Sunday, September 26, 2010

If I could make a castle...

For the 2nd graders 3rd lesson this year I wanted them to continue focusing on line, but to explore color and shape differently.

Rob Dunlavey's illustrations of crystal cities were perfect for this new direction. Rob is an illustrator living outside Boston and he is quite prolific. He has done work for children's books, educational texts,  newspapers and magazines. A lot of his work has a strong geometric style, although he has been producing some wonderful drawings of animals and landscapes that are much more naturalistic.

His series of crystal castle drawings offered students a chance to explore line to make geometric shapes and patterns and to create a drawing that was much flatter than the previous two that we have done this year. In this project students relied on their imagination to create their own castle drawing while only using geometric shapes.

The kids have loved viewing Rob's work and making their own castles. There has been a lot of variety in the student work, which is always great to see. Different students have excelled at this lesson. Some have really gotten into the pattern making and repetition of it.

While Rob uses many different color combinations in his drawings, the students have been using warm and cool colors only. Using one set for the castles and the other for the background.

I also brought the concept of symmetry to the students' attention. It's a bit early in the year to bring it up, but it is one of their visual arts standards, so I wanted to plant the seed so they can start to recognize it in art and nature.

1. introduce students to Rob's work and the elements of contour line, pattern, geometric shapes, and warm and cool colors
2. make the largest shapes of the castles
3. add smaller areas of geometric shapes and patterns to the castles
4. add background patterns using the opposite of the warm or cool colors used on the castles

I will be using Rob's sculptural castles as inspiration for a project with the 5th graders this year as well. I'm very excited to see what they do after viewing his work. Stay tuned...


  1. This is very very very cool!
    In addition I might add:
    I often make little rules for myself when I make abstract/geometric pictures. Oftentimes it's that colors cant touch or maybe that a line needs to cross two other lines before it can end. Or maybe that line have to end in a dot but where they cross, something else may happen.

    Just little rules so that the drawing has a mind (albeit) simple) of it's own. Of course, I reserve the right to break the rules at any time. It's just to keep me interested and engaged with the process.

    It's all about engagement. I don't like to abandon drawings ever. If something isn't working, I'll paint it out or cut it up for collage later.

    Yeah, I'm weird! :-))

    I can't wait to see what else your students come up with!

  2. Also, a full set of my Crystal Cities drawings and sculptures can be viewed here:

  3. Thanks for the Crystal Cities ideas. My 3rd graders are at the end of a cityscape project and I need an extension activity for those who are done early. I'm going to have them make Dunlavey style paintings on cardboard and we'll cut them out to make a sculpture environment for the art show. Great stuff!