Friday, October 29, 2010

Seascape Results

I would do a lot differently if I were to teach this lesson again.  First, I wouldn't try to do a 3 session lesson in 2 sessions -- BIG mistake.  Most of the kids did get the idea that the size and positioning of their objects created the illusion of space in their seascape.  I also liked how many of the skies turned out with the "wet on wet" watercolor application.  My thinking is that the results would have had more character if students had had more time to create their boats, lighthouses, dolphins, etc. Somebody asked to see the results, so here are a few.

I had considered doing a seascape with Eric Carle-like sails on the sailboats that I saw on MaryMaking blog (  Now I wish I had done that, as that artwork has a light, playful quality to it that I like.  Oh well, next time.  Have a good weekend, all!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Halloween

Here are a few of our spooky tree results (kids loved it and it is really a no-fail project!!):

Sunday, October 24, 2010


This week the kids will be creating a seascape with a background, middle ground and foreground.  Placement and size of objects glued in the 3 areas of the painting will create the illusion of space.  This is a Calif. 3rd grade Content Standard.  In as much as our school is only a few blocks from the ocean, it is a perfect standard for us!!
Our Process:
1. Since I only have the class for 50 minutes and that doesn't allow for drying time before gluing the collage pieces, I had the children use a thin tempera to paint the base of their sea last week so that it would be dry.  This lesson provides several opportunities for layering of paint.

2. This week they are starting by laying in a watercolor wash for the sky and adding another layer of color for the foreground of the sea.  In class we have visually scanned several seascapes by Winslow Homer and noticed the variation in color of his water as well as a painting called Blue Rhythm by Robert Gause (1991). Last week the class worked on using line and color to give the appearance of movement and rhythm in their art.  This will be an opportunity to put that learning to use in a landscape instead of an abstract. 

3.While those layers dry, kids will use crayon, oil pastel or markers (their choice, as I am a BIG proponent of giving kids opportunities to make decisions) to draw the objects for their foreground and background, varying the size.  I made a SmartBoard page where children could place objects on an existing landscape manipulating the size of the objects and how far away they were from the viewer.  I think that the National Gallery of Art has an interactive activity like this, too.

4. They will cut their objects out and hopefully the sea will be dry enough for them to glue them on.  (I am taking my hairdryer just in case, so I can dry their work!!)

5. The last step is to paint a few accent lines and whitecaps to give motion to the water.  I am going to have them use white acrylic for the whitecaps.

There are plentiful Homer paintings on the website for the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (see link).    I also found a great photo of a seascape (lighthouse and all!!) in the Travel section of our local newspaper.  We'll used it as a springboard for brainstorming ideas of things you might see looking out to sea:)

3rd Grade California Content Standards 1.3 and 2.3

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Abstract Line, Repetition, Rhythm Results

The goal here was to have children use line and/or color to lead the viewer's eye to a designated spot.  I pretty much followed the process in my previous post (here).  These are a few of today's results.  I must admit, I was a bit nervous that this was going to be over my 3rd grader's heads, but most grasped the concept readily and added their own flourishes easily.  One change I did make was to have children pick their "spot" that they wanted us to look at and place that circle on their collage first.

Here are a few of the results that I think are finished.  A few of the single shots may still be "in progress."  I REALLY love the way these are turning out!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Line, Repetition, Rhythm

In this non-representational collage and marker artwork, children will use repetition of line and color to create rhythm.  For this project we'll look at some photographs I got from a Google image search on repetition, some images of paintings by Bernard Stanley Hoyes and Victor Vasarely and work on the website Bomono to illustrate motion.
(link:  If you're not familiar with this site, give it a try.  It's fun!
white paper (We'll be using a small size - 5 1/2" X 8 1/2" - so that we can
                   back it with half of a 9"X12" piece of construction paper
                   without waste --- I have a VERY small budget this year!)
white glue
magazines (We have a great stash that my mother saves for me!)

Our Process:
1.  Rhythm is a somewhat vague concept to define visually, so I plan to relate it to rhythm in music.  Another concept we will look for (and try to replicate in some way) is the idea of "where the eye is drawn" in looking at the piece of art.  The placement of lines, colors, etc. may help guide the eye to that point.  Many of the examples I'll show the kids have small to large repetition (like a long triangle).

2.  After discussing how artists think about size and direction of line/shapes and color variety to give the impression of motion and rhythm, children will search in magazines to find large expanses of color that they can cut and use repetitively in their own work. We'll be using white glue to place the pieces on the collage.

3.  When the gluing is done, students will use black marker to draw details to further reinforce the rhythm of the piece.

I know the kids can collage and work with markers, however it is seeming a bit ambitious that they will all "get" this idea of rhythm, but I am hopeful -- we'll see!!  I'll post the results.

3rd Grade California Content Standard 1.1

Ghost-Eye Tree

Since this year I am meeting with each grade level for only 4 sessions total and then it's on to the next grade level, I am trying to focus on art skills (rather than craftier art).  So I am pretty much avoiding "holiday" themes.  However, I love Halloween and couldn't resist sneaking in a bit of eeriness when I was dually inspired by an Artsonia site taught by teacher, Jean Louie at Genevieve Didion K-8 School in Sacramento, CA (link:, and a post at Mary Making blog with Halloween silhouettes (link:  I have one group of third graders that could benefit with an extra dose of tints and shades, and that night sky at the Artsonia site reminded me of one of my favorite Bill Martin books, Ghost Eye Tree.  We are also working on rhythm in art and the lyrical text and repetition in this book is a perfect illustration of rhythm in literature.

black construction paper (6" X 9")
white paper (9" X 12")

Our Process:
1.  I'll start by telling the story, Ghost Eye Tree, using the pictures as I go.  Kids can join in for the chorus during this story. (I don't have enough time in my art period to actually read the whole book.)
2.  Students will paint a sky using concentric circles radiating out from white to darker tints and shades.
3.  In a second session, inspired by the book's illustrations and images from Getty Images, children will cut trees as silhouettes.  They will have to plan their tree so that the moon peeks through the limbs.
4.  For the tree, I have them measure at least 3 fingers width for the base of the trunk:

Then they will cut 2 curvy lines to each upper corner of the black paper (like a Y):
The next step is to cut out a V shape from the top of the trunk:

The scraps of black that students have cut off are used to cut the rest of the branches:

I'll have children use white glue for this project.  I have a small amount of glue in a plastic cup (from Smart & Final) and they use flat toothpicks to apply it to the branches and trunk.  I find this less messy and more efficient than squeezing glue out of bottles.  I have heard that "Tap & Glue" caps work well on 4 oz. glue bottles, but I haven't splurged and bought any yet.
5.  Children can decide whether to cut off tree limbs that hang over the edge of their paper or leave them on.  I love watching kids plan trees made in this way and I can hardly wait to display the finished results!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Monochromatic Still Life Results

My goodness, back to back classes of 25-30 kids all painting at the same time is sure tiring!!!  But, the results were worth the effort:

It was clear that mixing tints and shades was a new experience for a surprising number of our 3rd graders.  I was heartened to see how well they had retained last week's idea of where the light source was located.  I even overheard several kids asking where their light source was going to be -- actually using the vocabulary that was introduced last week.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monochromatic Still Life

This week 3rd graders are working on Value (tints & shades)

Tempera (one color, black and white at each table)
Mixing tray or palette, brushes
Paper  9”X 12” 
Paper towels for blotting
Still life set-ups for every 2 students to share (Styrofoam cup, pencil) and a white paper for it to sit on

This script is how I envision the lesson going:

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the expression, “thinking outside of the box.”  What do you think that means?

Last week we saw a video of glass artist, Dale Chihuly, in his studio making drawings of bamboo and potatoes as he planned a sculpture for his team.  Remember how he told them “It doesn’t have to be exactly like nature”?  That is just how some artists often think – they imagine how they might make something different. That is what CREATIVE means – thinking up something that is new or different.

Today we are going to do an exercise to help us practice value (tints and shades) and paint a small still life.  But instead of making our still life look exactly like it really is, we are going to make everything using only one main color plus black and white.  This is called monochromatic (one color).

Model mixing paints, cleaning the brush between colors by dipping in water and blotting bristles. (Students will paint a practice strip of tints & shades of a color before starting their still life.)

When I am painting a cylinder, instead of starting with the main color like we did last week with the bamboo, I like to mix the lightest tint first and work from light to dark as I paint.  I will use my light source to remind me which side of the cup I want to be light.  I actually often leave the paper white for the very lightest part of the cup.  Some artists start with the dark side and work the other way.  You can decide which works best for you. (model doing this)
When students have painted their cup they can place in it a pencil, paintbrush, or their own imaginary cylindrical object to paint.

You can try this at home using any cylinder you can find (tree trunks, paper towel rolls, a can of soup, etc).  You can use any media at all, just making the light side of the cylinder very pale and the shade side very dark.


California Content Standards 1.4, 2.4      

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sunny Day -- Great Shadows

A sunny day is definitely a better day to talk about light source and shadows than  a rainy day!!

Kids used their light icon to help them figure out which side of their bamboo shoot would be the lighter side.  Even at third grade some still have to stop and think about this.  I even had them finger walk from the icon to the bamboo to see which side their fingers reached first.

Some got away from using just horizontal and vertical cylinders and decided on their own what directions to use -- I loved it!!  Now we have more variety.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Light Source #1 Results

So, here we go.  First day for kids in the new Art Studio and it’s RAINING!! Not a huge problem, although I would have preferred bright sun streaming through the windows for my lesson on light source.  Since this is “sunny California” and we have rooms with patios, I usually have large containers of water set up out there for washing dirty hands  (to avoid having 30 kids lined up at the sink) so I moved them to the covered hallway and hoped the kids would not disturb neighboring classes.  I also had a package of handi-wipes that came in handy, indeed!  Although, the time flew by and I'm afraid I sent a bunch of kids back to class with pretty icky hands -- sorry teachers!
As any teacher knows, there is great benefit from getting to teach a lesson more than once.  We definitely learn how to tweak it to make it better with each subsequent group.  Here’s what I learned:
1)  Shorten the Smartboard part of the lesson - transitioning from class to class takes twice as long as I had planned and there was not enough time.
2)  Keep the video clips in the Smartboard -- the kids LOVED seeing Dale Chihuly's team create hot glass bamboo! (see link in Light Source #1)
3)  Suggest that kids hold only the 3 oil pastels they'll be using for each bamboo shoot at one time - one color (not the same color as their background paper!!), black and white.  I had a few little guys making rainbow bamboo shoots!!  Oh, well!!
4)  Art Projects for Kids (link: ) has a great step-by-step lesson for a similar project that would be helpful to teachers.
5)  A school on Artsonia has similar shading projects called "Pipes" and "Candy Canes", although the focus of the light source is different.  Here is the link:
6)  Teaching is so much fun -- I can hardly wait until tomorrow!!!!
I'll post some photos tomorrow -- didn't have near enough time to even think about a camera today!!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Light Source #1

Perhaps one of the most important skills I would like students to practice daily is how to look at something and really SEE it. Our first project for all students (1st - 5th grades) will be focusing on where light is coming from and how it affects the color of the object it is hitting.  We'll start by observing cylinders and spheres in real life.

I turn out the overhead lights so that the light source is coming from the side. Our classroom has huge windows that provide great light, but I usually have a flashlight handy just in case that is not enough.

I plan to share with the kids that as I was driving around town this week I found myself looking at trees, buildings -- just about everything -- to see where the light was hitting them!!!

There is a terrific video on glass artist, Dale Chihuly's website on Potatoes and Bamboo.
Children will watch it as part of a Smartboard presentation and discuss where the artist puts his shadows on the bamboo.  We will also talk about how artists often do studies that help them in executing a larger work.  What we will be doing will be a study.  I went to the garden shop today to find bamboo for the kids to look at as they create their art study.

Our process:
1.  I have a variety of dark colored cardstock both 8 1/2" X 11" and half-sized (8 1/2" X 5 1/2") for children to choose. When practical I always like to have our young artists make the same kinds of choices that professional artists make with respect to the media they use, thus the various colors and sizes.

2.  Children will start by placing an icon of a sun or lightbulb (I have both) on either the upper left or right corner of their paper (this is a reminder of the source of their light).  Then, using oil pastels they'll draw one vertical bamboo shoot and color it with one main color.  Then, referring to their light source,  they'll use white pastels on that side of their bamboo shoot.

3.  Children color the shade side with black and then use the original color to smooth the layers all together. They'll create the bamboo section markings with a dark hue.   4.Next they repeat the procedure laying the bamboo shoot horizontally (placing it behind the vertical bamboo.) Finally, they create a third bamboo that is placed vertically.  Children who choose the larger size paper can even make a fourth bamboo shoot.

This study gives children an opportunity to practice seeing shadows and making tints and shades using white and black.  They are also experimenting with overlapping to achieve depth.  The subject matter would surely not have to be bamboo, but could be anything cylindrical.  We actually will brainstorm things that are cylinders and next time I do this I may have kids choose what their cylinders will be.

3rd Grade California Content Standards 1.4, 2.4