Wednesday, February 21, 2018

looking into the eye of the beast.

During this rotation, my 5ths are exploring paint, color value, and symmetry. We have been looking at the work of Australian artist Brad Eastman for inspiration for this experience. Brad is a very prolific artist who draws much inspiration from the patterns that are found within the natural world. I really love his play of geometric and natural shapes, his use of contour line, and his wonderful sense of composition as he pulls everything together in works that range in scale from intimately small digital works to immense wall murals.

I start the activity by sharing two murals that Brad has done that are similar in subject, symmetry, and use of color value gradations. We spend a few minutes identifying these elements and talking about what these works remind us of- what the students see in them.

To start the hands on activity, the students and I create a small sketch inspired by these two paintings. I want them to see how they can break up the picture plane to create a design that emphasizes symmetry and repetition. We start with the eye form and then add matching lines to the top, bottom, left, and right of the eye. The point of this is for them to see how they can start with simple large shapes to set up the compositional framework. Then, I encourage them to add more lines to give their sketch more detail.

Once that sketch is complete, students create a second sketch that starts with a shape of their choosing. They break up the picture plane in a similar fashion to the first one.

With both sketches done, students choose one and enlarge it softly onto a large (12x15") sheet of watercolor paper. They hold off putting their name on the paper until the drawing is complete. They do this, so that they can use the back of the paper to restart their drawing if the need arises.

To create the bold contour lines, students may trace their pencil lines with a crayon, chisel tip sharpie, or fine tip sharpie- or a combo a couple/all of them, depending on the detail present in their drawing.

When students move on to the painting step, I demo creating light and dark values by adjusting the amount of water used with the tempera cakes that we are using. Each student gets a scrap of watercolor paper to test out colors while they are working. Students choose a brush to start with- large, medium, or small. If they need to change brush size, they are responsible for cleaning the brush in the sink, putting it back if the right bin, and getting a different size brush. They are also responsible for changing the water in the cups that they are sharing with their paint tray team.

Most students have needed about 2 hours to complete this activity. Some more, some less. I meet with my 5ths for 90 minutes, so this activity has been completed over 2 sessions. When they complete their painting, students reflect on their process by answering 3 questions on an exit slip.

I am really emphasizing question 2- What was the hardest part of this activity? How did you deal with it.

I want them to really think about that. How did they solve that problem?

I really have been digging the variety in approaches to this activity. The students have been thoroughly engaged during the painting experience.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

artists that have inspired me.

Let me start off by saying that I am thrilled to be a part of the AEBN that Cindy Ingram over at the Art Class Curator has organized. I look forward to learning from all the others involved as well as sharing some insights myself.

Since the first topic was set, I’ve kicked around various ways to approach it. What I’ve ended up with is a little bit of a time machine, that goes way back when I wasn’t old and gray and moves forward from there.

So shall we? We shall!

Let’s start with my youthful affection for Andy Warhol, dating way back to the mid 80s. I don’t know how I was first turned on to his work, but I remember very much looking forward to a field trip to MoMA my junior year in high school when there was a big retrospective of his work. I was really fascinated by his use of silkscreen and the mass production qualities of his work. (I went on to major in printmaking in both undergrad and grad school due, in large part to a continued fascination with making multiples- the reach of the various print medias- but I flashforward before I need to flashforward!) I loved his use of popular items to engage the viewer and speak to a larger audience.

Moving forward a couple years to the early 90s in philly where I was doing my undergrad at Tyler school of art.  I spent my time there regurgitating the work of artists that had come before. I don’t mean this as as much of a knock as it sounds, because I firmly believe most artists and creatives go thru similar phases as we grow and form our own paths, but that’s what I was doing;) I was blown away by the energy and power present in the work of Frank Kline and spent much of my sophomore and junior years mimicking that in a much more timid and affordable scale. At the same time I was also very much drawn to the work of Ellsworth Kelly and his approach to nature and architecture and his abstraction of it. This duality has continued to be a big part of who I am to this day.

While also in undergrad I had the good fortune of studying in Rome for a semester and, despite the setting, continued in my abstract ways. However, one spring weekend we took a field trip (which, after some late night dancing, I barely made the train for) to Ravenna and visited Byzantine cathedrals and other buildings that had the most amazing mosaics inside them. This trip did not inform my work or my artistic philosophy for a few years, but it has been, in the long run, one of the most impactful artistic experiences I have had. The style resonated, but so did the craft, the emphasis on pattern and decorative space, and the time that went into the creation of these works. Also, the fact that the creators were anonymous to us now was eye opening.

When I went off to grad school down south in Baton Rouge, the impact of these works would become apparent in a series of large scale crayon drawings which combined pattern elements with drawn medallions that spoke of the modern, suburban world from which I was raised. Though still borrowing, I was finding my voice as an individual artist.

one of those grad school pieces:)

Since then I have bounded back and forth between figuration and abstraction. Gleaning from history and popular culture.

Now, in terms of art ed practice and curriculum, over the past 5 years or so, I have found myself drawn to a couple other bodies of work, and have used each extensively when working with my elementary school students. Quilts and street art.

Both have been devalued and marginalized for a long time, although they are being viewed in different lights in recent years. I am drawn to the modular and pattern nature of quilt design. Like most of the work shared in this post, the range of abstract compositions possible in the quilt medium really rings my bell. I love being able to use the work of quilt designers to introduce my students to the duality of unity and variety in both art and our social organization. I also think it is important to elevate female dominated art forms within the eyes and minds of our students, especially during our current social and political climate. In the past few years I have used the work of Libs Elliott, Maritza Soto, Latifah Saafir, and Tula Pink to kickstart student experiments in shape, color, and social fabric.

At the same time (well, not exactly the same time, but regularly throughout the year) I have been exposing my students to the work of more and more street artists. When doing so, I emphasize the fact that art does not need to be set in a museum or gallery to be considered important or valuable. I want my students to recognize that art is all around them and that it can be created anywhere. I have used the work of street artists from around the world as inspiration for student visual explorations and I have recently turned more specifically to artists creating public art in San Diego- the likes of Isaias Crow, Santos Orellana, Monty Montgomery, and Gloria Muriel. I have found that using the work of contemporary street artists, and in particular, local ones, increases student engagement and enthusiasm. It also provides opportunities for first hand interaction and relationships between the artists and my students (and, I’m not gonna lie- I love getting to meet these artists, too!).

And there we are. Here we are. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. A bit different than my usual project based ramblings, but hopefully in a good way. I’m looking forward to digging into the coming monthly topics. Now, go check out some more insights on artist inspirations from other incrediblyinspiring art ed bloggers!

Monday, February 5, 2018

intentions with isaias

One of the very cool things about focusing on living artists in my curriculum is being able to meet some of the artists first hand and to develop relationships with them. Case in point- and I have loved being able to share this with my students- a couple months ago, I discovered through instagram, that artist Isaias Crow was painting a collaborative mural with visiting artist Leon Rainbow, in my neighborhood. I recognized the house from the photo he posted and excitedly hustled down the street to check it out in person. Isaias, who is one of the kindest and most generous people out there, took time to talk to me (and then my wife when I brought her down, too). We suggested that if he ever needed another wall in the village to paint, that we had one.

the mural that led to this design activity!

 the process of the intention murals.

Fast forward a month and we were meeting with Isaias to participate in his Intention Mural series. He guided our family through several collaborative and reflective exercises and then we came up with a word to guide the mural process. We chose "now" because as a family we need to work on being more present with one another, and not detached with our focus on our various device screens.

He came back on MLK day and led us through the mural process- he sprayed "now" on the side of our garage and my wife, 2 kids, and I took turns adding more lines to the wall in order to break it up and abstract the surface. Once that was complete, we used mural and house paint to fill in areas, changing and combining some of the shapes as we went. After lunch we finished the color work with a variety of spray paint colors. It was such a wonderful experience to be a part of. I got to play the role of student to his process and gaining experience with spray paint.

our intention mural!

As soon as the mural was complete, I knew I had to lead my students through a similar activity. So, the 4th graders have been experimenting with paint technique, abstraction, and meaning in art while using Isaias' Intention process as the guide.

After looking at several of his intention murals, including ours, I ask the students to write a list of 5 words that symbolize things that are important to them. They then narrow things down to 2 words and practice arranging them in long horizontal sketches. They can use bubble letters, block letters, upper, lowercase and they can spread them throughout the rectangle any way that occupies the space effectively.

They then draw their word much larger and more lightly on an 8x16" sheet of watercolor paper. I model how they can extend lines to break up the background and how they can add more lines to echo letter parts of their chosen word. I emphasize that the word does not have to end up being readable to the viewer.

Students can then choose a few crayon colors to use as their crayon resist. They can use the crayons to trace pencil lines to trap paint colors and they can use crayons to fill sections. I suggest half crayon, half tempera paint. When filling shapes with crayon, I encourage students to experiment with hand pressure to create light and dark color values.

When they move on to painting, the color choices are theirs to make- they can be similar to the crayon colors or they can contrast against those colors.

The final step is to complete an exit slip that asks students to identify why they chose that particular word. It also gets them to compare their work to Isaias's and to reflect on the most challenging part of the whole process.

The kids have been super engaged with this activity and many students have been coming in at morning recess AND lunch recess throughout the week to continue working. The art room has been buzzing with creative energy all week long!

the art room has been HOPPING at recess!