James Marshall, who also goes by the name Dalek, creates these incredible abstractions that are a real treat to look at. Eye candy, really. Interesting plays of color, value, and shape. I keep thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass pieces, but pushed to the limit in terms of the fragmenting of shapes involved.
This was the first project the 4th graders did with me. The abstract nature of Dalek's work allowed me to address a variety of elements in a non-threatening way. The students don't have to be "good at drawing" as some of them like to say. If the student can use a ruler and create a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors in the composition, they have an excellent opportunity to create an image that is visually exciting.
We viewed a number of Dalek's works from his website and discussed his use of contour lines and geometric shapes that varied in size. Students recognized his use of tints of colors to create variety in the decorative space of his paintings. We talked about how Dalek made his tints by adding white paint, but we would do it by pressing softly with our colored pencils and crayons. Dalek uses a broad paletter of colors, but I wanted students to focus on complementary colors (opposites), so that they could make parts of their drawings stand out against one another. We identified these colors in his paintings and in visual aids around the classroom.
I modeled how they could break down the picture plane into smaller and smaller shapes, then let them at it. Once they were done drawing they traced their contours to get them to stand out more. When students were ready to add color we reviewed the complements and I modeled making tints with both the colored pencils and crayons.
The project spanned two meetings with each class. Some students finished earlier than others, so I had a 10' canvas laid out on the floor. Students could then add geometric shapes, trace contour lines, and add complementary colors to the large piece. This will be something students can choose to work on if they finish other projects early throughout the course of the year.