Wednesday, February 15, 2017

marking with moe.

 Last week, my 4th graders experimented with chalk pastels, layering, creating tints, and markmaking. For inspiration, I shared the work of Moe Brooker. He's an artist and professor based in Philadelphia who creates nonobjective paintings. He layers energetic varied "scribbles", that I liken to the music notes you find on sheet music, over patterned areas and larger geometric shapes. He uses tints of colors to add variety to shapes and fade sections of compositions in and out.

We looked at a very short video of him working and talking about art. He believes strongly in the connection of color and music/sound.

After watching the video and looking closer at a few of his paintings, we rolled up our sleeves and experimented with pastels, using his visual vocabulary as a springboard for a wide variety of nonobjective drawings. While students worked, I played jazz in the classroom, similar to what they heard playing in Moe's studio in the video clip. I encouraged them to think about how the music was effecting them and if possible, respond to the sounds in the colors and marks they would include in their work.

Students started by laying down 3 or 4 colors to serve as the background. They smoothed out some areas and left other areas rough. They then added smaller shapes that overlapped 2 or more of their background shapes. Again, smoothing some. Tints were added next. Students could choose to apply white to whole shapes or parts of shapes for added variety. Patterns were added on top of at least a few areas of their compositions. Some students added a lot, some were more selective in their approach. I asked them to add white to at least one patterned area. Finally, it was time to scribble.

This is the step that many thought would be the easiest part of the process, but many discovered that it was actually more challenging than they were anticipating. Before starting, I had students switch to a black oil pastel because the marks could be controlled a bit more with it. They could also use other chalk pastels for this part and could blur their marks as well. I modeled a bit of controlled, energetic mark making. I talked to them about looking at their existing compositions and responding to what was there. They could look for larger empty spaces, they could add and layer over existing patterns, they could vary thin and thick, long and short marks. Again, I encouraged them to be aware of the music playing and to think about how their marks might reflect the energy of it.

To wrap up, they completed an exit slip that got them reflecting on the process.

I am super stoked on how vibrant and energetic so many of these turned out. This week, they are continuing to experiment with chalk pastels, but they are some of the same techniques to create a desert landscape inspired by the work of Ed Mell. I want them to recognize that you can use the same techniques and skills with materials to make images that are of drastically different styles.


  1. these are great! what kind of paper are the kids using?

  2. Great lesson! I am going to try this with my 4th graders!