Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Experiment with Color - Roden and Hundertwasser

Last year I discovered Pasadena artist, Steve Roden, when he had a show at a local museum.  I think his series, "the silent world" (taken from the the title of Jaques Cousteau's first book) makes for a great comparison with Hundertwasser. Click here for Roden's work. While you are at his site, check out the images section for other paintings. I used him as inspiration for a project last year, too. See lesson here.   Click here for Hundertwasser's spiral. ( I am never sure whether I would be infringing on copyright to post artists actual work or I would place their examples here -- so you'll have to click above to see their work, sorry!)

I am considering having a class experiment with circles, using a color system for their spirals. Roden explains on his site that he painted his silent world series using a system where he visually translated the phrase, "the silent world" having each letter of the alphabet equal a certain measurement of line (ie. a = 1 inch, b = 2 inch, etc). I am not exactly sure how he did it, but I think that using a self-imposed system sounds intriguing.

I am thinking of having kids start with center of pie shapes and then draw circles around that. Children will determine their own system using the color wheel. This one started with warm colors in the center. Then I used complementary colors for the first circle (blue-green first, encircled with the complement, red-orange).
Each circle followed that same pattern as the piece grew.
Here I was experimenting with complementary colors on two of the diagonals, and warm/cool colors on the other two diagonals. All of these are done with plain crayon and a watercolor wash. I actually like the look of the warm/cool circles best, although I thought kids could also experiment with primary/secondary, analogous, tints/shades, etc.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Recycled Lines

Two of my favorite things to include in an art lesson are: recycled materials and decision making!! I think this project touches on both.

Aside from the obvious ecological benefit, recycling offers art materials at home that kids may not realize are available to them. For children who may not have a wealth of art materials at home, the cereal boxes and junk mail at their fingertips can be a bonanza!! I like for kids to know that they don't always need special materials found at school to make art.

I also like projects that are not all about following step-by-step directions to achieve an end where all the art looks the same. Artist are all about experimenting and making discoveries, so when I can have kids trying different options and deciding on a look that they like, I'm a happy camper. In this case, we'll be experimenting with line (particularly direction of line). I got the idea for this project from another project I saw on the blog, "a faithful attempt" here, but I had to tweak it quite a bit to avoid using x-acto knives with little kids. I also am often inspired by The Artroom @ Briargrove, which uses a LOT of recycled materials. There are a couple of sites from this school, that, if you haven't visited, are worth a click of your mouse, here.

We are starting with a carton from the kitchen (any box will do) -- this was the front side of a cookie box. Of course, the back of the box can be used for another piece of art. Next, using a piece of regular copy paper, cut it into narrow strips (or maybe fat and narrow strips).
I used Mod Podge (but white glue or even a glue stick would work) and spread an even layer on the carton using another piece of cardboard from the box. Then I placed the white strips on the box, leaving spaces of color between the white. I left the ends of the white hanging off the colored board because I liked that look -- this is one of those decisions that kids can make (like an artist).
So that the kids don't just cut a bunch of small sections, the rule here was to cut 5 sections with each cut being a "straight line" cut, going from one side across and straight off the board.
Finally, kids choose a background color of construction paper or cardstock and start "playing with the pieces" to decide on a pleasing arrangement. At this point they will be making lots of decisions based on considerations of line direction, positive/negative space, definition of space, etc.  I will have the rule that each piece must touch another piece (or pieces) so that we don't end up with 5 floating pieces. As I worked with my sample I wanted white lines going in a variety of directions; I wanted balance, and I wanted some lines to meet to form angles and some pieces to run "off the page";  I didn't want any piece to match up to the piece that was right next to it originally. Since I changed my mind many times as I moved pieces around thinking about the composition, I will be sure to allow plenty of time for kids to experiment and consult with their desk partners before deciding how to finally glue down their five pieces.
I think this will look good mounted on a larger piece of construction paper, although I haven't tried that yet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Little Things #4 - Brush Work

In the past I have written about the "little things" that artists do almost instinctively that not all children do without instruction. I have noticed that using a paintbrush effectively is one of those "little things."

I was thinking the other day that we often design art projects for kids to practice various skills without giving them an opportunity to practice before applying the skill to their "real art." However, as a kid, I remember often thinking, "I wish I could do this over now that I have practiced ....  I could do it so much better." So, before we get into painting concentric circles with tints and shades, I thought I would have 3rd graders do a little warm up with their flat brushes. I want them to experience turning the brush as they paint, and following the line made by one side of the brush.

How many times have you asked students to paint a circle with a flat brush and they sort of swipe the brush in a circular motion, ending up with something like this (or worse)?

See the ragged edges on the right?? This is sort of like when right handed kids try to cut on the left side of a line and wonder why there is a big space between the cut and the line. (See my scissor post from last year here.)

So I decided to have kids do a short warm-up lesson on "using the brush." First, using a Sharpie permanent marker, they'll draw 2 straight lines, a curved line and an angled line on a practice paper (I just used copy paper from the computer because I have a lot of it!)

Next comes the directed lesson: right handers paint, following the line, trying to get the left side of their flat brush right along the line. Left handers will do the same, only their eye should be focused on getting the right side of the brush even with the line. I think it is a skill for painters to follow the line created by the side of the brush, rather than the whole, thick paint line.
Left handers

After that, we'll try following the 2 lines of an angled line, practicing picking up and turning the brush when the line changes directions.

Since our art project includes painting concentric circles, the last practice line is the circle, where kids have to actually turn the flat side of the brush (or the paper) as they progress around their drawn circle.

I am anxious to see if this little warm-up exercise makes a difference in kids' dexterity  in using their paintbrushes in our project. (I'll post more about the actual project soon.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Newspaper Column Buildings

Someone on a blog recently asked, "What are your favorite art materials?" Up VERY high on my list would be recycled items, in this case, newspaper.
I actually had several objectives here: wet on wet watercolor for the sky, layering the buildings using dull colors in the background and more vibrant colors and detail in the mid-ground. I wanted the vehicles and people to appear progressively larger and overlap as students moved into the foreground. A final focus was balance of color throughout.

Wet-on-wet sky

Watercolor - dull color
Newspaper for the buildings is great because the columns can dictate the  width of the buildings. The mid-ground buildings are painted with brighter colored watercolors.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reflections for 2011-12??

Earlier today, when I got home from going to a movie (that's right, I don't start teaching kids for another 3 weeks!!), I was reading what I thought was a great blog by Natalie at smART Class about doing reflections in puddles using markers. See it here. That got me thinking. Last year our 1st graders made some terrific crayon resist pieces of the Santa Monica Pier with reflections in the water. ( See it here.) A lot of the kids said it was one of their favorite art projects.

Perhaps it is because I haven't actually start teaching kids and I am jealous of all of you who have, but I felt compelled to whisk out some water soluble Crayola markers and try Natalie's method with just a straight city scene.  What fun!! I think we might just do a version of this during the year. I liked that it was a relatively quick process that could be done in one 45-minute period or that it would be a good lesson for a substitute to do.

Using just the Crayola Washable Markers and a piece of copy paper from my printer, this is what I did.

I outlined the buildings first, then colored them and the sky in, leaving only the clouds white.
Then I sprayed the bottom of the paper generously with water (I imagine that doing a quick water wash
would work just as well).

I carefully folded the top part of the paper down on top of the wet, white part and gently pressed. If the reflection wasn't printing, I lifted up and sprayed a bit more water in that spot.

This is the finished (and still wet) product. I can picture a whole bunch all lined up together.  What fun this was! Now it is back to reading my current book.

Oh, and for those of you who need details and closure, the movie I saw was The Guard (an Irish film). It was quirky, fun and unpredictable and I liked it a lot!!