Thursday, December 22, 2016

American Indian Head Dress

Before Thanksgiving, my art room was being used by the church where our school is housed. I had to be a mobile art teacher for the day that I had the 4th grade.  If I am mobile then I like to travel light and not do anything that is super messy.  I introduced the American Indian  head dress and talked about the significance of earning feathers for acts of courage.  I was thinking that maybe we should employ that again in our culture.  Maybe acts of courage, kindness, and common sense should earn us a "feather in our cap".

I showed them pictures from the 1800's of head dresses from different tribes.  I also showed them other kids art work.  I told them that the side view would be an easier draw than a front view, but did not limit them if they wished to do the front view.  They used the colored pencils that they keep at their desks to start adding color.  The skin tones were done with special boxes of skin tone crayons that I keep just for that purpose.

We talked about the different features of a head dress.  I love how each of their drawings and the colors of the feathers give each Indian a different personality.  The head dresses are not meant to depict any actual tribe but was an opportunity for the students to design their own head dress using colors of their choice.

(I am aware of the controversy in using the term Indian or Native American. Some from my family are possibly from the Black Feet tribe.  I mean no disrespect to anyone in using the term Indian.  I can't figure out which term is more acceptable I had to choose one since everyone born in the US would actually be a native American but not everyone is an American Indian.) 

The art project took several weeks to complete.  As they worked on the projects, we discussed adding things to the backgrounds.  Some of the students are all about adding extra things, others are ready to just be through.  That is hard for me because the extra's are what makes a project turn our great.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fall Trees and Pumpkins


The third grade tried their hand at chalk pastels.  Pastels are a great way to quickly create a picture.  They are messy but I think they are easier for younger artists to use than many other mediums. The colors can easily be blended with the finger tips to create some sensational results.  We always have a supply of baby wipes on hand to help deal with the mess.  I love how serious they are when they work with the pastels.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed watching them create them.

I used the Hodge Podge Me website as a resource to do this lesson.  Hodge Podge Me offers a lot of free chalk pastel lessons for the beginner. 

The fifth graders used acrylics on canvas.  It is not a very forgiving medium in my opinion. We had about an hour and half of time to work. It would probably have been better to break the painting class into several weeks. they grew tired during the painting process and some were just ready to be done with the project.  Acrylic needs to be dried in order to move forward with the next steps. This is a real hindrance to the painting process. We did use a hair dryer, but that is a pretty slow process with a large group.  They did great with the shape of the pumpkins but struggled blending the various shades in the orange pumpkins.  Developmentally they are still very concrete in their thinking and art requires a bit more freedom of expression.  That part of art, I find I am limited in trying to teach. They still painted some super nice pictures.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Everybody Needs a Fireroom

We grew up poor materially but rich in so many other ways.  Our wood frame house was pretty small.  The living room had a fireplace and the middle of the house had a second chimney. The second chimney had two openings to connect wood burning stoves. The kitchen side was always blocked with a decorative metal cover with a pastoral picture.
Our old home place right before we sold it.  It had sat empty for
a number of years .  Now there is someone new to love and
care for that little home.

Mama used an electric range because  Grandma's wood cooking stove had been stolen in the process of moving to this house. It was probably a blessing in disguise when the wood fed cooking stove was stolen. The other room that had an outlet to the chimney was used for a bedroom and the stove in this room was always the main source of heat for the house. In our family this room was  called the fireroom. My parents were terribly creative and practical in calling it the fireroom.

 In my younger years they used a wood heating stove in the fireroom.   It was not like the free standing wood stoves that you see today.  It was tall and had an outer metal shell around the cast iron inner part.  It had two doors.  The one at the top was where the wood or coal was fed into the flames and the bottom door opened to the ashes below.  The ashes had to be taken out on a regular basis.  The stove sat on a metal piece on the floor and a stove pipe curved to the wall.  The stove pipe had a place with a little flap on it that I guess helped to regulate the smoke going up the chimney.   Even as little kids we knew not to touch that literally red hot stove.

In the dead of winter, this was the room of choice to sit in as it was the warmest room in the house.  We often sat as close as possible to the heater to stay warm. Even today I prefer heat to feel like heat.  I feel pretty unsatisfied by the blowing of cool air from our heat pump. Our house  growing up was drafty and had no insulation.  During the day, it was usually fine but as the night fell so did the temperature in the house.  It was tough to be cold but I think that it probably helped to toughen up my sisters and myself.

The fireroom doubled as a sitting room and a bedroom for the youngest kids in the family.  At times, there were several single beds in that room.  I can remember waking up during the night and seeing the glowing flickering firelight dance around the room.  It was always comforting.

In the morning, Daddy brought in more wood and would "poke up" the fire.  He opened the door and used the poker to move the remaining coals around and then would feed the fire until it started blazing again.  He would open the bottom door and scoop the hot ashes into a coal bucket. Weird but true that even the memory of those clanging sounds and the squeaking of those metal doors and the sound of the fire roaring in the chimney pipe is such a sweet and almost tangible memory that that it can bring tears to my eyes reminding me of days gone by and of those that I am now temporarily separated from.

In the evenings we would sit around the stove in hard back kitchen chairs and singe on one side and have frost bite on the other.  Sometimes on rare occasions Daddy would tell stories about his people.  He told stories from as far back as the Civil War.

Most of my memories of being around the stove have to do with nightly devotions.  We read Daddy's daily Sunday school lesson readings from the King James Bible. It mattered not what the section of scripture happened to be, we read it.  We were given the opportunity to have the whole counsel of God in our readings.  Some of those Old Testament readings can be pretty shocking, which I think is where the King James shows one of its valuable features.  We really had no idea what was being read because of the nature of the older English. All of those eye widening stories never even caused a stir in us as the language veiled it all.

After reading, we each prayed.  I always said the , Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If  I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.  Pretty comforting words for a little child to say before going to sleep.  The words never bothered me because as a little child they were just rote words to say.  I never really gave them much thought.

The Fireroom right before we sold the house.
The heater is there  on the right. Notice that
that there are hardwood floors throughout that 
little well built house.  

 Grandma was completely different and often would drop her head into her apron and pray ever so quietly to her Father above.  Her prayers I believe have been have been paying dividends into my life for many years.  She passed away in 1982.  My life has had troubles as everyone's life will, but I personally think that the outcome might have been different had she not spent so much time praying for the whole family.  I don't really know if that is bad theology or not, it is just the thoughts that seems to stick in my soul.

The fireroom was a place of protection for the youngest in our family. It was also a place for the family to come together in the evenings. The fireroom was probably the place that not only I found warmth for my body but it started a fire in my soul as well.  As a little child, I did not understand much, but I knew that that book, The Bible, played a significant role and that the faith of the adults in the room had weight. When I see the news and look at the state of our culture, I am pretty convinced that more of us need our own "fireroom" in our homes.

Daddy and Grandma

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Painting with the Old Folks

Blurred picture to protect and preserve the privacy of the residents. 

My mother in law lives in assisted living.  I went today to do a painting class with the folks there.  Only about 25 percent of the residents participate in the activities.  In the past several months I have learned the names of the ones who are more active and am pretty comfortable with them.  This is our second painting class together. This time we painted a Christmas wreath together.   Some of residents struggle with mild dementia, but almost all of them struggle with memory issues. This makes following simple directions a challenge. Often they do not understand the instructions or they need repeated redirection.  Their agility is not stellar because of arthritic hands.  I have found that even when they are mentally sharp their vision prevents them from distinguishing colors on the palette or the canvas.  Even with the hurtles to overcome, they are a very satisfying group to work with.  They persevere and are really pretty excited about their artwork.  The activity director proudly displays their finished canvas' in the activity room.  One precious lady who struggles with negativity and  has already lost a leg because of diabetes told me how much she really enjoyed the painting class.  She said that she really did not think she would like doing it.  One sweet lady that I call Picasso, never really listens to my directions but inherently seems to grasp art and her projects always turn out uniquely hers with an artistic flair. Picasso is a real doll and I am aspiring to be like her.  One dear one is fairly advanced in her dementia.  She had to be redirected multiple times but amazingly she was able to finish her wreath and really seemed to have some real moments of lucidity in what she was doing.    

In the two classes that I have done with them, I see their comfort and confidence growing. The best part of doing the classes with them is seeing the excitement, joy and that once again they have that sense of purpose.  I get lots of thank yous that are packaged in hugs and kisses on the cheek.  I go to minister to the old folks, but honestly I think they are the ones who minister to me.