Earlier in the year I introduced the 5th graders to the work of the husband and wife design team at Eight Hour Day. Nathan and Katie create striking design compositions that push the possibilities of decorative space while mixing in a little depth through overlapping or size change.
The piece that we focused on after viewing numerous works from their website portfolio was a floral still life.
A fairly simple concept, but I emphasized to the class that the flowers are all different in design. The bottles are all different shapes and sizes. The color palette is limited, but this creates a necessary sense of unity in the design.
We discussed how the shapes, themselves, look flat, but the overlapping and subtle shifts in vertical placement give the design a sense of 3d space.
The students' assignment was to create their own still life of at least 3 bottles and flowers. They needed to strike a balance between decorative and plastic space.
Students drew out their designs in pencil and then used construction paper crayons to add color to the black field. This step proved to be more challenging than I expected it to be. The main reason for this is that after drawing their design in pencil, many students wanted to trace their pencil lines with the white crayon. However, in order to get details to show up in the bottles, students needed to color AROUND their pencils lines. It's not a negative space drawing, but they needed to stay off those lines in order for their details show up. I modeled this numerous times, but I was still surprised by the number of students that still struggled with it.
Despite the struggles with the coloring technique, many students still came up with quite interesting patterns, flowers, and still life compositions.