Wednesday, February 10, 2016

the abstract front and back.

This week the 3rd graders are continuing to work with foreground and background as they do a project inspired by a  quilt by Elizabeth Balderrama's titled "Gradient". They have now done several projects dealing with 3d space. They have created space with cut paper layers, they've overlapped, changed size, used placement, and used color values. They have made a couple images that are figurative in style and now this one works within the abstract realm.

Before looking at Elizabeth's quilt, we review how 3d space was made in their cloudscapes last week. We also talk about how they can make tints and shades of color.

Elizabeth's quilt has been received with a lot of enthusiasm. The kids really dig the optical illusion quality of it. They pick up on how the values flip in the foreground and background elements.

For this project, students build background gradients with chalk pastels going from dark to light. I make sure to model keeping their drawing hand off the paper to keep things from getting out of control and super messy. For the foreground, they use oil pastels and go from light to dark.

The foreground design is up to them, as long as they have the transition from white, to tint, to color, to shade/black. It's been interesting to see what kinds of shapes kids come up with for their foreground elements.

Friday, February 5, 2016

chalking it up.

What a week!

I introduced my kinders and 3rds to a couple quilt artists this week and we used their work as an introduction to chalk application and color concepts.

The 3rd graders looked at a quilt by Kathryn Upitis. I've been focusing on 3d space with them and her quilt, September Dawn, was an interesting example of depth in a more abstract sense. We reviewed fore,middle, and background and then looked at the quilt and  tried to see the depth in it. Kids struggled to do so, until I gave them the title of the piece and then things started to click- the ground stands out because it's really dark, but what about the sky? Kids noticed darker and bigger clouds at the top and smaller, lighter ones at the back.

We interpreted this in chalk instead of pieced fabric. I modeled how to hold the chalk to keep themselves and their paper clean. We built the sky and smoothed it out, added the ground and left it rough. We then built the clouds with oil pastels. We used white first and went on top with blue and/or purple. We used tints of colored paper to make our Carol Wyatt inspired landscapes, but this was the first time we mixed those tints in class this year.

We knocked out an exit slip at the end that addressed tints, 3d space, and how their work was different than Kathryn's.

I got through one day this week and then my son was admitted to the hospital. I knew I was going to be out one day, but ended up being out until today. I am very relieved to say that he comes home today and we have a diagnosis and treatment plan. I will be so over the top thrilled to see him sleeping in his own bed tonight:)

Anywho, because I knew I would be out one day, I put together a short video for the sub to use for chalk technique and project intro. My goal is to do more of these in the future. Back in class today, I used them and I was able to distribute supplies while kids watched my demo. Pretty cool being in two places at once!

Meanwhile the kinders looked at a quilt called Full Bloom by LA based quilter Latifah Saafir. (I just discovered the MQG ((Modern Quilt Guild)) website, so be prepared for even more quilt inspired projects!) We talked about what they saw in the quilt and how the title of a piece can guide your thinking when looking at art. We did a chalk pastel drawing of Latifah's quilt. We drew our shapes in white chalk, added chalk color and smoothed it out in the leaves, added color to the background and left it rough, and finished things off by using black oil pastels to make the outlines bold and strong.

Next week, I will have both grade levels experimenting with oil pastels.

While sitting with my son this week, one of the ways I coped was drawing on my ipad with a new app (for me), autodesk sketchbook. Getting a little better using my fat fingers to make thin lines on the touchscreen:)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

local landscaping.

This week the 4th graders have continued working with chalk pastels landscapes. We changed the point of view (from the side as compared to looking down in the ISS photos from last week) and the location of the landscapes as we looked at SoCal scenes by San Diego artist Monique Straub. Monique creates intensely colored landscapes that have a strong use of line to fill space that contrasts interestingly with the character of the photos taken aboard the ISS by Commander Scott Kelly.

The emphasis for this lesson is twofold- practicing pastel application/tinting techniques and looking closely at a scene and recreating it. Just as students need to pick up on main ideas and key details in reading text, I wanted them to gain practice in identifying those concepts when observing and making art. Earlier in the year, when exploring line and shape, students had much more room for choice in the art making process. I find that having this type of balance is important in developing creative thinking and technical skill.

Students could choose from 3 of Monique's landscapes to work from. I asked them to outline general shapes first and then add contour details. When adding color to their drawings, students could mix and blend colors and add white to make tints where needed. I also encouraged them to use line patterns in areas to capture the line work present in Monique's originals.

When students finished and cleaned up, they answered 3 questions about the project and materials they have been using this year.

Monday, January 25, 2016

messy mixing.

Last week, the 1st graders also dove back into school with a chalk pastel project. Nothing like getting dirty right after an extended break! Before starting, we reviewed their use of natural shapes and primary colors in previous projects. We then looked at some work of Gordon Hopkins for inspiration.

While looking at a few of his works, we identified shapes, patterns, primary colors, and secondary colors. I asked kids if they knew what colors were mixed together to mix the secondaries and I wrote these as math equations of the board for them to refer to while working later.

I introduced the kids to chalk pastels and showed them how to hold the chalk so that their drawing hand does not touch the paper as they work. We lightly drew our compositions with visual elements from Gordon's work. We drew a spikey plant, similar to agaves they may see out here, a branch with leaves that is like jade plants in San Diego, and a few flowers. We also added a couple line patterns to the background. With each step we rotated the paper. I asked students to think about where they wanted each element to go. Where did they think the best place for each was in the composition.

We then used each of the primary colors in a different spot in the composition. Students picked which natural element they wanted done in each color. After that, we added different primaries on top of those to make our secondaries. To fill the background patterns, students could use any color they wanted- this  included any of the other chalk pastels they had available. As the final step, we used a black oil pastel to make one of the main elements stand out more than the other parts. I emphasized making that outline bold and strong by pressing hard with the oil pastel.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

looking down at landscape.

And we're back...

Zamo just started back up after a 4 week winter break and the 4th graders have been looking down and closely with the help of Commander Scott Kelly's photographs from the International Space Station.

We start by reviewing a couple things from previous projects- that we have used color sticks to create some pretty clean drawings and that we have been drawing on white paper.

I then ask the kids to roll their sleeves up and get messy with me as we practice a couple chalk pastel techniques on a small sheet of black paper. We look at the difference between blended and non blended color applications and notice that they look like different textures. We add white to a couple colors to see that in order to make a tint on black they need to add white to their paper. We practice draw a colored line over a color field and replace it with an edge when the line color fills one side right up to that said line. We fade a color to black by pulling it away from a color shape. All these techniques can be applied to a landscape drawing to create different effects.

I go over point of view with them and how something can look different depending on the direction you look at it. Then I share a photo of the Commander and that he is not stationed on Earth, but in outer space.

As Captain Jean Luc Picard would say, "Engage."

This is where the kids gets hooked. We look at some of the photos that Commander Kelly has taken of the Earth below him and has posted on his instagram account. The kids can't get over the colors and shapes that they see in the images. There has been a lot of excitement in the room as we look at his photos. We talk about how these images become abstract compositions because of his cropping of them and their overhead point of view.

I printed out about 12 different photos of his for kids to choose from and what I tell them is that I expect that they try their best to capture the essence of their chosen image. I do not expect them to be copies. I model drawing out the shapes they see lightly with white chalk to start. I show them how to start with a point of reference- where a shape touches a side of the paper/photo and build from there. Then add colors to their larger shapes. I emphasize adding details at the end, so they remain crisp. When students are looking at the images I ask them to think about what surfaces look rough and which ones look smooth. Which areas are tints and which areas are shades? Which areas are made of one color and which are made of color mixes?

When students get further along, I encourage them to look closely at the photo for details and elements that are present that are not yet in their drawing. Identifying those details and including them in a drawing gives it much more interest and character.

The kids have definitely felt challenged by this activity, but I have not sensed much frustration with it. The images are complex, but the abstract nature of the landscapes, I think, frees them up a bit.