April 2019

St. Joseph School is represented at the New Trier’s Sender School Art Show this month! Come visit our 6th-8th grade work at NT East’s new art space on the 4th floor of the Atrium in Winnetka April 22-26. There’s a wealth of art talent on the North Shore of Chicago!!

And congratulations! to 4 of our junior high students whose work was chosen by the Archdiocese of Chicago for display at the NCEA (National Catholic Educators Association) Convention in Chicago’s McCormick Place April 22-26!! About 10,000 people will see their work:

Kinders: Our frogs are bringing a hint of springtime to the hallways. We color mixed their lily pads, experimented with glitter watercolor on the lilies, and drew/colored our frog friends in Project 64.

1st: At long last spring is on its way! First graders are celebrating its arrival with watercolor butterflies and inked bunnies, the former made in the style of pointillist Georges Seurat and the latter made with nothing but lines to infuse their rabbit with furry texture!


2nd: Did you know that Andy Warhol fell ill with St. Vitus’ Dance in 3rd grade and had to stay home from school for months?  During that time his mother gave him a chocolate bar for every picture that he drew and colored.  That illness left him with permanently blotchy skin and a lifelong interest in art.  Do you know that he wore custom-made wigs when he started to go bald, each a little wilder and more silver than the last?! And how about his beloved cats . . . one named Hester and 26 named Sam?! Second graders can tell you a lot about Mr. Warhol. And what a fabulous job they did on their Warhol-inspired pop art!

3rd: After learning about the term “symmetrical”, third graders have carefully hand-tooled a butterfly with symmetrical wings and designs using the techniques of repousse and chasing. Back and forth, embossing and debossing, deciding which areas should be convex and which would look better concave.  When all is finished we will ink and burnish a dark patina over our work and then add bright highlights here and there.  Voila!

4th: Back in the early 1900’s Henri Rousseau was just a guy.  By day a despised toll collector at the gates of Paris, he fancied himself an artiste but never studied art, couldn’t afford art school, and taught himself to draw and paint wild animals and exotic plants by sitting in the Louvre, visiting the Botanical Gardens in Paris, and looking at new-at-the-time photo books of wild beasts from other continents. Having never traveled outside France, Rousseau often painted animals, flora, and fauna from different eco-systems and habitats into one imaginary scene. With flat, slightly disproportionate figures and bright colors, he practiced sketching and painting religiously, imagining himself to be a great artist. He regularly submitted works to the Paris Salon and was regularly denied permission to exhibit. However it is now believed that his work actually inspired Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse, all of whom became famous in their own lifetimes. Meanwhile Rousseau died impoverished, though today his works are priceless. Inspired by Rousseau’s Surprised! 1891 our fourth graders collaged their own improbable wild animal tableaus. Like Rousseau we have placed animals in our jungles, some of whom belong there and some of whom don’t. Do you know who are the native jungle dwellers?

5th: Ancient Greece was home to Plato and Aristotle, the origin of the fluted column, and red and black figure pottery. Fifth graders have absorbed their lessons in Greek architecture and can tell you the difference between Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns.  After creating a column of their choosing, each student also created either a red figure or black figure vase to grace it. Come visit our cafeteria gallery and enjoy their superb workmanship!

6th: The Middle Ages between the 15th and 16th centuries was a dark and difficult time in which to live.  It was also a time of incredibly talented and disciplined artists whose work shone brilliantly and whose lives and art are still studied even today. Michelangelo was such an artist. One of the greatest sculptors to ever live, he also was willing to tackle an art form that he felt considerably less comfortable with: fresco painting (on fresh plaster).  In so doing he created the masterpieces on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. After learning about his life and some of his greatest works (what makes La Pieta so special? ask a 6th grader . . . ), his habits, his idiosyncrasies, and his challenging personality, sixth grade students learned to grid draw, and, with this traditional art aid, have reproduced a piece of The Creation of Adam. The first image is the original!

7th: Paul Cezanne created his apple paintings “to astonish Paris”. Our seventh graders have spent the last several weeks painting their own apples all while better understanding Cezanne’s quote: “Painting is darned difficult — you always think you’ve got it, but you haven’t.” Despite this feeling, just as in Cezanne’s case, their results are overwhelmingly stunning. Witness:

8th: Several eighth graders created watercolor technique works to enter in the Regina Dominican High School Art Show this year. Trying to stay within the theme of Grimm’s Tales (such as Red Riding Hood, The Frog Prince, Briar Rose aka Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella) proved tricky to execute using at least 12 different watercolor techniques but our students were up for the challenge! Here are some of the works we entered; can you match the tale to the work?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

March 2019

St. Joseph School art is currently on display at the Wilmette Public Library, 1224 Wilmette Avenue.  Stop by sometime this month and check out our work on the second floor in the Youth Services area.


In the younger grades this month is all about color!

K: We reinforced the concept of primary colors mixing to make secondary colors with a mini assessment. Kindergarten students learned about ladybugs and then created these cute bugs whose primary colored wings mix to make the secondary color body. Do you know why ladybugs have spots? Ask a kinder 🙂


1st: Did you know that analogous colors are close friends? First graders took a close look at the color wheel to identify those colors that are calm and serene as well as those that are bright, vivid, and call out for attention. We learned that the cool colors take a step into the background when placed against their warm counterparts who pop and jump to life in a composition. Students printed a cool color background and added a warm color fish to swim among the plant life in our oceanscapes.

2nd: Continuing with our color theme, second graders used the color wheel to identify complementary colors, those frenemies that are opposite each other on the color wheel that can make a composition spring to life when placed next to each other.  However when mixed together, they create a dull, subdued color palette, good for shadows and neutral shades. We used this knowledge to paint our carefully drawn giraffes. What is the color complement to red-orange? Ask a second grader!

3rd: We carefully finished up our watercolor blue jays inspired by the creative genius of Charley Harper’s graphic animal prints. Lines and shapes bring our jays to life.  Third graders diligently practiced their watercolor wash techniques and worked on waiting patiently for one section to dry before painting the next.

4th: After learning about the art element of value, fourth graders used a variety of shapes to design a robot which they then painted in a gray tone with a medium gray shadow and a white highlight. After adding details to give our robots some personality, our creations are ready to put on display in the first floor hallway. What do you think?

5th: After learning more about the principle of design called balance, students created a balanced composition of shapes. Using a square or rectangular frame each student identified a section of their composition in which to showcase their knowledge of the art element of value. Creating tints and shades of a rainbow of hues, they painted in their abstract masterpieces. Though we did not create any tones, they can tell you how to make one.

6th: Sixth graders are creating a fabulous spring project while learning to both needle felt and wet felt.  Needles used in needle felting wool roving are super sharp with little barbs so we’re being extra careful.  In contrast wet felt involves a little wool roving, some soap, a little water, and a LOT of agitation! After learning about the process of shearing wool, washing and rinsing it, and then combing it into roving, we have created colorful needle felted birds with wet felted wings and tails to go with the nests that we built of natural materials a few weeks ago.

Come visit our second floor display and see our very realistic looking felted flock!

7th: Each class creates a legacy project (or two) during their junior high years.  This year our 7th grade collaborative project is an extremely challenging one.  Inspired by the mobiles originally invented by Alexander Calder, we are in the process of creating several flying origami crane mobiles.  Did you know that the crane is an ancient Asian symbol for happiness and eternal youth?  Cranes also stand for fortune, good luck, longevity, and peace.  How difficult is it to balance a hand-built mobile? Ask any 7th grader: it’s a challenge!

8th: Our pots are back from our adventure to The Pot Shop in Evanston and they are beautiful! Thank you to the PSO for making it possible for us to enjoy some new glazes with pizazz!! Meanwhile 8th graders are hard at work on their watercolor techniques artwork in prep for the Regina Dominican juried art show.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

February, 2019

Kinders: Did you know that every year SJS kindergartners learn about the lunar new year and create a Chinese lantern showcasing the animal of the new year? 2019 is the year of the pig/hog and our lanterns joyously welcome Chinese culture into the classroom.

1st: Happy Valentine’s Day!! Reinforcing their understanding of basic aspects of color theory and line design, the first graders brightened the lower school hallways with some heart art!

2nd: Winter is still not over, despite the groundhog’s prediction 😦 However 2nd graders are making the best of it! We learned kirigami is the Japanese art of paper cutting — can you cut the perfect 6-sided snowflake? And we were wowed by how easy it is to print by creating our own printing plates and using water-based markers!!

3rd: Charley Harper was an amazing graphic artist whose ability to depict the nature of an animal with a few simple shapes and strokes is world-reknown. We are honoring his legacy this month with a work inspired by both our snowy winter and his blue jay prints.

4th: The Japanese art of balancing light and dark space, also known as positive and negative space, is called Notan. Fourth graders learned the proper way to use an exacto knife and designed their own Notan. The results are spectacular!

5th: Do you know what elements can give a picture depth and depict perspective on a flat 2D surface? Fifth graders incorporated at least 3 of these elements into their farmscapes inspired by David Hockney’s work, Garrowby Hill (1998).  Hockney is said to be England’s greatest living artist. Check out both his work and our own!

6th: Our French gothic cathedrals with their needlepoint rose windows are complete.  Each sixth grader designed their own pattern for the window to complement their drawing of the cathedral they chose. Our adventures in fiber arts are far from over as we embark on another new project for spring.  Wait until you see what my little sixth grade birdies are up to now!

7th: Finally!! At long last our glass mosaic mirrors are complete. We finished the tedious task of placing our glass into our cartoons and then wiping off the grout haze piece-by-piece after grouting but the results are gorgeous and really light up the balcony hallway as both the glass and the mirrors reflect the winter sunlight streaming through our large windows. I think you’ll agree that they are well worth all the effort!

8th: Our field trip to The Pot Shop in Evanston was a huge success.  We had a lot of fun learning to use the pottery wheel to create cylinders and bowls.  Here are a few photos from our trip:


We also are helping Go Green Wilmette to achieve 1000 photos of the sky for The SkyDay Project. Won’t you join us? It’s simple: log into skydayproject.org for more information! Here we are capturing our photos of “nothing but sky”:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January, 2019

Please take some time between January 23 and February 15 to check out SJS artwork that is on display at The Wilmette Park District, 3000 Glenview Road  . . .

K: Paul Klee was an artist whose work has a childlike and whimsical quality to it.  A talented musician like his parents, he chose the visual arts over music to be more freely able to express himself.  Inspired by Klee’s Castle and Sun, kinders reviewed different shapes and used them to create their own castles in the sun, learning to grow them with Sharpie from the bottom up and color them with oil pastels from the top down.

1st: While successfully creating a swirly, starry night inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s work of that name, first graders had fun exploring the vibrant colors of the night sky using the technique of impasto. Such thick paint makes for great texture in our work!  As one student put it, “The paint makes my eyes twirl!!” This month we have also learned about the life and work of Piet Mondrian and his love of primary colors, precise grids, and boogie woogie.  We practiced this dance style on our movement breaks as we carefully printed out our grids and used oil pastels for the color blocks. Did you know Mondrian was the first artist to intentionally create and display his work on the diagonal?

2nd: Another busy month of painting a cool-hued value moonscape in the antarctic to accommodate our value shaded penguins as they danced and skated on a textured ice field. How does our ice look so realistic?  Ask a second grader to describe the watercolor technique we used! We also completed colorful 3D paper sculptures, learning different folding and cutting techniques as we built our masterpieces.

3rd: Finally! Third graders have finished weaving their cute and fluffy baby Emperor penguins.  They used a running stitch to sew on the felt face, learned the life skill of sewing on buttons (as eyes), and some students even had time to create a kumihimo hanging cord.  Now our gorgeous weavings are hanging in the balcony windows on display. Come check out all of our hard work!!

4th: It is amazing how impressive the fourth grade’s impressionist waterscapes and boats turned out. Creating a mini replica of an impressionist masterpiece using a secret technique took time and effort (and a LOT of little dabs of chalk) but the beautiful results were well worth it!  We have also worked quickly to finish weaving reed and yarn baskets using the ceramic bases designed earlier this year.

5th: In painting our cityscape at either nightfall or sunset, fifth graders used various shapes to create building silhouettes inspired by actual skylines.  The building reflections in the water lend symmetry to the work and emphasize the darkened positive space.

6th: Did you know that rose windows came into their glory in the height of the Middle Ages, complemented by the Gothic churches that they bathed in jewel tones of light? Each student chose a French cathedral to learn about, created a report to accompany their line drawing of the cathedral, and are now working on needlepointing a rose window on a plastic canvas to embellish their drawing.

7th: Our trip to New Trier High School’s glass art studio was awesome! Over a period of two afternoons students worked on the torch (yes, as in BLOWtorch!!) to create a little turtle and in the hot shop with the glass furnace to create a large glass paperweight. Many thanks to Mrs. Boyd and Mike DaPonte for all their help and encouragement!


8th: In photography as in art there are several fundamental “rules” of composition that it helps to know and consider each and every time you take a photo (unless time is of the essence or you’ll miss the moment!). After studying these compositional tools including the rule of (active) space, the rule of odds, symmetry and balance, pattern and repetition, point of view, framing, leading lines, texture, and color theory, each 8th grader chose a compositional element to become more familiar with by taking photos.  See if you can match each of these photos with a compositional element:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

















Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment