About Me

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My name is Ursina Amsler and I am the 7th grade art teacher at Masconomet Middle School in Topsfield, MA. I have taught art to grades K-12 over the years in districts such as Marblehead, Massachusetts and Beverly Hills, California, though most of my teaching career has been spent in the middle school classroom. Why middle school? Some people flee in terror at the thought, but there is something about the enthusiasm, energy, and spirit of these kids that keeps me inspired and motivated every day. Middle Schoolers are blossoming with potential and are constantly discovering new connections to the world around them. They are flexible enough to try thinking “outside of the box”, and have a growing skillset that enables them to produce some amazing and expressive artwork. I have the best job!self portrait 002

32 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carole Bronzino
    Dec 04, 2017 @ 21:04:59

    Hello, my name is Carole Bronzino and I teach middle school in Roswell, Georgia.
    I love the lessons you have on your blog! I watched your video explaining how to do the explosion book and I am about to try this with my 7th grade. Could you tell me the measurements of the large abstract painting? Thank you so very much and thank you for explaining this in a way that middle schoolers will understand!

    Reply

  2. Julie Mann
    Feb 15, 2018 @ 11:37:11

    Hi Ursina 🙂
    Your art ideas are awesome! Thanks so much for sharing them!
    Regarding the “Watercolor and Crayon Resist Fish Paintings”, did you use water colour paper or something else? Did you use authentic water colours or the ‘cakes’?
    Thanks again!
    Julie from Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Feb 16, 2018 @ 05:23:45

      Hi Julie, I used student grade watercolor paper. I use the Prang “semi moist” watercolors. they are the ONLY student grade watercolor I will ever use. great value, rich colors, very responsive to a wet brush. Enjoy!

      Reply

    • uamsler
      Feb 16, 2018 @ 05:24:26

      Just planned a trip to your city for this summer! Never been but it looks amazing!

      Reply

  3. Karen Mason
    Sep 20, 2018 @ 22:43:24

    Amazing lessons! I am now a middle school teacher and can’t wait to try some of your amazing ideas! I love your blog!

    Reply

  4. Rebecca
    Oct 11, 2018 @ 16:50:49

    my name is Rebecca I am a yr7-10 art teacher in Australia. I love your lessons and the fantastic student works you have posted. You are an inspiration.

    Reply

  5. Sherri
    Feb 23, 2019 @ 20:54:37

    Hi there! Grade 5 teacher from Ontario, Canada! Thanks for sharing your awesome ideas, instructions and samples with us! I have a question about a specific project that you have shared on here… for the “Reverse Painting Acetate Self-Portraits” how did you attach the acetate to the paste paper?

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Feb 23, 2019 @ 21:09:54

      Hi there, In answer to your question, I usually cut simple mats out of black paper to display the acetate self portraits. The acetate and the paste paper are always different sizes: I usually work with 8.5″ by 11″ acetate and the paper for Paste paper is roughly 9 by 12, (but any size will do.) Cutting a mat with an opening of, say, 8″ by 10.5″ allows you to affix first the acetate to the back, then the paste paper. It usually looks like a taped mess from the back, but from the front, you don’t see the irregularities! I will often have the kids do this mounting/presentation work as part of their grade. It’s a good opportunity to address craftsmanship and how effective neat presentation can be! A general goal for this step is 1.) NO TAPE should be visible from the front, and everything should be well attached and flat.

      Reply

  6. Barbara Balkin
    Feb 24, 2019 @ 23:19:32

    Hi, The “Reverse Painting Acetate Self-Portraits” are fabulous!! The locations of the colors on their background papers look so specific when the acetate is laid over them. How did they plan this out (or did they)? Thanks so much! I’d love to do this with my classes.

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Feb 24, 2019 @ 23:42:51

      There’s no real planning, but much of the acetate remains unpainted/clear, so there is a nice play between the background paste paper and the painted parts of the acetate. The “in progress” pictures at the bottom of the page show you some of the acetate and paste papers, separately.

      Reply

  7. Ashley Carpenter
    Apr 10, 2019 @ 23:55:37

    Hi, I am interested in trying your reverse painting lesson. I am wondering how the two pieces are put together for the final project. Are they just glued?

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Apr 11, 2019 @ 00:44:59

      In regards to the attachment question: The best thing to do is pre-cut simple mats out of black paper (or have a template and have the kids do it.) This way, the acetate and paste paper can all be taped to the back and if the two pieces were different sizes, it won’t matter. You can also play with what is seen through the window using this mat frame. Generally, the back is a hodgepodge of overlapping layers and strips of tape, BUT what is seen through the window of the mat should be pristine and neat. I generally have the kids assemble all their “layers” as part of their craftsmanship and effort grade.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply

  8. Gunnar
    Aug 09, 2019 @ 11:17:56

    I have a question in regards to the actual acetate paper used for the reverse portraits. I have done this project before and had an issue of the acetates paper curling once the student applied the paint to it causing it to be very difficult to continue painting. They were using acrylic for the colors as said in your instruction. Any idea on how to fix this solution?

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Aug 12, 2019 @ 08:14:21

      Tape it down at the top and bottom edges on something bigger and stiffer. If they want to check what it looks like from the front, they can unhinge JUST the bottom, lift and peek, then reattach. Put the whole kit and caboodle in the drying rack while wet and un-attach when the paint is dry. No mess!

      Reply

    • uamsler
      Aug 28, 2019 @ 01:38:50

      To clarify about the acetate: The Sharpie is done first, (no curling happens with the Sharpie,) THEN tape the prepared image down as described prior to painting.

      Reply

      • Tammy
        Sep 01, 2019 @ 19:27:10

        LOVE this project! Can you tell me what weight of acetate you used? Thanks!

      • uamsler
        Sep 01, 2019 @ 21:32:59

        I’ve used all types—usually what I can get through our supply vendor! (I’ve even used overhead transparencies, which are thin.) Anything works, just know that thinner acetate will be more likely to dent or pucker, but is often more clear, allowing the background to peek through better.

  9. Yiota Theodosiou
    Aug 13, 2019 @ 14:22:36

    Good morning from Greece, my name is Yiota and I wish I could watch a tutorial on your work with the students. I am so interested in how to make these portraits. Is there a video somewhere or paid lesson even i could watch? thank you very much

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Aug 13, 2019 @ 18:56:37

      Hi Yiota! I have two tutorials on youtube: (search “Amsler Art Room”) but not any for my portrait lessons. Which lesson are you talking about? I have several different portrait projects posted. Let me know and I’ll see if I can help you out.

      Reply

      • Yiota Theodosiou
        Aug 14, 2019 @ 01:37:53

        Oh thank you very much for you quick response! I am very much interested in the Reverse Painting Acetate Self Portraits (to paint others to tell you the truth and not so much myself lol). If you could point me in the right direction I would be most grateful.

  10. tobeylyn
    Aug 21, 2019 @ 00:07:51

    Hi! I love your site so much! Would you please share the materials you used for the “jeweled bugs”? Did you buy a roll of foil or pre-cut sheets?

    Reply

  11. Nadine Marie smith
    Sep 30, 2019 @ 06:35:29

    Hello! I loved your reverse plexi glass painting project with the paste paper. I just completed a wonderful version of this with my elementary students, but I am having trouble finding a glue to adhere the paste paper without streaks or marks. What did you use to adhere the paste paper? Thank you!

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Oct 01, 2019 @ 01:42:37

      In regards to the attachment of everything: The best thing to do is pre-cut simple mats out of black paper (or have a template and have the kids do it.) This way, the acetate and paste paper can all be taped to the back and if the two pieces were different sizes, it won’t matter. You can also play with what is seen through the window using this mat frame. Generally, the back is a hodgepodge of overlapping layers of tape, BUT what is seen through the window of the mat should be pristine and neat. I generally have the kids assemble all their “layers” as part of their craftsmanship and effort grade.

      Reply

  12. Debbie
    Oct 03, 2019 @ 11:57:19

    Really love all of your ideas and work! Would love to bring this to my high school students. Question about material management and planning! How do you manage your materials / clean up? I have class sizes that range from 30-35 students so it can get a little messy at the end of each period. Also how do you manage/incorporate using references in your planning? Do you print out images for students to trace or use stencils? Is there a specific way you teach them how to use it? Thank you again so much for all of these amazing ideas!

    Reply

    • uamsler
      Oct 03, 2019 @ 20:46:02

      In regards to clean up, My general rule is NOBODY leaves until everyone is cleaned up and seated back at their tables. This gives kids incentive to provide helpful reminders to their slow-cleaning peers. 🙂 Also, in my 7th grade classes, I award daily clean-up points from 1-10. Every two weeks I total the points and the class with the highest overall point-average gets a prize coupon, (“Art Buck”) that they can redeem for a small trinket, toy, or piece of candy. In regards to reference pictures, I am a BIG fan of using them, (BUT no tracing allowed) I generally provide lots of reference pics in the theme of whatever our lesson is… insects, flowers, animals, etc. I also have many clip art books of animals, mythology, nature, etc. (Dover publishes great ones that are cheap). I’m not sure which projects you have specific questions about, so if I didn’t answer everything, just let me know. I will be posting a video soon of how I manage printmaking for middle schoolers. Stay tuned!

      Reply

  13. Ilze Schultz
    Oct 21, 2020 @ 23:04:07

    Good day
    I need to get in contact with you urgently, please contact me on ilze.schultz@optimi.co.za with regards to permission on using your imagesin our text books

    Reply

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