Wednesday, January 20, 2016

looking down at landscape.

And we're back...

Zamo just started back up after a 4 week winter break and the 4th graders have been looking down and closely with the help of Commander Scott Kelly's photographs from the International Space Station.

We start by reviewing a couple things from previous projects- that we have used color sticks to create some pretty clean drawings and that we have been drawing on white paper.

I then ask the kids to roll their sleeves up and get messy with me as we practice a couple chalk pastel techniques on a small sheet of black paper. We look at the difference between blended and non blended color applications and notice that they look like different textures. We add white to a couple colors to see that in order to make a tint on black they need to add white to their paper. We practice draw a colored line over a color field and replace it with an edge when the line color fills one side right up to that said line. We fade a color to black by pulling it away from a color shape. All these techniques can be applied to a landscape drawing to create different effects.

I go over point of view with them and how something can look different depending on the direction you look at it. Then I share a photo of the Commander and that he is not stationed on Earth, but in outer space.

As Captain Jean Luc Picard would say, "Engage."

This is where the kids gets hooked. We look at some of the photos that Commander Kelly has taken of the Earth below him and has posted on his instagram account. The kids can't get over the colors and shapes that they see in the images. There has been a lot of excitement in the room as we look at his photos. We talk about how these images become abstract compositions because of his cropping of them and their overhead point of view.

I printed out about 12 different photos of his for kids to choose from and what I tell them is that I expect that they try their best to capture the essence of their chosen image. I do not expect them to be copies. I model drawing out the shapes they see lightly with white chalk to start. I show them how to start with a point of reference- where a shape touches a side of the paper/photo and build from there. Then add colors to their larger shapes. I emphasize adding details at the end, so they remain crisp. When students are looking at the images I ask them to think about what surfaces look rough and which ones look smooth. Which areas are tints and which areas are shades? Which areas are made of one color and which are made of color mixes?

When students get further along, I encourage them to look closely at the photo for details and elements that are present that are not yet in their drawing. Identifying those details and including them in a drawing gives it much more interest and character.

The kids have definitely felt challenged by this activity, but I have not sensed much frustration with it. The images are complex, but the abstract nature of the landscapes, I think, frees them up a bit.


  1. Such beautiful work! Abstract landscape has infinite possibility. Do you set them with a spray or anything?

    1. Thanks, Hope! I know I should spray them, but I've got close to 200 of them and sadly, the fumes really bother me nowadays:(

  2. These are incredible!! My middle school kiddos are impressed!

  3. These are so pretty and unique. Great project!

  4. These are Fantastic! Your students did a great job with their observational drawings and creating different textures.