they could design a national costume, what would it include and why? Would it be patriotic like Uncle Sam wears or Kellyanne Conway wore to Trump’s inauguration? Or might it be sports related?

In a career unit, students could study the work of Nudie and Manuel. You could also introduce Dave Wheeler, a boot maker,  who creates one of a kind cowboy boots. The students could make some designs of their own. I love how Mini Matisse blogger, Mrs. Hahn, provides choices in her art career fashion design unit. The students end up exploring even more careers (Fashion Show Organizer, Models, Fashion photographer). You can find that post  here. I talked about fashion design here. Find a boot designing lesson here.

Tailoring and boot making are also trades which are quickly disappearing in our modern age. Thankfully, some artisans are carrying on the tradition. Manuel is doing his part to perpetuate his craft by teaching apprentices from fashion design programs. Texas artist, Kathie Sever, creates embroidered country western wear a piece at a time. See some examples of her work here. Hatch Show Prints is carrying on the printmaking trade. Please help to keep these processes alive by including them in a colonial America  or industrial revolution unit in your classroom.

Manuel also did a ten year project where he created a jacket to represent each of the fifty states, to honor his adopted homeland. He has them on display in the storefront  portion of his workshop. They are amazing. Being Maryland natives, we were amazed at how many images Manuel manages to place on our state’s jacket. So many!!!!! Check out some of the state jackets here. Wouldn’t it be a great alternative, to design a state jacket, in lieu of a written state report? Or students could design a jacket and then write a short explanation about the images the student included and why.

Students won’t soon forget any of the projects mentioned above (I daresay including your classroom content.). So, why not give one a try? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Simply click on the title of this post 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.

I hope to see you again real soon!

International Women’s Day

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Women’s History, Jobs/Careers

Science – (Insect Life Cycle, Spiders)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Frida Kahlo, Lina Bo Bardi, Adelaide Labille Guiard, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rosa Bonhheur, Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Sibylla Merian, Louise Bourgeois

Painters, Art Careers (Architect, Commercial Artist, Portrait Painter, Teacher, Scientific Illustrator, Animator)

Sibylla Merian          Louise Bourgeois          Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun

Yesterday for International Women’s Day Google Doodle  artist, Olivia Huynh, highlighted thirteen international women who’ve made a difference in the world. I was delighted to see two artists featured among the thirteen. The doodle highlighted Mexican painter,  Frida Kahlo and Italian/ Brazilian architect, Lina Bo Bard. It was also Huynh’s wish that people might become curious about these women and possibly share women who have influenced them.

I’d like to talk about some international women artists who have influenced and inspired me. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s family guide entitled, “Six Women, Six Stories”, three international artists are highlighted. Adelaide Labille Guiard was a French portrait painter. Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian painter who even created paintings for the king of Spain. French artist, Rosa Bonhheur, is one of the best animal painters of all time.  This National Gallery of Art Inside Scoop article talks about Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun. She was France’s most famous portrait painter of her time who also painted Marie Antionette. Maria Sibylla Merian was a German naturalist and scientific illustrator who discovered the life cycle of butterflies and other insects. Another famous German artist is Lotte Reiniger, an early animator who used silhouettes. She created the very first feature length animated film. Yes, it was not Walt Disney. I talk about her in more depth in this post. Last but not least, French/ American sculptor, Louise Bourgeois who is famous for her spider sculptures of all sizes. I talk about her in this post.

In the spirit of sharing, I hope during March, Women’s History Month, you’ll share one or more of these amazing women with your class.

Who are your women inspirations and how have you shared them with your classes? I would love to hear. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. Also, if you like what you’ve seen here, please consider following me.

Hope to see you again soon!

Hatch Time!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – History of Communication (Written), Inventions (Printing Press), Colonial Times

Language Arts – Literature, Onomatopoeia

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Leonardo da Vinci, Roy Lichtenstein

Commercial Art (Poster Art), Medium (Printmaking)


 Spring is fast approaching. The title, “Hatch Time!”, probably brings to mind warmer weather and baby birds, but in actuality I’m thinking Hatch Show Print.  Being an ex-printmaker on a trip to Nashville, I just had to check out this letterpress printing establishment. The Hatch family started printing in Nashville in 1879. Their first posters were created to advertise local events (the circus, vaudeville shows, etc) and were plastered on buildings and barns all over town. The first wanted posters were also created using this printing method. The original movable type printing press was invented way back in 1454 Germany by Johannes Gutenberg. Hatch printers use many different wooden letter fonts and hand carved images in a modernized version of Gutenberg’s press. To understand this printing process better, check out this  Sawtooth Printing Shop Field Trip video  recently produced by my favorite blogger, Cassie Stephens. Thanks Cassie, perfect timing! With less demand for flyer type posters in this modern age, Hatch Show Print has adapted and done things like produce posters for each Ryman Theater (“Home of the Grand Ole Opry”) performance. These posters are now bought as works of art and end up framed in people’s homes. If you happen to be studying Colonial times, you might use this video about colonial printing presses.

For literature time, you may like to read Achoo! Bang! Crash!: The Noisy Alphabet  by Ross McDonald to your class. All the letters for the book are printed on a press like Hatch Show Print uses. All the illustrations are set back in the late 1800s. Plus, all the words are onomatopoeia. Lots of “Bang!” for your buck. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.  A side note: Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, used onomatopoeia words in some of his paintings. He was emulating offset printing, which replaced letterpress printing. Jamestown Elementary Art Blog has a Lichtenstein powerpoint slide show and onomatopoeia lesson plan that can be found here

If you wish to print some phrases or sayings, I love this lesson on Thomas Elementary Art, The Blog! The only drawback for a classroom teacher is access to brayers and ink. If you really want to do this project and have some large stamp pads, you could tap the stamp pads over and over onto the block. Then, simply place a sheet of paper on top and gently massage the back of the paper. You can construct the letters out of oaktag paper using this letter cutting chart. For the backwards and reverse problem, simply arrange the letters normally. When you have them the way you want them, place dots of glue all over the surface of each letter. Then, gently place your piece of chip board on top, and massage the the back. When you lift the chip board, the letters will be backwards and reverse, or a mirror image. Speaking of mirror images, did you know that Leonardo da Vinci wrote all his journal entries in mirror image? He was a genius and knew a lot of things that people of the time did not. In one entry he wrote, “The sun does not move.”  The people of that time believed the sun and moon circled the earth. He knew otherwise. So, for his own protection, he wrote all his journal entries backward and reversed.

If the above lesson is just too much, you could also simply print phrases and sayings using letter and picture stamps you have around your house and classroom.  I know that I have quite a variety. You probably do also. Students could create a poster portrait or animal report with letters and images put together jigsaw style like Hatch Show Print does. Like this:


I’m so pleased that some traditional printmaking is alive and  well in our world. I hope you can find a way to share this rich history with your class. What do you think?  I’d love to hear from you. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section at the bottom.

Hope to see you again real soon!

Feudal Times

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – History ( Middle Ages), Cultures Around The World (European, Asian)

Language Arts – Literature, Reading For Information, Symbols, Poetry (Haiku)

Science – Animals

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Albrecht Durer, John  James Audubon,  Paolo Ucello, The Bayeux Tapestry

Symbols, Craftsmen, Chinese Brush Painting, Stitchery

I knew, from my teaching days, that Eastern and Western cultures viewed dragons very differently. I’ve  talked about it here. However, in a recent visit to the Frist Center for the Arts’ “Samurai, The Way of the Warrior” exhibit, I discovered that Eastern and Western  cultures also had very different ways of organizing feudalism. I’m sure middle school  social studies teachers already know this because I’ve seen many units on just this subject online.  For those newcomers like me, a feudal community is made up of peasants, warriors and a lord. Eastern and Western cultures are set up pretty similarly in this respect. You can read more about their setups here.  The differences come with the kinds of weapons used by the warriors and the armor they wore as a result. Due to large heavy swords and lances, the Western armor was made of heavy clunky metal. The Eastern Culture’s weapons changed over the years. The samurai were horsemen and first used long spears, then bows and arrows and finally the two swords they are famous for today. To aid mobility on the horse, the Eastern weapons were not as heavy and bulky. Also, the armor was made of lighter material and was very flexible. This occurred well before the industrial revolution, so the weapons and armor were made by craftsmen. The higher the rank of the soldier the more elaborate the weapons and armor. What I found most interesting about the armor was the symbolism used to decorate these uniforms. In Western culture the symbolism was on the armor itself while the samurai had symbolism on their helmets. You could use the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Fierce or Fancy?, Discover the Art of Arms and Armor” Family Guide  for an I Spy symbols activity. This activity could be used to extend a literature lesson or be part of a social studies lesson about different cultures. For a closer look at the I Spy items look here and here .

                        Albrecht Durer’s “Rhinoceros”            John James Audubon’s “Armadillo”

The Met also provides a lesson plan which combines symbolism and science (armored animals) found here. A great side story, Durer had never seen a real rhinoceros, only drawings by another artist, when he created the above block print.

Think about the mass produced uniforms of today. Our soldiers basically wear symbols on their dress uniforms, not so much on battle uniforms. Symbols on dress uniforms show their rank, accomplishments and their branch of service . Sports uniforms and helmets/hats contain symbols representing mascots and company logos.

Speaking of sports, Western culture knights participated in tournaments/jousting during peacetime. In a samurai’s free time, he/she (Yes, there were women samurai!) was expected to engage in educational and art related pursuits. Some of these being haiku, rock gardens, flower arranging, Chinese brush painting, calligraphy and tea ceremonies. Most samurai were well educated in a time when most Europeans could not read.

There aren’t too many books about knights and samurai for elementary aged students. If you’d like some for storytime, I did find a few that looked interesting. In my teaching days, I used Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges. I love the illustrations. Another one for knights that looked interesting was The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke. For Samurai, you might look into these two folk tales, Three Samurai Cats by Eric A. Kimmel and The Smallest Samurai by Fiona French. Look here to see the story of the smallest samurai told by a storyteller. The book that I found the most intriguing was  a book entitled, Picture That — Knights and Castles by Alex Martin. What makes this so great is that feudal times facts are pointed out in artworks that were created in that time period. Important areas of these works are magnified with notations of important facts. Two great works featured in this book show knights.  The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Ucello shows the knights and horses of the time. Although it shows a battle, no blood is shown. The Bayeux Tapestry is also featured. It should be noted that this is not a tapestry at all but a stitchery, a very long stitchery. It illustrates the the story of the Battle of Hastings and is thought by some to be the very first comic strip. Find an animated version of stitchery here. (Violence Alert! I would stop it right as the battle begins, if you wish to avoid the violence.) The tapestry shows how people dressed and their way of life. To commemorate the 950th anniversary of the Bayeux Tapestry, illustrator Liz Pichon created a British history sequel . Your class could create a comic strip style mural of their own illustrating the Revolutionary War, the history of your state or any other time in history you happen to be studying.

Students could also create their own armor, helmets, or shields embellished with symbols to signify family traits. Some sample art lessons can be found here and here.

While teaching  fairy tale illustration or making Japanese figure sculptures, there were always those few boys who wanted to add a sword to their work. These boys may be the future soldiers who serve so we can be free. If you wish to spark their interest in your subject area, interject a few of the facts from this post. They will love you for it.

Have you taught knights or samurai? If you have, I’d love to hear about it. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

Hope to see you again real soon!

Cock-A-Doodle-Doo, Year of the Rooster!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Countries Around The World (China, Portugal, Poland), Geography, City/Country (Animals)

Science – Animals (Birds), Language Arts – Legends (Oral History), Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso , Joan Miro, Katharina Fritsch, Joana Vasconcelos

Chinese Brush Painting, Cubism, Wycinanki, Galo de Barcelos, Color (Red, Blue), Sculpture, Art Medium


By Ren Yi

The Chinese New Year will be celebrated from January 27 to February 2 this year. I was thrilled to see it is the “Year of the Rooster” because I’ve been wanting to do a post on roosters for a while now. Chinese artists have immortalized roosters in Chinese brush paintings and Chinese paper cutting.   However, China is not the only place/person who think roosters are special. Check out this video to see just how popular they are/have been. I think the only roosters the video left out are two humongous contemporary rooster sculptures. Katharina Fritsch’s “Hahn Cock” is a 15 foot blue rooster currently on display on the roof garden of the newly renovated National Gallery’s East Wing. Then there is the amazing Pop Galo by Joana Vasconcelos. At first glance, it appears to be just a pop art version of  the Galo de Barcelos or Roosters of Barcelos, Portugal. Read more about these ceramic birds and their history here.  However, upon closer scrutiny, you see that it is made up of traditional ceramic tiles, called Azulejo. That’s not all. The dot embellishments are actually LED lights programmed to sync with music, so at night, the sculpture performs a light show. The sculpture is traditional during the day and innovative at night. AMAZING!  View the sculpture at night here.

Look here to find a like minded teacher who created a lesson combining roosters, Picasso and for literature, Eric Carle’s “Rooster’s Off to See the World”.  This teacher brings in a live rooster to observe. One can accomplish this by looking at rooster photos and artworks. Discuss with students a rooster’s body parts. As seen in the first video mentioned above, the class could create their roosters in many different medium ( drawingcollagesculpture,  painting, etc.) I would suggest these flat roosters because they remind me of Flat Stanley. If you’ve read Eric Carle’s rooster book , you know the bird never leaves town. How about a nice Geography lesson where the Flat Rooster actually travels to visit his art cousins in different parts of the world? The teacher can print out small reproductions of each rooster cousin and tape them to a world map. The students can begin by traveling to China to celebrate the New Year with brush painted roosters and a  paper cutting rooster. Next he could travel off to Egypt to visit with a  stone sculpture rooster. Then off you go to Greece to visit with a rooster embellished   urn. It’s just a hop, skip and jump to Italy to see a  rooster Roman mosaic.  Now for a journey to Portugal to see  Pop Galo. Travel next door to Spain to see Miro’s Le Coq. Next let’s travel up to Paris, France and visit with several of Picasso’s roosters. Now, it’s off to Poland to visit with some more paper cutting called Wycinanki. It’s time to travel “over the Pond” to London, England to see the big blue rooster named “Hahn/Cock”, only to discover he has flown the coup to Washington, D.C. Not to be deterred, it’s off across the Atlantic to the National Gallery’s East Wing’s roof garden. After such a long journey, what better thing to do than to retire to Key West, the southern most point in the U.S.A., to hang out with all the roosters who wander the streets there.  Happy traveling!

How about throwing a little Math into the mix. The teacher could create a chart of different art mediums (drawing, painting, mosaics, paper cutting, sculptures, pottery, printmaking). Together view the first video found above with all the ways roosters have been portrayed. As a class, figure out the medium of each artwork and place a tally mark next to the appropriate medium on the chart.  Afterward, the students can create a bar graph using their collected data. You could also practice a little measurement conversion by comparing the 15 foot tall Hahn/Cock and the 10 meter tall Pop Galo. Which sculpture is taller?

I certainly enjoyed my trek through Rooster Land and learned a lot. It always amazes me. I start out these posts thinking it will be one thing and they turn out to be so much more. I hope you gleaned something from it also.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and leave a message in the comment box.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!