Thursday, September 13, 2018

lines! more lines! even more lines!

Wrapping up with my first 2 week rotation with our 1st & 4th graders and we have been experimenting with line while looking at the work of Nate Williams, Brita Lynn, Cadu Mendonca, and Seize Happywalker for inspiration.

Let’s dive in.

1sts looked at an illustration by Nate Williams and created profile portraits than included things of interest/ importance to them. They talked about things they liked, drew a few of them as practice, and then included them in the head of a portrait. They drew a picture of them thinking about what they like. 

They came back this week and we looked at a couple animals at the SD zoo and compared them to a couple paintings by Cadu Mendonca. They picked up on the difference between seeing a face in profile and seeing one from the front- one eye and half a mouth… except for peppa pig! We drew one of his animals together and then kids were to experiment with patterns within the animal. Color was added to specific parts to make certain parts stand out.

4ths looked to a drawing by Brita Lynn Thompson (zenspiredesigns) for a landscape and pattern exercise. They noticed how line was used to make the different landscape elements and how she also used it to fill every area with patterns. They looked at a collection of Sd landmarks and tried out combining different elements from different images. We talked about large v small scale and overlapping to create space, to boot.

Students scaled up in pencil, added colored, traced contour lines, and added patterns. Most kids needed extra time for this activity, so they had a full 80 minute session and then 15 minutes of the next to complete it. 

After that, they took a look at some work by Seize Happywallmaker (how awesome is that name?). They picked up on how he uses lines to create different shapes and how he overlaps to still make some depth in an abstract image. They noticed how symmetry was present in some of his pieces and not in others. I shared a short video of Home working and the kids loved it. It’s always cool to share this type of thing with our kids. I think it’s so important to see, videos or first hand, artists working through the various steps of the design process.

I modeled how they could create a design like Seize by starting with a couple simple shapes, giving them borders, adding another border that branches off, and then supporting shapes. We jumped right in to this. It was more much more spontaneous than the landscape drawing. Students drew, traced their lines, and added color. When coloring, I encouraged them to experiment with hard/soft, color patterns, and leaving some background shapes open, so there were places for us to rest.

To wrap up, the 4ths completed an exit slip that had them comparing and contrasting the focus works and telling me which experience they enjoyed more and why.

The 1sts and 4ths are off to a great start! Can’t wait to see them again when we play with shape!

Monday, September 3, 2018

it's a block party!

This year’s annual 1st week “almost whole school” collaborative is up in the auditorium. All our 2nd thru 5th grade classes contributed to the success of this large scale public art installation in our auditorium.

I’m going to keep this short and simple because I plan on writing it up more in detail soon for an upcoming Arts & Activities piece as part of my “Alive and Kicking” article series that focuses on using contemporary art as inspiration for your visual art curriculum.

The inspiration for this activity was a block party” quilt by Corinne Sovey- a graphic designer and quiltmaker based in Austin, Texas. 
With this activity, my students had about 20 minutes to design a quilt square that used the geometric elements found in Corinne’s quilt- with the addition of one more as well. After briefly going over my class rules and regs, I introduce the quilt and we identify the shapes in it. After that, we get busy making.

Each student starts with a 6x6 white square, 3 analogous color 3x3 squares, and a black or dark grey 2x3 rectangle. As classes roll through, the colors that are out for them gradually transitions- I usually start with yellows and move thru the spectrum until we end up back at yellow. I had plans for something a little different this year, but it didn’t happen;) The activity provides some student decision making opportunities while also working within certain design constraints.

1- students fold the white square into quarters and are reminded that they can place only one color in each of the quarters
2- students select one colored square to leave as is and place it in one of the white quarters
3- students select one color to turn into a triangle shape. They hold it like a diamond and cut from the bottom corner to the top. They get rid of one piece and place the triangle in one of the white quarters. I model rotating the triangle in different directions in different squares
4- with the remaining colored square, students have a choice- they may use a cardboard stencil to turn it into a quarter circle or they may cut it into rectangles. They take the shape or shapes and place in another white quarter. Again, experimenting with rotation and if using rectangles, they should only use them vertically or horizontally.
5- the final black rectangle is cut into a minimum of 2 rectangles and placed in the last white quarter. Again, attempting to limit themselves to vertical and horizontal positioning.
6- once they have all their parts, I encourage them to look at their arrangement and decide whether it is satisfying. If they need to move pieces, they may.
7- then they glue the pieces down
8- when that’s done, they flip the paper and put glue on the back and head on back to our assembly table
9- students place and press their quilt squares on a large 24x36 white sheet of paper. I encourage them to look at the placement of the other student pieces and respond to it. They may decide the bottom of their design looks better at the top, or they might want to rotate it a quarter turn to join in a more interesting way with another quilt square.

As classes roll thru, I place the working collaborative on my floor, so students can start to get an idea of the overall effect and color transition.

When all classes are done, it install it in the auditorium. The use of 24x36  pieces makes these things much more easy to transport:)

And boom! So many kids have work on display and the install celebrates the elements of unity and variety as well as the community and diversity of our elementary school. 


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

looking into the eye of the beast.

During this rotation, my 5ths are exploring paint, color value, and symmetry. We have been looking at the work of Australian artist Brad Eastman for inspiration for this experience. Brad is a very prolific artist who draws much inspiration from the patterns that are found within the natural world. I really love his play of geometric and natural shapes, his use of contour line, and his wonderful sense of composition as he pulls everything together in works that range in scale from intimately small digital works to immense wall murals.

I start the activity by sharing two murals that Brad has done that are similar in subject, symmetry, and use of color value gradations. We spend a few minutes identifying these elements and talking about what these works remind us of- what the students see in them.

To start the hands on activity, the students and I create a small sketch inspired by these two paintings. I want them to see how they can break up the picture plane to create a design that emphasizes symmetry and repetition. We start with the eye form and then add matching lines to the top, bottom, left, and right of the eye. The point of this is for them to see how they can start with simple large shapes to set up the compositional framework. Then, I encourage them to add more lines to give their sketch more detail.

Once that sketch is complete, students create a second sketch that starts with a shape of their choosing. They break up the picture plane in a similar fashion to the first one.

With both sketches done, students choose one and enlarge it softly onto a large (12x15") sheet of watercolor paper. They hold off putting their name on the paper until the drawing is complete. They do this, so that they can use the back of the paper to restart their drawing if the need arises.

To create the bold contour lines, students may trace their pencil lines with a crayon, chisel tip sharpie, or fine tip sharpie- or a combo a couple/all of them, depending on the detail present in their drawing.

When students move on to the painting step, I demo creating light and dark values by adjusting the amount of water used with the tempera cakes that we are using. Each student gets a scrap of watercolor paper to test out colors while they are working. Students choose a brush to start with- large, medium, or small. If they need to change brush size, they are responsible for cleaning the brush in the sink, putting it back if the right bin, and getting a different size brush. They are also responsible for changing the water in the cups that they are sharing with their paint tray team.

Most students have needed about 2 hours to complete this activity. Some more, some less. I meet with my 5ths for 90 minutes, so this activity has been completed over 2 sessions. When they complete their painting, students reflect on their process by answering 3 questions on an exit slip.

I am really emphasizing question 2- What was the hardest part of this activity? How did you deal with it.

I want them to really think about that. How did they solve that problem?

I really have been digging the variety in approaches to this activity. The students have been thoroughly engaged during the painting experience.