Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pre-Final, Art 3 & Art 4H

Before we begin the brunt of our final project I want you to quietly and on your own answer the questions you can find HERE. They should be straightforward but if you have questions please let me know.
If you are in Art 3, please read THIS POST for directions on what to do today.
If you are in Art 4, please continue working on the drawing you started on Monday.

For both groups, you will not be turning in a photo of your assignment once you are finished, but you do need to:
1) work for the remainder of the period and be as productive on the drawing as possible
2) know that you are not finished until I end the drawing and/or the bell rings
3) turn in a drawing project to me

Monday, December 14, 2015

Final, Fall 2015

Personal significance and meaning go a long way in the making of art. To be sure, once you have developed to a certain level of skill - which is what we work so much on in class, the things that will help you over the long term are the ideas.
What is it that you will create? How will you create it? Where does your vision lead?

I want you to think about something that is significant to you.
(Maybe you phrase this as something that is important or inspiring to you?)

This is what I want you to draw on the paper provided you.

Now, you may need to do some brainstorming first, but I also want to let you know about some of the constraints I will be enforcing.

First, you can only use the one sheet of paper provided.
Second, this is a drawing project.
Third, you must begin with pencil.
Fourth, you may not use any sort of electronic device to aid your drawing process at any point during class.
Fifth, you must sit at a different table and with some different students than you have been sitting with for the last several weeks.
Sixth, I retain the right to change, add, or subtract any constraints at any time.

You will leave this drawing with me before you leave your finals period, and your grade will be based upon the effort, effectiveness, and outcome of the final piece.

Apropos of nothing, I will leave you with this image. I found it by absolute happenstance, but as far as I can tell, Alexander McQueen had something to do with the creation.

Oh, and if you've been the good student and read this far, I really think you should read THIS before you do anything else. Then after that you'll find the other hyperlinks in this post of interest to you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Something Nice Was Said

There are some days when you just feel like you've done something worthwhile.
So some context: each year as seniors apply to private schools they are required to have a recommendation letter from their guidance counselor; the guidance counselors ask them to answer a few questions and fill out some paperwork; the below snippet is from one of my current seniors - I don't know who as the counselor didn't tell me, I was just emailed this little section below

Mr. Smith has been one of my teachers for the past four years, and throughout these years he has helped me grow and develop into the person I am today. The first year I had him I was just a small little Freshman who did not believe in herself and did not see her own value, but Smith saw my potential and he has been helping me reach it. He supported me and encouraged me, and even when my competitiveness got in the way and all I saw was everyone else's work which looked better than mine, he helped me see that I was talented too. He has helped me learn not to compare myself to others, but to see how much I have improved based on my own work. Plus, being in art for four years, he has taught me to see creativity in the world, and how to see art everywhere, be it a leaf on the ground or a collage of random magazines. Art is also a topic that requires a lot of patience, dedication, and focus. Great art does not simply happen overnight, it takes time and a lot of hard work, and Mr. Smith has helped me develop those skills. Those are also skills that can be applied everywhere in life, like solving difficult problems and dealing with people. Mr. Smith has become a teacher I can rely on, someone who I know will always listen, and always try to help. I cannot imagine my high school career without his influence.


It's been a tough past two years, so to hear that there has continued to be some goodness come out of it is a nice way to begin the day.

Thank you to the counselor who shared this and thank you to whichever student it was that wrote it!

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Change (not applicable for all)

This doesn't apply to most students or parents, so if you aren't used to getting - or never plan to get - below a C- in my class, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, please read on.

We have all become accustomed to being able to check grades (whether you are a student and they are yours, or you are a parent and they are the grades of your offspring) "whenever" we want. I mean, you do need an internet connection and all appropriate servers do need to be functioning.

For years digital grade books have made this possible. Now, with Canvas, it is easier than ever.
Well, "easy" maybe isn't the right word, but Canvas allows for a much more robust sense of the overall grade than ever before.

Rubrics can be built in, comments can be left - in separate parts or as a whole, engagement (what for others is "participation) can be broken down in massive detail, and then some. It's crazy how much content can be acquired regarding the content of classes here at LGHS.

Some of you never really need to fret too much about your grades as you make sure to work hard and turn every assignment in. Because of that you know that not every paper or test is worthy of an "A", but you know through experience that your grades won't be terrible if you put an appropriate effort forth.
Some of you don't exactly put an appropriate effort forth as often as you could. You know you won't ace every assignment/project/test, and you are ok with that. It happens.

In terms of my class, I know from experience that if you put a conscious effort forth you will get so much better while also having a lot more fun with the entire process. As you get better and accumulate points your grade "magically" gets - or stays - strong.

I know what you're saying, "it isn't about the grade (product), it's about the process", and I couldn't agree more. That's why you are amazing.
The good news is that if you pay attention to the process, the product will turn out just fine. Trust me, I'm a professional.

This is all a long-winded way of explaining that I am making a change.

I will no longer be emailing families with students earning lower than a C- at the end of a grading period.
The administration has requested that we teachers email each family - parent and student - at the end of each grading period to let them know if the student's grade has fallen below a C-. Actually, this "policy" has been in place for a very long time, but I want to publicly address it here.

I have been "obeying' this request every six weeks for as long as I can remember. While I never have a ton of students this concerns, I usually have six or so that are below the 70% threshold each grading period. Almost always this is due to lack of turning in work.

What most families don't know is that to email six families and explain the how and why of a low grade takes time. A month ago it took me over two hours.
This is two hours I was not able to lesson plan or build out Canvas or make a new instructional video or spend time on my art or spend time with my family.

I almost always get grades posted in Canvas within one day of assignments being turned in, and it is extremely rare for students to not have a grade and some feedback within one week of a due date.

In my experience, those families that have students earning low marks are generally aware of the type of student their child is anyway.
Those students - or families - that are not aware of a grade can only say it is because they haven't taken the time to make themselves aware. I am putting all of the information out there that I can.

If you are interested in your student's grade, please go on Canvas and have a look. Better yet, have your student go on Canvas and walk you through the interface and have a conversation with them about the system, their classes, and their grades.
Ask them what they are up to in their classes.
What are you painting for your oil painting?
What did you talk about regarding that book in English today?
Did you blow anything up in Chemistry? Why not?
You know, a conversation based on inquiry and curiosity.

I expect that a high school student that has been logging in to a website/app to see their grades for years can, and should, be well aware of how they are doing. They know when the due dates are because they are listed online, I remind them in class, and they see all of their peers turning in work on the due date.

My philosophy is that the students should take the responsibility to engage in that part of the course. I put a wealth of content out there for them to access, and they need to know how to navigate the web and be a proactive digital citizen. That's part of what they should be getting out of high school so they are all the more prepared for what they will experience once they graduate from our institution.

If you have additional questions about this change, please send me an email. I don't want to sound harsh or neglectful, and if we didn't have so much information so readily available this wouldn't be an issue, but since Canvas is so robust, well, I'm hoping you catch my drift at this point.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Little Glimpse

If you are interested in seeing some of the work that goes on in the art studios, you're in luck. This is just a tiny tiny sliver from each of the four Art levels here at LG that I could get in between doing demonstrations, helping students, grading, and prepping for the next thing.
By this point, much of this work is well behind us, but this will give you a glimpse of what the very end of Sept and/or the very beginning of Oct looked like.

If you have 4:30 to spare, enjoy.

Studio502 Update

We've gone through the stencils and the grisaille painting for Art 2's, and are on to bigger and longer term oil paintings for all of the advanced levels.
In Art 1 we are beginning our first forays with color, and will begin truly brainstorming what we will create with our first painting over the next couple of class periods.
Below are just a few photos of some of the things we have been up to. I hope to have a quickly edited video soon, so stay tuned...just don't hold your breath. Please.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


"I literally hate this rock, but I know the more that I work on it the better it will get."

A student working on her painting - before school - to a peer this morning. That's a good way to start the day, what with such a positive mindset and all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Daily Splice

I don't even know how I found out about Adam Hale or his work under The Daily Splice theme/moniker, but I love it.

There is a wonderful story behind the images.

"The Daily Splice was started early in 2015 as a platform to share my analogue collage work, created using free weekly London magazines. There’s an immediacy to the work in which current topics, trends and affairs are given new context, turning something disposable into something of permanence."

Find something that is discarded by someone else, and make something fantastic out of it. What a great goal/objective/direction.

Here are a couple of example images.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

From The Jealous Curator

Since we are all getting in to our oil painting lesson(s), and since I just ran across this post, I thought I would direct your attention to these paintings since they are portraits...there are a few great close up images...and there are some wonderful ideas.
So here is Meghan Howland on The Jealous Curator.

New Artist of the Month

As we'll be going over Jeff Koons in all of the advanced classes I thought I would link to a couple of interesting articles here.
The first comes from Vice, that you can read HERE, and the second from Time.

Above you'll see the image you need to draw for this month's worksheet before taping it in your sketchbook, and below you'll see Mr. Koons and a few select pieces of his art.

Friday, October 9, 2015

College Rankings in the NYT

Because of my previous recommended reading, you had to know that when I saw this article staring back at me last week at my local Peet's, that my interest would be piqued.

Apparently the Obama administration has a new College Scorecard out. In all that this scorecard does, it certainly doesn't get to the "heart of the matter" in terms of telling you which institutions are "better" for your student/you. It certainly has a bias to it - which is unfortunate.

You should definitely read the entire article by James Stewart, and I'm really glad that he got the paycheck that the Scorecard focuses on out of the way and got someone to deal with "value added" colleges.
When that is done - because all of those liberal arts majors add so much to our society (really, would you want to live someplace where everyone was a scientist or engineer???), I find it interesting that there is yet another system that gives completely divergent rankings than even Scorecard or the woeful and highly flawed US New & World Report rankings.
The "top schools" become: Cogate, Carleton, Washington and Lee, Westmont, and Kenyon for the first five. The highest ranked Ivy was Brown at no. 45.

And the article closes with what is clearly the best quote coming from Jerry Z. Muller - who has studied the misuse of metrics in his research - saying that an obsession with college graduate earnings "is just the most recent example of a larger phenomenon, which is that the gathering of numerical information acts as a kind of wish fulfillment. If you have enough metrics and benchmarks, somehow people believe that's going to solve a major problem. It rarely does."

Such a good ending to a really interesting story.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Information

For those of you parents that were at back to school night I mentioned some of the books that have been on my "recently read" list.

One of the big highlights was by Frank Bruni and is Where yYou Go Is Not Who You'll Be so I thought I would put a link to it here in case you are interested.

Another book that I am still in the middle of, but is fantastic, is by a speaker I had the pleasure of hearing at a Challenge Success event at Stanford a few weeks ago. Below I'll put the link for Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine.

Both are excellent books and completely worth your time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tony Wagner + The Finland Phenomenon

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending an event at Stanford which was hosted by Denise Clark Pope and Challenge Success. One of the speakers was Tony Wagner and one of the many things he mentioned was a film he worked on called The Finland Phenomenon.

Finland consistently has the highest ranked educational system in the world, and it is radically different than ours in the states. I am not a big fan of numbers, but because their system is so different than ours it piqued my interest. Enough that I found the documentary on youtube and want to share it with you.

Watch it HERE if your interest is also piqued.

One of the other fun takeaways from the evening is something that is so true but none of us parents really want to acknowledge.
Since I'm not a big fan of reducing our students to a pile of numbers, this is a statistic that kind of made me laugh - because I know you don't want to hear it.

Your kid is average.

That's the blunt and un-sugar-coated version. But statistically speaking, most kids are. That's how statistics/averages work. Some are exceptional, some aren't. Most are "just" average.

My takeaway is that this doesn't comment on the fantastic-ness of your offspring, but in terms of grades, tests, college entrances - you know, those things that too much emphasis is put on and which don't really reveal that much about your kid (our students) - most kids are average. They have to be.
Not warm and fuzzy, but true.

Wow. That makes this end kind of negatively...which isn't my goal.

Working hard and having empathy and challenging yourself are way more important qualities for me to help you instill in your kids, and are much more a determiner of their success and happiness anyway. So there is that.

National Portfolio Day

Before you know it, National Portfolio Day will be here.
As usual, and per the calendar, they will have a San Francisco edition. If you are considering putting a portfolio together and/or applying to an art school in the future, I would encourage you to attend this event.
Even if you are just curious as to what this is all about, or want to see if it might be something for you in the future, you can at least make a day of it and have some fun.
Who knows, maybe you go load up on the best pain au chocolat ever at Tartine before and/or after. That's always a good idea.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Phone Life by Ivan Cash

This is a great video (both in content and production) that has found itself my way through the magic of the interwebs. Enjoy.

Phone Life from Ivan Cash on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

And of course I totally forgot some things...

As I showed on back to school night (btsn), I take many photos in class as the students are working. It's more difficult here at the beginning of the year and becomes easier after a few skills are built and there is more independent work time.

If you want to see some mostly up to date images you can follow my on instagram  as "misterthad"and/or look up the hashtags #lghsart and/or #studio502 (the later of which is only the adv Art classes, sorry Art 1 folks)

As a big fan of Casey Neistat's films and vlog I am also using his newly released (this past summer) app Beme with a username of "thadsmith", so feel free to watch some video on there as well.

Again, thanks for tuning in.

Some Administrative Stuff

As we are reaching the end of the fourth week of the semester you will begin to notice some things are beginning to fall in place.

For example, there are a number of grades in the grade book in Canvas for each of the Art levels. Many people have a 100% thus far, but...
  • if you are a student you should make sure to be up to date on the current project so you don't fall behind
  • if you are a parent, asking questions about what is happening in class is good because there are definitely a few kids in Art 1 and Art 3 that are a little behind the eight ball on the current project (for example, all Art 1 students should be shading on their final still life objects in class tomorrow, and I know of at least three people that have not used tutorial time to catch up to that point - I would say they are two days behind at this point)

If you see a zero in the grade book that means that you either haven't turned in the assignment, there was a problem (I know this is the case with one female Art 2 at a minimum), or you were absent on the due date. If you were absent on a due date you need to make sure that I get that assignment from you asap. I will not be reminding you of this as I expect you to be proactive on this front as we move forward in the year.


All Art levels have covered the Sept. Artist of the Month (AOTM) in the last two days and you need to make sure you are up to speed on that. I reserve the right to randomly check any sketchbook at any time to make sure that worksheet is filled out and taped in the correct place at any time.

For any students - but especially those in Art 4, you may be interested in the NUMU (formerly the Los Gatos Art Museum) page on their upcoming high school juried art show.

You will have ample opportunities to make work in class for this, but thinking about the topic and brainstorming soon will expedite the process as we get closer to having that as an option.

I won't be updating this blog as often as in the past (I don't think), but you might want to bookmark this anyway, and give it a quick glance every week or so just to see any new announcements.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Biggest Failure - Casey Neistat

For the last nearly five weeks (since his birthday) Casey Neistat has been creating a daily vlog.
They are awesome. Great images and editing alike.

The below issue from today is particularly interesting I think.
In terms of life and education it talks about always "fighting" to get better and not become complacent. I would use a different set of wording were it me, but I think the sentiment is spot on.

Whether in our educational experiences or in life, getting lazy and not using our full ability and potential isn't good. Watch today's vlog and see what you think.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hatch in an Eye

This hatch work does not suck. Check it out.

Logo Opportunity from the District

As you know, I was contacted by the district office for a reboot of our logo - which they rightly feel is a little out of date.
What ideas do you have?
Put them down on paper (don't worry about any text needing to be perfect) and get them to be by the middle of May and we'll see if your design gets chosen to be used by the district for the next however many years.

Here is a copy of our current logo. Time to make it better.
Oh, it doesn't have to include mountains and all of the same text. Think different.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Annual Student Art Exhibit

For the 4th year the Los Gatos Art Museum has held their county wide juried student art show.
Ivy was the only one from LG selected this year and I am super proud of her.
Below you can see two images from the catalog that was produced (cover and her image/statement). The show is on view through May 10th, and more info can be found HERE.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

California Proud Stickers Available!

Some of you have been asking, and the answer is yes, the California Proud stickers I made are available. Come see me if interested.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Art 4 Daily Drawing for 4/1 AND 4/3

We are near the end of our "daily drawing" routine so I would like to take some time near the end of our journey by mostly ending how we mostly began.
So figure drawing it is - for at least a little bit.

Meet up in the corner of the room near the screen and I will put an image up on the screen for us to all spend some time with. And...go!

For the one of you who was absent on 4/1, here is the image we used.

For our last day before spring break, Friday 4/3, here we go...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Update on the Vans Custom Culture Expedition

With a due date looming before spring break begins...the work is in full on production mode.

Art 4 Daily Drawing for 3/30

Well, "daily drawing" can take on a lot of forms - as you have seen - so this is more of a "type a response while finishing an assignment in Canvas and then turn in a screenshot of that text for your daily drawing" kind of situation.

Here is the assignment you need to look for within the Acrylic Painting Module: Acrylic Topic Description.

That assignment is explained in Canvas and will allow for you to submit text only for that assignment. Before you leave Canvas, take a screen shot of your explanation/articulation, and then submit that picture to me on Canvas for your daily sketchbook work.

Two birds with one stone. Boom!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What? Painting Outside?

Sometimes I do have weaknesses, it's true. Sometimes those weaknesses work to the advantage of my students, so today I gave my Art 4 students the option of painting outside or in the Art room.
Of course some of them took advantage of that. Of course. And they were productive I have to say.

Art 4 Daily Drawing for 3/26

Ah, Scott C.
That is, the guy you drew from last time. You know, your pencil drawing.
Today I want you to go back to that image and add as much watercolor as you can in your 15 minutes to get it to look like the original.
Get your paints out and let's go!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Making Some Vans Custom Culture Progress in Studio502

Well, we got underway. Finally. I always love seeing the ideas coming to fruition in the studio.

Art 4 Daily Drawing for 3/24

Art is work, but art should also be fun. I'm ok with you stuggling from time to time, but especially in your sketchbook you should feel the freedom to play.
I love this guy's (Scott C.) work because it is playful and so different than how I typically work. I don't know if you have noticed that I have a book of his work in the classroom, but I would prod you to look through it just because it is fun.

At any rate, I know you know I am really really trying to get you to build a habit of daily work in your sketchbook/life, and to see that little bits of time can be piled up to add up to something much more significant over a period of days.
You don't need to spend hours the night before something is due in order to get all of that work done.

Since I only see you in class twice this week we are going to take both days and work on the same page so that I can see how the image develops.

Today's directions: take one of the below images and draw it out with pencil lines only. No shading, no color, only pencil lines/shapes.

It doesn't matter which image and it shouldn't take you all of the allotted 15 minutes, but begin asap.

Remember, pencil lines only for today. Have fun.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Art 4 Daily Drawing for 3/20

You now know about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, so below you will find a woodcut he did of fellow artist Jean Arp.

Grab a sharpie and recreate the below image in your sketchbook - without drawing it out in pencil first.

March Wildcast

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Some Kids Working

Y'all know I love the process, and as much as I like taking photographs of you and your work with my iphone, there is a very different quality you can get with a real camera, so here are some of those.