Monday, February 20, 2012

oh, peanuts.

I recently found out about Peter Opheim's work. Very cool stuff. His process is interesting. He creates small clay sculptures that very few people get to see, and then he makes large scale realistic paintings of these sculptures. The sculptures are pretty funky. Some resemble kids plush toys while others are more abstract play-doh looking things.

I was originally thinking that the 5th graders could make drawings like Peter does. However, they would not create a sculpture beforehand. Then I remembered the peanuts in my classroom.

Water soluble packing peanuts, to be more precise. I got a shipment of colored styrofoam peanuts at the beginning of the year. The commercial, crafty name for these are Stikits. The students could use these to create small scale sculptures first and then do an observational drawing of them. The stikits are great because it is a medium with very little mess. Just dampen the parts you want to stick together and press them together. The pieces can be cut, torn, or compressed into smaller pieces too.

Peter's work was very well received by the classes on Thursday. It had just enough silly in it, while having enough craft and skill present that the kids were hooked with the look and impressed with the skill.

We talked about how some of his creatures looked abstract, but he painted them in a way that was realistic. We identified his use of light and shadow to make the creatures so believable.

Students could make something that looked like an actual thing, or they could design a sculpture that was more abstract. I gave them about 25 minutes to build and 25 minutes to draw. Our drawings were not large in scale, they were more equivalent in size to the actual sculptures.

The classes had a blast building. There was a lot of variety in the types of things students made. When they drew their sculptures I emphasized that they should look either straight down at them or straight ahead at them, so the perspective of the shapes would not be so troublesome. They used colored pencils to add light and shadows to their drawings.

Well done 5th graders!

Note to teachers- it's kinda hard to have all the kids keep straight faces while you're up there talking about peanuts:)


  1. These are SO great!!! I read about Stikits last year but hadn't come up with a good artistic use for them. I absolutely love this idea because kids are having the tactile experience with the material before they draw. That can only add to their understanding of the rounded edges, molded shapes and give added motivation to "get the details!!" BRAVO!

  2. You have some talented students! What a great idea for a lesson.

  3. This is my kind of project...I love these. Great idea using the peanuts, they work perfectly.