The Other Coast

Seventh grade students examined the design motifs and style of the indigenous people from the Pacific North West. While the coastline has similarities to Maine and New England, the art and designs of the PNW tribes is very different from our local Wabanaki artists. Full of smooth curves mimicking the push and pull of the waves as well as heavy, bold areas of color, the Tlingit, Haida, and many other First Nations people have a well defined and beautiful design aesthetic. Students worked to incorporate this particular style into their animal masks, and were also challenged to make their work 3 dimensional.

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Firsts and Lasts

As we approach the mid-point of the school year once grade is finishing their first assignment and another is finishing their last before the semester change.   8th graders began the trimester with this classic artist exercise, the still life drawing.  They carefully observed a collection of objects (chosen  and arranged by them) and began with simple shapes and lines. These became a more detailed contour drawing, showing detail but no shading. Students then added darker and darker values to increase the shading range using many different drawing techniques including hatching, cross hatching, stipling and smudging among others. 

Meanwhile, 6th graders completed their final assignment of the term, a watercolor painting inspired by the work of American painter Georgia O’Keefe. O’Keefe studied the natural world and then abstracted that world by zooming in and using bold colors to show us nature in a different way.  Likewise, student artists zoomed in on flowers images to the point where they just became about shape, color, and edges. Using watercolor to create beautiful blends, these paintings show us a detail of nature we might not have noticed before. 

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Luck and Prosperity for the End of the Year

Students in Mr. Adams’ 6th grade class finished their Chinese dragons. Unlike the dragons we might imagine in our largely European based culture, angry dinosaurs with wings, thick middles, and a lot of anger management issues, Chinese dragons are typically portrayed as wise and venerable, with long twisting snake-like bodies and the elements from many other animals like antlers, mammal heads, beards, and clawed paws. They can grant wishes and bring luck, prosperity, and protection. Students built their dragons with clay (there was a lot of delicate work) focusing on body shape and multiple surface textures. They then painted with acrylic paint, focusing on color vocabulary and detailed brush work. Hope these colorful creatures bring a smile on this darkest day of the year.

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Power Pose

8th grade students learned about NY based artist Kehinde Wiley and his hyper-detailed portraits of black and brown subjects in the style of classical European portraiture.  Wiley’s large scale oil paintings force the viewer to consider questions of race, class, and power in our past and present. 

Students used block printing techniques to create a complex patterned background, then photographed themselves in a confident “power pose”. After tracing the photos onto drawing paper, students considered color and value with colored pencils to try and create a realistic final product before gluing themselves to the background.  These confident pieces, inspired by Wiley’s massive paintings, try to elevate the students voices and visions beyond what kids normally learn to expect in our society.

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The last leaves are Falling…

… And they are landing on the walls of the FMS hallways. After studying real leaves and doing some colored pencil sketches, 6th graders pivoted to a more graphite design motif for their block printing unit. Leaves were the inspiration but the real challenge was balancing the light and dark of the high contrast printmaking style. After designing, they transferred to rubber carving material and used gouges to create their printing plates. We did a lot of practice in black and white to get the technique down (not too much, not too little) and then started experimenting with color. As the days get shorter, these beautiful bursts will keep our spirits high in the hallways.

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Studies in Light and Dark

As the clocks are set back and we start really paying attention to how much (or little) light we are getting to enjoy each day, it is only fitting that the seventh graders completed a unit all about looking for the light and dark. We began the unit by drawing our animals (from photos) using traditional pencil on white paper, adding dark to the light base. We moved onto scratchboard which works the opposite way, and students were challenged to look not for shadows but highlights on their animals, and then pull those areas out of the black board with sharp scratching tools. Finally we did a third drawing using charcoal on toned paper. This allowed the artists to start in the middle of the value spectrum and work in both directions. While a messy and sometimes challenging medium, the students rose to the occasion and may even have surprised themselves with these beautiful animal portraits.

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How ’bout a nice cuppa?

They say the British Empire was built on cups of tea. We discuss not trading something for “all the tea in China”. The Mad Hatter’s tea party has inspired countless stomach-churning spinning rides around the world. Tea is more than just a cup of hot brown water. It involves parties, and ceremonies, and even revolutions. Our eighth graders have just completed this beautiful and wild collection of ceramic teapots. Their take on these ubiquitous kitchen objects had to function (at least have a spout that poured, a handle , and a lid) but were limited in design only by their imaginations. There are several elephants, a couple pumpkins, a duck family, a volcano, and even Homer Simpson complete with donut handle. While these may not become grandma’s go-to teapot on Sunday afternoon, they walk the line between form and function and show us the vast creativity in our young artists.

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It always takes awhile…

The beginning of the school year always carries with it the pressure of getting artwork up on our blank walls. At FMS we encourage students to make high quality work and put in their best effort into their art. Of course this takes time. Finally we have completed the first round of excellent art units and have work ready for the walls and the blog!! Enjoy below some amazing ceramic masks inspired by the design motifs of the native tribes of the Pacific North West including the Tlingit, Kwakutl, and Tsim Shin peoples. Sixth graders used detailed pencil drawings to illustrate passages from favorite books.

Come back soon for more work. Or subscribe for notifications and never miss a new exhibit.

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Welcome to the New School Year

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful summer. We are a month into school and the first round of art lessons are drawing (get it) to a close. Despite the lack of art on the middle school walls for a bit, rest assured the students have been working hard and creating some excellent work. Feels like we are finally coming out of the far side of this pandemic and really returning to life. Either graders started with this classic art lesson to shake the dust off their summer brains and get their creative gears turning.

Keep an eye on this blog for more art coming soon from all grades.

It’s gonna be a great year.

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Last Post of Spring 2022

We made it, folks! It has been an interesting school year, full of ups and downs, but throughout it all, students have filled the walls and halls with amazing art. Thoughtful, challenging, and with tons of effort behind it, the work this year has dazzled. This final blog post features 8th grade Artists’ Pets in which the students incorporated an animal into a famous piece from art history. If you need an “art fix” over the summer be sure to visit the Falmouth Memorial Library to see student work on display IRL (In Real Life for us ol’ timers). Have a wonderful summer and you next fall.

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