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.

1 comment:

  1. The artist, William Conger, responded almost immediately to my email alerting him of our student work!

    He had this to say-

    Dear Masse Donald;

    It is such a delight to see what your students made based on looking at my work and with your guidelines. I am so impressed by their unhampered willingness to use ordinary shapes to express very complex experiences of the urban and natural landscape. And the compositions, too, are so well done and include witty surprises. I'll pin up their work in my studio to remind me to be free and spontaneous and that, of course, is the big secret to creativity.

    William Conger