Light Writing/Painting – High School In Class DigiPhoto Assignment

Here are some of the best images from “light writing/painting” in class assignment. More info about light writing to come 🙂 .

Water Etching with Mod Podge – A New Obsession

I am always looking for new ideas for ceramics. It is just one of those mediums that inspires experimentation. I have recently signed up for the fantastic newsletter from Ceramics Art Daily and came across this demo on water etching. Since I’m not a big fan of wax or shellack for high school students, I wasn’t so sure if I’d be doing water etching in the near future. But I, was definitely wrong. The folks at Atlanta Clay have done a spectacular job showing off this great technique using Mod Podge. I bought 1 gallon of it at Dick Blick ($30-$40 or so) and I’m pretty sure it will last me all school year too.

Check out this awesome demo. I am incorporating mod podge water etching soon. I’ll for-sure post the results!

-Shalanah Dawson

Foci Glass Blowing Field Trip

Amy Fischer – art teacher at Waconia High School – arranges an Art Honor Society field trip every year, and it is always a pleasure to come along. The highlight for many of us this year was the stop at the FOCI Minnesota Center for Glass Arts in an old General Mills distribution center.

Craig J. Campbell first showed us some of the properties of glass by stretching it all the way across the room and shattering it when it wasn’t cooled properly with small pressure applied to it. You can see his work here.

They also offer courses that are very reasonably priced. Check it out!

– Shalanah Backus


Awesome Projects for Graphic Design Class

I came across this site while I was designing my Commercial Art Course (soon to be called Graphic Design). Great projects for Photoshop and Illustrator. I have yet to try out the “Smiley Face” project, but I might have some of my advanced students try it. Below are two examples from this project. Cool huh?

Mr. Moriarty’s Computer Graphic Page
Smiley Face Illustrator Project

– Shalanah Backus


MLK Day Shalanah Backus High School Art Project

For MLK Day, I had my classes design a printed mural to commemorate MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Students were responsible for creating single letters or blocks with designs on them. We then assembled those blocks into excerpts from Dr. King’s famous speech.

Despite some minor hiccups, I love the way it turned out. Each letter in the image above was made from a 3.5″ x 3.5″ MDF block. Students then carved letters into blocks (remember to have them reverse them!). We then inked and printed them. If you’d like to give it a go sometime, I am supplying my letter sign-up sheet, actual text and a brainstorming sheet in a Word document.

I Have a Dream Woodcut WKSTs (.docx)

Give this a try next year, or use the idea to create a mural of your own!

-Shalanah Backus

Photoshop Converts Cake

ctrl-z Shalanah Backus Student Cake

Commercial Art is perhaps my favorite class to teach. Students learn about Photoshop, design and Illustrator. It could not be more fun. I also was blessed in having a great group of students, who became huge fans of the computer programs we were using. It was one of their birthdays and another classmate created this AWESOME cake with “Ctrl – Z” on it. It is the “undo” button on Photoshop, Illustrator and many other programs. Love it.

-Shalanah Backus

Working on it…

I started a Commercial Art site for my high school class, but now I have expanded. It now includes all classes I teach. See it here! (

It is going to take a while, but I am slowly going to upload galleries onto the Waconia Site of student work and make a new – with only my artwork and a link to my teaching site. Goal for summer 2011. But you can see it’s all a work in progress.

-Shalanah Backus

Wycinanki Paper Cutting Project – Guest Art Teacher

Rachel and I both graduated from Bethel University with Art teaching degrees. Recently, I noticed some of her students work online and was extremely impressed. I asked Rachel if she would be willing to guest-author a post for this blog, and I’m grateful that she was. Read on to learn more about her fantastic “Wycinanki” Paper Cutting Project.


“Wycinanki” Paper Cutting Project

My 8th grade students studied an art form from Poland called “Wycinanki” – Polish for “paper cutting” – that has been around for centuries. When Polish shepards felt their homes were too boring and plain, they would use huge sheep shearing scissors to cut elaborate designs into tree bark or leather. Eventually, they started using colorful paper. As time has passed, techniques, colors, and styles have come to vary between regions of Poland.

My students were given the choice between creating an exact (mirrored) symmetrical design or a radial symmetrical design. Then they were shown different folding techniques they could use to get an array of patterns. The students then chose from a variety of thin, colored papers. The students were encouraged to create a design first by drawing it onto a folded up piece of paper, then cut on the lines by using scissors and xacto knives. Students were given lots of images to use as inspiration, but they came up with their own unique design. The process is a lot like making paper craft-snowflakes but is, of course, more complex.

To start a radial design:
(If you are doing an exact “mirrored” symmetry design, only fold the paper once in half, then follow the same steps)

  1. Fold one corner of a rectangular piece of thin colored paper (or origami paper) over to the edge:
  2. Cut off extra strip in order to create a square piece of paper:
  3. Fold one acute corner to the opposite repeatedly until you get whatever number of “pie pieces” you desire. We usually folded to 8-12 “pie pieces”:
  4. When you cut, never cut from one edge to the other, or you will sever most of your design! The skinnier your cuts, and the more of them you do, the more complex your design will be:
  5. Open carefully:
  6. Next, we spray adhesive (extra strength) all over the back, and stick it down carefully to a different colored piece of paper (roughly the same size as the opened radial design).
  7. We then used an X-Acto blade to cut “windows through each opening, leaving a border of the second color showing, and glue to another layer:

9. Repeat until you achieve the look you want! I also encouraged students to glue small pieces onto the top layer as well.

About Rachel Saarela:

DSC_8935a (2)Rachel Saarela has been teaching middle school art for four years in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Currently, she is teaching Ceramics/Sculpture 1, Painting 1, and Art Lab 1 at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, an arts magnet school in Anoka, MN. She loves getting kids excited about what they are capable of when it comes to art. In her own time, she loves painting and photography. Her undergraduate degree is from Bethel University. She currently resides in Andover, MN, with her husband, dog, and two cats.


Happy Halloween! – A Painted Pumpkin

My school is running a painted pumpkin contest for students and staff. Here is my contribution — Bowser from Mario Brothers. I thought it would be fitting to pick Bowser because I will be Mario this year. Stay tuned… there might be a carved pumpkin on its way as well!

-Shalanah Backus