Thursday, September 29, 2011

dancing with jerry.

The paintings of Jerry Whitehead served as the inspiration for the 1st graders second art lesson this year. I love the energy that comes through in his work due to his use of line, color, and body positioning.

Jerry, who is a Cree native from Saskatchewan, Canada, has always loved watching dancers at pow wows that he attends. These dancers are the main subject of many of his paintings. When I share his work with the students I point out how the figures are not just standing there in his paintings. He changes their posture, bends legs and arms to show that they are in the midst of moving.

His use of bold contour lines also activates the characters in his work , and this element provided a good connection to the artist that we focused on in our first lesson, Philip Tseng.

We also discussed how some of the dancers block us from seeing parts of other dancers. We defined this as overlapping and talked about how this creates 3d space in an artwork.

Direct instruction was used to do the drawing of the dancers with the students. After that, students traced their contour lines with a black crayon. I emphasized pressing firmly so the lines would be dark and so they would act as bumpers when we did our watercolor painting.

"Painting?! We get to paint today? Woohoo!"

Yes, the students got to use watercolors to create the colors on their characters. I demonstrated how to make tints of colors by adding more water to the paint and then they were off, painting away. The only painting restrictions were that they try to use only one color per costume and that they use light and dark versions of that color on each costume.

Kids really enjoyed getting to paint for the first time this year. Even though the characters were done with direct instruction, there was still a good range of visual variety in the group of 1st grade work as a whole.

Monday, September 26, 2011

do-ho suh

This project is based on the work of South Korean artist Do-Ho Suh and the lesson created by Shannah over at New City Arts. I thought her take on his work would be a great fit for the first lesson with my kinders this year.

Keeping the focus on line with the first lessons of the year, this project was a good way to introduce students to contour lines and using outlines to create different shapes in a drawing.

In the art21 video that I shared with the class, Do-Ho Suh talks about missing his home and wishing he were like a snail. He felt this way because a snail could pick up its home at take it anywhere.

He has created numerous homes and places out of lightweight materials as a way to express this feeling visually.

At this point the I prompted the kinders to share if they ever felt homesick. We then talked about things they would want to bring with them if they could be like a snail and take their belongings and home from one place to another. Video games, pets, and sweets came up quite often.

Taking the lead from New City Arts, we drew out our snail bodies and added the things we would like to move with. We also added a ground line, so the snails would not float in space. All the while I emphasized how we were using contour lines/ outlines to create our drawings.

After drawing, the students used markers to trace their outlines, so those lines would stand out. Once the tracing was complete students were then free to add color with crayons. Before coloring I introduced the concept of pattern in art and nature. A number of students incorporated color patterns into their snail compositions.

This was my first day with my kinders today, and it was a great day:)

eye of the tiger.

My second lesson with the 4th graders continued to focus on line in art. I also wanted them to see how easy it is to make movement in art through playing with the shape of their shapes.

We looked at the art of California based designer and illustrator Priscilla Wilson to get inspiration for this project. Priscilla does a ton of drawing and she relies on contour lines often in her work. She also balances her use of contour with a use of implied lines in areas. Her work is engaging due to the detailing present in it and her choice of subject matter. There is a cheerfulness to her images, and sometimes they are down
right silly, which is always good with the 4th grade crowd.

We noticed that she creates motion through the positioning of key shapes and through how she stretches them out to make it look like those shapes are traveling from one point to another. I talked about how a raindrop looks like it is moving to its shape. If a rain drop were still it would look like a sphere.

We continued to focus on complementary colors. Students could use more colors in their drawings as long as there was at least one pair of opposites. I also demonstrated how to make shapes look 3d by using different amounts of hand pressure. The lighter you press will make tints on white paper and shades on black paper. This change in value turns flat shapes into 3d looking ones.

Since I work with 4th grade classes 3 days a week, I chose to use different images by Priscilla for inspiration on each day. The same elements were addressed in each lesson, but the final images changed.
This kept things fresh for ol' Mr. Masse:)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

playing with piet and philip.

For a number of years I used the work of Piet Mondrian to introduce my younger students to different types of lines and primary colors. I love his work and how he broke down the image to the purest of elements and was still able to create endless variations within the self imposed restrictions of his visual world. That said, his work doesn't necessarily translate to keeping young kids engaged in the content of a lesson.

Well, I was scrolling through t-shirt designs on the threadless website  and came across an image that immediately made me both smile and want to revisit Mondrian's visual vocabulary. It was a design by San Diego's own Philip Tseng.
Same vocabulary of line, shape, and color, with a few added visual hooks to get my young ones engaged. Score!

I briefly showed the classes some of Philip's illustration work from his website and we noticed that many of his images use contour lines. When we got to the monkey bars image we also talked about the use of simple shapes, vertical and horizontal lines, and primary colors in art.

I have a Mondrian reproduction in the front of my room, so we also talked about how Philip modified the concept of paintings that were made almost one hundred years ago.

This is how the hands on project went-
1. Drew a large rectangle and then added a few vertical horizontal & vertical lines. Some were short and some were long.
2. Added contour line joints where lines met.
3. Added 3 or 4 shapes inside the squares/rectangles present in the monkeybars.
4. Added different expressive faces and limbs to each of those new shapes.
5. traced the monkeybar lines with a black marker and filled in the joints.
6. Used primary colors to fill in our characters.
7. Added a ground line and colored the ground.

The kids loved it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

funky feet.

At the beginning of the school year I like to focus on line with all my classes. I believe it is the simplest of the art elements, but it has a wide variety of functions to explore.

I wanted to focus on contour and implied line with the 4th graders and a number of designs created by Brainstorm, a Philly based design company, fit the bill perfectly.

The design that really caught my eye was one called Roses and Toeses. It's got humor and funky contour drawing of legs and feet. As an added bonus, it features the use of complementary colors, so that I could revisit their use with the kiddos as well.

The classes and I looked at Brainstorm's website and checked out a number of images. We looked for contour and implied lines in the designs as we went through their portfolio. When we got to the T & R image there were numerous chuckles. Hair on legs?! So weird!

Before jumping into the big drawing right away, we practiced drawing feet from the front and the side. I emphasized that they look a lot different depending on the direction you are looking at them. Some kids were concerned about their feet not looking "right", but I pointed out that the feet in the Roses and Toeses print are not perfect either. It gives the image more character when they aren't perfect.

Once we practiced, students drew their feet and legs on a larger sheet of paper. Then we added a ground line as lightly as possible so that it would not show up in the final drawing. That would be our example of an implied line. It will appear because the ground is a different color than the sky.

Students then added the roses. They didn't have to choose roses, so there were some interesting variations on the idea featuring hotdogs, donuts, cars, and zombie arms.

They then traced the feet, legs, and objects with a black marker to emphasize the contour lines. I also modeled using thick and thin lines to add visual variety to their drawings.

Then they could add color to the objects and the ground. We reviewed complementary colors and students could choose one pair of complements to work with.

A lot of drawings turned out well. I was pleased with how many students hung in there and tried their best to get the shape of the feet and toes down. I think the exercise had a healthy mix of drawing from observation and drawing from imagination.

Monday, September 12, 2011

round and round.

The first week of school was abbreviated due to the Labor Day holiday at one end and the SoCal blackout on the other, but the kids still produced something pretty darn cool.

I had bookmarked an image created by artist Lee Gainer over a year ago, and I finally got the chance to use it as  the inspiration for a project.

This artwork is a prime example of the importance of both unity and variety in an artwork. Most successful images find a working balance between these two principles. If an artwork is too unified it could be visually boring and if there is too much variety then the image could be too chaotic to take in.

I shared the image with the students and we identified how she created unity- repetition of shapes, and variety- different heights, widths, and colors.

I also shared that the materials used in the image were all recycled or leftover from other projects.

After giving the students the lowdown on Lee's artwork I told the students that they would be doing something similar. However, they would be working together and the final artwork would be very large.

Students started off by making cylinders of different heights and widths. Once these were complete I gave teams a couple plates with elmers glue and they dipped the bottom end of the cylinders in it and then placed it on a larger sheet of paper. Students could place smaller ones inside bigger ones and vice versa. When a sheet would become full, I would replace it with another sheet and the construction process would start anew.

This was a simple way of getting kids into my room to review rules and procedures and make something to beautify the school as well. Each class visited me for 30 minutes the 1st week, so students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th had a chance to participate in the project.

In a cliche way, I see our school in the project. Each of the cylinders is like a student, so are all unified in their desire to succeed and be a positive part of our school community. Each of those cylinders is different than the others in height, width, and color, just like each of our students is special and unique.

This project was also great for my classroom physical space because we were able to use up A LOT of paper that was leftover from projects done over the past couple of years. There is a lot less clutter in my cabinets!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

a clean(er) slate.

At the end of the year, my classroom was, like, a pit. It has never been so messy. My first few years of teaching at my site were out of the ol' art cart, so I had gotten extremely organized. Since getting a room of my own a few years ago I have let this organization slide... just a bit.

We had 3 prep days last week before the kiddos arrived and I was able to make major headway uncluttering my space. I got some new labels on images around the room to reinforce vocabulary, got my reading center straightened out and added some new books, redid my bulletin boards, and got my new behavior chart up. All while my 2 year old roamed around, made block towers and painted- on paper, the tables, and herself.

The back cabinets are covered with vocab and images that focus on the elements of art. Above the sink are lists of art words each grade level learns over the course of the year. That part needs to be updated. the words will be added throughout the year and I want to make them bolder and removable.

The fuzzy green thing in this bad photo is one of two comfy chairs for reading when kids finish projects early. The cool colored board next to it gets filled with student projects and the standards, objectives, and  focus artist examples.

This is the board behind my desk. Schedules, gee's bend quilts, a couple of my own images, and my new behavior chart. Classes are expected to stay on task while meeting with me each week. To reinforce this, classes earn a green (100% on task), yellow (85%), or red (70%) card. I keep visual track on the board each time an art class rule is broken. 0-1 they stay on green, 2 they go to yellow, and 3 they go to red. Last year, the class with the most green cards in each grade level earned an extra lesson with me. Due to my schedule this year, I have to revisit the type of reward they earn, but they will get something "cool" for sure.

The room was looking really calm and supportive for visual learning...

and then my first class got to work...

and things got even better:)