Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Floating Spheres at MacArthur Park

For the past week the idea of painted spheres has been floating around in my mind -- just like the painted spheres floating at MacArthur Park (link to post) that I posted about a week ago. In thinking about doing a sphere project with kids, I decided to try out some different media.

I almost never have kids do a project that I haven't experimented with first -- unless it is purely a "discovery" experience. Good thing I tried this one out because my first idea was a flop -- which I am happy to share to spare anyone else from having to try it!!

I thought about tracing circles on the back of wrapping paper, then flipping the paper over and making black lines to define shapes (like the spheres in the lake) and shading the sphere to make it look 3 dimensional. To add to the dimensional illusion, kids would glue the spheres overlapping on (and in slits in) painted acetate.

Well . . .  the tracing part went just fine.
 Then things started to go south! Once I turned it over and tried to color with black on the wrapping paper, the slick surface of the paper got in the way and was tough to get really black; shading for depth was a nightmare (see red sphere below). So I decided to try it on the back side of the wrapping paper (below, left). Again, the slick surface made the color look washed out -- and there is almost nothing I dislike more than faded looking color!!! I tried it with oil pastels -- same thing (and I didn't want this to be a painting project, so I didn't get the paints out!).

OK. Then it was on to the acetate -- except I was doing this over Labor Day weekend and couldn't find any acetate at home, so I tried it with plastic wrap, UHG!! I managed to get through the process, but it would be way too hard for little ones as it kept moving all over the place.
I used acrylic for this. Sorry for the blurry focus!
 Once it was dry, I made some slits in it so the spheres could slip in and look like they were submerged a bit. That part was actually OK.

So then I decided to try making the spheres on regular drawing paper and coloring with oil pastels. This worked much better. This would be a good way to have students practice using different color families (primary, secondary, warm/cool).

Warm colors -- solid

Primary colors (plus a surprise pop of secondary)
 I like to show students how Van Gogh used a "surprise pop of a different color (think about his "Irises" with the one white iris in the field of violets) and invite them to "surprise their viewer" by inserting an unexpected color.

This shows primary with a "pop" of secondary.
Finally, I imagined what these spheres would look like if I used painted papers that I always have accumulated in  
Spring. So, of course, I painted some papers to try that out using warm colors.

A few trees in the background . . . hmmmmm . . . maybe.

 Black outlining for the spheres . . . seemed like a good idea at first, but looking at it now, maybe not.

So what did I learn this Labor Day?? 
  • I learned that painting spheres is still fun (I always do     some sort of sphere work each year -- see here and here.) 
  • I reaffirmed that auditioning art lessons at home is always a good idea before taking them to the classroom. It's good to know what some of the pitfalls might be!!
  • Think I'll try painting left-over laminating film for my water feature before springing for buying acetate. That might work better!
  • I'm also thinking that this would be a smashing collaborative project, where kids could design spheres and make a GIANT lake collage with them!!
Isn't it fun that we can keep on learning forever??!!!!


  1. I'm loving this idea, of something floating in the water, and inserting it into the water as you did with your spheres. I've been playing with Pacon's plastic poster board, and the translucent or blue might really work. Il gonna have to try!

  2. Fantastic Christie! I used to go by MacArthur Park quite a bit when we'd make the trip from our Park La Brea apartment to my parents' house near Pasadena. I love the look of the submerged spheres in the water using acetate.

    1. Thanks, Mary. After seeing the spheres floating in the lake I was sorry to think that they won't be there longer. That area benefits from the effort to bring it a little lightheartedness.

  3. Love the trial and error you've shared here! Thank you for all the pictures, thoughts and revisions. I really like the way the plastic wrap turned out. GREAT INSPIRATION!

  4. Love the trial and error you've shared here! Thank you for all the pictures, thoughts and revisions. I really like the way the plastic wrap turned out. GREAT INSPIRATION!