Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. 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