Bruce Howdle Animal Mugs

The 3rd grade clay project has become sort of a tradition in recent years due to it’s popularity with students and even the teacher! But this year, I had the pleasure of teaching the lesson that focused on the artist Bruce Howdle, a ceramic artist living and working very close to us in Mineral Point, WI. The artist is famous for his large ceramic installations and murals, vases, platters, humorous cups, and other ceramic pieces featuring animals as the main theme.

For our unit we focused on analyzing and interpreting his funny animal mugs!

Taking inspiration from Bruce Howdle the 3rd graders designed and constructed their own animal mugs. they students first spent time drawing out and designing their mugs. Not only did the students draw out their animal as a mug but they executed design drawings of what their mug would look like from a bird’s eye view, from underneath, and how the handle would be incorporated into their design. Many students also drew out their designs on paper cups to help realize their 2-D drawing as a 3-D form. We also had a discussion on shape vs. form, visual texture vs. texture, and non-functional vs. functional art. Once they got their hands on the clay is when the real fun began! The students learned about rolling out a slab of clay, constructing a cylinder, scoring and slipping when attaching clay pieces together, and different techniques to add texture.


The next step was to let our animal mugs dry out so that they could be fired in the kiln.

We were then able to glaze our mugs and make them functional pieces of artwork!


Dr. Evermor Fantastical Machines


This last lesson with the 4th graders while student teaching was a lesson that I designed and taught myself. We focused on one of my favorite Wisconsin artists, Tom Every, aka Dr. Evermor.
Many of you have probably seen some of his giant, metal bird sculptures on the roof of Madison’s Children’s Museum or on Patterson Street in between East Johnson Street and Williamson Street. A handful of the students even said that they have had a chance to visit his sculpture park, just South of Baraboo, WI.

Our first day, the students were given a picture of Dr. Evermor’s famous Forevertron sculpture, which happens to hold the Guiness World Record for largest scrap metal sculpture. I asked them to interpret and analyze the picture without giving them any previous information. They discussed with their classmates what they noticed about the picture, what they thought the item in the picture was made from, and what they thought the item in the picture was used for.

FOREVERTRON by Tom Every aka Dr. Evermor

We then had a class discussion about their ideas and I introduced the artist Tom Every and his artwork. We discussed how he uses unaltered recycled scrap metal or “junk” in his sculptures, the importance of recycling, alter-egos, narration in artwork, storytelling, elements of a story, inventing, and the non-traditional art making process of generating the context behind the artwork after it is already made rather than the traditional process where ideas are generated first and turned then into final pieces of artwork. That last topic was something I really wanted to focus on in our initial discussion and following activity because that is exactly how Dr. Evermor works. He begins by welding various scrap metal together without knowing what type of sculpture he is making and lets the artwork itself help determine the content, concept, and story behind the sculpture. Then the students were given their own junk and were instructed to just start drawing using the “junk” as inspiration and begin creating a drawing without knowing what it was and to let the drawing itself decide what it is.


Then the students were asked to create their own Dr. Evermor inspired fantastical machines based off their “junk” drawings and develop a story that explains their machines. The students were introduced to the various graphite pencils that artists use, blending/shading, hatching and cross-hatching drawing techniques, designing mechanical drawings, and even 1-point perspective!


The student’s Fantastical Machines and stories behind them were absolutely AMAZING! The creative and inventive ideas that came from the minds of the 4th grades was absolutely inspiring and everyone one had a fun time inventing their own Fantastical Machines!


Frank Lloyd Wright


Both Huegel second and third graders as well as Randall fourth graders created these beautiful stained glass windows inspired by nature just like Frank Lloyd Wright. We started with observational drawings of items from nature and then abstracted them into geometric shapes to create our symmetrical windows using line symmetry.

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John Steuart Curry

The following excerpt is from

John Steuart Curry, the celebrated American Scene painter, taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1936 until his death in 1946. While artist-in-residence, he was given commissions by the university and continued his own personal projects. Madison Landscape is a portrait of Wisconsin’s state capital. Seen from a high point overlooking the city, the white marble, gold-domed Capitol building is the focus of the landscape. It sits on a hill at the midpoint of an isthmus that connects Lakes Mendota and Monona. In the distance are the softly rolling hills of the countryside, washed in the colors of autumn that also tinge the leaves of the two trees that bracket Curry’s composition.

Although Curry works in a realist style, he takes liberties with nature. There is no hill quite so high in Madison. With the two foreground trees and hill slope, and with the branches and leaves of the tree to the right that overlap the white cumulus clouds, Curry frames Madison with nature. This may explain why the city and capitol building are so small relative to its setting. Curry connects humanity to the natural scheme of things—trees, lakes, beautiful sky, nurturing landscape, and the change of seasons—that embraces and protects a citadel for the noble seats of democratic government and learning.

John Steuart Curry, Madison Landscape, oil and tempera on canvas, 1941.

John Steuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, and Grant Wood were Regionalist painters. With the Social Realists, they composed the group of artists who defined American Scene Painting. This art movement, which prevailed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, sought to portray American life in traditional realist styles. The tone of their work could be lyrically nationalist or critical.

Born in Kansas, Curry studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in Paris. He taught in New York at the Art Students’ League but returned to the Midwest in 1936 to teach as artist-in-residence in the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He continued to teach and paint there until his death in 1946 at the age of forty-nine. Free brushwork and energized forms characterize his realist style that poeticizes and celebrates the history and everyday life of his beloved Midwest.

Curry has many murals here in Madison located on the University of Wisconsin campus.

The Social Benefits of Biochemical Research

                          Freeing the Slaves

Randall third graders created their own class murals inspired by Curry’s Madison Landscape painting.

Each student drew their own building and person after practicing textures, patterns and gesture drawings.

Four of the five third grade classes participated. The fifth class was participating in Terrace Town at the time these were created.

Circle Weaving & Mandalas

I am currently in my third year teaching at Randall. I’ve only done a lesson twice a few times and have enjoyed creating a new curriculum every year. I have started to look back on the projects I’ve done at all levels and decide which ones were the most successful. After evaluating them, I have started to put together a solid curriculum for next year based on students’ classroom curric and successful lessons I’ve done in the last few years.

Circle Weaving is a project I will most definitely be doing again. Overall, students LOVED circle weaving. It’s an inexpensive project that many students started doing at home because they loved it so much in class. I’ve never seen my classroom more consistently peaceful or more students focused all at one time than when they were circle weaving.

We began by looking at photos of Native Americans from Northern Wisconsin. The Bad River tribe and the Lac Courte Oreilles hold yearly celebrations for the harvest season, keeping alive their beautiful traditional dress, dances and music.

photos from Wisconsin Senator Bob Jauch

We discovered the many mandalas that are all over their traditional dress and talked about what mandalas mean. We also looked at mandalas from all over the world and discovered how mandalas are part of many cultures.

After looking at some of our Wisconsin tribes and cultures from all over, we created mandalas that represent us. Each student, after circle weaving, drew symbols around their weaving that represents them.

The mandalas also do a great job at brightening our hallways!


Purdy Elementary School

I grew up in Fort Atkinson, WI and went to Purdy Elementary School kindergarten through 5th grade. All six years, I had an amazing and inspiring elementary art teacher named Mrs. Gomez. She always had visiting artists, operas and murals. You name it, she’s done it. Even though the district has increased her work load to almost double that of when she started teaching, she still manages to create permanent public art to make Purdy the special place I remember it growing up.

Clay stomp mural from Joel Pfeiffer a few years ago

Clay stomp mural from 1992..

..and my tile from the clay stomp in second grade!

Beautiful mosaic

A couple of tile walls

Amazing mural in the lunch room

I visited with Mrs. Gomez over winter break. As we are now colleagues and no longer teacher/student, our discussions turned to a more political and professional direction. I’m worried that amazing teachers like Mrs. Gomez and the programs they have created are going to fade out unless we fight for them. Every child deserves the art experience I had growing up. I will advocate and fight for my students to make sure they have inspiring art experiences as well.

Joshua Ludke: Birding Artist

4th grader’s last Wisconsin art project of the school year is studying local artist and art teacher Joshua Ludke. It’s great to learn about a local artist because he’s available for us to ask him questions! Here is his artist statement:

One Hundred Birds of Wisconsin: wood relief and paintings by Joshua Ludke

I have a passion for “finding” images. To me, the world is a place that shows itself to those who look with an open mind and heart. There is beauty everywhere, eve, and sometimes especially, in what some would discard.  Once things are discarded, they are free to become something new. As an Artist I can’t help but hear the call of discarded objects to be transformed.

The series started with the wood. I have been a collector of interesting bits that I find in my travels and walks. I found much of the wood for these paintings this way. Whenever I see scraps of wood on the side of the road my mind always races with the possibilities for carving and painting. I thank my wife for her toleration of me bringing home these many random armloads of strange materials.

I found bird forms in the wood I collected. Wings, feathers and beaks leaped out of the wood grain and asked to be painted and sometimes carved. In the first dozen so pieces, I painted some imagined birds along with some real bird species. The more I painted, the more appreciation and longing I had to see the real birds and so I started researching and decided I would take on the task of painting all of the birds who live in or visit our state. I spread the wood pieces all around my studio and tried to figure out which bird species’ structure, color and personality fit the particular block of wood.

I hope my little flock finds places to nest and brings with them the spirit of mystery and wonder that they have brought to me in discovering and creating them.

Joshua is a fellow art teacher in Madison and teaches at Orchard Ridge Elementary as a patient, passionate and innovative teacher. I’m so excited that he was able to share his art with us. It is wonderful to have REAL ART to study in our classroom instead of prints or photos on the computer.

I hope you enjoy his work as much as we have in our Randall Art Room!

Tour of Art Glass

99% of Randall 4th graders have finished their Frank Lloyd Wright art glass windows.  To see our process, check out this blog post.

For those of you who are unable to visit our school, I’m posting a ‘tour’ of our art glass.  For those of you who ARE able to visit our school, I highly recommend you come see these in person.  They truly glow!