Wednesday, October 31, 2012

looking out.

The 4th grade classes were in a bit of a tricky spot this week. Most classes had some students that had to finish building their cut paper landscapes for the pinhole photography project. In some classes it was just a few students, in others it was a lot.

I decided to introduce a new project that built off a couple of the space concepts that they learned about the previous week. I thought the activity would be simple enough, yet still engaging, so that kids could get caught up and go with it when they finished their landscapes and I wouldn't have so much re-teaching to do. I think the new project was successful in that regard, but too many of the late starters rushed to get done, instead of taking their time and coming back later to finish. I always emphasize that rushing is never a good idea in art, it's when sloppy work happens:(

I got the idea for the new project from the boooom art blog. A while back it featured some art by LA based artist Jim Darling. Jim creatively tackles a wide variety of visual forms. It was a series of windows that caught my eye, though.

I loved the sculptural aspect of the pieces like the one above. The airplane window and the interior wall of the plane create a built in frame for the scene out the window. When I shared this series with the students we talked about the contrast between the positive shape of the window scene and the negative shape of the wall outside the window. (4th grade art standard)

We also revisited the spatial concepts that we had identified and used in the previous David Reeves pinhole project. In these window paintings Jim used vertical placement, overlapping, value change, and change in detail to make the view out the windows look 3d. (4th grade art standard)

The 4th graders had already used line patterns to create volume and colored paper to create implied space in art projects. This time they would have to control how hard they pressed with the color sticks to create different values.

I had all students take a break for their other project as I introduced Jim's work. After that, students that were done started with me, while the others finished up and then jumped in.

We drew out the window and put the shading in together. I then modeled a few different concepts of what could be out the window on the board and let the students try out for themselves. After 10 minutes I modeled how to create depth by using darker colors in the front and lightening them up as the space recedes. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

seeing the light.

I came across the photo work of David A. Reeves about a month ago and immediately got in touch with our photo instructor about the possibility of doing a project based on his work. Miss Danielle was totally down with it, and we put the lesson into action last week with our 4th grade classes.

David creates cut paper scenes and then spreads them out in his studio and takes photos of them. He is able to play with the depth of field of his camera to create a deeper sense of space than that of the set up in his studio. The results are pretty striking. He often bases these scenes on movies, video games, or graphic novels that he enjoys.

Miss Danielle and I co-taught the lesson. I started by introducing the concept of atmospheric perspective to the class. I used a computer illustration by ponderosa to identify the use of size change, value change, vertical placement, and diminishing detail to create a scene that has a strong sense of depth and 3d space.

I then shared examples of David's photos and his studio set up that I had pulled from his blog. We identified the presence of atmospheric perspective as we checked out his work. The kids LOVED his stuff. Great subject matter for the season:)

I then showed the classes a cut paper example we had done in the vein of David's work. However, instead of using a "fancy" camera to take our photos, students would be using pinhole cameras made out of everyday containers like tea or chocolate boxes.

At this point Miss Danielle took over and did a presentation on how the human eye works, a camera's similarities to the human eye, and the general 411 about pinhole cameras.

Finally, the kids could get to work:) They drew and cut out two layers for their scene. They were responsible for the foreground and middleground. Miss Danielle created several backgrounds for students to choose from when they shot their scene.

The subject matter was up to them. The main rules were that the black paper layer had to have big characters and both layers had to still be attached to the rectangle of paper that was their ground.

Most students were able to get their scenes drawn, cut, and supported (tall pieces needed to be supported by capri sun straws taped to the back, so they wouldn't flop over during the lengthy pinhole camera exposure time) in the 45 minutes we had left after we had introduced the project. Those who did not are finishing up this week when I see their class again.

This week Miss Danielle is pulling groups from my class to set up, shoot, and develop their 3d landscapes while I work with the rest of the class on a new project. 

On the last couple the kids moved their camera a couple times to create a multiple image effect.

Miss Danielle is also having the students take digital pictures of their scenes. Our hope is to get the classes into the computer lab at a later date and manipulate the images digitally as well:)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

more sugar!

I was very impressed with the drawings made by the one 1st grade class I had yesterday, but after reflecting on the process I decided to make the drawing a bit easier for the rest of the classes. I found another painting of candy corn by Shawn Kenney.

Shawn's composition viewed the corn from a head on or from the side. It eliminated the need for the many angles that the class used yesterday. The shapes are just softened triangles. Instead of pointed corners, they are rounded.

The rest of the exercise is the same. The use of light and dark to turn a flat shape into something that looks round and 3d. I have done this with 2 classes so far and I think the students are doing a great job. They can focus more on color mixing, overlapping, and the use of light and dark.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

candy corn!

One of the many reasons I enjoy this season is that I get my yearly fix of of this high fructose treat:)

The artist Margaret Morrison creates photorealistic paintings of many sweet treats. One of the paintings just happened to be a 4' tall candy corn still life. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin.

I shared a number of her paintings with my first graders today. We talked about what a still life is and how Margaret's paintings are examples of the still life subject. Students agreed that these paintings looked real and I pointed out her use of light and dark to create shadows and cast shadows. 

I reminded students that that when they made their Wayne Thiebaud landscapes they pressed hard to soft to create 3d space. Today they had to press hard and soft again in order to make shapes look 3d.

We drew out our images together, talking about overlapping of shapes while we worked. When it came to coloring the drawings, we used crayola colorsticks. We pressed hard for all the yellow parts. We mixed our yellow and red for the orange parts. When we didi that I modeled pressing softly with the red , so that it did not overpower the yellow in the mix.

We then softly added pencil shadows to one side of each of the treats. When we added the cast shadows we pressed harder to make them darker.

The kids did a great job with the project. The perspective of the shapes was a little tricky for some, but many of the drawings looked 3d due to the overlapping and the shading.

Friday, October 19, 2012

oh my... octopi.

Each of the 5th grade classes needed a portion of their 2nd meeting with me to finish up their bike drawings, so that left me with a shorter time to do a follow up lesson with them than normal.

I decided to do a fun activity based on a Brooklyn based (Philly loving) illustrator named Alex Eben Meyer. I have done a few projects based on Alex's work before and his artwork has always been well received by students big and small. We briefly looked at a few of his ink drawings and then looked at some of his images that are created digitally. We identified his use of contour lines to define shapes. I have always dug Alex's style, his simplification of some forms and exaggeration of others. His work allowed me to introduce representational style to the 5th graders.

The images that we focused on were a series of octopi illustrations.

Since the their bike drawings were based on observation I asked the kids if they thought Alex had observed these creatures in the wild. The kids smartly told me that Alex had used his head to create them. His imagination. We then agreed that even though they were based on his imagination, that they looked a little real (representational style) because of his use of overlapping, his use of limited shading, and the water's transition from light to dark.

This left us with about 45 minutes to create our own octopi. I demonstrated how to practice the lettering and tentacles, and then the kids went for it. The students had some great ideas, but what they found was that it was kinda hard to translate these ideas to "tentacle script". As with the bike project, I knew this would be challenging for the classes but I am pleased to say that there were no quitters in 5th grade:)

After they practiced, students softly (most of the time) drew out their scenes to fill the front of their 8x10" paper. They then traced the contours of the back of the tentacles and filled them in. I asked students to use warm colors on the suction cups and cool colors in the water. Students used crayola color sticks to add the color to their drawings.

There are a bunch more cool variations on the octopi theme that are not quite finished. I am hoping those kids will come down at recess to get them done and I'll post up their pics too:)