Youth In Arts San Rafael logo

917 "C" Street
San Rafael, California 94901
(415) 457-4878

Students Create Self-Portraits at Cascade Canyon

At Cascade Canyon, the theme of the 2018-2019 school year was “iterations.” Mentor artist Tracy Eastman worked with 7th and 8th graders over the course of eight weeks through our Artists in Schools residency program to build on this theme with project-based work in self-portraiture. Tracy shares: “We discussed how the students are at an age where self-identity is often being formed, reflected upon, and sometimes questioned. This was the notion that lead to having the students create self-portraits for our culminating art project.”

The project began with an exploration of color theory and painting techniques in order to provide a strong platform for understanding the artistic process. Each student mixed and created their own palette using only the primary colors, plus brown and white. They each created color tiles by combining complimentary colors and documenting the iterations of hues that were achieved. The students kept the color tiles for personal reference to assist them when creating hues for their portraits. The process of the self-portrait paintings began with each student being assigned a school iPad, with which they took a series of self-portrait photos to choose from.

Tracy then guided students through the process of applying an electronic grid over their photos using their iPads, which were then replicated manually by drawing the grid directly onto their canvases. Using the grid as a guide for shapes and proportions, the students sketched their portraits from their photo references.

They then used their knowledge of color theory and painting techniques to create skin tones and other hues to complete their self-portraits. Tracy remarks, “Each layer of paint changed the appearance of the paintings, creating various iterations throughout the process. While many students tried to create paintings that looked much like their photos, there were also some who decided to improvise and re-imagine aspects of their paintings to make them more personal.”




The portraits were hung and displayed in the school’s community room for the culminating event, showing each student’s self reflection and self expression. Great job Cascade Canyon!

Bayside/MLK students create dynamic art

Middle school artists at Bayside MLK Academy in Marin City have worked on a variety of creative projects this year, from creating posters to making mandalas.

With so much going on in the world, students use words as well as images to express what matters to them. In class we examined protest posters from the 1960s up to the present, discussing how images are created and used. We looked at various fonts and talked about the importance of size and shape of words when conveying messages. Students were thoughtful and reflective in considering whether to use a few words or no words at all to accompany their art.

Using stencils, stamp pads, poster board and markers, students created  incredible posters. Faced with the limitations of the large letter stamps available, the artists were quick to free themselves of traditional ways of writing words. Some artists stamped letters on top of each other, using watercolor paintings made during a previous class.

mlk4      mlk5

For the mandalas, students used gold and silver pens on black paper. We discussed the role of mandalas in history and the use of symbols to represent peace and unity. Students were asked to begin with one of five shapes:  a square, circle, cross, spiral or triangle. Each artist put thje chosen shape in the center of the page. Although the artists learned how to create mandalas using rulers and the principles of geometry, most found it more enjoyable to use the power of their own creativity to complete the process. They traced circles using Mason jar lids, bowls and paper plates. The results were stunning.






Introduction to Shakespeare: Language, Historical context and Performance

Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs worked with the seventh grade social studies teachers at Davidson Middle School to design an introduction to Shakespearean Theatre which would mesh with their 7th grade World History unit on the Renaissance.

Key words from the history lessons were incorporated into the work, and related Shakespeare to the student’s current lives as wells as our global situation. This unit prepared the students for next year, and their 8th grade introduction to Romeo & Juliet.

Engaging exercises included Shakespearean death scenes, a monologue performance, Shakespeare’s vernacular versus our own (which highlighting the parallels to HipHop). The project culminated in a tableaux performance of Romeo & Juliet, which highlighted the experience for students!

Symmetry Explored Through Math & Art

An arts integrated unit takes time to develop and structure.

Wendy Powell, Middle School math teacher at Willow Creek Academy knew exactly what curricular nut she wanted to expand on at the beginning of this school year.

She approached teaching artist, Ascha Drake, with her ideas, and together they designed a unit that honed in on ideas of symmetry.

Throughout the unit, students were  encouraged to look at the natural world.

The students viewed different artists, who became artistic resources, and the students expanded mathematical ideas of symmetry and rotation through art materials and processes.

Students looked at forms from the natural world that are symmetrical, and created drawings that required close looking and observation.

Students then looked at other symmetrical forms/ radial patterns that exist around them:

And they then learned that Japanese Crests were also inspired by natural forms, and the compositional shape of the circle was the chosen space to work within.

Students then began to think about their own personal symbols, and how those forms could be used to create a crest of their own.

Using watercolor pencils on watercolor circles, students then began composing using a ruler, a protractor, and their shapes.

Rotation was a key mathematical concept that helped the structuring of the crests.