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Sandy Journal

Indian Hills art students explore, expand skills in summer challenge

Aug 03, 2022 09:03PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It’s not uncommon for a school to prepare a summer reading list or even suggest going over some math facts, but Indian Hills Middle School students have had the opportunity to keep up on their art skills this summer.

Thanks to their art teacher, Breanna Holtry, students have had a chance to learn and develop skills from YouTube tutorials she has shared.

This past spring, she was developing the summer art challenge.

“I will link a document or prompts for them and then say, ‘whatever you make this summer, send it to me and we'll show you off as making progress this summer,’” Holtry said.

Recently she learned how to use alcohol-based markers and created a tutorial.

“With this video, I show them, ‘This is something I've never tried before. It's OK when we start something new, and you struggle with it.’ That's how I'm framing this video and I tell my students find other YouTubers that you like or just keep watching for my videos. There are so many resources out there online where they could develop their art practice,” Holtry said.

She does it to help them develop and grow and because they have told her, “I'm going to miss the class so much.”

Holtry has fun with her students as she teaches them skills.

Besides typical art assignments, she has brought in a dog for them to learn gesture drawing after they tried it on each other.

“Gesture drawing is basically drawing super fast and like just getting the basic posts of a person or something. I'd bring the dog in and have them like hold still sitting, standing, or, you know, different poses,” Holtry said.

Then, she asked her students to focus to drawing a certain part of the animal and also brought in two cats. The students had eight minutes with each animal.

“Instead of trying to draw like the full animal, they draw just specific parts. I created a worksheet where they try to draw his ear or an eye or the nose and the mouth. I brought in more than just the dog because I can't fit 30 kids around one animal to have a good view,” Holtry said. “Having the live animal models is totally different versus drawing from photos. You tend to see more detail obviously from life and how the shadows change. I knew it would challenge their skills to be able to capture something quickly because the animals are going to move. It's training them to be quicker in their drawing and to decide what's most important.”

She also applies it to Disney animation, such as the movie, “Bambi.”

“They actually had deer in their studio and did a whole bunch of animal studies and drawing and learning how they move to be able to animate it,” Holtry said. “We apply what we learn to career opportunities such as animating in this case.”

Another student favorite is creating a Rubik’s Cube mural.

“This year, we just had kids who are wizards at Rubik's Cube and we just created the school logo. Last year, we did a one, a portrait, of a school administrator who was leaving. It’s a fun little thing. I expected it to take us multiple days, but these kids are so good at Rubik's Cubes, they had it done fast,” she said.

Holtry said school librarian Marissa Merket who was able to secure a grant to buy Rubik’s Cubes for the students so now it’s an exercise that will continue annually.

She prepares students for the Canyons School District middle school art show as well as for her own classes’ virtual art show.

“I'm so blown away by the talent,” Holtry said. “Some of their work are paintings, some of them are color, pencil artwork. Some of them are copper embossing. Some of them are just charcoal portraits. I look at how hard these kids work, and I just really want them to be recognized. It always makes me feel good when I hear people talk and are like, ‘Oh my gosh, this was created by a sixth-grader or an eighth-grader.’ Our students have great talent and it’s validating to show their work. For most of my students, art is their thing. So, it's a big thing for them to be recognized and to see how amazing they can be.”

She has had students submit drawings for the Utah flag and the school district film festival and encourages her students to enter into other art shows.

“Typically, other art shows happened over the summer, after I don't have my students anymore, but I’ve made a goal to come up with a list of shows where my kids could be submitting to. I encourage them to learn from these experiences,” Holtry said.

Underlying the art techniques is teaching students life skills.

“The first week of my class, some students say, ‘I can't even draw a stick figure.’ I remind them that’s why we have classes, to help you learn how to be better, to develop skills. So just because you can't draw now doesn't mean you can't draw. It's more like you can draw and you need to learn the skills you need to learn how to do it. That's something I always ask for my students is to be very patient with themselves. Just trust the process. That's why we start with just line drawing and then we slowly build more skills,” she said.

Holtry’s semester-long classes starts out with learning about design, value, shading and color. They learn to color mix with watercolors and then dive into perspective, texture and even graphic art.

Through the years she has had students do a variety of projects, from painting on hats to learning landscape painting.

“Art teaches you so many skills that you can't typically get from other classes, namely, how to truly learn how to see and observe,” Holtry said, adding that learning to recognize detail or see color can be applied to other professions, such as doctors seeing detail in negative spaces so they can recognize anomalies better in MRIs. “It’s also just like such a great way to learn how to kind of process feeling and emotions. One thing I train my students to learn is how to accept mistakes as a great life lesson. When we get to watercolor, it's not super easy to control. You have to let it go and be OK with it. So, I’m helping them to not only learn that skill in an art class, but also in life—so they know it's OK to make mistakes and to let it go, to roll with our mistakes and accept those challenges.”