James Prosek Inspired Paintings


I was first introduced to the work of James Prosek after his work was exhibited at the Vero Beach Museum of Art. Artist, Author and Naturalist, Prosek is often referred to as the  “Audobon of the fishing world.” One of the most powerful elements of his art is that his work forces the viewer to look at each fish (or animal) in a way they may have never had the opportunity, up close and personal.  Prosek seeks to paint each fish, the moment is exits the water, when their colors are pure and vivid. He is one of my favorite artists to introduce students to because many share is love of nature.

After looking at Prosek’s work, we examined the wildlife of our own Indian River Lagoon. Like many of the animals that Prosek painted, the fish and birds of our Lagoon are in peril due to human pollution. Each student selected one fish or bird then using a grid, created their drawing. The grid allows students to draw more accurately and break down each complex photograph into small, more managable parts.

These paintings were completed in the first 8 days of school….




Cardboard Self Portraits

Incorporating recycled materials is an important component to our art curriculum because it forces students to see possibilities, were they may otherwise see limitations. As a material, cardboard is interesting because it varies in thickness, texture, color and it is usually free.

Despite the positive attributes that cardboard boasts, its shortcoming is that it is incredibly difficult to work with. Kids scissors need not apply here! One contemporary artist that successfully tackles the challenges of cardboard is artist, Ali Golzad. Golzad brings cardboard to life by creating beautiful portraits of what he calls, invisible people. Starting with a contour drawing he turns his work into large, life like portraits. In class, we applied his process and started by drawing contour self-portraits. Turning a 2D design into a 3D sculpture is always fun and challenging!

Students worked with a variety of thicknesses of cardboard, learned to soften it by bending and twisting and even discovered unique textures by peeling it apart. Taking the time to examine, experiment and explore before creating with cardboard was an element that sparked a lot of creative thinking and saved students from a few classes of frustration. Examining color was also an essential element to study because it was easy for facial features to get washed away in all those shades of brown. Students used a variety of layering techniques to create shadows and raise the facial features that they deemed the most important.


This project gave students a new appreciation for a unique material. They learned, shared and discovered new techniques while creating. Circling back to Golzad’s work at the completion of this project allowed students to gain a deeper respect for both his work, the material and his process.




Contour Ink Seashells

Contour drawing is one of my favorite parts of teaching drawing because it requires careful observation and concentration. Students carefully drew the lines that define the form, also known as drawing the contour. Seashells pose a unique challenge because of their organic shape and interesting lines.

Visual Arts I students did an amazing job tackling this challenging project.





Blind Contour Drawings

First, allow me to share some exciting news with you, this year, A Messy Art Room, graduated from the Elementary  (probably due so extensive mess making) to MIDDLE SCHOOL! Therefore, now, on this site you’ll have a chance to see all the creative adventures of 7th and 8th graders.

Speaking of creative adventures, we have already embarked on our first (and it’s only the third day of school). Visual Art I students created blind contour drawings and they came out amazing. For those of you who do not know what blind contour drawing is, it is when you draw (in this case the person across from them) without looking at your paper or picking up your pencil/Sharpie. The results delight everyone, it’s a wonderful thing to take away the pressure of perfectionism. For this project, students drew multiple blind contours, sometimes they overlapped, sometimes they did not. The results are unpredictable but the exercise is meaningful because it forces students to really look at what they are drawing and notice all the small features of the face while also improving hand-eye coordination.

As a finishing touch, students added details within their drawing….


Sumi Ink Collaboration

I have long been a fan of Sumi Ink Clubs, started in 2005, these clubs promote collaborative art making for all skill levels and ages. Their website, Sumi Ink Club, gives a broader view of the organization if you’re interested in learning more. As a first day of school activity, students explored and experimented with Sumi Ink. Sumi Ink is a opaque permanent black ink often used in Japanese Calligraphy.  Using similar rules as the Sumi Ink Club students created, abiding by the following:

  1. Draw, doodle, experiment with brush strokes or even add to the work of others.
  2. Move around, draw in different areas.
  3. No name or words
  4. Draw slowly, make marks thoughtfully
  5. (And…please, please try not to spill any ink)

As a bonus, as students worked, they gained experience in brush handling and discovered how variations in line work affected the final product.