Saturday, March 30, 2013

3rd grade conversations

 This project took up most of 3rd quarter for the 3rd grade! We learned about portraiture and self-portraiture. We looked at Georges Rouault's portraiture for color and at Norman Rockwell's "Gossips" painting for the idea of a conversation. Talking is a problem I have with 3rd grade- tattling and noise!!! So this project idea is a little tongue in cheek for me. (If you want to talk so much, show me who you talk to and how you feel!)
 Although I stressed proportion in drawing the facial features, not everybody "got it", especially in contrasting the profile and the full view for their talkers and listeners. They did, however, really get the idea of emotions, and their painting are quite expressive. They made interesting facial expressions, and used expressive colors in the background to emphasize emotion.
We also talked about how to mix tints and shades, and they did a great job mixing facial tones. On our last day before Spring break, students went back and re-outlined the boundaries between colors and used oil pastel to cover up any unfinished areas. This project finally wraps up our study of genre! Next we'll be moving on to our trip around the world with art.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

5th grade positive/negative bicycles

Way back in September I saw this project over on Mrs. Knight's Smartest Artists and it's been stewing in the back of my memory all year. Since my 5th graders finally finished up their portraits and were familiar with the enlarging process, I thought they could handle this bicycle composition project.
 We started looking at artists who have depicted or used bicycles in their work- like Duchamp and Ai WeiWei to think about what bicycles represent (freedom, youth, speed, independence, "green" transportation, etc.). The noted how bicycles create very interesting positive and negative space thanks to their interesting forms and construction. Students selected a copy of a bicycle photograph to work from and then cropped it down so that at least one part of the bicycle was touching 2 edges of the paper. Most of the students selected the wheel for their compositions, but the most successful compositions were those that focused on the gears and frame. After cropping they were left with images about 3x4 inches and they had to enlarge their pictures and draw them on a 12x 18 inch paper.
 Once their drawings were complete, they painted the positive bicycle shapes in black tempera, trying to make a bold, graphic effect with smooth edges to the lines and shapes.
 Finally we reviewed color harmonies, and students selected either monochrome, complements, or analogous colors to paint their negative spaces in watercolor. Analogous harmonies were the most popular- especially blue/purple/red for some reason!
We finished these up just in time for the end of the marking period! I'm debating about what to next with them. I want to display these in a way that makes connections from picture to picture, and it might be fun to have them decide how they should be arranged. Understanding the importance of exhibition is a part of the state standards, and making them decide how to display it would be an interesting collaborative process. The challenge is just to do it in a way that involves all students.

Update: So, faced with the reality of how few weeks are left I couldn't bear to lose time on an activity that might not be totally successful. I found a happy medium to my display problem by pulling a student helper out from the class to help hang the work and make choices on the arrangements. I've gotten sooo many compliments from the teachers and students on how great this project was. Here's the display:

Friday, March 15, 2013

2nd grade Oaxacan-inspired sculptures

At the beginning of the school year as I unpacked all the goodies in my new art room I could not BELIEVE how many boxes of wood shapes I found, both left over from the previous year and on my hand-me-down supply list from the previous art teacher. I couldn't imagine how so much wood could possibly be used in one year. I put a dent in the boxes with a mobile project I did with 2nd grade early in the year, but now we've nearly demolished the wood supply with our latest project: Oaxacan-inspired wood animal sculptures.
 It's so hard to choose photos to share, because their sculptures all have so much character. We started off by examining examples of Oaxacan wood sculptures- especially how the forms, colors, and markings of the animals were exaggerated from real life. We considered adaptations an animal needs to live in an environment and selected features from known animals to create an imaginary animal. Students drew a sketch of what animal they would like to create to finish off the first art-looking and art-planning day.
 On the second day, we pulled out the wooden shapes and noticed their forms- most of which were in the cylindrical or rectangular prism category. I asked students to pull out pieces and play with the arrangement of forms a bit before deciding how to construct their animal. They were also asked to pay attention to how their pieces connected- the more surface area touching between 2 pieces, the stronger the attachment would be. We used tacky glue for this step because I shouldn't find where I hid the wood glue!
 On the third day I asked students to choose 1-2 colors to paint a base coat on their sculpture. After 3 classes of messily painted sculptures, I limited the 4th class to ONE base color! On the fourth day we looked at the Oaxacan sculptures one more time to remember how they were decorated. This time we used skinny brushes and added pattern details like stripes and polka dots. We thought about how some animals try to blend in to their environments with camouflage colors and some animals have warning colors to show they are poisonous.
On our final work day, students had an opportunity to add some final details with feathers, beads, googly eyes, and sequins. They were asked to be RESTRAINED in their choices and not go overboard with the doodads. They also created a written description and a drawing of their animal in its environment to serve as a label for their sculpture when they go on display. Their written description had to include what animals they combined, three things their sculpture had, and explain how their sculpture was or was not like Oaxacan sculptures
This project is a real winner- students got to work in 3 dimensions and use a lot of creative problem-solving as well as connect to concepts in science.  The process and product are nicely balanced, and the final pieces are amazing!
 PS. For good photos of sculptures, hang a piece of black construction paper so it is half on the wall, half on the table and place the sculpture on top.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

5th grade Value and Unity

 Hallelujah! The 5th graders have completed their grid portraits!! It was a feat, getting through measuring grids on our photos and project papers, and figuring out how to match box for box. Some struggled through the whole thing, but others really focused and persevered to create some impressively realistic portraits. I think 5th grade is the earliest age that can handle this kind of project- I usually see this process used at the middle and high school levels. So considering the developmental challenges of this project, our success rate was quite good.
 They didn't come out quite how I expected, because once they were done shading their faces and erasing all the grid lines, there was a desire to change the background somehow. Some students simply cut out their portrait and glued it down to a colored piece of paper. Others decided to add a background in colored pencil or crayon. While these additions seem juvenile in comparison to their skilled portraits, I think the combination reveals their confused position between childhood and adolescence.
 These background additions also show some more personality, and provided more choice options to how the final piece looked. Speaking of choice, students had lots of options. They could copy the photo, enlarge the photo, distort their image by using a wavy lined grid, or start with a collaged section of their photo to extend and complete it. Whereas the images above are all 9x12, the drawing below is 12x18. Very few students chose the distortion option. Finally I asked them if they would want to have their self-portrait on display or not. I know how self-conscious this age group can be, both about their bodies and their skills, making this a doubly potentially embarrassing project to have on display. Strangely, some of the best portraits were ones I was asked NOT to display. Maybe they don't want to show off either.
 As students completed their portraits at different rates I had another simple project waiting in the wings. A recent visit for a meeting with fellow art teachers at Tyler yielded a stack of waste lithograph prints that the print department was getting rid of. I thought we'd use the grid concept one more time for assembling an image. I cut the prints into 2 inch squares, which disrupted any realism and left only interesting patterns, values, and lines.
 I asked students to select 9 squares and puzzle them together to create a new image- making sure that no two squares that were originally together remained together (we were not trying to reconstruct the old image, but create a new one). Next students paired up to share their collages and brainstorm ways that their pictures could be more unified. I asked them to use black and colored sharpies to connect and unify the squares in order to lose the grid. They had to extend the lines, patterns, and values across the squares to blend them together.
 At the end of class we brought all our collages up (some students made more than one) and they students pointed out which ones felt the most unified or complete as a single image. I was very pleasantly surprised at how much students enjoyed this exercise. Even my students who often seem the most demanding and helpless worked independently and successfully on this project. I believe it was because they had to be choicemakers more than imagemakers for this project. It was an exercise in aesthetics really, with only a little bit of added embellishment.
 My students seem quite comfortable with abstract imagery. Even the Kindergartners and first graders understand the artistic possibilities of line, shape, and color. Realism seems to cause anxiety in the art room. I think this project could also work successfully with magazine collage squares in color instead of the black and white prints.
Next up I think we're going to do some compositional work in 5th grade, cropping a resource image to find a new composition.