December, 2018

Merry Christmas!!

It’s advent, a time of waiting and preparing . . . our decorations are all ready and have been hung with care on the annual St. Joseph School Christmas Tree!

Take a moment to admire examples of our handiwork in every grade level and then make a plan to visit the tree before break. Check it out during the annual Christmas Program on December 12 but remember . . . no ornaments come off the tree until the last day of school when they are hand delivered to classrooms and home-bound for your Christmas trees!

















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November, 2018

Kinders: We’ve been busy learning new vocabulary as we mixed primary colors to create secondary colors like orange and green; we also learned how two complementary colors can create a neutral like brown.  Finally we put our newfound color mixing skills to work on these pumpkins for fall:


First: As is tradition at St. Joseph School, the first graders dressed as saints for the All Saints Day mass in early November.  In art they have each carefully drawn and colored their saint in a portrait for the ages! Can you guess which is Saint Christopher who helped carry Jesus and the weight of the world safely cross a river? What about St. Teresa who served the poor in India? Or Saint Veronica who wiped the face of Jesus? Saint George, the dragon slayer, is an easy one to spot!


Second: Having learned about the life and work of Gustav Klimt, second graders bedazzled a Tree of Life they each created inspired by Klimt’s work of the same name. Using metallic paint and rhinestones their masterpieces light up the first floor hallway this season!

Third: What would fall be without the sunflower? These mixed media works by third graders have 3D flowers for interest right alongside those drawn in soft pastel.  Having created their own symmetrical vase (how are they so perfect? the secret remains theirs!) they added acrylic paint to highlight the curves and imitate pottery.

Fourth: What would Thanksgiving be without ornamental corn? Having thoroughly examined ears of ornamental corn and noted their crazy colors, each student used the art element of line and watercolor to draw from observation one or more ears (did you know the eye is more satisfied with odd numbers of things?). I think you’ll agree that the results are stunning!

Fifth: Continuing their work with color theory, fifth graders have discovered that the rainbow comes in both warm and cool undertones.  We practiced our gesture drawing and are working to bring our new understanding of color theory to a watercolor work currently in progress and featuring cats.

Sixth: The embroidered owls are complete and waiting to be admired in our gallery around the balcony.  Come see how the following stitches enhance our gorgeous ornaments: the blanket stitch, the seed stitch, the fly stitch and the french knot.


Seventh: Our cartoons are complete and the work of scoring, cutting, and nipping glass for our mosaic mirrors continues in the glass studio. We’re also getting excited for our glass field trip coming up in December!

Eighth: Having given very informative presentations on exposure in photography (do you know the three sides of the exposure triangle?), eighth graders have moved on to learning and practicing the elementary rules of composition as they apply to photographs.  The Rule of Thirds assignment produced several spectacular photos, some taken over the Thanksgiving holiday. Check out my Instagram page to see some of the results or just check out the sampler below:


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October, 2018

Kinders: “Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly . . .” In October we drew orb weaver spiders (ask us what an orb is!) in Project 64 and made them each a shiny, glittery web.  We also experimented with form as we created cheesecloth ghosts that are truly spookable!


1st: From light into darkness . . . our summer flowers have faded. “Sickness, insanity, and death were the angels that surrounded my cradle and have followed me throughout my life.” First graders learned the story of Edvard Munch and his sad life, and looked more closely at his painting, The Scream of Nature.  Did you know he made four such paintings (some artists make copies of their works) and in the last 20 years two were stolen twice? Why do you think he’s screaming? Meantime our crazy self portraits haunt the primary hallway . . .


2nd: What a busy month in art for second graders!  We finished our beautiful fall leaf watercolors with a little added salt for texture before diving into clay.  Clay day is so much FUN! We each made a large lily pad and a pinch pot frog.  Our frog mouths are soooo BIG!! Fingers crossed they make it through their first fire . . .


3rd: “The sunflower is mine in a way . . . “ Our mixed media sunflower vases are coming along nicely.  They are inspired by the works of Vincent van Gogh who created seven paintings in 1888-89 to decorate the yellow house in Arles in preparation for Paul Gauguin’s visit. We shaped paper clay sunflowers, experimented with oil pastel on top of soft pastel, and made lovely painted vases for our beautiful flowers.  Next up: putting it all together.

4th: “I decided if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty” said Georgia O’Keeffe. Fourth graders agree. After upsizing a small piece of a gorgeous flower or leaf, they applied glue and then filled in space with chalk pastel, blending colors in the petals, leaves, and other super-sized bits and pieces of flora and fauna. Check out some of our remarkable masterpieces:


5th: Our inspirational paintings currently welcome visitors to the school. Our Christmas ornaments are underway. Now what? Gesture drawing. Fast and loose.  Picking out shapes to get started and using them to create a contour outline. Wait until you see our fabulous cats coming soon to a hallway near you!

6th: Still hard at work on our embroidered owl Christmas ornaments, we took a brief break to finish the background of our massive grayscale self portraits.  Quite the lesson in tints and shades, these giant portraits grace our balcony gallery and have deservedly garnered a lot of praise. Here is a sampling:


7th: Our stained glass cross ornaments are grouted and complete.  We are working on our cartoons for our mosaic mirrors. No, not a comic — ask a 7th grader for the definition of cartoon as it relates to glass!

8th: Homecoming 2018 has come and gone with photos, stories, and critiques.  Have you looked at my Instagram page lately? Group presentations on exposure in photography (what are the three sides of the exposure triangle?) are complete and so are our moody, dark, and mysterious photo-illustrated book covers and poetry posters:

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September, 2018

Kindergarten: Our first art project explored watercolor paints while we learned how to use a brush (no bad hair days for our brushes!) and created either a rainbow of colors or a colorful sunrise/sunset.  Please come see our beautiful work on display!! In Project 64 we are building stamina with our pencils, practicing our pencil grip, and drawing some wild and crazy creatures. So far we have learned 10 crayon names!!

1st grade: Check out the charming collaborative first and second grade art project in the school office created in the style of a mandala! Meantime we are working hard on beautiful bouquets of summer flowers to brighten our hallways by experimenting with the properties of diffusing paper and watercolors.

2nd grade: Did you know that some artists create their own paint colors? Romero Britto does! This Brazilian-born pop artist inspired the second graders to combine line and shape patterns into a Britto-inspired apple that we “painted” with our oil pastels. It’s a bright way to kick-off the school year and add some color to the halls!!

3rd grade: Lines come in all different lengths including continuous which is kind of like an infinity line.  Have you ever drawn something recognizable without lifting your pencil from the paper? We practiced drawing without lifting our pencil from the paper and then, using an oil pastel, created a continuous line owl to which we then added watercolor paint. Owl cuteness reigns supreme in the 3-5 hallway!

4th grade: Jackson Pollock was an abstract expressionist perhaps best known for his controlled drip and splatter paintings. After studying his life and work we enjoyed the wonderful weather (no rain for the 6th year in a row!) and created our own masterpieces in his style.  Wonder if any of them will sell for $140M as Pollock’s No. 5 did in 2006?


5th grade: Fifth graders are currently finishing up an inspirational work filled with pattern, color, line, and shape.  Each chose a word that might inspire them to lead their best life and the results are truly spectacular! Come see for yourself in mid-October!!

6th grade: Currently working on two projects simultaneously, we’ve temporarily halted the work on our massive self portraits in order to get our embroidered Christmas ornaments started.  Surprised that originally embroidery was the sole purview of men (back in the medieval day), the 6th grade boys and girls have learned both the running stitch and the backstitch so far.  Wondering how embroidery and sewing differ? Just ask a 6th grader!

7th grade: Having researched a glossary of glass terms and learned a bit about the origin and properties of glass, 7th graders have practiced cutting art glass with wheeled nippers.  We are busily working to complete stained glass cross Christmas ornaments early in October.

8th grade: What four elements make a photograph great?  Ask any 8th grader.  Ever try to take your DSLR camera off “auto” or use DSLR features on your smartphone? It’s tough work to get the exposure and focus just right! Add night and action shots into the mix and it gets really tricky!! We are hard at work capturing not only what interests us but also documenting our year for the 2018/19 yearbook. You can follow us on my Instagram page @ jeanniebreen and check out our work there.

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October, 2017

JK: In Project 24 students are drawing creatures that remind us of chill autumn nights such as the bat.  Ask your Junior Kindergartner what the bossiest color is and see what they say!  It’s the reason our bats are gray . . .

K: Having learned about the orb weaver spider commonly found in gardens, forests, and homes, we drew this arachnid in all its glory and created a sparkling web to go with it in a combination of Project 64 and art.  Check out our handiwork on display outside our classroom.  October is a month of spookables and this year is no exception as we drew pirates and witches in Project 64. Speaking of spooky creatures, we also used a special solution to create some friendly ghosts that are protecting our classroom through Halloween!

1st: Do you know that a few artists make more than one copy of some of their works?  First graders heard the story of Edvard Munch’s Scream, a pricey work (nearly $120M in 2012) with several original copies, a couple of which have been stolen from different places and recovered multiple times.  The stories inspired us to create our own priceless screaming self portraits!

2nd: What color can be added to a hue to create a tint?  What added color creates a shade? Ask a second grader!  They used a combination of hand-mixed tints and shades to depict a moonlight night and created their own haunted house silhouettes to go with it as inspired by the work of Edward Hopper. Did you know Hopper’s House by the Railroad was considered to be the inspiration for the Bates Motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Psycho?  Each of our houses has its own collection of spooky creatures roaming about . . .

3rd: We finally finished our 3D sunflower filled vases in the style of Vincent van Gogh and they are glorious!!  Bringing an added dimension to our mixed media work, the paperclay sunflowers have drawn admiring comments from SJS students and teachers as well as visitors to our hallways!

4th: A viewfinder and Georgia O’Keeffe’s philosophy have helped to transform our small autumn leaf and flower images into large, bold, brilliantly colored shapes rendered in chalk pastel and glue. As O’Keeffe said about her own work, “I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.”

5th: Hard at work on a line and shape project, fifth graders have been tangling away and enjoying this relaxing technique while creating a stunning backdrop for their November fruit bowls. String, aura and tangle are all new terms associated with our doodling; ask a fifth grader to demonstrate a tangle for you!

6th:  Whew! The end is in sight!! It has been a fall filled with embroidery stitches — 6 in all — as 6th graders each create a Christmas ornament for the annual SJS tree.  Running stitch, back stitch, blanket or wagon wheel stitch, seed stitch, fly stitch, and coming up: the french knot.  Combine this with learning to sew on buttons and you have a life skill!

7th: Do you know the safe way to properly score, break, and cut glass?  Seventh graders do! They have practiced using the wheeled nippers to create their cross Christmas ornaments and are now ready to learn the grouting process.  So far we are injury-free! Their crosses promise to look amazing on the tree and are just the start to our larger glass mosaic mirror project coming up next!

8th: Our photography unit has introduced the 8th grade to the work of famous photographers such as Ansel Adams and virtual unknowns such as Adde Adesokan (check out our triptych portraits in his style!!).  We have wondered at the prices paid for images by Cindy Sherman and Andreas Gorsky. We have visited Grosse Point Light, Wagner Farm, and the Bahai Temple in search of the perfect shot. Eleven compositional rules and elements and nine photo assignments later, our photography unit is almost finished.  Our tenth and last assignment invites 8th graders to submit their best photos to our annual photo contest.  Also included will be those images gathering the most votes on Instagram (like our photos on jeanniebreen’s account!!) as well as a few teacher’s choice photos.

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September, 2017

JK:  We kicked off our year of Project 24 with the drawing of a crab and followed it up with a bright and colorful snail. Not only are our 4-year-olds getting used to the three finger grip in preparation for kindergarten, but we practice our grip with both our First Tri-Writes and our crayons.  Simultaneously students practice paying close attention and increasing their stamina during our guided drawing sessions.  Please stop by and check out our work which is posted outside the pre-school classrooms on the first floor!

K: Kinders loved checking out their faces in their own personal mirrors and then drawing and painting them in.  We are now exploring the world of Georgia O’Keeffe and her large-scale flower portraits as we tackle a sunflower collage project with tissue and glue.  Ask any kinder whether or not they chose to have their sunflower head sprinkled with fairy dust!

1st:  Having learned about the patterns and flowers found in the artwork of Gustav Klimt, first graders honored the end of summer with a watercolor field of flowers under a late summer sun.  We practiced patterns and designed our portfolio covers.  Continuing our exploration of pattern and color, we have looked at the work of the King of Color, Henri Matisse, and will be using warm and cool watercolors and acrylic paints to complete a bird’s eye view of a plate of autumn apples.

2nd: After completing our abstract names as portfolio covers, the second graders tackled a tricky print of leaves on bubble wrap dots in the style of Andy Warhol (see the final product on display outside their classroom).  We learned a lot of interesting things about Andy and most second graders were envious to hear that his mother gave him a Hershey bar for every drawing he completed while recouperating from Huntington’s Chorea (St. Vitus’ Dance) when he was a third grader. They were also interested to learn that he once owned 25 cats all names Sam, many of whom slept in his wig drawer! We wrapped September with clay crazy birds that are drying before being fired in a kiln at the WPD.  Now we have moved on to a gorgeously metallic painting of a curvy, swirly tree inspired by the golden art of Gustav Klimt. Ask any second grader what kind of bird sits in this tree and see if they remember!

3rd: Having learned a little about the pop art of the late Roy Lichtenstein, third graders traced the lines of their facial photographs to create a red, yellow, and blue self portrait which will serve as their portfolio cover this year.  See the amazing results in the balcony hallway on the second floor.  Meantime they have started work on a spectacular van Gogh-inspired flower portrait which will incorporate 3D sunflowers fashioned from paperclay along with hand-drawn flowers in chalk pastel. Third graders are also responsible for the fabulous signage celebrating the International Day of Peace on September 21, a day when St. Joseph students planted hand-crafted paper pinwheels for peace on the front lawn.

4th: Starting with their own names as inspiration, fourth graders began the year by combining a little math with their art, learning about radial symmetry, and designing their own personal mandalas.  Currently on display in the second floor hallway outside the balcony, each is a unique and beautifully colored work of art. Next up we read about the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock, watched him work in a vintage film clip, and finally created a work of our own in his style.  With a record-breaking heat wave followed by high humidity, our paintings took a record-breaking amount of time to dry.  Check out the results outside our classroom when you get a chance! In preparation for our next work we have learned the safest, most effective way to use an Exacto knife. Watch out at home!

5th: Fifth graders channeled their inner monks as they listened to Gregorian chants and created an illuminated letter of their own.  Using their first initial, metallic paint, markers, and a Sharpie, followed by a generous amount of glitter, their letters bring a golden glow to the hallway where they are on display. We have also finished the first step in creating our clay Star of Bethlehem Christmas ornament and will continue this work in a month or so.  Finally we have explored the Sketchmate pack a little as we learned how to create the illusion of space on a 2D surface.  Students were excited to try their new sketch pencils, charcoal pencils, their paper stump for blending, and use the sandpaper paddle to clean the stump up.

6th: Having watched an informational video on the Royal School of Embroidery and learned that Henry the VIII may have taken up embroidery, sixth graders are almost halfway finished with their first project.  Time-consuming and involved, their embroidered owls will grace our school Christmas tree and help decorate school halls before it goes home for good. So far, students have mastered the running stitch and the back stitch.  The blanket stitch is up next!

7th: Seventh graders have created a mobile from typeface letters in their first names as a warm-up to a year of exploring form in art.  We are just starting to explore the field of glass mosaic and will be engaged in two projects that allow their creative sides to come through.

8th: Each art day for the past 6 weeks 8th grade students have looked at a different aspect of photography.  We have looked at the various components necessary for a great photo, explored the difficult-to-master exposure triangle, looked at low-light photography, reviewed the ways in which a story can be told through photos, checked out the compositional tool called the Rule of Thirds, and looked at portrait photography.  Students have had several photo assignments in order to practice most of these aspects of photography and many have learned that taking a great photo is difficult and requires much practice.  Do you know the 4 critical requirements for a great photo?  Have you ever tried to balance exposure on a DSLR? Also students, parents, and faculty have been invited to view my Instagram account which highlights selected photos.  Won’t you take a look and “like” us at jeanniebreen on Instagram? Those photos receiving the most “likes” will automatically be included in our annual photo contest .

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May, 2017

Thank you to those who attended the Sender School Art Open House at New Trier High School!  Families had an enjoyable time looking at the amazing work of middle schoolers from six different schools, including St. Joseph, that feed into New Trier for high school.

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Meantime, Junior Kindergartners are wrapping up Project 24 this month with two new drawings.  Their final animal drawing is a series of shapes that, when complete, will make up one of the most fierce predators in the ocean.  What do you think it is?

Several days of spring rain have inspired the Kindergarten to finish their umbrellas, a rainbow of mixed colors, complete with construction paper boots splashing in the puddles created by their rain-splashed skies.  What do you use to create the sprinkles of rain that spatter their paintings?  Why a toothbrush of course!!

Having learned a little about the science of optical blending and the dots of color that make up French artist Georges Seurat’s famous works, first graders are attempting to create beautiful butterflies using that same pointillism technique.  They are working carefully, mindful of the symmetry involved in the butterfly’s wings.  Hopefully they will be complete in less than the 2 years it took Seurat to finish Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, now part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection! 

Congratulations to the second graders as they make their First Holy Communion this month!  Having finished their first communion collages with a beautiful gold handwritten prayer, we will start work on a painting that features a variety of spring flowers next. Plans are to wrap up the month in a collaborative project creating animal habitats for a science exhibition in their classroom.

Third grade is ready to apply India ink to their tooled metal cats designed in the style of the late artist Laurel Burch.  Wait until you see how creative they were on a small 5×5” piece of aluminum!  Soon we will begin our final project, a watercolor “portrait” of the school.

The mini impressionistic artworks created in soft pastel by the fourth graders are amazing renditions of famous works by artists such as Gustave Caillebotte, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh.  Having learned that the great impressionists painted with small strokes of pure color, they each worked hard to practice this technique.  Too bad they were unable to work en plein air as the original artists often did! Now they are working on individual op art flag pieces that commemorate the values this country was built on as featured in the preamble to the Constitution, just in time for Memorial Day!

Having FINALLY finished their graphite value studies of ears with pearl earrings as inspired by the eponymous work of Johannes Vermeer, we move on to our final element of art: texture.  We will let the squeegeed canvas art of Gerhardt Richter inspire our next creation.  Taking risks and experimenting are all part of the artistic process so it should be interesting to see if the art is as easy to create as it seems!

Having studied Paul Cezanne and his numerous works featuring still lifes of various fruits, sixth grade students are working to complete their watercolor pears.  This effort will be followed by a canvas of the same fruit in an acrylic medium.

Alexander Calder, the inventor of the mobile and the stabile, redefined the art of sculpture by introducing movement over a century ago.  Recently seventh graders followed in his footsteps to design two mobiles for display in the second floor foyers of the school. Following a brief diversion drawing human facial features (in practice for an upcoming project during their 8th grade year), they will help clean up old craft acrylic paints with pour work in the style of Holton Rower, Calder’s grandson.

The eighth grade is at work on their final project, a photo montage of the memories of their years prior to high school.  Having gathered about 40 photos each, they are busy cutting out the backgrounds and layering photos on their canvasses. These works will provide part of the decor for their graduation dinner dance at the end of the month.  In addition the winners of the annual 8th grade photo contest will be announced at this event.  Winner’s photos will go on permanent display in the school. Meanwhile many of their choice-based art projects are on display and wowing visitors to the school:


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