Monday, August 30, 2010

i and the village.

Marc Chagall made incredibly vibrant and passionate art work for many years. One of my favorites is called "I and the Village".

Based on memories of his past, he created a scene that draws you in through scale, arrangement, and color.
In this lesson I introduce or revisit elements such as complementary colors and contour lines. Students use their actual selves and lives/imagination as the subject matter. The surreal nature or memory based nature of the project is emphasized by rotating the entrance of the main characters.

The painting also may introduce students to the use of portraits and landscape as subjects in art.

1. draw a guided self portrait of themselves based on memory on one side of the composition
2. rotate the paper 180 degrees and draw a profile portrait of  an animal you have had or would like to have
3. draw line connecting the two profiles and create an upside line drawing of your home or neighborhood
4. add complementary colors to main elements to emphasize contrast
4a. I have had students color with textured plastic underneath teir paper to introduce them to the concepts of actual and invented texture too

I have done this lesson with 1st grade classes for a couple of years, but it could be adapted to numerous grade levels by altering the media and increasing the amount of detail of the student work.

pork medallions?

New York based artist Rachel Beach creates playful, abstract sculptures. These painted wood sculptures use shape, line and color to implied and actual space. They can fool the eye of the viewer.
By using diagonal lines she makes flat parts of the sculptures look like they recede in space. This optical illusion is enhanced by her use of tints and/or shades on these particular areas.

Students think these are pretty cool. The abstractness of the shapes provides a low stress entry into making something look 3d. They get a kick out of the "trick" of the medallions. I have noticed a definite feeling of satisfaction among students after they have completed their versions using shape, line, and color to trick others who view their work.

1. after viewing and discussing Rachel's work, draw a large circle using something to trace or a compass
2. draw an interesting abstract symbol in the center of the circle. it may have symmetry or asymmetry
3. add diagonal lines, that are equal in length and point in the same direction, from each of the corners of the inner symbol. if the diagonal goes outside of that inner symbol, do not keep it in the final drawing- erase it.
4. connect these diagonals with lines that are parallel to the edge that it will become the "back" of. the image should now look 3d by using simple isometric perspective
5. add to the realism of it by using color and various tints of that color to make light and shadow effects on the sides of the 3d symbol
6. color the face or front of the symbol. 
7. cut around the outside of the circle shape and cut out the inside of the symbol shape
8. hang on a wall or mount each piece on a larger color square

Thursday, August 26, 2010


When I was in New York in January I had the pleasure of seeing a large scale retrospective of Wassily Kandinsky's work at the Guggenheim on the last weekend it was up. I am SO glad I was able to catch the show before they took it down. I have always been a fan of his, but to see that many of his works up close and personal was a real joy.

This year I did a couple projects with classes based on his work.

The first I did with kinders. We viewed examples of his work and talked about how it was abstract. He was having fun and playing with shapes, lines, and colors to make something interesting to look at. Students identified different types of lines and shapes, as well as primary and secondary colors. I talked about how Kandinsky was very inspired by music and that he said that he saw music when he looked at colors.

This was also the kinders' collaborative project for the year. I talked about how they would have to be a good teammate and work well with another student. 

Each team got a large sheet of watercolor paper- 18x24".
1. Using a black permanent marker, students added different types of lines first, then different types of shapes.
2. Students then added primary and secondary colors with crayola markers to various parts of their composition.
3. After adding color, went over colored parts with brushes dipped in water to create the watercolor effect.

It's always interesting to see how the different teams approach the project. A lot of variety in the compositions and the use of color.

The other Kandinsky based project I did this year was with the 1st graders. They had been focusing on using and making tints and shades in a variety of media- pastels, colored pencils, watercolors, and crayons, so I thought we'd keep it going by doing it with tempera paints too. 

We looked at and discussed Kandinsky's circles painting.
The 1st graders had also done a lot of identifying and using primary and secondary colors, so this project allowed them to mix the secondaries with tempera paints.

1. Each student got a 12x12" sheet of paper and folded it into quarters and flattened it back out
2. In each square they painted a large primary color circle, inside each of those circles they painted another primary color circle
3. students then mixed their secondary colors and added a circle or two more inside each of the circles
4. students then mixed tints of any of the colors and added them either in the center of the circles or outside them
5. students then mixed shades and filled in the remaining areas

These projects can be displayed individually, but I choose to group each class's paintings so they made one large piece. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

everybody rotate.

Every year I like to do one stained glass window inspired project with at least one grade level. This year I found a project by checking out the wonderful Mrs. Brown's art blog. She is an elementary school art teacher who posts about the very engaging projects she does with kids in kinder through 5th grade.

Mrs. Brown had her 4th graders create stained glass designs that used their names as the repeated design element to create an image that demonstrated an understanding of rotational or radial symmetry.

When I presented this project to  my 4t grade classes I showed them numerous stained glass designs from past and present that demonstrated rotational symmetry.
I also discussed how some of these stained glass windows use complementary colors to create visual contrast in the designs. This contrast makes certain parts of the windows "pop out" against one another and it creates necessary variety in their design.

1.  use a compass or trace a plate to create the outer edge of the window
2.  locate the center of the design and draw lines to split it in half, then quarters, then eighths 
3.  in one "pie piece" or eighth, write your name in block letters or other type. space it equally so that it reaches the center. each letter should touch the top and bottom of the pie piece
4. repeat until all pie pieces are filled
5. trace all letters and outer circle edge with a black sharpie
6. trace outer edge and at least one letter in each pie piece with a thicker marker to add more variety to the design
7. using complementary colors, fill in the stained glass design. press firmly with crayons or colored pencils to make the colors intense and bold
8. cut out the circle and glue it to a neutral gray so that the stained glass design stands out from its surrounding. you may also choose to not glue it on to another sheet and hang the windows as circles

The kids got a big kick out of this project. It was challenging for them to get their names consistently drawn in each of the pieces, but they enjoyed seeing how by simply repeating one element, their name, they could create something that was visually striking.


Kadir Nelson.
He has an incredible command of human anatomy and and renders it in a way that emphasizes his subject's persona. Kadir has illustrated and written the book We Are the Ship and he has illustrated many others. He lives and works in San Diego, which is cool for our students to see.
He works primarily in oils but the students used chalk pastels to achieve the intensity in color that Kadir displays. The pastels also offer students flexibility in blending colors and correcting mistakes that some other mediums do not.

When we look at his work I emphasize that one of the things that makes his figures look so real is his use  of light and dark colors to show the volume of the figures and where the light is coming from. He doesn't necessarily use shades of colors to create shadows. He more often uses dark colors to define these areas. There is often a contrast between warm areas of light and cool areas of shadow.
One of the other elements that makes Kadir's work realistic is his use of implied lines along the edges of shapes. He may outline shapes when mapping out his compositions, but these outlines are not present in the final work. People do not walk around with black outlines around our bodies, so he does not paint them that way. This concept is often difficult for students to execute or get the hang of, so you need to make sure that you emphasize it during the introduction to Kadir's work and while they are working on their own projects.

For this lesson I provide students with black and white reproductions of Kadir's work and they may copy one of those images onto a 12 x 18" sheet of colored paper, or they may come up with their own figure composition. They may also alter his images, like changing the type of clothes, direction of the lighting, or the gender of the subject.

1. with white pastel draw out the composition lightly with contour line
2. very lightly outline edges where light areas meet shadow areas
3. add dark colors to the shadow areas in the drawing
4. add light colors to the light areas
5. gently blend those areas to create a smooth texture on the figure. you can blend where the light and dark meet to create a transition between the two, so the lighting won't seem so drastic
6. add color to the background elements, using light and dark colors accordingly to make shapes seem 3d, but treat these shapes more simply than the figure, so the background doesn't compete too much with your focal point
7. when complete, spray drawing with hairspray or fixative. if stacking drawings, you may want to put tracing paper in between to minimize colors transferring from the back of one piece onto the front of another

Monday, August 23, 2010

ms. james

Yellena James is an artist working up in Oregon who creates works that remind me of the garden scene in Willy Wonka's factory. There is a fluid play in her use of line and shape.

I have found that Yellena's work provides an interesting introduction to contour line, natural shapes, and the use of color and line to create pattern in art. Her imagery and use of elements can be inspiration for a wide variety of skill and grade levels.

You may also discuss her use of tints of colors to add variety to the patterns she uses on her natural shapes and have students apply them to their own drawings.

1. after an intro to Yellena's work, students create contour line drawings of fictional plant forms- in pencil first, then traced with black marker
2. students may alter the thickness of the lines to add visual variety
3. students add pattern to the natural elements with colored pencil, pressing softly to make tints of colors
4. students add a loose pattern in the background to create a sense of wind or water

Our 1st and 3rd grade classes have both done this project. I think the biggest difference between the two is the added complexity of the patterns incorporated in the images.


How about all those posts I did for this blog while I was on vacation? A big goose egg for a month. Not what I had envisioned, but was being creative, drawing almost every day and posting on my personal art blog a good bit about the I have made, both past and present.

At the beginning of the summer I was turned on to a book of drawing exercises that just came out, and purchased it immediately. It's called Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists. Written by Carla Sonheim. 52 exercises that are applicable to all ages. I am really looking forward to doing a bunch of these as warm ups or full scale lessons with our Zamorano students and the class at MiraCosta.

I highly recommend this book to teachers, students, and artists alike.