Friday, July 23, 2010

fantastic buildings

Architects have a daunting job. They have to plan out a building that must operate and function the way that the client needs it to and they need to come up with something that is visually interesting as well. They need to strike a balance between form and function. Some buildings serve their function very well, but their design doesn't engage a person in an interesting way. Some veer towards the opposite end, and are so visually different or elaborate that any supposed function gets lost or difficult. What would you want to do if it was up to you to design a building?

This one gets students using line in 2 different ways. They use it to decorate the surfaces present in their drawing by using a variety of patterns and they use it to make the the building in their drawing look 3d.

To begin, I show the classes different buildings from around the world. I emphasize the variety in materials,   decoration, and balance.  I talk about how a lot of public and religious architecture uses symmetry to create a stable, strong vibe in the building because those are attributes that the patron wants the public to feel about them. Asymmetry in building design can bring a different type of energy to the building.

Narita Temple, Japan

the Crooked House by Jan Marcin Szancer and Per Dahlberg

Some of the examples have natural shapes included that give a building a different, looser feel than one made of the traditional geometric shapes of triangles, rectangles, squares, and circles.
Hundertwasser's Waldspirale

We also discuss how architects need to make their drawings look 3d for their clients, so they use diagonal lines that slant back in a uniform way to create the sides of the buildings in the drawings. I don't get into one point linear perspective here. I just want them to get a basic understanding of it so they can apply it to their elaborate building designs.

As I do an example for students I have them volunteer important elements of a functional building and I add these to my example.

1. Students must decide if they will create a horizontal or vertical building that has either symmetry or asymmetry. They draw it out in pencil.
2. Add diagonal lines to any points that need them on one side of the shapes included in the building design. draw a parallel lines that these diagonals run into, so we can see where the back edge of the building begins.
3. With a couple different width black markers, they then add patterns to their building and trace around the contours of the building and its features. They add variety by using thick & think lines in their patterns.
4. i discuss analogous colors and students use one set of them in crayon to create a blended background that goes from dark to light on a separate sheet of paper. this adds a sunset/sunrise feeling to the finished image and it makes the building stand out since that part is only in black and white.
5. students cut out their building design and glue it in place on top of the color background sheet

Thursday, July 22, 2010

textiles, textiles, textiles.

Over the years, I have done projects with kids that investigate the visual qualities of blankets, rugs, quilts, and weavings. In the past two years alone, I've done at least 6 different lessons based on a variety of textiles. Most of the time my students make paper versions of these items with me. However, one of our school's other art teachers, Ms. Vance has done weavings with yarn and braided paper with the students in her after school program. These pieces are great because the students get to experience more of the real materials used by textile artists.

I always emphasize the functional qualities of these works as done by other artists. These artists have to think about how their work will be used, unlike a painter who just has to worry about the look of their piece. Makers of functional art have a tougher job in this respect.

The quilters of Gee's Bend have made some visually stunning abstract work while reusing clothes, sheets, and bags in these designs. The quilters of this area have passed down their techniques though 6 generations to the present day. My kinders and 1st graders have made paper versions of these quilts after discussing the types of shapes and colors we see in the quilts. The students use old wallpaper to simulate the use of different types of material that are present in the real quilts.

Annie Mae Young

This year kinders made paper quilts based on Amish designs. We focused on recognizing and cutting the types of shapes in Amish quilts and on using warm and cool colors in our pieces. Construction paper crayons were used to simulate the stitched thread that would be used to hold a real quilt together.

Last year I did a paper weaving project with the 2nd graders. We started out by cutting and gluing squares and rectangles to a 12x18" sheet of paper. We discussed patterns and complementary colors before getting started. We also discussed how some textiles are made by more than one person working together as a team. Students were to create this project with a partner.

Students fold the large piece of paper and made between 5 & 7 cuts that started on the fold and ended about 2 inches away from the edge. After doing so, students worked together to weave black strips in and out of their cut paper design to complete the weaving. Each class used a different set of colors. These partner made quilt pieces could then be assembled together back in their classroom to make a larger quilt.

As a result of how sharp these weavings looked, I decided to modify the project and do it with my 3rd grade classes, too. We talked about how weavings were made and how they can sometimes be done as 3 dimensional forms like baskets. We talked about colors that you find in nature, in trees, branches, and dried grasses. Again, this was a partner project just like the 2nd grade one.

Students created the pieces the same way, but after they were complete we glued and stapled them together to make large 3d forms with the flat pieces. Students stapled a couple cardboard strips to the backs of their pieces to reinforce them. The end results were pretty cool and added a nice sculptural element to our end of the year art show.

Well, this isn't all of the textile projects I have done with classes, but it's a good taste.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the real deal.

This year I placed emphasis in many lessons on making images look real by using tints and shades. Kids never quit getting excited when they see something they are making go from flat to 3d on a piece of paper. It's something that can be addressed across all grade levels.

My 1st graders were introduced to the paintings of Audrey Flack this year. They could not get over the fact that her images were actually painted and not just photographs. I pointed out to them how she used light and dark to make the objects in her still life paintings look real.

We also discussed her use of primary and secondary colors. Students identified examples of these colors in a couple of Audrey's paintings.

When doing the drawing, I emphasized to draw the outlines of shapes lightly, because bold outlines would make the students' drawings look more cartoonish instead of more realistic. 

We based our drawing on Audrey's still life painting of crayons on a table.

1. students drew long cylinders with cones on the ends to make the crayon shapes. at least one needed to be a different length and they needed to overlap crayons at least once.
2. students added color to each of the crayons with colored pencils. they pressed hard on one side and lightly (making a tint) on the other side of each crayon. the light and dark sides should be consistent on all the crayons.
3. to make cast shadows for each of the crayons, students mixed the color of the crayon and a little black (making a shade), on the paper/table touching the shadow side of each of the crayons
4. students added different types of lines from each of the crayons to add variety and to make it look like the crayons had been used.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

space and mr. douglas

When did I first see an Aaron Douglas painting? I can't recall exactly, but it must have been in the first couple years of my undergraduate studies. It seems his work has been with me for a while. I keep going back to how he effectively created a sense of deep space while using hard edged shapes throughout an entire image. The layering in his work has always reminded me of the sets that are used to create a sense of place in the theater.

The way that he created depth in his paintings has informed how I do it in my work, as well as how I approach the subject with the classes that I teach. His work has served as inspiration for both my elementary school and college classes.

a mural of mine in nyc

In his symbolic paintings of African American history he created depth by changing the size, value, and vertical placement of the layers of shapes that were present in the images.

In years past, students have made collages based on Aaron's work, and these are more true to his visual style. This year, however, the students used watercolors to create a landscape that had a fore, middle, and background. To keep the shapes clear, since they were doing the project all in one class, students outlined the shapes with sharpie marker.

We also discussed analogous colors, so students chose one of those color families to paint their landscape. The darkest of the 3 was used in the front, and the lightest of the 3 was used in the back. The setting and details included in their landscape was up to the students, I offered suggestions and had various examples posted for them to refer to.

Monday, July 19, 2010

traced. trace. tracing.

One of my first artistic memories takes me back to 1st grade, when me and a friend would trace countless photos of the members of the band KISS out of magazines his older brother had. Getting lost in the details of Gene Simmons monster boots, those things were SO wicked... I then took them into class and told my teacher that I had actually drawn these pictures, not traced them. Hmmm.

Heather Hobler has done some interesting drawings by "simply" tracing images from different sources and composing and layering them on paper.

I have used her work as a project to introduce the element of line and the principle of variety in art.
Students use a variety of periodicals- entertainment weekly, sports illustrated, national geographic, home & garden, etc...

Students approach the drawing in 3 steps-
1. trace around 7 to 9 images with pencil- some of these could be the same image repeated
2. trace around 5 images with a fine tip black marker
3. trace 1 to 3 shapes with a thick black marker

Students create variety by using lines of different thickness and value.
Students create a focal point by using thick bold lines in only a couple areas, and these shapes stand out against the thinner lines throughout the rest of the drawings.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

in the distance.

This year the 3rd grade classes compared landscape paintings by Andre Derain and Donald Archer after being introduced to the 2 artists through a quick powerpoint. The discussion was steered towards how both artists created 3d space, or depth, by going from big to small shapes, by going from dar to light color, by going from high detail to low detail, and by going from low to high on the picture plane.

The artists may have used different color schemes and different methods of mark making, but their approaches to creating 3d depth on canvas were pretty similar.

Students worked in table teams to come up with a list of similarities and differences. After sharing out, I walked students through a contour line drawing in white oil pastel, of a landscape featuring the Coronado Bridge, a local landmark.

The next class students added color to their landscapes to make the scene have 3d depth. The final result combines the unnatural coloring of Derain with the smooth media handling of Archer. Depth is created, like both of the artists did, through a variety of means.

This was a 2 session lesson, since the compare and contrast portion was added into the mix.

building with frank.

Frank Gehry's architecture pushes the boundaries of what buildings are "supposed" to look like. The natural curves, folds, twists, and turns make his buildings look like they are moving in the wind. Made of various metals and reinforced concrete, these landmarks aren't going anywhere, but they allow your imagination to take flight with their apparent lightness.

I've used his work to allow students to experiment with actual texture and 3d natural looking shapes in art. Students make 3d paper and aluminum foil architectural collages placed in a hand drawn setting.

Students are required to add at least 3 natural looking shapes to the foil main building. These pieces are made of foil glued to paper and then cut out. This provides enough support and stability to these 3d pieces.

1. intro to Gehry's architecture- focusing on natural shapes and texture
2. draw setting on separate paper
3. cut main building shape and glue in place
4. glue remaining foil to other paper and cut out needed shapes
5. bend & roll shapes to give them some dimension and glue into place

Thursday, July 15, 2010

taking off with louise.

One of the pioneer female artists, breaking new ground in the art world with her found object assemblages, busting into the all boys club of the art world...

You gotta love Louise Nevelson.

She made hundreds of sculptures that kept evolving and more often than not, kept getting bigger and bigger. I love that she elevated scrap material and other people's throwaways to high art status.

I did three projects based on her work this year. One was more tied to her work than the other two, but her sculptures provided a springboard for our students to think sculpturally.

I introduced the 5th grade classes to her work and emphasized the concept of unity through her monochromatic paintings and discussed the differences between freestanding and relief sculpture.

These classes worked in teams of 3 or 4 students and assembled wood pieces on 18x18" squares of plywood. I stressed that they didn't have to make their relief sculpture look like anything- a park, a city square, and to just arrange shapes of different sizes in an interesting way. The next class was spent painting these pieces either all gold, white, silver, or black.

My goal over the summer is to install these small group pieces and assemble them as one giant relief sculpture on our campus. It will be approximately 15x8".

The 4th graders created relief sculptures as well. However, they were not limited to the square format. They were introduced to Louise's work, as well as the concepts of radial symmetry and complementary colors. Their sculptures could show symmetry or asymmetry, but it had to show radial. 

After assembling and gluing their pieces they were able to chose a pair of complementary colors and paint it. They could also add white to make tints. By working with opposite colors, I emphasized that they could make certain parts of their sculpture pop out and create focal points in the design.

This project was done in an extended lesson during testing at our site. I met with the class for one hour & 45 minutes.

The 2nd graders created freestanding sculptures based on the artist's work. Their limitation was that they had to fit the bottom of the sculpture on a 4.5 x 4.5" cardboard base. They could then build up as high as they wanted, as long as their sculpture was stable. It had to have stable balance. They built it the first day and when I met with them the following week they painted the pieces using a set of analogous colors- 2 primary colors that are mixed together to make a secondary color.



Mr. Mo Willems is one of my favorite children's book authors/illustrators. My family has quite a collection of his books at home. I think I may be more excited to read his stuff at bedtime than my kids are sometimes...

I especially love his two Knuffle Bunny books. I have read the first one to my kinder classes as inspiration for projects for the past couple of years. We look at how the characters are drawn simply and in color and how the backgrounds look realistic and are in black, white, and grays. We talk about how the background images are from Trixie's (the main character) neighborhood. Finally, we talk about how the characters look like they are in front of the background settings because they cover up or overlap parts of those settings.

The project takes two classes.
1. address what authors and illustrators do
2. read the book
3. talk about character, setting, and space
4. draw our school setting as the neighborhood/background on watercolor paper
5. color the buildings with pencil and add crayola black marker lines to sky and grass
6. dip paintbrush in water and go over sky and grass- simple way to create soft texture that is different than pencil handling of buildings

next class we resume-
1. draw their character in the style of Mo Willems in pencil
2. trace lines with black marker
3. color character with crayons
4. cut character out
5. glue onto school neighborhood setting from previous session

Leonardo the Terrible Monster may be my favorite though... I think I'll do a project with that book next year!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

how bout those kinders?

I like doing a project with my kinders at the beginning of the year that introduces them to the work of Piet Mondrian. I find that using his abstract compositions as the subject allows students to get familiar with a variety of lines and colors in a simple and effective way.

I emphasize two elements of art in this lesson-
1. line types- horizontal & vertical, thick & thin
2. primary colors- red, yellow, and blue

I have followed up the Mondrian project with a collage lesson that is based on Bauhaus architecture.
It focuses on the use of primary colors and geometric shapes that they learned about, but they apply them to something recognizable, a modern looking house.


The project requires some simple cutting, so I can gauge what their skill levels are. These brightly colored homes always come out looking sharp. There is always an interesting variety in sizes in the shapes they cut and in the arrangement of the shapes in their collages.

The houses may be made horizontally or vertically.

I think doing these 2 lessons at the beginning of the year is a good one, two punch to get students familiar with basic shapes, lines, and colors.