Wednesday, September 19, 2018

into the deep with yellena.

I've loved the work of Yellena James for many years. 2 of her prints hang in our living room and they are such a treat in terms of shape, pattern, and subtle movement. she was one of the first living artists that I brought into my elementary curriculum and I think it's long overdue to share her work with another generation of Zamorano students.

Recently, Yellena has been working on dark backgrounds and creating shapes and patterns with colors that are most luminescent. I love the glow and the mystery of these darker compositions. To me, they appear to be fantastical studies of underwater sea life.

With my 3rd graders, I'm using her work to start their line unit. We are looking at a number of her paintings and using them as a springboard to experiment with contour line, pattern, and space. When students use sketching to plan their compositions, we talk about how they should be drawing from 3 things- Yellena's work, their personal experiences with nature, and their imagination. After creating at lest 2 sketches, they describe which one they would like to move forward with and then get rolling on the black paper final drawing.

When starting on the black paper, I encourage them to draw out the shapes softly with our crayola colorsticks- this will allow them to erase and edit if necessary. Once things are laid in, they add patterns and other details. Then they can start playing with hand pressure to make some of the elements brighter to pop and to make other parts submerge a bit into the background darkness. I encourage them to elaborate on their sketches- adding more pattern, detail, and color.

There are a few constraints with this drawing activity- a minimum of 3 shapes, 3 patterns, and a use of overlapping. I also encourage them to play with line thickness as well as hand pressure, so that focal points stand out a bit more.

I really am enjoying the variety of compositions that are coming from this drawing experience! next week, they are going to use line a lot differently, so they can see the range of possibilities with the similar elements and materials... stay tuned:)

A few more classes have yet to play, so I'll come back and showcase their work, too.

These are from Thursday:)

Doesn't this necklace totally fit in with the drawings???

Thursday, September 13, 2018

lines! more lines! even more lines!

Wrapping up with my first 2 week rotation with our 1st & 4th graders and we have been experimenting with line while looking at the work of Nate Williams, Brita Lynn, Cadu Mendonca, and Seize Happywalker for inspiration.

Let’s dive in.

1sts looked at an illustration by Nate Williams and created profile portraits than included things of interest/ importance to them. They talked about things they liked, drew a few of them as practice, and then included them in the head of a portrait. They drew a picture of them thinking about what they like. 

They came back this week and we looked at a couple animals at the SD zoo and compared them to a couple paintings by Cadu Mendonca. They picked up on the difference between seeing a face in profile and seeing one from the front- one eye and half a mouth… except for peppa pig! We drew one of his animals together and then kids were to experiment with patterns within the animal. Color was added to specific parts to make certain parts stand out.

4ths looked to a drawing by Brita Lynn Thompson (zenspiredesigns) for a landscape and pattern exercise. They noticed how line was used to make the different landscape elements and how she also used it to fill every area with patterns. They looked at a collection of Sd landmarks and tried out combining different elements from different images. We talked about large v small scale and overlapping to create space, to boot.

Students scaled up in pencil, added colored, traced contour lines, and added patterns. Most kids needed extra time for this activity, so they had a full 80 minute session and then 15 minutes of the next to complete it. 

After that, they took a look at some work by Seize Happywallmaker (how awesome is that name?). They picked up on how he uses lines to create different shapes and how he overlaps to still make some depth in an abstract image. They noticed how symmetry was present in some of his pieces and not in others. I shared a short video of Home working and the kids loved it. It’s always cool to share this type of thing with our kids. I think it’s so important to see, videos or first hand, artists working through the various steps of the design process.

I modeled how they could create a design like Seize by starting with a couple simple shapes, giving them borders, adding another border that branches off, and then supporting shapes. We jumped right in to this. It was more much more spontaneous than the landscape drawing. Students drew, traced their lines, and added color. When coloring, I encouraged them to experiment with hard/soft, color patterns, and leaving some background shapes open, so there were places for us to rest.

To wrap up, the 4ths completed an exit slip that had them comparing and contrasting the focus works and telling me which experience they enjoyed more and why.

The 1sts and 4ths are off to a great start! Can’t wait to see them again when we play with shape!

Monday, September 3, 2018

it's a block party!

This year’s annual 1st week “almost whole school” collaborative is up in the auditorium. All our 2nd thru 5th grade classes contributed to the success of this large scale public art installation in our auditorium.

I’m going to keep this short and simple because I plan on writing it up more in detail soon for an upcoming Arts & Activities piece as part of my “Alive and Kicking” article series that focuses on using contemporary art as inspiration for your visual art curriculum.

The inspiration for this activity was a block party” quilt by Corinne Sovey- a graphic designer and quiltmaker based in Austin, Texas. 
With this activity, my students had about 20 minutes to design a quilt square that used the geometric elements found in Corinne’s quilt- with the addition of one more as well. After briefly going over my class rules and regs, I introduce the quilt and we identify the shapes in it. After that, we get busy making.

Each student starts with a 6x6 white square, 3 analogous color 3x3 squares, and a black or dark grey 2x3 rectangle. As classes roll through, the colors that are out for them gradually transitions- I usually start with yellows and move thru the spectrum until we end up back at yellow. I had plans for something a little different this year, but it didn’t happen;) The activity provides some student decision making opportunities while also working within certain design constraints.

1- students fold the white square into quarters and are reminded that they can place only one color in each of the quarters
2- students select one colored square to leave as is and place it in one of the white quarters
3- students select one color to turn into a triangle shape. They hold it like a diamond and cut from the bottom corner to the top. They get rid of one piece and place the triangle in one of the white quarters. I model rotating the triangle in different directions in different squares
4- with the remaining colored square, students have a choice- they may use a cardboard stencil to turn it into a quarter circle or they may cut it into rectangles. They take the shape or shapes and place in another white quarter. Again, experimenting with rotation and if using rectangles, they should only use them vertically or horizontally.
5- the final black rectangle is cut into a minimum of 2 rectangles and placed in the last white quarter. Again, attempting to limit themselves to vertical and horizontal positioning.
6- once they have all their parts, I encourage them to look at their arrangement and decide whether it is satisfying. If they need to move pieces, they may.
7- then they glue the pieces down
8- when that’s done, they flip the paper and put glue on the back and head on back to our assembly table
9- students place and press their quilt squares on a large 24x36 white sheet of paper. I encourage them to look at the placement of the other student pieces and respond to it. They may decide the bottom of their design looks better at the top, or they might want to rotate it a quarter turn to join in a more interesting way with another quilt square.

As classes roll thru, I place the working collaborative on my floor, so students can start to get an idea of the overall effect and color transition.

When all classes are done, it install it in the auditorium. The use of 24x36  pieces makes these things much more easy to transport:)

And boom! So many kids have work on display and the install celebrates the elements of unity and variety as well as the community and diversity of our elementary school.