Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Collaborations and Displays

I'm a big fan of collaborative art-making as well as the visual of lots of little things making a big thing. So here are 3 ways I've incorporated those ideas in projects my students have made recently.
 My first graders learned about texture and the parts of a tree. They traced their hand and arm to make a branch, filled it with bark texture by using line variety. Then they did leaf rubbings to use the texture of a leaf to make a rubbing-print. The leaves were cut into an organic shape and added to their "tree branch". Once all 4 classes were complete, I combined all their branches into a huge tree overarching the doorway. I wish I could paint on the ground and add the root system too! All their little pieces added up to an impressive display (note to self- don't use poster putty on the glass in the winter- too cold and it doesn't work!!- this all fell down because of a big temperature drop the day after I put it up, but scotch tape to the rescue).
 The 3rd graders' pattern fish we made a while ago were arranged down the stairwell into what looks like a big fish chasing a little fish. One of the 3rd grade teachers said, "Great! We're just talking about predator and prey in science!" While this wasn't specifically a collaborative project, having a creative way to display the work transforms it into something even more interesting.
The art club finished their "Dale Chihuly" inspired "chandelier" by combining all the tissue-paper papier-mached "snakes" into one splayed mass. I hung it in the stairwell, and have heard all kinds of comments. Usually it's, "WHAT is THAT?!" The only trouble with this kind of collaborative work is that the individual pieces can't be redistributed back to the students to take home.

I think collaboration is a vital part of learning about art. Students feel more connected as a class because they are working toward a greater goal. Every person's contribution is valuable. Contemporary artists often work in a collaborative mode, and therefore students get to experience working methods of artists today in an authentic way. As a teaching artist, I also feel that my own artistic voice is expressed with that of the children, which is very fulfilling.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Eric Carle Kinder Collages

After looking at Eric Carle's ABC animal book, Kindergartners learned how to make painted textured papers with spots, stripes, and scratches to prepare for an animal collage project. Then we talked about all the different places animals can live. The kids thought about forests, jungles, grasslands, zoos, oceans, ponds, farms, and even in our houses! They drew a background habitat for their animal first. Then we practiced tearing paper and using our imaginations to make animal shapes from torn paper.Finally, we tore our good painted texture paper to create an animal collage a la Eric Carle.
 One boy was very original and did a penguin who lived in the arctic (we hadn't come up with that one as a group!) I'm not sure if that's a person or another penguin sliding down the iceberg in the background. It looks like he drew some wind to show how cold it was, and even a fish for his penguin to eat!
 You may not have heard of green cows before, but that's what this one is. There's also a chick at the bottom and some birds hanging out on the fence in this farm scene. I think this girl also discovered that coloring big areas goes faster if you use the side of a peeled crayon.
This one is a very big tiger hanging out by a stream.
This project had great diversity in the finished pictures. The kids had a lot of choice, and were really able to envision animal shapes from their torn paper. It was remarkable to see how much they already knew about animals and habitat as they did this project. Animal drawings seem more developed at this age than people drawings. I wonder why that is. All four of my Kindergarten classes went at this in different ways. Some felt anxious about trying to tear a specific shape and wasted a lot of time, while another class finished the background and collage zippity-zip in one session. Our next project is going to build off the shapes idea for a quick "still-life" drawing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

teacher dreams

The last few nights I've been having dreams about work. Way back in college I worked as a waitress and would have nightmares of customers leaving without paying and complaining about food. I knew I wasn't cut out for food service for very long. However, these recent dreams aren't nightmarish. In one, I walk down the hallway at school, and read the signs on all the doors: "library", "4th grade", "3rd grade", "hallway". I woke up laughing because "hallway" was labeled. The other night I dreamed I went to a historic house to see an art exhibit, and lots of people were lined up to go in to see the show. Then I realized that many of the people were my students with their families, and the kids called out joyfully, "Hi, Ms. Elcin!!" And I was so pleased to see them out attending cultural events. An art teacher can dream, right?

The picture above is a piece that one of my 5th graders brought in to show me and have me photograph for Artsonia. (I let them bring in independent work to display in our online gallery). It's one of those word sculptures you can get in craft stores which she decorated with patterns. I loved it because the 5th graders are doing letter sculptures, and will hopefully create words with them for our display. It's great when kids connect their school and home experiences.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Art Club does Chihuly

Today was the best art club afternoon so far! We looked at Dale Chihuly's glass installations for inspiration. It was fun hearing the kids guess what materials his chandelier was made out of (MACARONI?). Then we created our own twisty colorful elements out of aluminum foil and papier-mached tissue paper. The thin paper allows light show through, as well as some of the sparkle of the foil.
For the papier mache adhesive I've been using Elmer's art paste, which is basically methyl cellulose- seriously slimy stuff! The kids were all grossed out by the texture, and it's a little hard to clean up. However, it's easier to mix up than wheatpaste and is way cheaper than using white glue. I'm doing papier-mache with my 5th graders too, so my hands are in the stuff all the time. Ick!
I can't wait till next week when we'll wire these up and decide where to hang our "chandelier". Maybe we'll make some plastic bottle "glass" sculptures too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

4th grade collaborative paintings

I've had a 4th grade class with lots of social issues that keep interrupting art class. I thought maybe a quickie one-day lesson that involved more physical activity, and required students to work together might help improve the social stuff. So last week I introduced them to the abstract paintings of Alma Thomas.
 I put out big sheets of kraft paper, had the kids don smocks, and gave each student a dixie cup full of blue paint and a paintbrush. they were asked to choose their own mark to repeat over the paper, then make one area of the painting more dense and dark than another area.
To keep the momentum going I had the kids switch places once in a while, and at the end had table groups move from one table to another.
They had a great time. We didn't get toooooo messy. There weren't any arguments because everyone was focused and engaged. Perfect end to a crazy week (2 days off due to hurricane and another off for teacher PD!).