Tuesday, May 31, 2011

scraper mashup.

Today was my last day of classes for the next couple of weeks so the art team can prepare thousands of works for our end of the year Celebration of Art.

It was an extra day with my 2nd graders and the last time I would see them for the year. Looking for project ideas I came across the work of photographer Matthew Reamer. One series of photos he did focused on the scraper bikes that are being made in Oakland by kids and teenagers. Babye Champ (aka Tyrone Stevenson Jr.) is the founder of this movement and team. I loved the reuse of materials and the patterns and colors that these guys are playing with. The other thing that is cool about these bikes is that the club/team is used as an incentive for kids in dangerous communities to stay out of trouble.

To join the team you need to have a B average in school and maintain it. The team provides these kids with a positive environment and pushes their creative muscles. They reuse and recycle bikes and parts and decorate them with new and reused materials. I'm thinking of getting a couple bikes and allowing our students the opportunity to alter them like the kids up in the Bay area are doing...

Last year I did a project based on a bike illustration that Alex Eben Meyer did with my 4th graders. When I discovered these scraper bikes I thought it would be interesting if the two worlds met. After showing the students images of both the west and east coast bikes, we got started creating our mashups of them. In this case, east and west coast got together like peaches and cream.
We started creating our bike drawings together. We used geometric shapes for the frame and wheels and then I modeled different types of seats and handlebars the kids could make. Once the first bike was drawn on their paper then they needed to add more parts to it. I told them they needed to add at least 3 extra wheels. Any other additions were up to them. I offered suggestions like fenders, lights, extra seats, and so on.

The kids definitely got into it. As the day went on the classes (and myself) got more adventurous with what we added on as well. When the pencil drawing was complete the students had about 25 minutes to add color to their monster scraper bikes. I emphasized adding patterns to the wheels first and then moving on to the other bike parts.

the idea man.

Breaking from form here and doing a project based on a dead guy...

I was inspired by the projects done over at color and collage that focused on the work of artist Sol Lewitt.

Sol was a prolific artist who came up with some amazing wall drawings that had beautiful interactions between the elements of shape, line, and color. Most of his mature work was done on walls. He always considered them drawings even when the materials shifted to acrylic paint.

He fit nicely with the artists the 5th graders had been introduced to in this last rotation because even though he was not considered a graffiti artist, his work has the same presentation- large scale abstraction on a wall.

One of the interesting things that makes his work different than Remed and Supermundane is that he did not draw his images on the walls. Other people did. Being a Conceptual artist, he was more focused on the idea. That was the most interesting and important aspect of the creative act for him. He made plans and diagrams, but the large scale work was carried out by assistants, students, and/or art novices.

The students thought this fact was quite interesting and I got numerous monetary offers to create the visual products of their ideas.

After being told that they were responsible for the actual drawing and their disappointment over this fact had dissipated, we got rolling with the project.

Students got 3 6x6" squares and needed to draw a line on each that started on one side and finished on another. What the line looked like between those to points was up to them. This first line on each sheet needed to be the same color. After that, as they added more and more lines to each sheet, the color choices were also up to them.

Once the sheets were complete, students taped them together so that the first line on each connected with one another. After this, students made cuts along the edges of the squares that followed the contours of their lines, to make the completed shape a bit more funky and interesting.

The final step was to hook up with another student or students and create a watercolor background that the pieces would get glued down to. This also used repetition in line and shape.

Monday, May 30, 2011

ms. hayuk

I thought I would revisit symmetry with my 2nd graders in my last lesson with them for the school year. We had previously worked with this concept on a Nate Williams project during their winter rotation. The paintings and drawings of Brooklyn based artist Maya Hayuk were the inspiration for this new project.

Maya uses a broad palette of bold colors, bordering on neon in intensity. She also often plays with geometric shapes to make striking compositions. Many of these works are examples of symmetry, sometimes not pure, but often times in a more informal way. Maya has done murals around the world as well as smaller pieces as fine art or as illustrations/designs for magazines or commercial products.

Even though Maya's work is abstract in nature, the students could pick up on details that make her images look like "something". One of the things I like about abstract image makers like her is that they allow multiple "reads" of their work and kids can come up with some very interesting interpretations.

After checking out some of her work the students were tasked with making their own symmetrical compositions using geometric shapes and bright colors. I modeled how to go about building the abstract image using a variety of shapes and sizes. I made clear that they were to come up with their own image and that I would not be featuring any on the blog that were copies of what I had modeled for them.

They then added color with my favorite drawing tool this year- construction paper crayons.

Students that finished early could read in my mini library or they could contribute a couple pieces to a larger Maya Hayuk inspired canvas. Students from multiple classes added pieces to this bigger composition.

Monday, May 23, 2011

what's cookin?

My goodness. We have several weeks until our annual Celebration of Art and my classroom is bursting with projects. Usually I do the same project with each of the classes from a particular grade level. However, I have 4 different projects going on with my seven 5th grade classes. Stuff is everywhere...

These projects are inspired by contemporary artists and the lessons previously done by art teachers that I follow online. I will go into more detail when the projects are done, but here's a sneak peek.

Stay tuned. We'll see how all these come together by the end of the week. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

pretty as a pecoff.

More specifically, the landscape paintings that San Diego's own Grant Pecoff has been making for the last several years. I love the flow and wobble that are present in many of his images. His use of color is quite electric, too.

I thought his work would make for an interesting contrast to the more abstract artists the 2nd graders have been investigating in the last couple lessons.

Since he has done so many paintings of our home town, it was  easy to hook kids into the landscape subject. While looking at images from Grant's website, kids got excited by seeing Balboa Park, the Coronado Bridge, and downtown San Diego. I made sure to emphasize that while these things were easy to recognize in the paintings, Grant did not make them look super realistic. I pointed out how he distorted shapes, his lines were wavy and he was playful with color. This is a good way for me to disarm those of the kiddos who get frustrated when their work doesn't look "perfect". Neither does Pecoff's, and that is what makes it more interesting and beautiful.

I used Grant's work to revisit  the concept of warm and cool colors in art and how you can play with the contrast of those colors to make different parts of a drawing stand out. I decided to execute this project with chalk pastels on black paper and broke the activity up into 2 parts. First, we drew a landscape based on one of Grant's images in pencil on the paper and then added chalk pastels in between the lines. We  attempted to leave space between some areas to create the contour lines that are present throughout Pecoff's images.

The drawing portion was a directed exercise, as we worked through the different parts of his composition together. The color part was more independent. The main guide line in the color part was to only use warm or cool colors in the different parts of the composition. I did model using the pastels on my easel to emphasize key technical points to using the potentially messy medium. I modeled using the end of the pastel for small areas and the side for large ones. I showed them the difference between leaving the pastel rough and blending it smooth with your finger. The biggest one for me was to model not resting your hand or arm on an area that you have already colored. I love going into a drawing I have done with the class before and intentionally messing it up by doing this. Some students are seriously dismayed that I have "ruined" something that had looked good. There is always audible signs of relief when I show them that these smudges can be fixed by going back over those areas.

Since I work with 9 different 2nd grade classes, I used a number of Pecoff's paintings as the inspiration for the different classes. I repeated a couple, but it has been nice to keep it so fresh for me to do over and over with each of the classes.

There have been some pretty fine results from this drawing activity. A lot of messy hands, arms, faces, and clothes, but all in all, it's been totally worth it to see so many interesting takes on Grant's work.

Monday, May 16, 2011

more mundane...

I was curious to see what our 5th graders would do with something like Supermundane's vocabulary of line, pattern, and color, so I let let them have at it.

The older students were just as impressed with the repetitive detail of super's images as the younger ones were. After mentioning that Super had been written about as "the king of the repetitive doodle", we discussed what doodling actually was. Some interesting repsonses to that question, as well as plenty of examples on the nametags students have in my classroom:)
Image construction was the same. The things that changed were the color of the support, the color of the sharpie marker, and the use of construction paper crayons for the other line work. Only 3 changes, but their visual impact was considerably large.

I enjoyed seeing some of the students taking on more elaborate base shapes to fill with patterns.

The drawings were also larger. We went from 9 x 12" to 12 x 15".

I changed the color of the support after seeing the below image that Supermundane created a couple of years ago. There is still a sense of depth in the image even though there isn't the stark contrast between black and colored lines like there is on a white support.

Monday, May 9, 2011

not just mundane...


Rob Lowe (aka Supermundane) is a typographer, designer, illustrator, and all around creative guy living in London, England. He is also the creative director of a cool children's magazine called Anorak that I have always wanted to get for my kids, but have never actually pulled the trigger on. :)

His designs, type, and illustrations have a wonderful hand drawn quality to them. They ring of spontaneity. His manual creations served a an interesting contrast to the the computer generated work of Dante Terzigni who was the inspiration for the last project the 2nd graders completed.

Also, even though Supermundane's shapes are often flat, he like Dante, creates a bit of 3d space because he often pairs shapes outlined in black with shapes outlined in a lighter color. This contrast of dark to light sets the black shapes forward and the lighter ones behind them.

When we were looking at images from his website students identified that the compositions were often set into large, simple geometric shapes. These big shapes were not outlined, but stood out due to the lines in the image ending along the edges of the big shapes. Students also noticed that some shapes and lines burst out of the bigger shape to make the design a bit more interesting.

When we got started drawing, students drew out a large shape of their choice. I emphasized pressing lightly, so that the lines were there as a guide, but should not show up in the final drawing. I then modeled how to start with their Supermundane inspired "doodle". I started with a small shape and then continued to add onto and around it. I talked about the need to keep lines close together to give their drawings enough visual intensity. After getting about half way through  the big shapes with black marker, students were then allowed to switch to one or two more colors to add variety and space to their designs. 

Many students really cruised along with this project. Since students didn't really have to make their drawings "look like" anything real, a number of my students with high frustration level were really able to succeed. Some needed reinforcement to add more lines inside of patterns they had added, or to take their lines all the way to the edges of the large shape they were filling.