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Travel and correspondence.

Professional development through the advanced planning of themed exhibitions provides art instructors in Howard County the impetus for many art problems. This art problem, centered on the art and writing contained in the storybooks of Holly Hobbie. In late summer, the art teaching staff of the Howard County Public School System gathered at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC for an in-service to kick-off the new school year. Plans had been made to share the permanent collection, along with resources related to Artists on the Road, an exhibition curated by Krystyna Wasserman. Catalogs from the show were provided for all teachers, and museum staff and consultants offered breakout sessions to inspire teachers' ideas for a show of student work to be held the following spring. Consultants included:

* Audra Price, an art teacher in Howard County who conducted a workshop entitled Postcards from the Edge;

* Susan Harlan, who shared her approaches to bookmaking via her Star Chart book chronicling the artist's journey to Russia where she taught printmaking;

* Dr. Joyce Schiller from the Delaware Art Museum who shared samples of various artists' illustrated correspondence including Hugo, Daubigny, Bonheur, Bierstadt, LaFarge among others; and

* Howardena Pindell, professor at the State University of New York: Stoney Brook, former assistant curator at the Met, and associate curator at MOMA, whose work about her travels provides a view of the world for armchair travelers back home.

Equipped with the information and inspiration from these sessions, and handouts and print resources to help develop the theme of "Travel and Correspondence," the Howard County art teachers began their school year considering lessons and units that could be used in response to a call for student work for the annual theme exhibition in the spring.

About the Artist: Holly Hobbie

Hollie Hobbie was born Denise Holly in 1944 and grew up on a farm in rural Connecticut. She began selling paintings while still in high school. Holly is a watercolorist. Her studies in art education occurred at Pratt Institute and in painting at Boston University. As a grad student and young mother, she submitted her artwork to the American Greetings card company. The Holly Hobbie line of greeting cards was American Greetings' first character licensing program, and for fifteen successful years the sun-bonneted Holly Hobbie characters adorned giftwrap, linens, toys, and china. In 1964 she married her high school sweetheart and writer Douglas Hobbie. Since 1997, Holly has entranced a whole new generation of fans with her winsome and expertly rendered Toot and Puddle picture books. Inspired by pig-themed postcards from her oldest daughter who bravely but unsuccessfully battled cancer, Holly created Toot the world-traveling pig, and Puddle the porcine homebody.

The Artist's Ideas about Life and Work

Living in rural New England, Holly used her children, her cat Herman, and her dog Boswell from which to draw inspiration. She focuses her storylines around brilliant watercolor illustrations that convey the adventures, humor, and feelings that are shared between good friends. Her books picture imaginary locations such as Woodcock Pocket derived from spaces and places that hold meaning for Holly.

"Each spring, for a few years, Nathaniel would pick a bouquet of dandelions for me. Small children are able to see how beautiful they are, while the rest of us have learned to take such pedestrian plants for granted. Now we have whole neighborhoods of people waging war against the poor weed with trucks of chemicals. Do they know what they are doing? Hawkweed, Fleabane, Ground Ivy, the charming Bluet.... if such plants are to be lost in the pursuit of perfect lawns, I'd rather strive for imperfection."

Artist's Reflections

"The work pictured shows that students were thrilled with their designs and excited to share both the postcard narratives and the drawn images. Like any practicing artist, students had a chance to layout compositions and contemplate choices: horizontal or vertical format, picture themselves or the place or both, and ways to use color and line to unify. It's rewarding to see an idea taken directly from the book itself--the use of composition and layout to formulate a page."

--Holly Hobbie

Teacher's Reflections

"This unit was so meaningful for third grade students. They had so many choices to make. All along it was wonderful to hear their wishes about what they were going to do in these places and whom they were going to see. Some students had actually traveled to their destinations and were personally connected by memories. Others traveled to imagined places such as outer space, under the sea, or back to prehistoric times. I loved being around their excitement! They brought in artifacts to use for their images and stamps--definitely a keeper!"

--Margie Eisenstein

About the Teacher: Margie Eisenstein

Margie Eisenstein is an elementary art teacher at Hollifield Elementary School in Howard County, Maryland. She has been recognized as the National Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the National Art Education Association. She came to the Howard County Public School System fourteen years ago, after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Margie taught this lesson with art teacher colleague Jamie Travers.

The Teacher's Approach to Instructional Planning

Students were presumed to have proficient ability to:

* Identify and utilize the formal qualities of art.

* Select and use appropriate tools.

* Discuss characteristics of artworks

* Apply schema using different processes and a variety of media to tell a story.

The goals were to develop the students' ability to make artistic choices that are informed and reflective, and to develop a personal strategy to solve an art problem in a meaningful way. Students were expected to:

* Apply concepts to show ways drawing techniques can be used to represent forms in the environment.

* Reflect upon the work of artists and selected ideas to communicate personal meaning.

* Use personal experiences and observation to add detail and signify importance within an artwork.

* Combine knowledge of materials and technical processes to make informed personal decisions in the art-making process.

Formal Concepts and Artistic Behaviors

* Line and color can be used to unify a composition.

* Artists often correspond with collaborators and friends by illustrating notes and letters.

* Student artists' inclination towards drawing can be put to use to improve writing skills.

Interdisciplinary Connections

This lesson was especially appropriate for the grade three learners to recall the study of maps and globes the previous year. In second grade, students learned about the basic organizing symbols and systems used in geography.


Expectations for the quality of work were shared with students in the form of checklists or rubrics. Criteria are organized into three categories:

1. Creative Thinking--based upon artistic choices related to idea generation and problem solving. The student effectively:

* Used the sketchbook to prepare thumbnail sketches.

* Considered elements and placement of the postcard, message, stamp, and address in planning a page layout.

* Developed an animal with character.

* Researched meaningful landmarks of designated sites for the destination.

2. Generation of Images--based upon skills developed and the handling of tools and materials. The student effectively:

* Utilizes a character and/or landmark as a center of interest.

3. Final Product--based upon guidelines centered upon formal qualities related to the art problem. The student effectively:

* Unified the composition.

* Handled watercolor and used color for emphasis.

* Used black outline and contour to define shapes and forms.

* Conveyed personal meaning by applying the language of art.


Toot and Puddle: Top of the World.

Toot and Puddle. Holly Hobbie. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, 1997.

Artists on the Road: Travel as a Source of Inspiration. Krystyna Wasserman. Washington, DC: The National Museum of Women in the Arts Library and Research Center, 1997.


RELATED ARTICLE: Artful collaborations.

Artist as Teacher: Holly Hobbie

Teacher as Artist: Maggie Eisenstein

Travel and Correspondence The Art Problem

Two pigs are best friends but they have several differences. Toot wants to travel and see the world. Puddle is a homebody and wants to stay and enjoy the delights of the changing seasons. Toot and Puddle (1997), by Holly Hobbie was read to students and followed by a discussion about personalities and favorite travel destinations. Excitement and anticipation characterized student interest as plans were made for special places they wished to travel. Students had many things to consider for their art-making.

Guiding questions included:

* Where will I go on my travels?

* What animal or character could I reinvent as myself if this could be a choice?

* What should I say on a postcard to friends back home?

* To whom might I write the postcard?

Once these questions were answered, students practiced drawing ideas in their sketchbooks. Additional resources were provided for their reference so that they might know more about places around the globe. Samples of flags and cultural icons were also provided as students set out to design their postcard pages and the stamp that would become part of the correspondence. Students rendered their stamps large, and then the images were reduced on a color copier to a size closer to an actual postcard. Criteria specified that the card might include landmarks and sights seen on the imaginary journey, and oneself at the special places traveled. Students completed illustrations using watercolor and thin black line in the style of Holly Hobbie.

Barry Shauck is assistant professor of Art Education at Boston University, and this past October hosted a BU Art Ed conference entitled Drawing in the Schools. Special thanks are extended to Renee Sandell, professor of Art Education at the Maryland Institute College of Art for initiating the Artful Collaboration series.
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Title Annotation:All Levels
Author:Shauck, Barry
Publication:School Arts
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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