Sunday, February 19, 2017

chalking and grooving.

My first graders also got into the chalk pastel action last week. They experimented with them as an extension to their color mixing unit. The week before, I read them "In My Heart- A Book of Feelings" and they used primary color crayola color sticks to make secondary colors in their drawings. Very clean!

This project was obviously a lot more messy:) We started the lesson by briefly looking at the work of Norman Lewis, an African American painter whose styled evolved into abstract expressionism over the course of his artistic career. He was strongly inspired by jazz music. On the flip side of that inspiration, musicians have actually performed pieces inspired by the shapes, colors, and composition present in his work.

We noticed how he used large and small shapes, how he added white to colors to create tints, and how he used primary and secondary colors in his work. I discussed his love of jazz. Our 1st grade classrooms are located in close proximity to our music rooms, so we connected to their experience on campus. They hear the older kids play strings and horns from their classes and they hear the instrumental music particularly at recess time.

For each stage or layer of the drawing, we worked to a different piece of instrumental music and attempted to connect our marks to the music.

Students laid down the primary color background to a mellow Miles Davis piece called "So What". They smoothed some of those parts down while continuing to listen to it. They mixed some areas to create secondary colors while listening to a calm arrangement by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Tints were mixed while listening to a faster tempo song from Horace Silver called "Blowing the Blues Away". They then got into the first portion of smaller marks and lines. They listened to a percussion heavy piece by the Incredible Bongo Band titled "Apache" that has been sampled heavily by hip hop artists over the years, most famously by Grandmaster Flash in the early 80s. When readying for this step, I encouraged them to think about the speed of the music, it's beat, and it's loudness. Some kids were more involved with dancing at first and I told them to think about how they could translate those moves into marks on their paper. The final piece of markmaking was in response to an instrumental piece by the Beastie Boys called "Pow".

I think the kids, by and large, loved this drawing and listening experiment. It was really cool to see how different kids responded to the music with color placement and mark making energy and arrangement.

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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

plenty of portraits.

Last week the 2nd and 5th grade classes experimented with making tints of colors while creating portraits. Both grades used chalk pastels for these drawings, so the process was a lot of messy fun:)

The 2nds looked at the work of Argentinian painter Dan Casado for inspiration. We talked about how he exaggerates and changes the face parts, and that we can still recognize his people as people. We also noticed how he uses bold outlines to separate those face parts and other background elements.

We started by practicing a portrait on smaller paper and as we went along I modeled different ways they could approach the shapes. If they wanted to go at shapes differently, I encouraged them to try it out. We also added background elements that added to the personal quality of the drawings. For the final drawing, we drew them out on 12x14" brown paper, traced the lines with black crayon, and add chalk pastels to the paper.

When applying the pastels, we practiced not resting hands and arms on the paper to keep the paper (and ourselves) as clean as possible. Once we had most of the paper colored, I modeled adding white to certain areas to make lighter versions of those colors. I also then showed them how to smooth or blend certain areas with a finger (just one:)

I loved seeing the wide variety in face/background shapes, and color choices in these. Some kids were very delicate in their pastel handling, while others were much more aggressive and bold in approach.

The 5ths also looked at Dan's work for inspiration, but we also compared and contrasted his work with the work of San Diego based artist Gloria Muriel. She's one of my favorite artists working right now and I have been fortunate enough to see her at work while she was painting a mural in downtown San Diego. While Dan's forms are solid and blocky, Gloria's are much more elegant and flowing. Dan's portrait heads tend to take up the majority of the picture plane, while Gloria's more often are smaller in scale, allowing her to explore the rest of the space for hair, water, and other flowing natural elements. Despite all the differences, they both use bold dark lines throughout their compositions and both use tints of colors to great effect in their work.

After discussing the work of both artists, we set off to create a couple practice compositions inspired by their work. Kids could focus on the style of one or both artists. Furthermore, if someone went their own way with their portraits, that was okay, as long as they incorporated the required elements of bold lines and color tints. After sketching and sharing, we got to the large versions and like with the 2nds, I demonstrated chalk handling, creating tints, and blending colors.

I have been blown away by the diversity in portraits with this project. So many different compositions and takes on the portrait concept.