Thursday, January 28, 2016

local landscaping.

This week the 4th graders have continued working with chalk pastels landscapes. We changed the point of view (from the side as compared to looking down in the ISS photos from last week) and the location of the landscapes as we looked at SoCal scenes by San Diego artist Monique Straub. Monique creates intensely colored landscapes that have a strong use of line to fill space that contrasts interestingly with the character of the photos taken aboard the ISS by Commander Scott Kelly.

The emphasis for this lesson is twofold- practicing pastel application/tinting techniques and looking closely at a scene and recreating it. Just as students need to pick up on main ideas and key details in reading text, I wanted them to gain practice in identifying those concepts when observing and making art. Earlier in the year, when exploring line and shape, students had much more room for choice in the art making process. I find that having this type of balance is important in developing creative thinking and technical skill.

Students could choose from 3 of Monique's landscapes to work from. I asked them to outline general shapes first and then add contour details. When adding color to their drawings, students could mix and blend colors and add white to make tints where needed. I also encouraged them to use line patterns in areas to capture the line work present in Monique's originals.

When students finished and cleaned up, they answered 3 questions about the project and materials they have been using this year.

Monday, January 25, 2016

messy mixing.

Last week, the 1st graders also dove back into school with a chalk pastel project. Nothing like getting dirty right after an extended break! Before starting, we reviewed their use of natural shapes and primary colors in previous projects. We then looked at some work of Gordon Hopkins for inspiration.

While looking at a few of his works, we identified shapes, patterns, primary colors, and secondary colors. I asked kids if they knew what colors were mixed together to mix the secondaries and I wrote these as math equations of the board for them to refer to while working later.

I introduced the kids to chalk pastels and showed them how to hold the chalk so that their drawing hand does not touch the paper as they work. We lightly drew our compositions with visual elements from Gordon's work. We drew a spikey plant, similar to agaves they may see out here, a branch with leaves that is like jade plants in San Diego, and a few flowers. We also added a couple line patterns to the background. With each step we rotated the paper. I asked students to think about where they wanted each element to go. Where did they think the best place for each was in the composition.

We then used each of the primary colors in a different spot in the composition. Students picked which natural element they wanted done in each color. After that, we added different primaries on top of those to make our secondaries. To fill the background patterns, students could use any color they wanted- this  included any of the other chalk pastels they had available. As the final step, we used a black oil pastel to make one of the main elements stand out more than the other parts. I emphasized making that outline bold and strong by pressing hard with the oil pastel.

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.

Monday, January 11, 2016

legos and You.

Before winter break, I introduced the 2nd graders to the work of South Korean artist Hyesoo You. As we looked at her relief and freestanding sculptures, we talked about the nature of abstract art and how different people see different things when viewing the same piece. We also talked about how Aaron Draplin's skateboard design implied 3d space by overlapping flat papers and Hyesoo's work uses actually 3d solids that may overlap each other to create actual depth and space.

I used this lesson as an exercise in team work and play. Students worked in teams of 3 or 4 and made temporary works that were inspired by Hyesoo's abstract compositions. Students worked together to come up with a cut paper grid that they placed on top of a larger geometric shape. Once they made their grid, students used legos to create mini sculptures to place on the grid. When teams were done building and positioning their individual pieces, I took photos of their work with my ipad and emailed them to their teachers.

Before letting the kids build, I talked about view point. When taking the photos of their sculptures I would have the camera directly over their sculpture, looking down on it. Because of this, I wanted them to think about if their sculptures were going to be more interesting to place on their grid standing up or laying down.

Students could build independently or collaboratively. Students could join their sculptures together with sculptures made by members of their team. After about 20 minutes of build time, I asked students to plan out where their pieces would be positioned on the grid. Once I took the photo of their set up, they could play with their creations for a few minutes before having to take everything apart for the next class.

After clean up, groups made a list of the kinds of 3d solids they used and could identify in their sculptures.

The level of engagement in the project was extremely high. I have a lego center in my room that is always busy with early finishers, so I knew most students would be pretty focused. Some groups had specific plans or ideas as to what they were building- cities, vehicles, spacecrafts, while others approached the project more freely. There were moments of frustration- beginning builders feeling intimidated, but there was almost always a "master" builder in their group that could help them get more comfortable with the process.