Monthly Mentor

Holly Bess Kincaid (September)
Holly Bess Kincaid is the resident “Art Lady” at Skyline Middle School in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She refers to her classroom as the “Capitol of Creativity” and strives to create a studio environment where her students gain artistic skills and knowledge to help them express themselves through their visual voice. Holly Bess received her Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and her Masters from New York University in 2001. She has enjoyed teaching elementary and middle school students in Virginia and Houston, TX since 1994. In 2011, she completed her National Board Certification. Click "Go" to read her full bio.



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Friday 09.16.16

Artists and Educators Observe

From: Holly Bess Kincaid

As a young girl, my mother was delighted when I would make interesting observations about the world around us. I would notice the small insects, patterns of light and shadows, or the shapes within clouds. As artists we observe the world around us adding to the creative image bank within our minds.

Each year, I begin to get to know my new group of artists by focusing on the Studio Habit - Observe.


Students start the journey into art drawing from observation and using blind contour drawing, continuous line drawing, and contour line drawing challenges. The quick drawing challenges ask students to really look at the object they are drawing and try to notice details they may have never noticed before. Students love drawing the profile view of their shoe and usually find a high level of success with their results.


Students can use the quick observational drawing practice to learn how blend colored pencils while drawing a fall leaf. When I taught in Texas, my students loved drawing from fall leaves that were mailed from a friend in the Northeast Region while their leaves where in peak. The fragile quality of the leaves and subtle changes of colors inspired students as they explored ways to blend pencil hues to capture essence of the leaf.


Another great challenge in observation can come from drawing a crumbled magazine page. Students were introduced to colored pencil blending techniques first, and then chose a magazine image to crumble and draw. The folds of the page formed cubist like images making for an interesting result. 


As students draw, the art teacher can observe work habits and assess the skills students possess at the beginning of the year. Art teachers must continue to observe, assess, adapt and differentiate learning for our students while guiding them to their personal successes.  Being observant, teachers can assess the skills needed, plan to incorporate new strategies, and guide students to add techniques into their practice. 

How do you help your students to be more observant artists in your classroom?


Thursday 09. 1.16

Envisioning Studio Thinking

From: Holly Bess Kincaid

Teachers are constantly learning and growing throughout their careers. We love to learn! During the summer of 2014, I was fortunate to join fellow fine art educators from Virginia on the campus of George Mason University for the Virginia Center for Excellence in Education’s week long Leadership Seminar. Our time was filled with discussions about educational law, teacher leadership and I was introduced to concepts from the book Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education.

One of our professors during the week was Kimberly M. Sheridan who is one of the authors of Studio Thinking 2. The week’s discussions helped me to add a framework to the way I teach my students to learn to think like artists. In my classroom, I encourage my students to improve their artistic skills, their studio habits and provide my students’ a choice in how they develop their visual voice.

As the new school year gets underway, I am investigating new ways to build on the Studio Habits taught in my classroom while reflecting on my own practice. Throughout September, I will be sharing strategies from my classroom that encourage students in the Eight Studio Habits of Mind: Observe, Reflect, Stretch and Explore, Understand Art Worlds, Develop Craft, Engage and Persist, Envision, and Express.

Studio%20Habits%20Studio Habits Bulletin Board

The Studio Habits can also guide art educators through self-reflection on our educational practice. During the summer, I took time to ENVISION and imagine the new school year. I reorganized my classroom for easier access for students to use materials of choice, creating studio centers and a 3D printer makers’ space, along with developing new curriculum units to support studio thinking. We set the tone for the artistic explorations our students will experience in the classroom studio environment. Each new school year begins with students and teachers imagining the potential in new lessons, strategies, and materials. What have you done over the summer that has helped you to reflect or envision a great year?

Diptic of images from the Capitol of Creativity


Wednesday 08.31.16

Questioning Strategies – Utilizing the Question Formulation Technique

From: Christine Miller

Learning about the Question Formulation Technique in my graduate studies at Texas Woman’s University has been one of the most valuable additions to my teaching toolkit. QFT is a simple process that provides students with a way to generate their own driving questions for their learning. There are lots of pertinent resources in this post, so please take a little time to check out the presentations and videos that are included! 

Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana developed this technique while using it in the classroom over 20 years. They refined and honed the process to its pure essence. Take a look at Dan Rothstein’s TED talk about the history behind QFT:


Their website, the Right Question Institute has additional background and support materials that make it easy to try it out in your own classroom. You might like to read the book they wrote, Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, for a broader overview of QFT in various content areas. 

When I found out about QFT, I knew I wanted to try it out right away. The video below was shot the second week of school with my Sculpture 1 class. I did not prepare them for the QFT before we taped the video. What you will see is a real time experience with students who are working through the process of creating questions to help drive their decision making for their monster project. 

Christine ChristineMiller-QuestionFormuationTechnique from APS Arts on Vimeo.

After my experience with my students and their questioning for their art project, I made a presentation that I gave at my Texas Woman’s University Creative Arts and Research Symposium and posted it to SlideShare so people in the audience could access it. You can find out how I have the students return to the essential questions they generated for themselves throughout their creative process, from initial design to their end of project reflection.  

SlideQft presentation w o embedded video from Christine Miller

QFT is a powerful, easy and meaningful way to help our students be more engaged and in charge of their learning. Try it out this year and discover the power of students learning how to ask their own questions!


Monday 08.22.16

Questioning Strategies in the Art Classroom – Student Exit Ticket!

Perhaps you have spent some time with a young child that is somewhere between 3 and 10. My experience with young children is that they ask LOTS of questions – about EVERYTHING! They can even ask questions that we are not quite ready for, like the proverbial “Where do babies come from?” question as you are standing in the grocery checkout line! It’s not uncommon for adults to get weary of so many questions that just keep coming and coming. But then something changes somewhere along the way – the number of questions they ask either slows way down, or worse, they stop all together. 

I’m beginning my 12th year as a high school art teacher, and every year I have taught freshmen in foundation art classes like Art 1: 2D Design and Drawing or Art 1: 3D Design and Sculpture. My observation about the majority of my freshmen students is that they do not ask many questions. Peer pressure, feeling uncomfortable in a classroom environment and thinking they will be judged on everything they do, locks them down tight. If they have had art before, the majority of 9th grade students seem to be totally disconnected to that experience, almost as if it never happened. My colleagues and I find that on our campus, there’s a significant percentage of freshmen art students that have a fixed mindset about their skills in art and are not easily budged out of that mindset.


I suggested to my team last year that we start a Question of the Day activity that lined up with the Artist of the Day Video we showed every day. Their answer to this question would serve as an “Exit Ticket” for each student from each class, every day. I prepared an area by my door with colored paper and the words “Exit Ticket”. The question of the day was posted on the white board and was discussed after the Artist of the Day video was over. It was in a prominent place so they could refer to it during the entire class. I had a stack of different colored Post-It Notes, and I would let each student choose the color of Post-It they wanted to record their answer on. It was fun to see what color they wanted to choose! Then, during their work time, they would respond to the question, being sure to put their name on their Exit Ticket so they would get credit for their answer. Before they left class that day, they would place their Exit Ticket on the area by the door as they left. I would scoop up the classes’ responses before the next class came in. I devised a simple hash mark grading system in my grade book to keep track of their responses, and made it a weekly grade according to how many they turned in that week. I LOVED reading their responses every day!

Fiza%202One student’s response to the question: What do you hope to learn in Sculpture class this year?

This continued day after day for the entire year. I would plan the questions for the week when I did my weekly planning on Sunday.  It was amazing addition to our daily routine. Since I have taught without the Exit Ticket, I experienced several years of working with my students, without really  knowing what they were taking away from a day’s lesson. You think you are resonating with them, but it’s not always evident. This activity has completely changed that dynamic. Some students might dash off a quick response, but MANY others give thoughtful responses. Some, like the student’s Exit Ticket above and below, even include a sketch, incorporating their visual thinking along with their written response!

This student’s response to the question: How can creating art be healing?

I loved finding out what my students were thinking as we journeyed through the year! The shy, quiet students now had a voice! And, I could see that many more students were digging into their thinking more deeply, connecting with higher level thinking. But, I wanted to hear what they thought about the Exit Ticket. So one day, I asked them if the Question of the Day was beneficial to them. 82% of them replied “Yes”, 13% were “So-so” about it, with only 5% responding negatively to the daily exercise. Here are just a few of their responses:

  • I like answering the question – it actually gives me something to think of when I watch the videos.
  • I think they’re cool because it gives me a chance to focus on something other than stress.
  • I think the questions are very think worthy. They make you think of stuff you generally don’t think about.
  • It helps us understand our thoughts.
  • I like the questions because I like how I can say my opinion.
  • They make me think more not only in art, but in other stuff too.
  • I think it is good for the brain.

A new school year is about to start, and the Question of the Day will be returning in all of our school’s art classes. I’m changing the physical format of them this year, because buying so many Post-It Notes is expensive, though they were really fun. You can use an app like Exit Ticket (that can be found for iPhones & androids), or an old fashioned, small piece of paper that could be put in a hanging file by the door with a divider for each class. I hope I have gotten you interested in having an Exit Ticket activity in your class!  Play with it and find out what your students are thinking about!


Monday 08. 8.16

Explore Fiber: Incorporating Fiber into a K-12 Art Education Curriculum

From: Christine Miller


I am a life long fiber artist who found myself (after a full blown mid-life crisis) becoming a high school art teacher. It was not my plan to teach (though I had been teaching lots of people along the way in my winding life journey). I wanted to teach high school, because I had had a long career as a professional fiber artist and thought I could share the knowledge of my experiences with them. 

Huipil%20&%20ShawlHand woven Clothing by Christine Miller – 1980s

My professional weaving career involved several reinventions of myself. First, I spent several years as a weaver that specialized in commission work of all kinds: clothing, functional household items, one 3’ X 5’ rug (ugh! NOT a rug weaver!), and art concept pieces. That quickly moved into exhibiting in juried art fairs and selling my work out of my tent. After 3 years of dealing with unpredictable weather ordeals, I stood out in the aisle of the show I was in and shook my fist at the heavens and vowed to never do another outdoor art show again. I felt just like Scarlett O’Hara and decided right then I would sell my tent so I would never be tempted to sell outdoors again! When I moved “off the street”, I organized and ran a fiber gallery cooperative that represented wearable art from regional and national artists. It was so nice to be inside where it was dry and warm. I loved having our gallery, until the owners of our building shooed us out because they wanted to tear the building down to build something that was more profitable. Then, I started a custom textile studio with 2 friends, and we produced hand woven fabrics, passementary and trims that were represented in showrooms across the U.S. That continued for a few years until one day I realized I was still not making a living wage and had no benefits for my family or myself. Life got real then. 

Sushi%20smallHand woven fabric and coordinating trims – 1990s

This led into reinventing myself once again – this time into an art teacher. I went back to school at 47 to finish my bachelor’s degree in Art Education. I am beginning my 12th year (I started teaching at 50), and it has been one of the most important decisions I ever made. What started out as a defensive move, turned into a soul-enriching career. It wasn’t too long into my teaching, that I started bringing my love of fibers into my art classroom. And, it wasn’t very long before I noticed that many art educators don’t use fibers as a fine art material in their art curriculum because they don’t have the experience or knowledge about how to bring fibers into their classroom. This was an important Aha! moment for me! I realized that I could widen my teaching to help art educators learn more about fiber, and Explore Fiber was born.

Cricket%20LoomsStudents weaving in my classroom on Schacht rigid heddle Cricket looms

Building the Explore Fiber website to help teachers was super fun for me (I LOVE technology), but it was also a thrill to start teaching my students about all kinds of fiber processes. One of the more successful early lessons we did was sculptural needle felting. They loved it and so many of them created unique, wonderful pieces!

10th grade student’s needle felted sculpture – “Fabio” - 2013

Now, in its second year of life, Explore Fiber is a beautiful, thriving toddler! I was thrilled that it won second place in the Wild Card category of The Art of Education’s Blog competition this last spring! Explore Fiber is a free resource for teachers, students and fiber artists to come to for information about working with fibers as a fine art material. I hope Explore Fiber can grow to be THE resource for all things fiber! New lessons are underway and will be posted throughout the upcoming months. The blog has a steady stream of inspiration about the fiber art being created today and the importance of fiber in the 21st century. Other fiber artists are contributors and collaborators on this site that is intended for broad fiber community involvement. Please check out the site, and contact me at if you have something to add or contribute to the website.

Art%20mascotMs. Miller’s Art Mascot

When we tap into our passion for art, whatever media, technique or process it may live in, and bring it into our classroom to share with our students, the energy that is created is enormous. As I get ready to start a new school year, I’m thinking about the new ways I want to share my passion for fibers with my students. Where does your passion lie, and how can you bring more of your authentic self into your art classroom/studio? I wish you all a powerful new school year!  Viva Fiber!!


Monday 08. 1.16

Artist of the Day Videos - Technology for Student Engagement

From: Christine Miller


The Artist of the Day video is my FAVORITE tool to play with in my teaching practice. Videos allow students to hear contemporary artists talk about their process and work. Using video technology enables my students to have a clearer understanding about how and why art is created. Our students are demanding that there be relevancy to what they are learning and that they be connected to the real world. Artist of the Day videos are compelling informational vehicles that tap into the contemporary art world.

This daily video acts as a bell ringer and helps students focus and get settled into art class. It is a tool that exposes students to a variety of formally trained and self-taught contemporary artists using a variety of mediums and styles of art making. The Artist of the Day video facilitates dialogue in the classroom about contemporary art and artists. We question their motivations and speculate about technical details they use to produce their work. We talk about the aesthetics of an artist’s work and how it might be addressing social issues. Ultimately, the videos give students the chance to see art they probably wouldn’t see anywhere else.

You can read an article I wrote for Trends, the Journal of the Texas Art Education Association published November 2013 Trends Article – Artist of the Day Video. It goes into detail about how artist videos can be used in the classroom, as well as suggestions for organizing your own video library. There are a variety of ways to use the videos to connect students to making and appreciating art. Watching the Artist of the Day video is like riding a magic carpet - we discover the wonders of the art world while we are in our classroom, but are transported to a vast world of art and artists – every day!

Christine Miller
Team Lead Visual Arts
Student Council Sponsor
Williams High School

Sunday 07.31.16


From: Diane Wilkin

It’s amazing what eight days can do! I was planning to share visual art collaborations (I will) but I have additional thoughts after a state leadership retreat followed by the NAEA Artistry of Leadership gathering.  

Student family portraits (colors, textures, objects, size…) hang as a community. 

Like you and me, students need to learn to work together, and what better place than the art classroom.  They also need to engage their spaces and engage in the educational dialog.

Craft/Design students created stained glass to enhance a doorway in Truman HS, Levittown, PA

Elementary geometrics, ceramic symbolic tiles and an Empty Bowls Art event to help the hungry.  Arts for social action and enhancing community spaces.  (Bristol Township SD, Levittown, PA)

PA Art Ed leaders shared time and creative energies. Canvases were begun, placed in a central location for others to take and continue, and returned to the central location until deemed finished by a participant and placed on the wall. Admittedly, a few were taken off the wall and reworked as well. Where are they located now?  - On exhibit at the PA Department of Education offices

Collaborations in art education present in a variety of ways. The collaborations at the PAEA and NAEA leadership gatherings will have artifacts of a different sort – organizational benefits, policies and procedures, enhanced member opportunities…and more. 

Blog%207%20pic%205Art Educators at work – learning together, sharing ideas, and joining together to enhance programs and policies in the field of art education. 

And where does critical thinking fit in all of this- that act of analyzing and evaluating? Well, where doesn’t it?  

HS Communication students collaborated on a Menger’s Cube Wall, with a screen printed message.

As August begins, a new voice will come to the blog, I wish you the best. Perhaps we’ll cross paths in a future collaboration! 


Monday 07.25.16

CREATING – The Spaces for CREATIVITY (Second of the Four C’s)

From: Diane Wilkin

It takes great effort to maintain a flow in my own creative work. My mind is filled with ideas for improving my classroom practice and space.


Blog%206%20-%20Pic%201%20Taos%20studio Taos Clay Studio – a classroom space in Taos, NM

I have a file of photos like these at the Taos Clay Studio in NM. We teachers are always exploring the best methods to organize studios for students. 

Blog%206%20-%20%20Pic%203%20KutztownKutztown University studio space in Kutztown, PA

But, how about our individual creative spaces; what do they look like?

I have learned to be diligent in scheduling time for my own artwork. If you’re saying you can’t make, take or find the time – let me assure you, time already exists and is not hidden. Our artwork starts with making the DECISION to use the time we have as we choose.  Once decided, the challenges become staying focused and dedicating space.  ‘=

Wharton Esherick’s space -  wood sculptor printmaker – ARTIST!

Wharton Esherick built his studio in Malvern, PA. The space changed functions and grew over the years– he maneuvered in this space until his mid 90’s. (No photos were allowed inside- but I’ll bet you know the interior staircase from photos!)  

Blog%206%20Pic%205%20EscherikWharton Esherick’s silo addition to his studio

For me, like many of you, the creative space has manifested differently as my life and family have grown and changed. At one time, a portable bag, then a tabletop, then a whole dining room. As life situations change, our spaces do too.  What’s your creative space like?

Blog%206%20pic%206%20wall%20in%20hall“A Wall in a Hall”

Blog%206%20%20pic%207%20board%20in%20a%20bedroom“A Board in a Bedroom”

“A Rented studio”

Perhaps yours is a drop-cloth in a dining room, a transitioning TV room, a Kiosk in a Kitchen, or a traveling tote. Jackie Thomas, PA artist and retired educator carries her artwork with her-  EVERYWHERE is her studio. You can see her work on display at Eagles Mere Art Gallery.

If you find yourself struggling to maintain a creative space in your life (physical or mental), take a look at Matthew Kelly’s book OFF BALANCE: Getting BEYOND the WORK-LIFE Balance MYTH to Personal and Professional Satisfaction. We can all aim for that personal and professional creative satisfaction where we are ‘the best versions’ of ourselves. 

Hope to find you CREATING in your studios, wherever they may be!    


Thursday 07.21.16


From: Diane Wilkin

Communication in 2016 happens in Very Public Spaces. Even the text messaging that you might believe is private can be recorded and shared with others in ‘screen-shots’. In this year of political posturing with the presidential election and heightened campaign messages about to be released, (I write as the Republican National Convention is taking place in Cleveland, OH) it’s important that we learn and teach how to safely maneuver in this very public space, participate ethically in the discussion and be aware of the impact that this space has upon us. 

BLog%205%20Pic%201%20Breed%20specific%20legislationSummer Feliciano is passionate about the prejudice shown towards bulldogs.  She created this large public piece in the school cafeteria to illustrate that perceptions are different in other places.  The breeds pictured are all banned in various parts of the world. She posted a variety of statistical information next to the piece.  Students, teachers, and a regional community group joined the conversation.

Students want to take part in the discussion and often expand my own knowledge because of their passion about an issue. Kara Walker’s black cut out silhouettes are powerful images exploring issues of race, violence, sexuality - tough subjects for any classroom.  Her work proved inspirational to Summer, whose work is pictured above. Kara Walker Art 21 Episode  

Learning to communicate Big Messages of personal importance, Truman HS students researched facts, and then provided information and large format visuals to inform, educate, and impact the perception and possibly the activity of the viewer. 

Blog%205%20-%20pic%202%20beesUsing Digital media, Brett Sommerer designed a large poster to inform others about the problems being faced by the bee populations and the impact that these problems are anticipated to have on the human population.

Check out the drawings in the February 2015 SchoolArts article by Carol Horst “One Wish” describing student responses to “Can Art Change the World?” We also look at "Running the Numbers" by Chris Jordan. I saw this show in NYC a while back and I STILL remember being drawn in to a powerful moment – a realization of the impact of huge statistical numbers representing injustice, violence, consumption and trash. Jeanne Leffingwell’s A Million Bead Project brings huge numbers into an elementary perspective. These are powerful examples of communicating BIG NUMBER Messages.

Recognizing that what we communicate has an IMPACT and that there are ETHICAL considerations to be made, our photography class discusses ethics when comparing the Newsweek and Time Magazine cover photos of the McCaughey parents, using the guidelines for photojournalism as a reference. AP Code of Journalism

Blog%205%20Pic%203%20mc%20caughey%20Septuplets%20-%20altered%20bobbiComparison of Newsweek and Time Magazine covers – Mc Caughey Septuplets

Always looking to enhance lessons, this week I found additional resources to use when discussing BIG SOCIAL MESSAGES – the following story directly relates to the magazine comparison above.

In Rich Smith’s book, the Leap *How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good to Great, he tells the story of Sylvia Lagnado in 2002 working at Unilever on an advertising campaign for the Dove brand. Looking at the statistics surrounding women and poor self-images, she and her team wanted to make changes. The team was motivated but management was not convinced about transforming the brand. The team had trouble gaining momentum until they were able to “film young daughters of C-level executives. We asked them what they didn’t like about their bodies. We told them they could name one thing only. I don’t like my freckles, my hair, my butt, I’m too heavy, I’m too short.” I’m ugly. 

“Then we added music and played it back to the people whose daughters we had filmed. Here were grown men sitting in a wood-paneled executive conference room watching their own preteen daughters, cute young girls, saying that they didn’t feel pretty – slender ten-year-olds saying that they were fat. It was as emotional and powerful as you could get…. It was uncomfortable, but they got it.”

Sometimes we’re not aware of the BIG MESSAGE, sometimes we are. Most likely, whether aware or not, we’re affected by it. Let’s educate ourselves and our students to take an active, ethical role in communicating big (and small) messages in the very public spaces of our lives. Let us also teach and learn to critically analyze the messages we receive and then create quality content to contribute to the conversation.  


Monday 07.18.16

EXPLORING: to Boldly go ...

From: Diane Wilkin

It’s been a year of technological learning, pushing boundaries and opening up those ends to those questions. Our school introduced google classroom as a platform - syllabus, assignments and student submissions all in one. Still making adjustments, but I love it! 

Technologies: Embracing the ubiquitous cell phone in the classroom as a research tool with internet access, as a test answering device, and even as a creative tool, means adjusting old school policies.  

Two students explore the details of two very different objects – an old trumpet case and a large tape dispenser. (R.King and A.Holbrook)

Add a MACRO Lens – those low cost clip on accessories for cell phones! Explore textures and macro compositions: eyeballs, lint, skin colors, joints, and more- make it a puzzle, a visual quilt, a repetitive pattern. In a culture of speed and photography access – it takes time to work beyond the ‘point and click’ mode – to develop real visual explorer skills, and compositional mindsets. 

Blog%204%20pic%202%20Jimenez%20-%20Macro%20TelephoneThat OLD telephone has a microphone similar to 21st century models. The phone inspired students to create experiments for dialing friends and family- from voice activation, speed dials, and taking time to look something up in contacts (S.Jimenez)

The compositional mindset to check all angles finally hit home for my photo students when they had to explore objects through a macro lens. (Some students did use digital class cameras and then cropped to macro details in Photoshop.)

We then translated that same skill to larger objects and looked at David Hockney’s collage photo work.

Grammas old vanity chair by E.Dail

While photography explored digital imagery, an Intro to Art class of 9th graders explored alternative materials.

Blog%204%20pic%204The face explorations  TP Tiny Totems

 How are you exploring in your classroom and the world at large?   

Blog%204%20-%20image%205Wouldn’t you know it? There’d be a book on the subject!