Monday, January 31, 2011


Here's one I did with my 4th graders last year. If I do it again I will NOTchoose oil pastels. A bad choice on my part since the images are so graphic and bold. I really don't know why I didn't switch media after one class...

That said, the students came up with some interesting combinations of visual and textual information.

We looked at the work of Shepard Fairey. Very current and fresh with his Obama poster that many of the students had seen. They thought it was cool that he was working in San Diego for a bit before moving up to the big time in L.A.

We looked at how he combines a strong visual image with a strong textual statement. We discussed how much impact words have when they are presented in a very bold way. Big block letters give you a much different feeling than cursive lettering.

We also looked at how, even in Shepard's graphic images, he creates a sense of implied volume by using a couple colors to create light and shadow.

Before students started creating their own images, we also talked about analogous color schemes and how they can create a certain mood or feeling that can add another element to the overall reading of an image.

1. students sketch numerous hand positions
2. students list words that could go with their hand images
3. on good paper students lightly separate hand area from text area
4. students draw hand and outline where shadows will be
5. students add text to bottom
6. students add color using an analogous color scheme

ryan revisited.

The project based on the work of Ryan Kapp was tried out by students in Shamrock Springs, Indiana!

The students there did a fantastic job with it. If anyone else tries out a lesson I have done with students at Zamorano, I would love to hear about it and see some pics:)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

spray paint? sold.

I don't think there is a material out there that can hook kids as quickly as paint in a highly pressurized can.

Allowing them to use it as the final step in projects has proven a highly successful way to get most projects finished on time. (Which makes for quieter recesses and lunches for me because not as many students are coming in to finish then:) )

The 5th graders have been working on mixed media images that have to show unity. As with my most recent 2nd grade project, I did not introduce students to an artist in the project. Some classes used collagraphy and stencils and others used relief printing and stencils to create their mixed media pieces. This was due to the extra time some classes needed to finish their Ryan Kapp landscapes and assessments. The collagraph and stencil lesson took a 1 1/2 class meetings, while the styrofoam relief and stencil took 1 class meeting.

When introducing the project, I discussed what unity is in art and the variety of ways an artist can create it.
In order to make things in an image look like they belong together an artist may use similar colors, similar materials and techniques, similar shapes, or use a common theme. There are more ways to do it, but these were the ones we focused on. For students to show that they were proficient in unity building, they needed to use at least 3 out of the 4 ways.

I gave students a selection of themes they could choose from- implied motion, an outer space scene, a food related image, or a landscape similar to our Ryan Kapp landscapes. This gave students some freedom in choosing what to do, but also provided structure to those students that get a little stressed when they can do anything they want.

After students printed their main image, then they created a stencil for the spray paint portion that would make this a mixed-media lesson. The stencil could be an abstract pattern similar to a snowflake design or it could relate to their image, adding even more unity to the project.

I have really loved the variety of images that the students have created with this lesson. That said, after working with spray paint for 3 consecutive days, me and my brain cells are glad we are done with it for a while.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

collawhat? collagraph.

I'm focusing on texture with my 2nd  and 5th graders right now. Some of the 2nd grade students have made collagraphs to explore this element.

A collagraph is when you glue different materials to a plate of some sort, let the glue dry, apply ink to the surface, and transfer the inked image onto another piece of paper.
Normally I use an artist to introduce the content, but in this lesson we dove right into the element of texture and how to make a collagraph. Students were required to use at least 3 different textures to be proficient and 4 or more to be advanced.

Students glued a variety of materials to their board during our first meeting and in the second meeting they printed their plates and applied a stencil afterwards to turn their image into a mixed media work of art.

The stencil was created by folding paper a couple of times  and cutting shapes from it. With this added layer, students were able to revisit symmetry in art and shape.

This was the first project that we used our new printing press for. Students really enjoyed being able to crank their plates through the press and peel back the paper afterwards to see what had transferred.

Applying the spray paint stencil afterwards was just gravy. Icing on the cake for the students.

wild things.

I love sharing Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are with the kids at school. When I read it with the 2nd graders they get very into it and I get very into it. Howling at the moon. Making monkey sounds. Running in place.

Before we get into the book we talk about texture and what it is. Students give examples of different types of textures and then I ask them to look out for different textures and patterns in the illustrations of the book.

Using the presenter to share the book, I can zoom in on different textures that Maurice created with different line patterns. I love my presenter.

After reading the book we talk about how Max used his imagination to create this far away place and how Maurice used his imagination to create the book itself. I tell the students that they need to use their imagination to create their own wild thing. Palpable excitement ensues.

I point out that they need to create the wild thing and a setting to go along with it. Every character needs a setting.

Since we are focusing on texture students need to include at least 3 different textures/patterns to show that they are proficient in creating implied textures.

We also use actual texture in this project because it is done as a relief print on styrofoam. Students must alter the surface quality of the plate for their image to transfer effectively onto a piece of paper.

We use water soluble markers to color the plate. Before transferring the image I dampen the paper to make the marker color release a bit better onto the paper.

I allow the students to take the styrofoam with them so they can try it out at home again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

who needs mondrian?

When you have Joaquin. That's overdoing it a bit, but if you are looking for an alternative to good ol' Piet to introduce your students to primary colors, Joaquin Torres Garcia is an artist you should know.

His work evolved until he came to an abstract style that combined geometric shapes, a pretty minimal color palette, and symbols that represented various aspects of the human experience.
I think this incorporation of the symbol allows the younger students to identify more with Joaquin's work and the project that they make. It makes the abstraction more acceptable and/or understandable.

While introducing the classes to Joaquin's work with a powerpoint, we identify the different primary colors and geometric shapes that are present in his paintings.

1. draw out composition with pencil- horizontal, vertical lines, followed by diagonals and curved to make geometric shapes and a couple human symbols
2. trace lines with black crayon
3. add primary colors to shapes with watercolor paint

I have used this project with my kinders at the beginning of the year numerous times. It starts the year with a bright, colorful shape and line study.

Monday, January 17, 2011

some big heads.

This 5th grade subtractive carving project was based on the colossal head sculptures of the Olmec civilization. This civilization predates the Mayan and Aztec in modern day Mexico. During the reign of this group, artisans produced large scale heads, which many people now believe to be portraits of rulers of the Olmec.

These heads weighed as much as 8 tons and were carved out of basalt, which is a volcanic rock.

After introducing students to these Olmec sculptures, we started in on our own versions of portrait head sculptures. Using basalt was out of the question for 2 one hour lessons, so we used the styrofoam plants are placed in for floral arrangements. I demonstrated how to plan out a typically proportioned face, so that the head showed symmetry and the facial features "fit" with one another.

We incised guidelines and then features lightly into the block, then started to work deeper into the block where necessary.

After the carving was completed, students dunked their heads into a diluted white tempera paint solution to give them  more of a stone-like appearance.

This was definitely challenging for students because if they carved to far or broke parts off, they could not reattach those parts. If this happened,  pointed out that their sculpture looked like it was aged and weathered like some of the Olmec heads were when they were discovered.

This is a messy project. Very dusty as students are carving away. I suggest working in a well ventilated area. Outside if possible.

mud cloths.

Bogolanfini (mud cloth) is a traditional art form of the Bamana people from the country of Mali. The traditional way of creating these cloths is to hand weave the cloth and hand dye it with plant juices and mud.

When I introduce the art of the mud cloth I point out that for many years it was the women of the Bamana that created this art form. The men did the weaving of the cotton cloth, but the women were and still are, in most cases, responsible for the visual designs.

Also, even though the designs are abstract in style, the different patterns and shapes have distinct meanings behind them, as do the colors chosen to fill the designs. Each mud cloth tells its own story due to the combination of different shapes, patterns, and colors.

The mud cloths were originally made for the Bamana's own people, but now they are also made for and appropriated by people around the world as many different people are engaged by the bold graphic qualities of these designs.

Along with the powerpoint I use to discuss the Bogolanfini, I also use a site by the Smithsonian that allows you to build your own digital mud cloth. It breaks down the steps of the process and provides titles for patterns used so students can see how a narrative occurs on the cloth.

For this 1st grade project I had the students work with a partner, so that their painted mud cloth could be a little larger(12x18") for the hour we had to do it.

1. teams folded their paper in half and then divided it into 6 parts. we tried to keep the outside borders thinner because of the variety we saw in the Bamana cloths
2. teams work together and decide what patterns they want in each section. i also emphasized making a pattern with the patterns across the cloth
3. after drawing with pencil, students added white, then brown, then a tint or tints of brown, and finally, black tempera paint to their designs

One of our 5th grade teachers, Ms. Liggins, did a project similar to this with her 5th grade students this year and they came out fantastic!

action! implied, that is.

I wish I had more of these to post. The 3rd and 4th grade kids have done a really great job with this one throughout the years.

Creating movement in flat, still artwork has been explored heavily since the invention of photography and motion pictures (which are just many, many flat, still images being shown in a very rapid sequence).

Artists have implied motion in art in a variety of ways- blurring of detail, using multiple frames, repetition of lines and shapes, overlapping, directional lines, and changes in value.

This painting by Giacomo Balla demonstrates a number of these elements. There is a repetition of the moving body parts and shapes. There is a lot of overlapping. I point out to the students that you can make something look fast by repeating it many times, or slow by repeating it only a few times. Students identify what is the fastest thing and slowest thing in the painting. 

There is a change in value throughout the moving parts. Particularly in the woman's lead foot. You can see how the value is dark at one end of the repetition and light on the other end. This implies a beginning of the action and an end to it. Past and present.

Another example of these elements is Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. Repetition. Check. Overlapping. Check. Value change? Check. Even though this is a more abstract example, there is obvious implied motion in the painting.

When students do their images showing motion they must repeat a shape at least 3 times and use at least 3 steps of color value change. The subject matter is up to them. I show them examples I have done, but I emphasize the importance of applying these elements in an original way. I have students brainstorm and write a short list of things that could move and then make small sketches of 2 of those ideas. They then pick the best one to execute on watercolor paper.

Students have used watercolors to complete this project. By the time they do this project with me they have already created tints with colored pencils and crayons, so it gives them practice in creating tints by adding more water to a color to make it lighter and lighter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

follow the line.

Through the house. Around fruit and veggies. Heck, even around gummie bears.

I have used  Laura Ljungkvist's book, Follow the Line Through the House, as the inspiration for a study of contour line and texture for grades 3 and 4. We look at several pages from the book and examine how the line connects many of the items in the house together. Laura outlines many of the shapes with contour line. Other objects are not outlined and their edges are defined by implied lines, or edges that are made when 2 different colors or values butt up against one another.

Laura's illustration style has a mid-century modern look to it. Many items appear flat and abstracted. Even though this is the case, Laura still makes things look like they have different textures or feels by using line and pattern economically. She is simplifying how those items look like they feel, so she is using abstract texture.

After being introduced to Laura's work through her website, students then start design their own "follow the line" scene. The food and drink items are up to them, but they must use a continuous contour line to connect several of their items and they must create 3 different textures by manipulating line in their image.

Students may choose to flatten shapes in a way similar to Laura's style or they may approach their items in a more realistic way.

The 3rd grade students did a crayon and marker drawing on 9x12 sheets. The 4th grade students worked on a larger sheet and did a crayon resist watercolor painting.

In the future I would like to revisit this project and have a contour line carry through a whole class set of drawings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

team matisse.

A couple of years ago my 4th grade collaborative project was inspired by the wonderful collages that Matisse created during the last 15 years of his life.

The classes looked at a number of these pieces and identified Matisse's use of flat natural and geometric shapes,  pattern, and bright colors. We also agreed that due to his use of these elements, Matisse had created images that were abstract in style. We also discussed using music as the inspiration for artwork.

The students worked in teams of 4 to create their own versions of Matisse's cut out compositions. They worked on large paper sheets (24x36") to facilitate multiple bodies surrounding the same art support.

Students had approximately 70 minutes to complete their collages.
Groups were given different colored and sized paper throughout the hour. I feel that this gradual release of supplies allows students to utilize each of the colors more effectively. They get the most out of each color and size instead of being overwhelmed by too many choices to make at the very beginning.

Emphasis was placed on using a variety of sizes of shapes in the collages, to create more visual interest and to create, along with overlapping, a small bit of 3d space in their abstract images.