Friday, November 19, 2010

d is for dalek.

I'm excited that the 4th graders were able to complete this drawing before we went on our turkey day week long break.

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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

look out for those cacti!

The 1st graders' first project focused on geometric shapes, contour lines, and texture. I wanted to revisit a couple of those elements while looking at different types of shapes.

Enter Geninne Zlatkis. She is a painter and illustrator, living in Mexico, that keeps an amazing blog about her work, her process, and her inspirations. One of the things I really appreciate about her blog is her images and videos of works in progress. She allows readers to see behind the curtain so to speak.

Her paintings of the natural world have a fresh and vibrant sense of color that is complimented by the delicacy of her line work and rendering of texture and pattern.

The students viewed her blog with me and we talked about some of her subjects- plants and animals. These subjects are examples of natural shapes in art and, well, nature. We talked about how Geninne uses line in different ways to may cacti look spiky, birds look feathery, and fish look scaly.

The final thing we talked about before starting their drawing was color. In the previous drawing they did,  students could use any color they wanted. This time, they could only use the primary colors, plus pink because it is a tint of red. We reviewed the secondary colors that are made by mixing the primaries and when I showed them an example of what they would be doing I discussed how I made those new colors by blending different primaries together.

1. draw cacti and birds with pencil
2. trace contour lines with black marker
3. color shapes with primary color crayons, mixing them together in different combinations to make secondary colors in areas. press hard and soft to create dark and light versions of those colors.

Friday, November 12, 2010

hanging out with louise.

This week I got thisclose to completely installing the sculpture projects the 5th graders completed in small groups last year. It was my original intention to go in over summer break and do it. Alas, real life intervened.

The project was inspired by the work of sculptor Louise Nevelson.

However, if I had accomplished that goal over the summer, I would not have had the pleasure of working on it with small groups of exceptional students from this year's 5th grade classes. Watching their expressions as they hold a drill for the first time, as well as  their reactions to hearing the sound of the drill, have been priceless. It's so new for most of them. They have painted and drawn, worked with clay, made prints, but for many, this is their first experience with power tools. The students have been enthusiastic, a bit nervous, and extremely helpful.

They have been pre-drilling holes in the plywood pieces, assisting in placement on the wall, and drilling the screws into the wall. I get to do the drilling into the concrete wall. I am out of shape. There are 4 more squares to go. I am hoping to be done by Monday afternoon.

The original installation format has been modified to deter vandalism. As the change in composition occurred it grew on my more and more. Instead of being a stationary, grounded sculptural form, the collection of squares brings forth an abstract vision of flight.

After the installation is complete it will be spray sealed to further protect it from the elements.
day 1
day 2
day 3

It's finished. The final four squares were installed this morning. Now I can put the drill away and let my out of shape back muscles recuperate!

Thanks to all the 5th graders last year for making the sculptural squares. Thanks to all the 5th graders this year that helped with the install. Thanks to my father in-law for helping me cut all the panels. Thanks to the 5th grade teachers for their cooperation and support.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

p & d

I had a makeup lesson to do with a 3rd grade class and since the Day of the Dead had already passed, I thought it would be better to have them base their project on something and someone else.

I chose San Diego artist and educator Kim MacConnel as the inspiration for their project. I don't know why I have never done something based on his visually engaging work before. MacConnel's work has explored the possibilities of pattern and decoration for 40 years. He often uses simple shapes that are repeated, along with bright, highly saturated colors in his paintings. There is a minimal amount of overlapping. Most of his shapes butt right up against one another in ways that can create a sense of vibration and energy. He pulls his patterns and images from historical and contemporary sources and gives them new life in his abstract paintings.

Basing the lesson on MacConnel's work was a bit of a departure from the previous two lessons the class had done exploring 3d space, but it also revisited the use of contour line and geometric shapes in art. The emphasis of this project was to create an image that was about decorative space and not 3d depth.

We discussed and identified his use of patterns with shapes, lines, and colors in a number of paintings before students created their own versions of his work.

1. students were given a white large rectangle to serve as the base of their collage and a wide orange strip as the first element they would add
2. students glue orange piece in place- on right, in center, on left
3. students select from 2 colors and design a pattern on it. cut out and glue one piece on the orange and one piece on a white space
4. students then designed a pattern on a bright blue sheet and cut it out and glued it onto empty spaces in their design
5. students were given 2 smaller pieces to use to make shape patterns on top of the patterns they created with line
6. students chose 2 crayon colors and added line patterns to existing shapes in their collage
7. students used a black crayon to reinforce edges with contour lines around shapes and/or patterns

The results from this one class have me excited to try this project out with other classes and grade levels. I have 10 foot long canvases and I think I my have classes create mural size MacConnel's on those using acrylic paints.

Due to the amount of cutting and gluing this project took approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

san diego abstract

This week I have had the pleasure to meet with grades 1 & 4 for the first time this year. It's always interesting to see how students have grown and changed over the course of the summer, and early fall in this case.

The students have been learning about geometric shapes with Ms. Pothier for the past few weeks, so I thought I would introduce them to an abstract painter who uses many of these shapes in his work.

The painter is William Conger. He has spent a good part of his life in and around Chicago, Illinois. He has balanced his career as a professional painter with a career in education. He has taught art at numerous universities in the Midwest for many years. I would love for my career in art and education to follow a similar path to the one Mr. Conger has travelled.

He makes abstract paintings that often are bright and intense in color. There is an abundance of geometric shapes that is balanced by the graceful inclusion of free flowing curves and shapes in many of his works.
When I introduced the classes to William's work I emphasized his use of contour lines to outline shapes. After reminding the classes that they have worked with geometric shapes previously with Ms. Pothier, I have the students identify these shapes in his paintings. I also discuss how some of his colors are lighter than others because he mixes colors with white paint to make tints of them.

We also take a look at the surface quality and texture of his paintings. How a lot of them look like the colors are flat and smooth. I also show them a recent work that William did that does not look smooth, but rough and bumpy instead.
After talking about texture, the students are ready to get started on their own abstract drawings. As we add lines and shapes to the paper in pencil I give them San Diego references for the shapes they are making. I do this because even though William's work is abstract, the images and shapes refer to that city he loves and calls home, Chicago. I want them to see that you can take things you know and turn them into something that looks a lot different than it really is. You can use these things around you as a starting point to create something that is vibrant and playful.

1. add a horizontal line that goes all the way across the paper, then do a vertical, then a curve or a diagonal that starts from where the other 2 meet
2. add a few circle shapes for the wheels on the cars on our San Diego roads
3. add a couple rectangles that refer to the skyscrapers we see downtown
4. add a few palm tree leaves that are over the place in southern California
5. add a wave pattern to symbolize the Pacific Ocean
6. trace all the lines in black marker and make parts of the lines thicker than others to create variety
7. add color with crayons to a number of shapes- pressing hard on one side and going lighter and lighter across the shape to create a tint of the color and to make the shapes look smooth and in texture
8. use plastic rubbing plates under the paper and color the rest of the shapes. still going hard to light across the shapes to create tints. using the rubbing plates creates a variety of rough and bumpy textures and patterns in the shapes. 

Students may leave a couple shapes blank in their drawings if they choose.

The students have enjoyed this drawing project. They have liked being able to use any color they want, anywhere in the image. The biggest kick for them, though, is using the rubbing plates at the end. It's like magic to a lot of them. I have a variety of textured plates for them to use, so they can politely trade with one another as they add color to their work. 

Some students have gotten frustrated because they have a hard time seeing the texture clearly after they have worked over it. This happens when kids press too hard and when they move the paper around while doing the rubbing.