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.


  1. Dude, these are seriously cool! Having grown up next to the beach in Northern California, I can appreciate the beauty of a good seascape. Your second graders are very talented!(well, they do have a fab art tracher.....)

  2. Amazing work from your second graders.
    You have some talented students

  3. from Grant-

    You and your second graders did a fabulous job!!

    I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you introduced them to warm and cool colors, an advanced, but simple concept... and the difference it makes in vibrancy and depth shows. How great you talked about and showed by example that it is okay to not make it look "perfect," and in doing so and embracing the imperfection you end up with something actually pretty unique and inviting.

    I'm always so inspired when I see kid's paintings of my paintings, they inspire me to loosen up even more and embrace the abstract in my painting. Looking at their paintings, I couldn't believe 2nd graders did them, wonderful execution and demonstration of freedom (also a sign of a good teacher!), and though it may not look like it at first glance, great control of the line and spaces of color. Bravo!!

    Thank you so much for sharing and choosing my work to inspire the kids!

    Aloha, Grant

  4. Thanks for introducing me to Grant's paintings. Fabulous! And the children did a wonderful job.Love the bridges!