Saturday, 24 December 2016

Dala Horse Christmas card

For christmas I decided to design a holiday greetings card using imagery I created in the summer but never got round to using. I wanted to avoid traditional Christmassy imagery and opted to use things I had seen on previous trips to Scandinavia and eastern Europe as inspo. 
The card was produced using a combination of paints and photoshop and features two Dala horses.
The Dala horse is a traditional carved, painted wooden horse statuette originating in Swedish province Dalarna (Dalecarlia). In the old days the Dalecarlian horse was mostly used as a toy for children; in modern times it has become a symbol of Dalarna, as well as Sweden in general.
Once again I had my cards produced with a company called MOO and have sent them to quite a few people already this Christmas! Would definitely continue working with them to print up my cards, the paper they use has a lovely matte finish which works quite nicely with my illustrations (thankfully).

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Autumn Kitchenware

More recently I designed some teatowels featuring an Autumnal theme. The lucky thing about being a teacher is I get 12 weeks off a year so I found the time to design and produce these during the October half term. These are my first designs on fabric and were produced through a company called Bags of Love. They also made the name labels for me! However I had to stitch them on seperately.
My first design - a collection of squash and pumpkins. I designed this by creating linoprints of squash and pumpkins, scanning in the prints and colouring them digitally with Photoshop.
My floral design was actually started earlier on in the year, I drew and cut out floral shapes but never truly did anything with them until this half term. I scanned them in and again digitally painted them in Photoshop. My brother reckons they look pretty Hungarian which was unintentional but I'm happy with a remark like that either way.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Icelandic Prints

It's been a really long time since I posted, simply because I have been crazy busy with my new job. Having graduated finally from university I am teaching full time! When I've had an evening or two free however I have been working on my portfolio. I am hoping that over the next 12-24 months I should have a portfolio ready to approach an agency with so that I can work freelance alongside teaching.
So over the summer I went on a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland which inspired me to design a small range of greeting cards.
"Hello!" - based on the famous Geysir.
"Sending my warmest wishes" - a wintery warm Christmas card. Iceland is well known for its lovely knitted jumpers.
"Once I caught a fish alive" - inspired by the 'cod wars' of old.
I've had 2 out of 3 designs printed up by Moo in London. The envelopes are varying in colour being red and brown paper rather than white. The cards themselves are printed on lovely matte paper.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

PGCE - June

The last month on the PGCE! For the last four weeks we were based back at the university after finishing placement and handing in a ton of our work/folders. We were expected to produce an artwork or visual outcome and put on an exhibition. As much as I had looked forward to finishing placement and starting the visual exhibition work, as soon as I started I immediately started to lose momentum because I wanted summer holidays to start already :) It was pretty hard to drag myself out of bed and get on that HOUR long train journey everyday for four weeks.
On top of that, June was especially stressful for me as we had the EU referendum which was something I felt very strongly about (I mustve lost about 30 friends on Facebook) and prior to the outcome I had alot of sleepless nights! Anyway, chuffed with the result.
So in the end I produced two outcomes which I am mostly pleased with - a book and a set of ceramic objects.
My book was called 'Colour Play: 13 art school experiments'. The concept was looking at an alternative, modern way of teaching colour theory in the school using experiments and challenges rather than simply colouring in a colour wheel worksheet.
 I had to work very quickly to get it produced. We only had four weeks and I had to factor in at least 1 week of that for shipping time alone - as you can imagine I was super busy but I got it finished. Theres a few errors on it, unsurprisingly because I had such little time to produce something that would normally take me 8 weeks to create. But luckily it looked good enough for my exhibition and my tutors loved it.
To accompany my book I produced a set of ceramic objects to act as an alternative to the colour wheel itself. Making these was as absolute nightmare (I have never truly worked with clay, glazes or kilns before) and my tutors hated them...funnily enough I really love them which is rare of me to say when talking about my own work (I usually hate everything I make!). I was very lucky to have a great technician at the Institute of Education to help me with these - its thanks to him they actually worked!
It was only the other week that I got my results for the PGCE despite having finished nearly a month ago - I'm pleased (and surprised) to say that I got a B grade, which equates to a 2:1 (although a PGCE only shows as a PASS or FAIL on a qualification certificate). I'm surprised I passed because the last essay we had to submit was almost impossible to understand but somehow I actually did it.

And to all those former PGCE students on the internet moaning about how it was the most difficult year of their life - gtfo.


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

PGCE - May

My final month on 2nd placement went quickly and smoothly - the only thing that made it difficult was the second masters unit essay I had to submit to university during this time. This essay is one of two that we get throughout the course and is in support of the exhibition we put on at the end of June. I found this essay much more difficult to understand even though it was shorter than the first - I was having great trouble understanding what the university actually wanted me to write and research. In the end I had to ask LOTS of different people for their interpretation of what the essay entailed exactly. Funnily enough everyone I asked interpreted it differently.
 Alongside this it was hard work trying to teach everyday AND do a university essay in my spare time but in the end I got there through tackling it a little bit at a time each day. I'm still waiting for the results of this essay, heres hoping I haven't failed it...either way I still made the best of the 4 weeks I had left teaching.
I particularly enjoyed teaching year 7 about 'The Starry Night' by Vincent Van Gogh (never thought I'd say that!). It was something we started during a cover lesson where we drew our own interpretation of 'The Starry Night' and watched a documentary about Van Goghs life starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The class appeared to enjoy it so we continued the work into several lessons which in turn produced the lovely drawings you see below....
I am really pleased with what they produced - especially considering they're only 11 and 12 year olds! I was so pleased with them I put each drawing in individual plastic wallets for safe keeping. My mentor also mentioned that she might put them in the end-of-year show at the school too which is good.
Another project I am also quite pleased with was the Aboriginal Art project I did with Year 9. I briefly mentioned about it in my last post but didn't go into much detail. It was derived from a scheme of work the school sets for every year 9 group but allowed a longer period of time to create design and illustration. Personally I would've loved to have taken the project further into installations within the school space but we simply ran out of time due to exams taking over ! Either way the class produced some amazing work that I hope they're really pleased with. 
As a starting point I got them to research and illustrate the 'Dreamtime Symbols' used by the Aboriginal people in their art and language, which sounds like a simple task but produced some beautiful charts of symbols that became artworks in themselves.
My favourite is the one where Australia has been drawn into the background! A simple idea but really effective.
Following this I began to push the idea of narrative and storytelling which is a big part of Aboriginal culture. I split the class up into groups and got them to research a different Aboriginal folk story which made up the 'Dreamtime' (the Aboriginal belief of creation). Again these turned out better than I expected and got the students using their illustration skills to tell stories. Really pleased with these! 
"Bangara the blue-tongued lizard"
  "Ganhaar the crocodile"
"Wayamba the turtle"
"Goorialla the rainbow serpent"
So anyway that's it. Its hard to believe I have completed 2 placements and my PGCE is nearly over. I started the PGCE deeply concerned after being told by teachers/ex-students that it was going to be really really difficult, over-the-top time consuming with no weekends and draining to the nth degree. Somebody even went ahead and told my mum 'it was the most difficult year of their entire life'. But of course - that is not what happened at all, it was easier and less stressful than my BA degree and quite frankly I wish I hadn't listened to those (stupid) people! 
Whilst I am sad that the placement is over I am excited to move on to the next part of my course. I have 4 weeks at the university to produce and put on an exhibition with the other art PGCE students - obviously I am now 2 and a half weeks into this but I will talk more about in my next post.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

PGCE - April

This month has gone really quickly! I feel as if I've had very little time on my second placement... At this point I only have three weeks left until the placement ends and then I'm at the university for a month setting up an exhibition. 
Since the Easter holidays I've been teaching across Key Stage 3 - Year 7 have been looking at colour theory, Frida Kahlo and self portraits. Year 8 have been looking at illustrating the 'Jaberwocky' poem and Salvador Dali's surreal landscapes. Finally Year 9 have been looking at Aboriginal Art which is going to be part of my Curriculum Development Project, an additional project we have to do as part of our masters unit on the PGCE. I'll talk more about this next month when I have a bit more work scanned in!
Since the school I'm at havent got a working A3 colour copier I've not been able to scan in a huge amount of work as I did with my first placement, but I have managed to scan in some of my favourite work from Year 8.
As I mentioned we've been looking at Salvador Dali and surrealism. For their homework they were asked to create a double page of research in their sketchbooks. Some of the outcomes were pretty amazing, particularly the students who drew all of the artists work rather than printed it out.

It was quite interesting when creating the lesson plans for this project as previously I knew nothing about Dali -- hes a very interesting character! Unfortunately this seems to have been a recurring theme for me - I can't believe how little I knew about artist history until I did the PGCE - I've learned an awful lot in order to teach but I've enjoyed it.

After conducting research we had several lessons learning to draw Dali's painting 'The Persistence of Memory'. The students found it harder than I expected them to, but the more I thought about it the more I realised it was quite a difficult painting to draw from. I ended up having to do a quick drawing technique workshop half way through to help them but we got there in the end. I got the class to finish it for homework and most of them turned out really well.

As you can see, they demonstrated some of the contrast techniques I taught them in the drawing workshop...I was rather pleased.
As a class we are now building our own surreal landscapes on A3 paper. It's taking a little while but I'm really hoping we'll get them finished before I leave.  
I'm currently really enjoying my second placement, just as much as my first. All but one of my classes have been exceptionally wonderful right from the start - there was one class who hated me right from the beginning - but last week they miraculously and for no reason whatsoever have had a total change of heart, and I'm hoping they stick with it!

The students are great and I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the finished outcomes from my classes, particularly my Year 9 class. I'll talk more about this in May however when I have more to show.

Currently I'm working on my second essay which is the second Masters essay due on the PGCE course. Its been really difficult to understand but I'm slowly, slowlyyy getting through it. Hopefully next time I post a blog entry I'll be able to say it went ok.....

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

PGCE - March

I mentioned a little while ago that I started my second teaching placement on the PGCE at a fairly local school (near to where I went to school myself) and I am now 5 weeks into it. That works out as about half way through the placement - its gone really quick. I've already been on two school trips which I really, really enjoyed. The school itself is completely different from the school on my first placement. For starters its an all girls catholic school! Funnily enough my Grandma really wanted me to go to this school when I was a child as it was the local catholic school to her. I've also got a cousin that attends the school which has been nice :) I'm forever walking around the school hearing kids asking if I'm their friend's cousin, not that I mind. 
Anyway I found the school quite easy to settle in to, the kids are intelligent and the other PGCE students who are here are really friendly which always helps. On this placement I have two mentors - one is the head of department and the other has just finished her NQT (newly qualified teacher status), which has turned out to be quite useful as I always get a range of advice.
Currently I am teaching across Key Stage 3 and team teaching with  Key Stage 4. I'm enjoying KS3 the most as they require alot more guidance, whereas KS4 you kind of have to let them get on and work on their exam units which isn't always fun in terms of teaching. Most of my classes are full of really nice kids, one or two classes I'm still trying to win over! 
I'm particularly enjoying working with Year 9 teaching them about Aboriginal Art and Dreamtime. We are going to be producing designs on natural forms and over the next two months it will become some kind of installation within the school. I've produced a few exemplars to give the class a couple of ideas but its still in its early stages:
Part of this Aboriginal art project will be submitted as the 2nd part of the Masters credit work we have to produce on the PGCE. This unit is much more interesting than the essays we had to do last term - we have to produce a scheme of work that reflects our own practice of art, get a class to carry it out and then write a 2000 word report on it. In the end I'm hoping to end up with Aboriginal art pieces throughout the school as part of an installation.
The students themselves have had to bring in natural forms to work on ranging from wood, stones to shells. I have also got hold of a ton of driftwood for them to work with. I'm just hoping it all comes together in the end and that the school will have some beautiful work to show. The school is quite a nice building so fingers crossed...
At this point in my course besides my own exemplars, I don't have an awful lot of student work to show. This is mainly due to the fact the school does not have a working A3 printer so its been hard for me to scan things in and I'm always cautious about bringing student work home with me in case the worst happens. Although I will say that I have been teaching a range of subjects - Salvador Dali and surrealism, a cross-curricular project on 'The Jaberwocky', Picasso, colour many things that I have had to go out and research for myself. I can't believe how much I've had to learn already :o as an illustrator I am sometimes shocked by my lack of knowledge about old art.
Anyway, on the last day of term before Easter I had my official observation of a lesson by my university tutor. Once per placement, a tutor from the uni has to come down and watch you teach a class, make feedback then share it with you and the mentor/s at the end of the lesson. My tutor watched my teach Year 7 about colour theory and luckily the kids were well behaved and engaged. I felt really nervous and sick at the beginning of the lesson; it was the last lesson on the last day before Easter after all.... but I made good use of rewarding them with chocolate every time a kid worked well or contributed to the lesson. Overall I felt the lesson went quite well, my mentors and tutor said it was good but I need to continue trying to make my lessons more physically engaging and kinetic rather than "chalk and talk". Make of that what you will but I'm happy with that kind of criticism!
One of the things that terrifies me about university courses is the criticism - I always overreact and feel quite glum about everything no matter what is said. This time I held it together well (I think?). Quite a few people on my PGCE course at university have dropped out over the last two months, I'm just grateful that the course has been mildly kind to me (so far at least). It definitely helps that I have a job lined up ready for when I finish the PGCE - it does give you some kind of confidence when doing the placement as you realise that you can't be totally rubbish if a school's bothered to employ you...

So for now I get two weeks off as its Easter. I've got most of my lesson planning complete, just a little bit left to do....

Sunday, 13 March 2016

PGCE - February part 2

The Job Interview...

At the very end of February and in the last week or so of my first teaching placement I noticed that there was an Art teacher position being advertised online. I'd been looking for jobs on a daily basis, signed up with the TES job alerts and due to the early time of year there'd been hardly any jobs going. Although I found this one on a total wim by simply searching on google and it came up. It was a job for a school about 20-25 minute drive away with good reviews. My mentor on my first teaching placement and my tutor at university gave me references, so following this I went ahead and made an application.

They came back to me pretty fast and gave me an interview for Monday morning. In the email they told me I had to teach to an unknown class on the subject of 'Mechanical Form' - but I also had to put together a teaching portfolio AND an artist portfolio all in one weekend ready for the interview. Both portfolios are required upon completion of the PGCE course anyway, but at this early point in the year I had neither! Nonetheless I stayed up late every night of the weekend preparing was hard work. I kept my teaching portfolio simple, showing examples of lesson resources I had made, differentiation, examples of homework, sketchbook work and classwork.

Come the day of the interview I got there early and met the Head of Art who would be interviewing me, so it was a great chance to get to know her and the school. The school itself was very friendly and the students were well behaved and polite (thank goodness for that!). The Head of Art allowed me time to set up for my 30 minute lesson to the unknown class...I got set up with all my resources and such. Just before the lesson I got to meet the other candidates, five of us in total, 1 of which I knew from studying my foundation course years ago at UCA! 4/5 of us were PGCE students and the remaining candidate was a real teacher. It was quite daunting meeting the other candidates but in some ways it was reassuring to have someone to talk to and be friendly with. A good chat helped to calm us all down.

Anyway we all had to give 30 minute tester lessons and I was first - the lesson itself was ok; I was teaching a very well-behaved year 9 group and was observed by not only the Head of Art but the Headteacher too (I was terrified). At least the fear got me through.

Following the lesson we got given a tour of the school by the students themselves which was good because it gave you a chance to get a good glimpse of the school. It definitely had a nice feel to the place.
After a little bit of waiting around we each had a 30 minute interview with the Headteacher and the Head of Art. I was asked quite a few questions such as what I could offer the school, why I had chosen to apply for the job, what did I like about the school etc. My PCM on my first teaching placement had prepared me well for the interview process so I'm glad to say it went pretty well. I used my portfolios to support all my answers too which helped to back up what I had to say.

I got asked there and then in the interview if I would take the job if it was offered to me and obviously I said yes :) Anyhow they said they'd call me by 6pm the very same day if they wanted to offer me the position or not. So I went home and waited.

Not long after I'd gone home and had my dinner the phone rang - it was the Headteacher - he made it sound like he wasn't going to offer me the job at first - but then he did! However he did ask me if I definitely wanted the job as he thought I'd hesitated when asked in the interview (if I did, I didnt mean to, I was just crazy nervous). Again I said yes I would accept the job! We agreed that I would start July 4th so I could get a good feel for the school and be prepared for September official start. I know it means I have to start working the Monday after I finish my PGCE course but I'm quite excited to start my first proper job. Embarrassingly this was only the 2nd interview I've ever had for a job. The first interview I had was at Mcdonalds when I was 16....   :)

Anyway I'm glad to have sorted out a teaching job for when I finish my PGCE. Its one less thing to worry about, I'm amazed I got a job on my first interview too, I was expecting to go through at least 5 interviews yet but its all done now.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

PGCE - February part 1

Rather alot happened in February so I am again going to split the month into two posts! To start off, our essays were due in at the end of our first teaching placement. On the course we have to provide two Masters essays/projects which count towards a Masters qualification. The first essay we had to write was 5000 words in total, looking at three issues in arts education. For each issue we were required to conduct lots of research and present it as a visual article.
I looked at a variety of issues and came up with the following articles (each article is 4 pages long/1500 words each so I have only provided the first page of each article!)
When you are doing a teaching placement at the same time as this its quite difficult to balance your time, I ended up spending alot of Sundays working on this the past 4 months or so. The research itseslf was mildly interesting and came in very useful with my job interview which I will talk about more next time.
Overall I'm relieved to have completed this unit of work and handed it in - waiting for the grades to come through this month. As the PGCE course is only a pass or fail, as long as I pass the Masters unit work I should be just fine. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

PGCE - January

My final month on first placement! Time went fairly quickly by this point as I'd managed to establish some kind of routine and for the most part the overall experience was a little easier to deal with. I feel like I was able to develop my teaching skills considerably further at this point in the first placement, I did have my ups and downs but overall I finished with much better knowledge than I thought I would. By the end of my first placement I was looking back on what/how I was teaching in the beginning and already thinking 'oh god why did I do it like that?' and all the rest. 
When it came to the final week, I have to say, the thought of leaving my placement school was a bit weird. You do find that you get quite attached and comfortable at your first school...or at least I did. Packing up my stuff on the final evening was a bit depressing :(
Anyhow that just proved I must have enjoyed myself! I really liked being able to teach lessons where the students were able to produce more refined work, particularly in Year 7 where we were working with the African Masks scheme of work I had written:
The masks turned out great! For weeks we have been creating lots of designs through collage and drawing, and I wasn't sure how the 3D versions would turn out. The students were really looking forward to making the masks for real and put in alot of effort when we came to building them. The masks they went on to produce really impressed me and I hope they go on display within the art department.
With my year 8 class we were studying Gargoyles which involved several lessons of drawing in charcoal. I really enjoyed teaching this class as there were some great characters and the kids worked pretty hard. Towards the end we got working on clay gargoyles and again the results were awesome. I think the class particularly enjoyed this part as the classroom went near silent when they were allowed to work with the clay independently - alot of their individuality came out in their designs too.
In the final four weeks of my placement I also took over Year 10 lessons. During my placement I had spent alot of time getting to know this class and I wouldd say that overall this class was the most memorable. Although as much as I liked them, looking back on it I think this made them the most difficult to teach as I took things they did and said quite personally! Lesson learned. 
Anyway - I had to introduce them to 3d work, so I started off by getting them to create paper maquettes based on the work of Alexander Calder. I created templates for the class to work on which helped alot, but a few were confident enough to produce their own designs.
After the paper maquettes we moved on to working with wire, as it was part of the scheme of work set by the art department. The class were better at this than they thought, and despite their low morale they produced some amazing wire self portraits. These 2D portraits led on to create 3D heads which they are likely continuing now that I have finished my placement at the school.
Apart from teaching, the placement saw the completion of the School Based Study which was a project set up by the PCM (assistant head of the school in most cases) and my university. I conducted research with another PGCE student at the school who was lovely which made things easier. The study proposed that we conduct an investigation within the school context, so we looked into the aspirations of the sixth formers. We started off by conducting a survey on my year 12 form group and found that many of them had little or no interest in going to university and felt they were not supported enough. From this we produced a presentation of our findings and a booklet for the sixth formers to support them in alternative graduation options. We had to present all of this to the Head of the school and the sixth form leader, who then used our findings to adjust their own approach to sixth form. It went surprisingly well despite being nervous during the presentation! I also found that the research was very useful in my job interview....but thats for next time!


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