Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Great Book for Discussions!

In my last post I mentioned this terrific picture book on architecture.

It is an ABC book of architectural terms -- great for a lot of elementary grade levels. I have used it with grades 1 through 5. Last week 5th graders took the term "capital" (as in the carved top of a column) and launched a whole discussion of Greek columns. One boy knew a LOT about keystones (top of an arch) and described how an arch can collapse -- amazing what they know!!

If you do any architectural art, this is a resource you might want to have!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crooked Buildings Cityscapes

Using the work of James Rizzi, our local architect, Frank Gehry, and of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as inspiration, 5th graders created a fanciful, foam core cityscape. This idea was born last Spring when I was given what seemed like A MOUNTAIN of foam core scraps and wanted to find a way to use them. I was also enchanted with the work of Rizzi and Gehry, so this project seemed like a natural.

Students began with one large, one medium and one small foam core building and a background of illustration board. I asked that they alternate warm and cool colors, their background color determining the order of their colors. On Day #1, students painted the buildings, windows and cars (which were optional).

I thought about having this as an alternate background -- 3 horizontal strips of foam core, but decided to stay with the single board because of time restraints.
Then, switching to small brushes, they painted line or dot designs on their background.
These are on the drying racks.
On Day #2, this week, using small brushes and straws as stamps, students added details to their work using flourescent and gold paint. They outlined windows with markers and had the option of collaging small areas of silver foil and pictures of faces from magazines.

The layers of foam core were glued on top of each other, giving each piece a lot of depth. I did have one moment of panic when the larger buildings started to curl and not lay flat with the liquid glue (the smaller ones were fine). Fortunately I had a glue gun and a full bag of sticks, so I could reinforce their work by zapping them with hot glue. Disaster averted!! The Glue All worked fine for everything else.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED watching the kids create these whimsical cityscapes and overheard one little guy saying, "I just love my city!!" This was a great springboard for discussion about color, repetition, balance and size. It was also one of those "no-fail" projects where ALL the results would look fabulous framed and hanging on a wall! The last class had a few extra minutes and we looked at an architectural ABC book I have that generated even more discussion. I would do this lesson again in a nanosecond!!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Foil Relief

Living near the beach gives us access to "all things ocean"!! One of my favorite items is the conch shell. This summer I was visiting Cambria, another beach town a few hours north of here and bought a large bag of shells. At the time I thought about having 5th graders use them for observational sketching. Instead, I decided to use them this week as inspiration for yarn line designs to create our foil relief pieces that I posted about awhile back here.

First, we looked at a lot of pictures of conch shells using Google images. I also had real shells at all the work tables. Students identified curvy lines, little rounded bumps and spirals. They used spirals in their last project a week ago, so this became an extension of our Hundertwasser discussion.

I asked students to follow Paul Klee's quote, "A line is a dot that went for a walk," and start their line on one side of their adhesive board. Using lines like the shells, we tried to move the line back and forth, ending on the opposite side from which we started. I asked the kids to leave at least a finger space between yarn lines and between the edge of the paper and any yarn line ( to give the foil space to "settle into"). I also asked them NOT to cross over lines.

Students carefully placed the foil on the board, from the center outward, molding it to the yarn. The board was adhesive with a peel-off back, so we didn't need glue. Hallelujia!! I've had enough glue for this week!! This foil is delicate sandwich foil (already cut to size) and we tried successfully not to rip it. They folded the edges around to the back of the board.

Students outlined their yarn line with a Sharpie marker and then I asked them to use permanent markers (analogous colors and black) to make "fanciful" dot and/or line designs. Most remembered to use those colors, but a few got carried away and had VERY colorful designs (but all was good and everybody left happy!!)
I liked the way this boy used negative space to create his dots. Clever! He was also the only one who had a solid area of color.
This was his desk partner and he had a very deliberate plan for his art. I love the large, dramatic dots! What a great example to use for "emphasis."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Paint Trays

I had a little free time yesterday so I stopped by two of my favorite local stores. At Dick Blick I finally bought the paint trays I've been thinking of getting for ages. They perfectly fit the lidded souffle cups I put my paint in. I love the way I can stack them easily. I have seven work areas, so now I have 7 trays!!

I also got some flourescent and gold paint at Blick's for our James Rizzi cityscape project that we start tomorrow.

Then I went to Smart & Final (our local small big-box store) and got a bunch of cups for an upcoming Chihuly project and some sponges. A little while back someone was writing about using sponges for the kids to wipe brushes on as they paint (I think it was Phyl over at There's a Dragon in my Art Room, but I'm not sure). I do that myself at home, but haven't used them before at school. So now each set of desk partners as a sponge to use:)

Here are the foam core "buildings" kids will be painting tomorrow to start their cityscape. They will start painting warm and cool colored buildings with opposite colored windows this week. If there is time, they will also do a quick background. Next week we'll add the details. I've been looking forward to doing this since last Spring when I cut the foam core!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Passing on Some Blogs

I recently received this nice acknowledgement from Chesterbrook Academy Elementary School.... here. I follow this site because of the creative explorations they foster with their students.

The goal of this award is to introduce blogs with less than 200 followers. So this morning I went through some of the blogs that I follow to select a few to pass on to my readers.

The rules are:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog
2. Thank the giver and link back to them
3. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a  comment on their blog
4. Spread our love of art to other bloggers

Here are my five picks: 
1. Color, Collage & Much More - Check out Rachel's salt & watercolor textures.
2. Stuck in the Mud Pottery - Janelle has a cool post using soda cans to make sculpture pieces.
3. Field Elementary Art Blog - Mrs. Tannert's kids inserted photos of themselves int Hundertwasser landscapes. We just finished a Hundertwasser project, so this interested me.
4. The Crayon Lab - They recently did some coffee filter macchia modeled after Chihuly. We'll be doing these next month, too.
 5. Pamela Holderman - I like to visit this site for general inspiration. She did a great collaborative circle project last year (paint and collage) that I want to try with my second graders next month, too.

Teachers' Field Trip

Last week on my day off, my brother, his wife and I, after a great breakfast at Marston's (a charming little restaurant in a house-like setting) went to the Huntington Library in San Marino for the day (along with a few busloads of kids on a field trip). As former teachers they appreciated the free feeling of NOT being responsible for the hoards of kids!! This day was actually a gift to my brother to go and see the exhibit of Sam Maloof, the master furniture designer/builder. A number of years ago my brother, who builds beautiful furniture himself, had the opportunity to meet and visit with Sam at his home and this was an exhibit showcasing many of the furniture pieces that had been in the family home -- so it was a special visit!!

It was an uncharacteristically beautiful "77° summer day" in January in Pasadena and we had a wonderful time. Thought I'd share some of my photos of the exhibits and the grounds. I had not been there since I was a child and went on a field trip to see "Pinkie" and "Blue Boy" in the European Collection!! Sometimes it does the soul a world of good to take a day off from "real life" and just soak in some beauty!!

This was a great chair -- hand painted with a peacock feather in the back. Wouldn't I just LOVE to have something like this!!

This is by Helen Frankenthaler.

Here is one of Sam Maloof's signature rockers.

The former "main house" houses the European Collection. Wouldn't you love to relax with a cup of tea on this over-sized porch?

I can remember seeing this as a child on our field trip here!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Calder/Hundertwasser Results

Of my 4 fifth grade classes, two finished their kinetic sculptures today. Here are some of their works:

The other two classes are still working on theirs. This is definitely a two-session project for the average class. Next time I'll plan differently. I actually wasn't planning on having to review things 3 times -- like "put the cap on the glue stick so it doesn't dry out" and "remember to draw on the fold so that when you cut you don't end up with 2 separate circles." Ah, well....

Next week, the kids that finished up will be starting our long awaited Rizzi inspired project. Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Calder Meets Hundertwasser

I am SO excited to get to school tomorrow to start this week's project because I had such fun playing with the idea at home!

Last summer I went to a cool exhibit of Alexander Calder at a small museum in Newport Beach. As a result, I was determined to have at least one of my classes experiment with kinetic sculpture. As soon as I got home I started playing with wire and matt board -- what fun that was!! Until last year, I had not heard of Friedensreich Hundertwasser and I also wanted to incorporate some of his style with circles into a project. My collection of donated matt board (black on one side and white on the other) finally has grown to the point that I have enough to create our sculpture, so 5th graders will be starting this project this week.

We'll spend a little time observing and discussing works of Calder and Hundertwasser with a Smartboard doc. that I created. Next, they will start with 2 pre-cut pieces of matt board. I am asking them to make line designs on the white side of one of the boards to increase the impression of vertical height of the piece. They will notch each of these pieces to make them stand.

Kids will be using the color wheel to help them create circle designs with complementary colors. The circles that will be attached to the edges of the board are hinged by drawing their edge on the fold of the white paper. That way fronts and backs will match up when glued.  I am asking students to make a minimum of 3 of these hinged circles and as many single sided circles as they like.

The kinetic part of the sculpture will be created with another 2 hinged circles and a piece of 24 gauge wire. They will use a push pin to create the hole for the wire.

To stabilize the base, we'll cut a narrow piece of black card stock to glue on the bottom and then the whole structure will be glued to a 6" X 6" piece of board. I hope to have them ready to post later this week!!!!