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.