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.


  1. Love this! I have a small budget and any time I can use recycled materials, I do. I feel like it is important anyway to show kids that its important to use what you have available. Not having money to make art is not an excuse to not create.

  2. Fantastic project.
    Recycled materials always provide a source of inspiration.

    You definitely applied them beautifully.

  3. oh lordy! i LOVE these! simple and fabulous!!!