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???


  1. I love this take on Yellena James. These look Great!

  2. This idea is good, I think it is very novel.
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  3. Thank you for sharing

  4. I am so happy to see all of these wonderful projects!