Wednesday, October 27, 2010

day of the dead

This week is my last with the 3rd graders for a while. I wanted to do something that utilized the skills we had focused on for the first three weeks together while doing something in the spirit of the season. There is a gallery called Subtext in San Diego and they are putting on a show celebrating the holiday of the Day of the Dead.

To quote their website, "The meaning of El Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is simple but poetic: As long as we remember our dead, they will live forever. The moment we forget them, then they are truly gone."

There was an image on their website that was abstract in style, but still used light and dark values to make the image look 3 dimensional and it totally caught my eye. The image is very striking...
The artist who made the image is Simon Varela. He is a freelance artist that has worked for Pixar and Dreamworks, among others. He creates drawings that inspire animators in their drawings of different characters. This work is an interesting departure for him. Most of his images are much more realistic. Through my research of Simon and his work online and through the gallery, I was eventually put in direct contact with him. He was very enthusiastic about the students using his work for inspiration. He was very generous with the information he provided me and in the amount of time he took to respond to my email inquiries.

The students and I checked out examples of his work and then I walked them through creating their own interpretations of Simon's painting. I've been very impressed with the three dimensional qualities of the students versions.

This lesson is a jam packed hour. It's really tough to squeeze all the steps in to it. 3 of my classes throughout the day have flexibility with their end time. I have found that an extra 10 minutes goes a long way.

With this lesson students used construction paper crayola crayons. They are specially made to work well on darker color papers. 

1. draw and cut out jacket shape from black paper
2. glue in place
3. draw skull shape and features in pencil
4. add areas of dark value with black crayon- adjusting hand pressure to make lighter and darker values
5. add areas of light value with white crayon- adjusting hand pressure to make lighter and darker values
6. add color to irises of eyes
7. draw border in pencil
8. add background color
9. add border color

Monday, October 25, 2010


I found out about the work of Matte Stephens last summer while wandering around online looking for artists of interest for myself and for students. He's a young illustrator working up in Portland, Oregon. I like the retro feel of his work. He cites Ben Shahn as an influence and you can totally see it in his work. Matte often uses a muted color palette which caught my eye as well.

I thought his work would offer the kinder classes a chance to play with line and materials while adding a bit of silliness to the mix. Since they worked with water soluble markers to make a relief print in the previous lesson, I thought it would be interesting for them to use the same coloring tools and use them in a different way. With this project, after drawing and tracing their contour lines, they added color loosely to areas of their image and then brushed water over top of those parts to create a watercolor-type effect.

After sharing some of Matte's work with the kids, I focused on his Lumberjack Breakfast with them.
We talked about what the utensils were and how they used them. Then we talked about what made this breakfast scene a bit different than a normal breakfast. Hint- its in the smiles... I brought up the idea that the food items might not all be happy about being eaten. Maybe they would be sad, or surprised, or angry.

The students got a kick out of drawing a meal and giving their food items different expressions. When they added the color and "painted" over it with water most of the classes quieted down and really got into it. Students also thought that the water changing color as they used more and more color was neat too.

This is the last project I will do with the kinders for 8 weeks. I'm looking forward to meeting with them again and seeing how they have changed in that short time. When I see them again, it will all be about shape, both flat and 3d forms.

1. intro to Matte Stephen's work 
2. looking at a fork and a knife and drawing them
3. adding food items and plate to paper in pencil
4. trace contour lines with permanent black marker
5. add color to shapes loosely with water soluble markers
6. paint over top of shapes with water to fill them in

Thursday, October 21, 2010

let's skate!

After doing the Charles Demuth project with 3rd graders, I thought the students would enjoy doing something a little more contemporary. Hello skateboard designs.

I introduced the students to the work of designer Don Pendleton. He has been designing work for the skate industry since 1998. He has a unique abstract style that varies depending on the project that he is working on. He relies heavily on contour lines to define the shapes and objects in his designs. Even though his designs are abstract, he still creates some depth by using tints of colors, overlapping shapes, and changing sizes of shapes from big to small.

After I introduced Don and his work and told the classes that they would be designing their own decks, there were loud cheers from many of the students in each of the classes.

I focused on one of his recent deck designs for the student project. When students looked at the design I had them identify the different ways he created depth- overlapping and size change in the shapes. We also discussed his use of complementary colors and by using these you can make parts of a design pop out from others.

When I showed them an example of what we would be doing I revisited the use of dark, medium, and light color values at add to the creation of foreground, middleground, and background. I also pointed out how the contour lines got thinner and thinner in each of those layers.

So, all told, students were going to create space in their abstract designs by doing 4 things-
    -big, medium, and small sizes
    -dark, medium, and light color values
    -thick, medium, and thin contour lines

They had a compositional structure to follow, but the look of their characters was up to them, as long as they were abstract in style.

The lesson took a session and a half. I introduced Don's work and students create their cut paper decks during the second half of the class that was used to finish the Demuth project. THe drawing design was completed during that second meeting, after reviewing the key elements required in their designs.

1. cut and glue paper deck and white shape for deck design
2. draw outlines of characters using basic geometric shapes
3. draw features for each of the characters
4. trace contour lines of each character with marker color of deck, going from thick to thin lines
5. with colored pencils, add the complementary color of the deck to shapes in each layer of design, going from dark to light in the layers
6. add other colors to the characters in each layer, but still going from dark to light
7. add a pattern at the bottom in the construction color portion of the deck with construction paper crayons, using the complementary color of the deck. the pattern should be based on a shape that is in the design

The students really enjoyed this project and they are very excited to get their skateboards back so they can take them home and show them off. A number of students wanted to make real ones out of wood.

Maybe we need to write a grant for a wood shop.

Monday, October 18, 2010

schooled in san diego.

Andrew Holder is an illustrator who grew up right here in San Diego. Two of his biggest clients are Roxy and Urban Outfitters. He uses a variety of mediums in his illustrations, including acrylic paint and screen printing.

I like how he creates layers of depth and 3d space while filling his compositions with relatively flat shapes. He also uses pattern effectively to create variety and texture throughout his illustrations as well.

Since the kinders have been working with contour line and pattern, I thought Andrew's work would be a good introduction to pattern in landscape and the use of printmaking to create a final image in art.
I showed the kinders a number of Andrew's illustrations and talked about how these images of outside places are called landscapes. I then revisited the use of pattern in art and had students identify a few patterns in his work.

Instead of drawing on paper, students drew on the same material that they use as lunch trays at school. Students pressed into the styrofoam as they drew so they indented it. After coloring the shapes on their plate with color markers of their choice, I helped them transfer that image onto a dampened piece of paper.

I like using washable markers on some print projects because students can work with multiple colors at once and add color patterns to their images more easily. Plus, the clean up for me is SO easy. 

1. intro to Andrew's work 
2. draw landscape on styrofoam, working from the front of the composition to the back
3. add color with washable markers to each part of the composition
4. dampen white paper and place on top of styrofoam and rub evenly to transfer
5. coloring process may be repeated to create more than one image from the same plate

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

charlie 5.

Figure 5 in Gold is one of Charles Demuth's most famous paintings. It may not appear to be so, but it is actually a portrait of one of his friends, the poet William Carlos Williams. Obviously not a physical likeness, it is based on imagery that is from one of his poems called The Great Figure

I decided to use this painting as inspiration for the 3rd grade classes first project with me this year. They had spent the first 4 weeks of the year with one of our other art teachers, Ms. Pothier and with her they focused on creating different values and making 3d space by making things smaller and smaller. They applied these concepts to projects while examining the work of Van Gogh, so I thought it would be interesting for them to apply these concepts to something that was very different visually. That way they can see that 3d space can be created both in work that is more realistic and in work that is more abstract.

We discussed what was happening visually in Demuth's painting as well as where he got the idea for this  "portrait". Before I told them how it actually was a portrait, I had students offer their own interpretations of the painting. Students in each class came up with some pretty good ideas based on very little information provided to them.

I emphasized his use of contour lines to define the edges of shapes and his repetition of the number while making them smaller and smaller to create some depth in the image.

I deviated from Demuth's color palette and introduced them to warm and cool colors in nature and art, so that students could use them to make certain parts of their image stand out against other parts.

When I showed them an example that I did, we also discussed how to turn a flat shape into something more 3d. By pressing hard and then more softly and softly, you can turn a circle into a sphere. While doing so with color, you make tints of the color because it mixes with the white of the paper. They had practiced shading like this with graphite in Ms. Pothier's class so they were familiar with the idea.

Before starting on their own versions, I emphasized to the students that they must have a reason for the number they were going to draw, just as Demuth did. It could be how old they are, how many people are in their family, their favorite number, etc.

1. choose a number and a reason for that number
2. I demonstrated how to make numbers 0 through 9 visually interesting as block or bubble numbers with a little flair
3. practice the number a few ways
4. draw it 3 times  going from big, medium, to small
4. add 5 circles. one has to go off the paper and one has to be overlapped by a number
5. add 7 lines to break up the background and negative space
6. trace all lines with a black marker and erase pencil lines
7. add marker color to numbers- choose to use either warm or cool colors at this point
8. add color to circles with crayons, using same group of colors as are on numbers. make circles into spheres by adjusting hand pressure to go from light to dark
9. add the opposite group of colors with crayons to the shapes made with the 7 lines. again, going from hard to soft hand pressure to go from dark to light color tints

This project took us about one and a half meetings. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

kinder kitty.

As I wrote in a post last summer, Pablo Lobato has become one of my favorite illustrators. I was very excited to see a new image of his the other day that I thought the kindergarten students could have fun with while they investigated different types of patterns with line, shape, and value.

Click here to check out the image.

After a brief introduction to Pablo and his work, we looked at his new image, called "Mouse pad", and identified different shapes and patterns in it. I then had students share different patterns they could think of by using color, then lines, and then colors. The students have been working with patterns back in their classrooms, so many of the students were able to participate in this oral sharing activity.

In order to facilitate this project I drew and cut out the cat shapes the students would use in their image. By doing this step, it allowed the students to focus on gluing skills and pattern making.

1. Glue the cat to the background color. (I use a different background color for each of the classes to add variety to our school wide displays.)
2. Add features to the cat with black marker.
3. Add white areas and white guidelines to separate areas for pattern elements
4. Add patterns to the different areas, using white crayons and black markers. Different types of lines- thick & thin, long & short, curved & straight may be used, as well as different ordering in black, white, and gray values.
5. Add color to the eyes, along with a white dot to add shine and add pink to the nose.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

something old. something new.

I haven't done this one in a couple of years, but it is still one of my favorites. It was done with 3rd grade classes, but could be adpated to almost any grade level.

This one is all about shape. Positive and negative. Natural and geometric.

This project is a combination of the Woodstock music festival logo with the visual stylings of Dora Drimalas, from the design team of Hybrid-Home in San Francisco.

The balance between the things (positive shapes) and the empty parts (negative shapes) in an artwork is integral to its visual success. Despite how well drawn an image is, if there is too much negative space the image could fail.

The students and I discuss positive and negative shape relationships in the work of Ms. Drimalas, as well as  her use of both geometric and natural shapes in her designs. Then they get working using collage to create their own image.

Even though the students' work revolves around the same image, there is always an interesting amount of variety in their work due to the details they add and the shapes of the birds they include.

a little bit halloween.

To wrap up my first four week rotation with the 5th graders I decided to do a project based on an image created by the illustrator Saul Steinberg.

This particular illustration combines an abstract style with a sense of deep space due to his use of one point perspective of the buildings along the street. It also has a bit of Steinberg's trademark humor with the inclusion of the simplified, "scary" characters lining the street.

The 5th graders had been examining and creating 3 dimensional space through the use of diagonal lines, overlapping, and shading on their previous two projects, so I thought this project would be an entertaining way to take things a step further and introduce them to one point perspective in art.

I also took this project as an opportunity to revisit relief printmaking as an artistic process. Our students do a couple of these each year, while experimenting with different techniques, styles, and colors. With relief printing, you can not shade or blend things in like a pencil drawing. You need to use line patterns or invented textures to create different values. Even after making prints every year, most of our students never tire of the excitement you feel as you pull the paper back from the inked printing plate and discover the image that has been transferred. It's like magic to them. And me.

1. introduce students to Steinberg's work and his use of perspective and shading even in more abstract images
2. guided practice with one point perspective buildings
3. trace edges of styrofoam plate onto tracing paper
4. draw city street with one point perspective on tracing paper (still guided)
5. add characters to the street, getting smaller and smaller as they go back, like the buildings
6. transfer tracing paper image to styrofoam- drawing place on top of styrofoam, trace over drawn image making sure you indent the styrofoam as you go
7. remove tracing paper and go over indented lines on the styrofoam directly with pencil
8. ink plate
9. transfer inked image on plate to print paper- lay plate ink side down on paper, flip both over, and rub from the back with consistent medium pressure, peel paper from plate, and voila!
10. repeat print process if time allows

Thursday, October 7, 2010

looking at clouds.

This year I got some wax transfer paper that I wanted students to experiment with. I have done crayon resist paintings with students before, but I never liked the way pencil lines would show up if students were using light crayon colors. If using white crayons the students had a hard time because they couldn't see what they were drawing, so the results were always hit or miss.

With this wax paper they could press hard on the wax with a pencil and the image would transfer onto the paper underneath. This eliminates unnecessary pencil lines and contour lines in the final image. When drawing through the wax paper, the students can see the image they are building. The major emphasis is on pressing hard with their drawing tool to get the wax to transfer sufficiently.

So, I got the paper. I just needed to find an artist to base the project on. That's when Siri Hol's work graced a blog I follow.

Siri is a young illustrator from Norway, living in the Netherlands. Her style has a certain child like quality that I thought our students would be drawn in by. In her landscapes she uses simple lines and geometric shapes to create trees. This was perfect since the students had been learning about geometric and natural shapes, as well as different types of lines, in their previous three lessons.

Siri made these wonderful illustrations of kids in a park looking at clouds. The images reflect the fun of laying on your back on the grass and trying to see different shapes in the clouds above. The students enjoyed identifying the items in Siri's clouds and some of the cloud shapes offered multiple interpretations, which allowed more students to participate in the discussion.

After viewing and discussing Siri's use of shapes, lines, and her landscape subject, the students got to work.

1. draw a ground line
2. draw a number of simple trees using vertical and diagonal lines, and ovals and circles
use different size lines and circular shapes to create more 3d space in the landscape
have a couple trees start higher on the ground to look further back
3. add color to grass and trees- use light and dark colors to make the tree tops look more 3d
4. with wax paper over the sky, draw cloud shapes, emphasizing pressing hard AND filling in the clouds so they won't look like line drawings in the sky
5. remove wax paper and paint over sky with blues and/or purples to get the clouds to appear- lots of oohs and ahhs during this part of the demo/instruction