Saturday, February 23, 2013

3rd grade Pop-up Landscapes

3rd grade has just completed their landscape genre project which focused on background, middleground, and foreground. To make understanding of the different spaces very literal, I thought it would be fun to physically separate them and make a pop-up landscape. We started with a map to cover a foundation piece of chipboard, and used the roads and boundaries within the map to inspire a horizon line for the background of a landscape. Students then created a middleground layer from construction paper, and then foreground elements. To emphasize a sense of space, students were encouraged to draw things tiny in the background and large in the foreground. They were also challenged to make something happen in their landscapes like Grant Wood did in "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", one of the paintings we looked at for inspiration.
 We had a paper spring folding contest before assembling the layers. Photos don't really do justice to these pieces, because it flattens them out. In reality, these images really pop-out, and the small foreground pieces even quiver in the air currents or when jostled. Students had a choice of what kind of landscape to create. My original example showed a mountainscape, and so it was a popular choice. Although the range of animals included bears, rabbits, wolves, squirrels, and even monkeys.
 Seascapes were another very popular choice- probably because many of my students enjoy going down to the Jersey shore in the summer, and it's familiar. I can just imagine Ocean City in the boardwalk scene below, which includes a ferris wheel and cotton candy vendor. 
Another favorite landscape was the EXPLODING VOLCANO. About half my boys did a version like this, many of which included screaming villagers fleeing from the lava. (Could it be that they remember my Pompeii story from when we did mosaics? Dream on Art teacher)

At the end of the lesson I gave students a sheet of lined paper and some sentence starters on the board so that they could write a description. They had to give a big idea sentence: "My picture is about...." . Then supporting detail sentences: "In the background,....", "In the middleground,...", and "In the foreground,..." Finally they could conclude with an opinion about the project: "I thought this project....."
After writing, they glued the papers to the back of the project. I really like having them write about their work. It gives them extra writing practice and an opportunity to express themselves in multiple ways. Although they groan and protest ("But this is ART class!"), I tell them artists have to write ALL THE TIME and to get used to it. It was also one more way for me to assess their understanding of the key concepts of space and landscape. This lesson is definitely a keeper- all the other classes in higher and lower grades kept asking when they would get to do it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

1st grade bouquets

My first graders have just finished some beautiful still-life bouquets. We started by looking at a sunflower still-life by Vincent Van Gogh, but noted that it was a little plain looking- the colors were all similar, the vase was simple, and the background was very plain. I thought it would be more fun to add pattern to our still-life project.
 We started by making a symmetrical vase. Students chose either orange or yellow construction paper, folded it in half "hotdog style", and drew a wavy line that started and ended on the fold. After cutting it out they opened it up and discovered some very interesting shapes. It's fun to see how different all the vases turned out! I told the kids to pretend they were potters who had to glaze their vase, and they added lots of colors and patterns in crayon.
 Next we made our table and wallpaper backgrounds. We looked at the wood grain on our classroom tables and tried to copy the swirls and knots of the wood. Some students chose to make a tablecloth pattern instead. When the background was finished, we glued the vases down, trying to leave enough room for the bouquet. Guess what? Glue stick doesn't really stick to crayon! After my first class glue stick failure, the others used elmers and dot,dot, not alotted. Some interesting composition problems occurred along the way. One student, below, had drawn a table with the paper in horizontal format, but had a super tall vase. So she cut it in half and had 2 bowls instead!
 Finally, it was time to print our flowers. We used large and small wooden spools as stamps with red and yellow tempera paint. It's interesting to see how different their flowers all look depending on how they printed the flowers. Some look more like daisies, others like hydrangea. Some just made on flower per stem they drew, others made a cloud of flowers.
I'm really pleased with how these turned out. Even though this project seemed very straightforward, it still lots of little opportunities for students to make artistic choices. It also had a lot of review of art element concepts from the beginning of the year (line type, pattern, primary colors, cutting and gluing technique).

Next up we're having a review of genres. We've done a landscape, a portrait, and a still-life, and so as a review we're going to do a collaborative "1st grade museum".

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sounds of music in Artclub

I'm so excited about my new art club group. This was our 3rd week, and our first project is in full swing. After learning a thing or two with my first group in the Fall, I decided to make our sessions more structured. We have snack, and then there is a sketchbook challenge for the kids to do while they wait for everyone to finish or for me to get things set up. The sketchbooks were made in our first class and the kids can add any additional drawings or writings they wish. We also made a list of themes to explore in artclub, and the first one they chose was music. Simple changes like this ( more structure and theme-exploration instead of material exploration), not to mention a calmer, more focused group, have changed my whole feeling about Tuesdays.
Each child selected a favorite instrument to draw as a big poster. We found google images of the instruments for inspiration and cheated by projecting and tracing the outlines (Is it cheating or using a tool?). We played with scale and composition so that even if 2 students shared an image they would still look different. Then they traced over their lines with sharpie so that when we paint they don't lose their drawing. I challenged them to add something to the background to represent sound- of course most of them chose music notes. Since our papers are so big, only 2 people could really work at a table at a time comfortably, so we sprawled out around the floor on carpets. I love how relaxed and true-art studio the room felt when they did this. Working in my little room with just 15 kids is sooooo nice.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

4th grade shell variety

The 4th graders tried out their observational skills and learned about variety in this shell-drawing project. Students had to do 3 versions a contour line drawing, a value-shaded drawing, and a color drawing in colored pencil. The great thing about the shells is that they hold the kids' interest and curiosity longer than a bottle would have, and the irregular shapes of the shells were very forgiving to those whose drawing skills were not very developed.
 It's very interesting to see from the pictures who REALLY LOOKED at their shells and who just drew from imagination.
 I was also impressed with how many kids based their drawings off of the ellipse-sketching style they had used in their previous project. (Hey! They learned and remembered something!!)
 At the end of the project I had the kids write about which style was their favorite. The overwhelming response was COLOR because it made the drawing "pop out".
 Only a few chose value or contour. My very favorite of all is this sweetly simple spiral of a shell with some  speckles and stripes. It is so sensitively drawn:
I'm proud of my fourth graders for willingly trying to see and draw in some different ways. It was wonderful to talk with them individually, point out details, and help them SEE. It's about seeing more than about drawing. I saw lots of little light bulbs go off in their heads. I hope they're ready for their next challenge: we're entering the National Wildlife Refuge Jr. duck stamp contest!