Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snowy days, medieval times, and still-lifes

December is speeding by, and I wanted to share what's been going on in My Blue Artroom between snow days, field trips, half days, and holiday concerts. Really it's a wonder I can get the kids to finish anything when I barely seem to see them!
 First graders were definitely able to relate to our snowy landscape project as it's been nothing but snow around here for the last week and a half. We watched  a clip from "The Snowman" as well- so there are some northern lights showing up in a few drawings.
 We tried to emphasize near and far through scale in these drawings. I just realized there was a penguin in the picture above! Another inspiration from the video I think. Isn't it funny how even kids who grow up in rowhomes with flat roofs still draw square houses with triangle roofs?
 I'm impressed with how detailed Santa's sleigh and reindeer are in this picture. I do not make projects specifically holiday related, but kids are excited about Santa right now.
 My 4th graders are learning about medieval art and did an illuminated letter in metal tooling with sharpie color. While half of one 4th grade class was out for choir rehearsal, I had a lovely group of 16 kids. The small size and roomy space allowed me time and energy to follow creative inspiration to add cardstock frames to their creations for them to embellish. It made a huge difference in how they turned out.
 It also allowed more room for personal expression.
 And more space for imaginative drawing. I love the dragon border repeated from the dragon in the metal below: If only all my classes could be just 16 kids- it was the most relaxing and creative day. They were being artists.
 Kindergartners are learning about genre, starting with still-life. we looked at some Matisse and Cezanne still-life images first. I asked them if any of their parents or they took pictures of food or things at home. It was startling how many of them had access to cameras or tablets for taking pictures. I REALLY wish I had technology in the art room like that. These are tech-literate KINDERGARTNERS!!!!!
 Since I don't have bowls and fruit in the art room, we used art room stuff to make a still-life instead. The kids built a little shape still-life for themselves and then drew each shape on their paper (NO tracing!! okay some tracing was going on.... but some kids needed that support).
Coloring skills have skyrocketed in Kindergarten in the past 2 months. I keep emphasizing "no scribbling- that's what 4-year-olds do and we're 5 and 6 years old!" They are taking it to heart and showing me how careful they can be. I love it! 

I have 3 1/2 more days to teach till Winter break!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

That class that is always ahead!

My first graders have been working on a texture and landscape project. First we did leaf rubbings, then leaf observational drawings, then a landscape background with a horizon line, and finally painted a tree to glue their leaves onto. 
 However, my first graders are a very mixed bunch, and what I'm able to get done with one class is impossible with the next. I don't lie projects to take too long, but if a class can't listen and follow directions things take longer. These trees are from my Tuesday class. They spent a day on rubbings, a day on drawing leaves and backgrounds, and one last rushed day on painting, cutting and gluing leaves.
  It was terribly rushed on the last day, so with my Wednesday class I only did backgrounds and trees- saving cutting and gluing leaves for our pre-Thanksgiving half day. Thursday's class I rushed them through to finish up knowing we'd be out this week, but Friday's class were already a week behind from a previous day off and only got to paint this week.
 So that means when we get back from Thanksgiving I'll have 3 classes ready for a new project and Friday's first grade will have to catch up. But, oh, that speedy Tuesday 1st grade!! Since they completed their trees last week, I had to come up with something for them to do. We talked about different kinds of trees, different seasons, and how sky needs to touch the ground.
 Their drawings are absolutely charming. At the end of class we sorted the pictures out by season, and I asked the kids how they could tell which picture was which season. The flowers, butterfly, and few leaves in the picture above says Spring.
 The sun, beach scene, and short sleeves teel us this palm tree is in summer.
 The orange and red leaves in the tree above make it Fall above. The snowman and star on the fir tree below tell us it's Winter.
It was one of those lovely art days with some kids who were thoroughly engaged in their work. I kind of wonder how this project would be different for kids who live in rural or suburban areas where trees are not so rare. Or for kids in desert areas where they see no trees at all. My urban kids were very excited to draw and touch real leaves and to think about those wondrous trees.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanks Kinders!

Yes, it's a hand, but it's NOT a hand turkey! My Kinders combined a bunch of different skills in this project. Painting lines instead of drawing them was a fun challenge.
 Careful coloring between lines instead of scribbling. We're not 4 years old anymore!!
 Using scissors in the art room for the first time and learning to cut around shapes was a HUGE challenge.
 The kids were asked to draw something they were thankful for inside their hand. So many stick figures! Guess we need a people-drawing tutorial soon.
Kindergarten amazes me in its range of skill levels. I have kids who paint, color, and cut skillfully, and others who have a hard time controlling paint brushes, crayons, scissors, and glue.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! I'm tremendously grateful for all the wonderful children who walk through my door excited to try new things or get to work!

Friday, November 15, 2013

5th grader Abstract Me

 You know those projects you think are going to be really quick and easy? And then they're not. Well, it's partly my own fault because I've been trying to build sketchbook work and extra skills into my 5th grade lessons. Only problem with that is then projects take forever. This looks pretty simple, but students did measuring and compass use practice before drawing their compositions.
 They did a written brainstorm to develop text to put into their artwork and practiced some different letter styles.
 They did a color wheel exercise and chose analogous color harmonies for their paintings.
 And of course, there was the drawing, sharpie outlining, and painting.
 Kids were very invested, despite the lengthy process, because these explored their favorite subject matter- themselves! It was also low-risk art skills-wise as using ruler and compass helped them make bold abstract compositions, and using analogous colors minimized muddy painting.
 I highly recommend this kind of art project for middle school and up. Most of my 5th grade curriculum centers on self-expression in some form or other. As pre-teens, they are trying to figure themselves out and developing their personalities. Art can be a great catalyst for helping them emerge as adolescents, and it is crucial that their fragile egos are supported.
 This kind of project also reveals a great deal about students. They discover they have things in common, and it gives insight into their interests. These can then be mined for future projects.
 I find it curious how some went more curvilinear and other more geometric. Some are bold, others are quiet.
Now if I can only get them to stop being so chatty and get some work done!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

2nd grade abstractions

My second graders loved getting to use compass and rulers to draw shapes for their abstract drawing. We reviewed geometric and organic shapes and practiced drawing them. Then students were asked to use 4 geometric and 3 organic shapes to make a composition, allowing some to overlap, playing with scale, and making sure there were no empty areas leftover.
 Then they got to use oil pastels to fill in their shapes. When shapes overlapped they had to make a choice- to blend for a transparent shape or not to keep shapes opaque. They also were encouraged to make some tints by blending white on top. They love seeing what happens when colors blend together
 It's a real challenge to students' persistence trying to blend oil pastels on a 12x18 sheet of paper. I kep encouraging them to keep going back and make their color look smooth.
 We looked at Kandinsky for some inspiration (of course). We talked a bit about how in abstraction sometimes our brains make us see real things even if the artist didn't intend to draw or paint them that way. Some kids made more face-like images (and I have one absolute pumpkin: hello pre-Halloween project!) I like the one random fish in the picture below:
 The awesome part of this project is how easy it is to make an interesting composition of random shapes and colors. Kids aren't caught up in what it looks like, and they are confident about their results. I hope they can hold on to that feeling as we move forward.
 There were some interesting adaptations that came up as my special needs kids worked. One boy got very caught up in the oil pastel texture and would color thickly, then scratch away at the surface. He might have been better off using crayons. Another boy got distracted by all the shapes and kept getting stuck- so I brought over a scrap paper to cover most of his composition, outlined a single shape in the same color he'd started with and then he was able to focus on coloring shape by shape.
We held off using black pastels til the very end to prevent smudging. I asked kids to outline the shapes that they wanted to stand out to add emphasis. We compared emphasis in a picture with an exclamation point on a sentence. It was interesting to see what they chose to emphasize. For several students, before they handed it in as complete I held their picture back for them to see and check if anything was missing or needed more emphasis. I'm fascinated with how kids seem to have an intuitive sense of visual balance. They nearly always pointed out the same place I would have told them to add to. This project is a legacy from the former art teacher at the school. Why mess with a winner?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Speedy 3rd graders

 I might chalk this one up as BEST PROJECT EVER. We compared 2 abstract paintings (both entitled "SPEED" to identify ways artists create movement with line and direction. Then we brainstormed "FAST" things. Students had to draw, cut out, and glue down a fast object in silhouette, and then use line variety to create a sense of movement across the page. We compared the idea to the contrail a plane makes as it crosses the sky.
 We had lots of birds (like my exemplar), many rockets, some vehicles like cars and jet skis, some fish and lions, and even a tornado or two!
 Best of all, we managed to get through a lesson from intro to completed project in one class period, and it reinforced the line quality we'd just completed studying while introducing movement. No, BEST of all was how super engaged everybody was. The brainstorm of FAST things helped everybody find an idea, and it had plenty of room for creative interpretation. The only trouble was with 2 or 3 kids who weren't confident in being able to draw or cut out their objects.
I love how exciting these look! I asked kids to just write me a note about what they made (in case I couldn't tell a bird from a plane). The surprise ending was seeing how many kids wrote more than a note, since they are getting used to the expectation of writing about their art. WIN!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BOO! 3rd grade does positive and negative

Positive and negative space is a new concept for my 3rd graders. Inspired by a local cut paper artist, I thought this project would be a simple 1-2 class project. We first reviewed line quality and "Stole a line" from a series of images in a powerpoint (kids drew on whiteboards building a composition with lines they saw in the images). We practiced ruler skills and measured out 2 inch marks at the top and bottom of our papers, then connected the dots across the page with various types of line. So far so good.
But whoah! Was I not prepared for the low scissor skills of this group of 3rd graders. Did we never pick up a pair of scissors in 2nd grade???? Students had a real challenge following the lines they drew with the scissors to cut them out. Of course, some had drawn amazingly detailed, fussy lines that any adult might find a challenge to cut out. I even had some kids break down and nearly give up because they felt they weren't good with scissors. Magic art teacher to the rescue! There was a box of special scissors (loop scissors that all you have to do is squeeze ad they spring back open) that I NEVER pulled out last year, but they are wonderful for some of my special needs kids with OT issues. Of course, everyone wants special scissors...
 Once the strips were cut apart they were arranged on contrasting colored paper (kids chose their color), leaving some negative space in between the strips to make new shape lines. Gluing is another challenge...
It was perhaps not the most exciting project ever, but it brought to light some interesting skills issues. The challenge level was huge for some of my students- but maybe that's why this was a good lesson for them. It took some ids 3 entire 50 minute class periods to finish! Others did an amazing job of careful cutting, arranging, and gluing and finished in one and a half classes! Go figure.
With the odd rate of completion on this project I had a bunch of kids who needed a new activity. This being Halloween week, I let them have a "freebie"- a project I would not grade and that was just for fun that they could take home immediately. It was not REALLY just for fun though- it was a super extension of positive and negative space by creating stencils!
Kids cut out a "spooky shape" from scrap paper, placed it on black paper and brushed white or orange color stick from the center outwards. I have no chalk- it would have been easier I think.  After stenciling they went back in and added details as well as a "spooky message".
 Kids were encouraged to share stencils, and some discovered that both pieces of cut paper (positive and negative) could be used to shade either the exterior or the interior of the cut shape.
 This was an excellent, quick, high-engagement lesson... mostly due to my kids thorough obsession with all things Halloween. I'm not a big fan of Holiday art in art class- the classroom teachers do holiday crafts with them, so I don't feel it's necessary. But it does get kids engaged.
 Happy Halloween everybody!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kinder Pezzettino drawings

My Kindergartners have been learning about shapes and how they can go together to make pictures. We started off by reading "Pezzettino" by Leo Lionni about a small square who thinks he must be a missing piece of someone else. He goes to all his friends who do daring and wonderful things, but they are all complete. Finally Pezzettino trips and breaks into many tiny pieces and he realizes that he is complete too.
We introduced shapes using the mosaic blocks, and I gave kids a challenge to try to make a sun, a flower, a cat, and finally their own creature out of the shapes. I showed kids how to trace their shapes onto paper to keep their creature since they're not allowed to keep my blocks (oh the silence of 24 kinders tracing blocks!)
The next week we practiced coloring carefully by outlining each shape and coloring it in solid. I went around to each child to ask what their creature could do, and wrote their title on the page in sharpie using the naming style of Lionni. It's not a bunny, it's "One who hops". It's not a snake but "One who slithers".
 Finally for some color and interest in the background we laid squares of bleeding tissue paper over the blank white areas, and I walked around with a spray bottle to make it "rain" on their picture and make magic paint.The kids loved seeing the paint instantly appear on their pages. However, I'm not 100% sold on this technique. It's very messy, and I had some overenthusiastic helpers crumple up a LOT of extra tissue paper into the trash instead of saving it. Luckily I have my intern on Thursdays and a high school helper on Fridays to assist in managing the drying rack traffic.
The students who had clearly made creatures and colored well had more successful results with the tissue. For those who had more random shapes the background color addition jut seemed distracting. Oh well, it was an experiment I'd never tried before, and it was mostly a success.

We have lots more shape things happening in other grades. Our quarter is almost finished and I've got to get kids to finish projects this week!!