Indian Hills art students explore and expand their skills in the Summer Challenge – 71Bait

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It’s not uncommon for a school to create a summer reading list or even suggest going over some math facts, but students at Indian Hills Middle School had an opportunity this summer to hone their art skills.

Thanks to their art teacher, Breanna Holtry, the students had the opportunity to learn and develop skills from the YouTube tutorials she shared.

Last spring she developed the Summer Art Challenge.

“I’ll link a doc or prompts for them and then say, ‘Whatever you do this summer, send it to me and we’ll show you make progress this summer,'” Holtry said.

She recently learned how to use alcohol based markers and created a tutorial.

“With this video, I’m showing them, ‘This is something I’ve never tried before. It’s okay if we start something new and you struggle with it.’ This is how I frame this video and tell my students to find other YouTubers you like or just keep looking for my videos. There are so many resources online where they could continue to develop their artistic practice,” said Holtry.

She’s doing it to help them develop and grow, and because they’ve told her, “I’m going to miss classes so much.”

Holtry has fun with her students while teaching them skills.

In addition to typical artistic tasks, she has brought a dog so that they can learn to draw gestures after trying them out on each other.

“Gesture drawing is basically super fast drawing and like getting someone’s basic posts or something. I would bring the dog and hold them as they are sitting, standing or, you know, different poses,” Holtry said.

Then she asked her students to focus on drawing a specific part of the animal and also brought two cats. The students had eight minutes for each animal.

“Instead of trying to draw like the whole animal, they just draw specific parts. I made a worksheet where they try to draw his ear or an eye or the nose and mouth. I brought more than just the dog because I can’t fit 30 kids around an animal for a good view,” Holtry said. “Having the live animal models is completely different than drawing from photos. They tend to obviously see more detail from life and how the shadows change. I knew that capturing something quickly would challenge their abilities because the animals will be moving. It trains them to draw faster and decide what matters most.”

She also applies it to Disney animations, like the movie Bambi.

“They actually had deer in their studio and they did a whole bunch of animal studies and drew and learned how they move to be able to animate them,” Holtry said. “We apply what we learn to career opportunities, like in this case as animation.”

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

“This year we just had kids who are magicians at Rubik’s Cube and we just did the school logo. Last year we did a portrait of a school administrator who left the school. It’s a fun little thing. I expected it to take us several days, but these kids are so good at Rubik’s Cubes that they got there quickly,” she said.

Holtry said school librarian Marissa Merket, who secured a grant to buy Rubik’s Cubes for the students, so it’s now an exercise that continues annually.

She prepares students for the Canyons Middle School Art Show, as well as her own class’s virtual art show.

“I’m so blown away by the talent,” Holtry said. “Some of her works are paintings, others are color and pencil graphics. Some of them are copper stampings. Some of them are just charcoal portraits. I look at how hard these kids are working and I really want them to be recognized. It always gives me a good feeling when I hear people talking and saying, “Oh my god, that was made by a sixth grader or an eighth grader.” Our students have great talent and it is a validation 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 see how great they can be.”

She has asked students to submit drawings for the Utah flag and the school district film festival, and encourages her students to participate in other art shows.

“Usually other art shows would take place in the summer after I left my students, but I made it a point to make a list of shows my kids could attend. I encourage them to learn from those experiences,” Holtry said.

The art techniques are based on imparting life skills to the students.

“The first week of my class, some students say, ‘I can’t even draw a stick figure.’ I remind you that that’s why we have courses to help you get better and develop skills. 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 needed to learn how to do it. This is something I always ask my students to be very patient with themselves. Just trust the process. So we start with line drawing and then slowly build more skills,” she said.

Holtry’s semester-long courses begin with learning about design, value, shading and color. You’ll learn to mix colors with watercolors, then delve into perspective, texture, and even graphics.

Over the years, she has had students undertake a variety of projects, from painting hats to learning how to paint landscapes.

“Art teaches you so many skills that you don’t typically get in other classes, which is how to really learn how to see and how to observe,” Holtry said, adding that learning to make out details or see colors has an impact on others professions can be applied. For example, doctors see detail in negative space so they can better spot abnormalities in MRIs. “It’s also a great way to learn how to process feelings and emotions. One thing I teach my students is to accept mistakes as a great life lesson. Coming to watercolor painting, it’s not very easy to control. You have to let it go and be okay with it. So I help them learn that skill not just in art class, but in life – so they know it’s okay to make mistakes and let go, live with our mistakes, and embrace those challenges.”

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