My official art rotations have begun and this week the 1st and 4th graders are exploring line in their lessons. The 4ths are doing a project that is inspired by the abstractions of Rodney Alan Greenblat
. Rodney has been making illustrations, paintings, and designs for a good while now. He actually designed the cover for the first They Might Be Giants album back in 1986 (not that this matters to the kids, but I loved that album... and Lincoln after that one:). His style ranges from figurative to non-objective abstract, but it all has a good degree of funk in it. It is his more abstract work that I am focusing on with the kids.
When I share a few of Rodney's pieces with my classes, we talk about how he uses contour lines to define most of the shapes in them. We then look at how he uses different thickness of line to create contrast. Certain shapes stand out because their outlines are more bold than others.
We also talk about how his work and abstraction in general, allows people to see different things in an image. I like this because it breaks down the stress involved for students in the project, especially for their first drawing of the year. They can include the shapes they want and if they don't draw them perfectly, the image can still work... as long as their shapes and arrangement of those shapes is interesting.
I've been sharing this quote from Rodney's website about abstraction-
"Stop making sense. When you have abstract paintings in your house, you
can read a language without words. You can see forms that have are
non-representational. You can enjoy freedom from meaning. You can
appreciate line and color for what they are. You can make up your own
associations and stories about the works if you want. You can easily
ignore them. You can easily enjoy them. Your guests will be impressed,
and might imagine you know something about art. If you want, you can say
they are influenced by Kandinsky and Calder, or you can say they remind
you of a child’s birthday party. Either one is Ok. They are abstract."
For this project, students create 2 small sketches before moving on to their final drawing. Each of these must include a minimum of 3 main shapes, a minimum of 7 supporting shapes, and a use of line or shape to make a minimum of 2 patterns. When doing this I emphasize that the types of shapes and placement of them is up to the students. I don't want copies of Rodney's work. We are using his work as a springboard for their own investigations of line, shape, and abstraction.
Pulling focus words from the word wall.
Breaking things down.
When their sketches are done, the kids are sharing with a neighbor why they are picking one over the other. Then they draw the chosen design on a larger sheet of paper.
Then comes the contrast part of the project. Students need to trace most of their pencil lines with a thin sharpie and they go over a 2-3 of those with a thick sharpie. This way they have 3 different thicknesses of line in their final drawing.
They can color the shapes in their final drawing any way they see fit, as long as they leave the background white, so that they contrast against each other.
Most kids have finished, but we haven't had enough time for their written reflections. Next class, they will come back and identify how they made shapes contrast from each other and identify what the most successful part of their project is and why.