Friday, December 30, 2011

Let's Get Cooking With Sepia Tone Recipes!

Casey's portrait of a frog used a variety of wet and dry media.  The students were required to use at least four of the "recipes" from their color wheels when making their portraits.  The other values could be invented on the spot as needed.
Armed with our awesome sepia tone color wheels we ventured into the theme of portraits for the next part of the unit.  I was very inspired by the work of several artists on the website "Etsy", which is an awesome place to view everything from original art to handmade jewelry. ( A link is in my "sites I like"to the right of this post.) I located several  examples of anthropomorphic art, which I shared with my students.
 Anthropomorphic art is when an object or an animal is given human qualities by the artist.  My brain was excited by the possibilities of "humanizing" the animals that would serve as the starting place for this lesson.  I gathered additional resources for the students to use including all sorts of books with animals as well as books with costumes and clothing from different periods in history.
The kids were relieved to hear that they would not be asked to draw people as their subject matter and even more interested when I explained that their animal portraits should be anthropomorphic. We discussed many popular characters who are anthropomorphic, including Spongebob, Scooby Doo and the teapot and candlestick from Beauty and the Beast.
 Students began by drawing three different sketches of three different animals and then "dressing" each one to add human qualities.  I saw everything from an alligator in a football jersey, a young chipmunk in a patterned sweater and a pig wearing a chef's hat and an apron that said, " kiss the cook".
During our discussion of portraits, I taught students about the three poses we would be using for this assignment:  Frontal, Profile and Three-Quarter.  We discussed the ways that the facial features would appear in each of the views, such as two eyes showing in a view from the front, one eye and the nose, (snout or beak) from the side in a profile view.  In the three-quarter view we would see one eye closer  to the viewer, as well as only portions of the mouth and the nose.  I used a stuffed animal of a horse to illustrate each view and this really seemed to help the students as well as give us all a little chuckle as I carried around the toy and angled its head in different ways. It was fun and educational and yes, I do have the best job in the world!

Matthew refers to his sepia color wheel recipes as he works on a portrait of an elephant wearing a sweater and a hat.

Can't wait to see our finished anthropomorphic portraits?  Good news because I'm still on Christmas Vacation so I'll be posting again really soon!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Re-inventing the Color Wheel

Elicia's sepia color wheel shows a range of values from light to dark.  There is writing on the side of each sample, so make sure you read the description below for more information about this activity!

One of the most important parts of the unit on using sepia tone was the creation of a sepia tone color wheel.  I had the students use a compass to draw a large circle which they divided into eight sections with a ruler.  I set up a wide variety of media on the supply table, and explained that for this activity they would be asked to experiment with combining different materials to create sepia tones.  The materials included oil pastels, chalk pastels, watercolor paints, crayons, acrylic gloss medium, construction paper and wallpaper scraps. I asked the students to use at least two materials to make each sample on their wheel.  Each student selected a reproduction of a photo by Edward S. Curtis to use as their inspiration for matching their sepia tones and this helped  a lot!
I stressed the importance of using this activity as a time for experimentation and documentation of what worked and didn't work the way they had expected it to.  For example, we learned that some materials will layer and blend together better than other ones.  It was important that the students record the process that they used to make their sepia tones, and I referred to this as writing down the "recipe" that they had used for each one.  You will notice the sequential steps that they wrote on the side of each sample on their color wheels.  I explained that they would need these recipes for use in the sepia portrait assignment that was coming up as the next part of the unit. Everyone was very excited to find new ways of creating light , medium and dark sepia tones.  It was very cool to see the students sharing the creative ways that they combined materials.  There were many times that I was surprised that some of the materials actually produced these results!  This activity created a great dialogue between students and generated excitement for what was to come!  The planning proved to be an invaluable part of the unit, so check out the incredible results in the sepia portraits that I will be posting really soon!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Intro to Sepia Tone!

A photo of Native American women taken by photographer Edward S. Curtis.
I used the editing program on my computer to change this photo of my dog Tamari into sepia tones.

I like to have my students learn about using a range of values from light, to medium to dark and then apply them to their work.  I would usually start with looking at black and white artwork, so that the values would be easy to identify.  I've been with my current students for over a quarter already, and I've also taught them last year in 7th grade. Because of their prior learning, I was confident that they were ready for a challenge.  I decided that they were ready to move on to learning about a different range of values, this time in the brown tones.
Sepia is a range of color from pale neutral cream, tan and amber all the way to deep browns some even with dark green undertones.
Sepia tones are used primarily by photographers. Many photographers opt to print their photos in sepia because of the warmer, almost old-fashioned look that sepia has.
My first step was to locate some examples of sepia photographs and it didn't take long for me to realize that one artist's work stood out from the rest.  Photographer Edward S. Curtis spent his whole life living with various groups of Native Americans in the early 1900's.  He took over 40,000 photos of the people and places he saw during this time.   His work is considered to be the most prolific collection of photographs of Native American culture.  And his work is printed in sepia tone!

Sioux Chiefs by Edward S. Curtis.  

Laguna Water Jug by Edward S. Curtis

These are just a few examples of Curtis' sepia photographs, but it is easy to see the range of lights and darks as well as the variety of textures.  My students were inspired by his work as they studied reproductions of his photos.  I was fortunate enough to borrow a book about his work from a Social Studies teacher in my building.  She had actually cut up her book and used the photos on her bulletin board!  I would never have dared to do that, but it was very helpful because each student got to chose their own image to look at up close.  
Oh, I forgot to explain that they would not be copying these photos!  Believe it or not, this lesson turned into a portrait lesson, and not one about people.  Check back soon to see our incredible close-up animal portraits, all done in mixed-media sepia tones! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Glue Batik on Fabric: The Results!

The fabrics are done!  I hope you enjoy looking at samples of some of the great batik designs that my students created during this fun activity.  We learned so much about the process of gel batik and I will definitely try this again during another semester. 

Claudia's work is detailed and stimulating!  There is a "musical" feeling in this image due in large part to the series of lines traveling through the center of the image.  It's not easy to create depth on a flat piece of white fabric, but Claudia managed to do it!  I'm impressed!

Megan M. made a piece of fabric art that has strong repeating shapes and tints and shades of blue.  Don't you think it looks like cells in a view under a microscope?  Or maybe planets in outer space?  Any way you look at it she did a super job using circles!
Samantha used a limited color palette to create a feeling of unity throughout her work.  The large area of concentric circles seems to radiate toward the smaller ones.  Maybe she was thinking about waves moving across the sand!

Vanessa was worried that she had too much going on in this composition:  I think it has everything!  Lots of variety, movement, repetition, color, pattern and fun!

Brian used circles and ovals in his composition.  There is a tremendous amount of  overlapping  throughout the design.  I really think it looks like an owl!  Can you see it?  The eyes are at the top and the blue concentric circles help the viewer to look right at them!

Matthew W had fun exploring the different ways he could use the glue to draw  with on the fabric.  He used a variety of lines including straight, wavy, curved, thick and thin.  Then he filled the background with lots and lots of dots!  Very cool and original, Matt!

Patrick made this wonderful composition by using a variety of different circles including concentric, solid, partial  and repeating circles.  Overlapping the shapes adds to the degree of difficulty and adds visual interest to the image.  I also think that his choice of colors works well to create contrast throughout the image.  Great work!

Students had the choice of working on a square or rectangle fabric.  This square  fabric is Casey's and she fit a well-composed  design in a fairly small space.  The fabric is about 12 x 12 and she drew this design with glue!  The orange parts remind me of a bouncing tennis ball.  Do you see it too?

Leah used symmetry to divide up the space in her circle composition.  I especially like the way she used different values of yellow in the background area.  Good work!

The fabrics needed to sit in a bath of hot soapy water for a few minutes to loosen up the glue.  Then the real fun started as each student needed to use the scrub brushes to get off all of the glue.  The fabrics were rinsed with cool water and squeezed to get out most of the water.  I set up an area on the supply table where the fabrics were pressed between layers of newsprint paper.  This helped to flatten them and remove any remaining water.
Maddie C's fabric features pastel colors and a  lot of movement in this composition.  It reminds me of  decorated  Easter eggs in the fresh green grass!  Keep in mind that all of the white areas on every example of  this project were drawn in gel glue and then rinsed off to reveal the bright, clean white underneath.  Those are Maddie's hands and her fabric in the sink in the picture above.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gel Glue Batik : Beginning the Process.

So here is a summary of the first parts of the process of making our amazing batik fabrics. This lesson was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work for all of us.  In the end, the pay off was BIG since everyone got to create a unique piece of fabric art. The kids were psyched to see the great results of their hard work. Soon I'll be sharing lots of pictures of the finished work!
 The students worked from a pencil sketch of their best circle composition.  They used the glue to freehand draw onto the white fabric.  Some students were nervous about "messing up" but everyone soon realized that if they made a mistake the only option was to turn it into something else.  In the end, there were no major catastrophes and everyone tried their best to concentrate on their work during this part of the process.  It was important to remember that the glue would spread as it dried; lines couldn't be placed too close to each other or they would blend together.

Drawing with gel glue takes concentration and a steady hand!
Katelyn  painted her fabric with acrylic paints in different values of pink, orange and green.
The glued dried in a couple of hours, so when the students came to class the next day the fabrics were ready for paint.  We used Crayola Portfolio acrylic paints and we diluted them so that the paint was applied in a medium consistency.  It was okay if some of the paint went on the dried glue, but I encouraged everyone not to paint right over the glue. Eventually we would need to scrub off the dried areas of glue to reveal the white fabric that was protected underneath.  We all thought it would be easier to rinse if we didn't seal in the glue with a layer of acrylic paints.

Darren used darker colors on his shapes and a light blue on the background.  Notice the orange tape that we used to keep the fabric from shifting around while we painted.

The painting process took a few class periods to complete, and the fabric had to be totally dry before the scrubbing and rinsing could begin. I had the students lay their wet fabrics on the floor indifferent areas of the room to help keep the classes organized.
 The amazing results will be included with my next post!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Circle Compositions on Fabric: Glue Batik!

Donita's work demonstrates her understanding of repetition, pattern, movement and variety.  She masterfully drew this composition with a drippy bottle of gel glue!  Talk about excellent craftsmanship!

This lesson was inspired by a wonderful tutorial on how to create beautiful fabric art using washable gel glue.   I learned about how to use the glue to make a design that  looks very similar to traditional hot wax batik.  Check out her blog at www.that artist  In her tutorial, Gail showed an example of gel glue batik that was a colorful wall hanging of autumn trees.  I was very inspired by her results and decided to gather the supplies I would need to have my 8th grade art students try this method!

I was very fortunate that on the day I visited  the Rhode Island Recycles for Education center there was a mountain of pre-cut white cotton blend fabric!  I had planned on having to cut up old bed sheets, so this was a great find that certainly made my prep work much easier! I purchased enough fabric for all of my students for under five dollars.  I had some money left from a fundraiser from last year so I purchased the gel glue for about thirty dollars and it was time to teach the lesson.  I made a handout with biographical information about the artists Sonia and Robert Delaunay. This husband and wife team of artists both made many paintings using circles as the main motif.  They greatly influenced each other and it was interesting for the students to try to guess which artist painted each of the exemplar paintings that we looked at.  An example of one of Robert Delaunay's circle paintings is below.

<b>Robert Delaunay</b> : Joie de vivre
For this lesson, I asked my students to make an original composition with a variety of circles and in contrasting colors.  I also stressed the importance of creating movement when they designed their image; the viewer's eye would need to travel throughout the picture.  They completed a series of pencil sketches using overlapping circles, concentric circles, partial circles and repeating circles.  When we were all on the verge of being overwhelmed with all these circles it was time to select our favorites and move on to using glue on the fabric.  Stay posted for some incredible circle compositions done in gel glue batik! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Inspired By Expressionism

This image was painted by a male student in the 8th grade.  His work explored his discomfort with time. He painted the figures inside a close-up view of an hourglass to show that time is constantly bringing us closer to the end of our lives.  He did a great job using different tints and shades of blue in this image.  I still can't believe the level of sincerity, originality and thoughtfulness my students put into this assignment!  All of the images for this lesson are painted on 12 x 18 paper with tempera paints.
The image below was created by an 8th grade female student as she explored her feelings about bullying.  The four figures in the front of the picture have bullied the blue figure who is alone.  She told the class that her work was influenced by the colors Joseph Minton used in his paintings.

This conte sketch and the painting below were created by an 8th grade female student.  She wanted to express her  feelings about child abuse.  She decided to modify her original sketch only slightly, by adding the dolls around the dollhouse.  Notice the big, vacant-looking eyes.  She told me that she did the eyes like this because she saw them in the Kathe Kollwitz images we viewed. I really like her use of a green background with the orange-tone of the figure's skin.  These secondary colors really make the image "pop."

This is the sample painting that I made to show how the cake tempera paints  and conte crayon could be used to create different textures, tints and shades.  I worked from one of my student's ideas about a family who was coping with the loss of their father.  I worked alongside the students and completed the image in about twenty minutes to show them that for this lesson it wasn't necessary to labor over accurate figure drawing.  Instead, our focus was on capturing emotion and establishing the mood of the image.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stirring Up Emotions

Expressionism is an art movement that is all about showing deep feelings and emotions.  For this assignment I challenged students to be more reflective about choosing subject matter; they should be connected to it on a personal level.  We had some great discussions about many social, political and global concerns in today's world.  We looked at the art of German Expressionists Kathe Kollwitz and Edward Munch and it wasn't long before students were able to recognize the charged and thought-provoking themes in the work.

"The Scream" by Edward Munch

I also showed them the work of a contemporary expressionist painter named Joseph Minton.  His work uses a range of colors that are similar to the colors of the cake tempera paints we would use.  I think it is important to show work from contemporary artists, not just artists who are famous or deceased. The students enjoyed reading Minton's statements about the themes, inspirations and process of making his paintings. 

A work by contemporary expressionist artist Joseph Minton
 It was important for the students to make personal choices about their subject matter since the ultimate goal of the assignment would be to show "raw emotion" in their image. The students took this assignment seriously, and their responses are layered, detailed and personal.  Because of this, I will not be listing each student's name in the captions.  Instead, I will give a brief summary about the work as explained by the student artist who created it. Check back soon to see their paintings!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Character Stacks inspired by Totem Poles

The crayon coloring needed to be hard enough to deposit a thick layer of wax.  Watered down tempera paint was applied right over the drawing to create these wonderful crayon resist pictures!
 Every October I hear, " Can we do a Halloween lesson?" and my usual answer is "probably not". Instead of fighting the urge, this year I compromised and decided to combine a cultural theme with halloween imagery that my students were familiar with and motivated by. The results are spooky, highly detailed and fun to look at! 
I made several handouts with a variety of photographs of Native American totem poles, most of which are located in British Columbia.  We also read about the process of carving a totem pole as well as the meanings and traditions associated with the display of the poles.  I was primarily concerned with the overall design that was evident:  Students would be asked to make a stack of characters that had visual impact, strong connections between each part and a variety of details.                                                             .

These halloween stacks are twenty-four inches tall and nine inches wide.  We drew a rough draft first, made revisions and went on to final drafts on white paper.  Students drew each part with a regular pencil and outlined with a black sharpie marker.  I asked them to use many types of crayons including metallic glitter crayons and construction paper crayons.  They needed to color heavily because we would be applying diluted purple tempera paint over the entire picture.  This process is called crayon resist.  The purple paint toned down the colors of the crayons just enough to add to that spooky effect that we were going for! 

Who says that skulls can only be white?  This lime green skull looks amazing!
Coloring heavily with the crayons paid off when it came time to see how the paint beaded off the picture as the wax resisted it!
Nicole was very motivated to use characters from the movie "The Nigthmare Before Christmas".  Don't you think she did a great job?
Awesome colors and a variety of interesting details are sure to keep the viewer's attention!

Avery's Halloween stack is a real balancing act!  I especially love the way he perched the bats on frankenstein's "bolts"! 
If you enjoyed viewing these images we would love to hear your feedback!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

9 Step Sequential Monsters

Donita's use of vibrant colors really turn up the volume in this series of prints that show the development of her scary mermaid-inspired monster.  The background lines are simple and effective because of the sense of movement and repetition they create.
Adryannah created a monster that looks like it is dancing across the paper!  This picture is more whimsical and fun than  scary.  It is easy to follow the sequence as the monster moves from being a giant eyeball to becoming an animated creature who loves to dance!
Ethan M. added an amazing amount of detail to his sequence.  The eyes are especially life-like and his use of pencil shading to create highlights and shadows adds to the illusion of form and roundness of the monster.  Beautiful and creative work!
Daniel R. made it very easy for the viewer to follow the none steps he used to create his monster.  The wavy diagonal road works very well to guide the viewer's eyes through the work.  Check out the face that's appeared on the monster's belly in print #9!  I wonder if that monster could've been "born" if Daniel had three or more prints added to this sequence!
Emma L made a monster that started as a pot, then a stem, then a flower on top of the stem and before you know it she had a monster wearing a shirt with a big red heart on it!  I especially like her use of two types of sharpie markers on her background to add visual interest.
We joked that Kate's monster looked like a slice of baked ham!   This ham isn't fit for eating; in fact, I bet she would take a bite out of you before you could get a bite of your sandwich!  Oh, the bow in the last image makes her look less vicious, don't you agree?
After all of the prints were colored, they were cut out and arranged  in a composition to help the viewer follow the movement between the prints.  Students were asked to lead the viewer's eye from print #1 to the completion of the monster in print #9.  Here we see Lisa designing her background with a variety of straight lines placed in diagonal and horizontal directions.  She is using a metallic sharpie marker to create contrast with the black paper.
Nathan finishes coloring his series of nine prints.  Notice how he started with one simple print for his first one, then added details, like arms, extra heads, etc. as each image became more complete so that by image # 9 his monster was shown in its final form!
Vanessa colors her last rubbing with colored pencils.  You can see the "printing plate" that she constructed from oaktag paper.  Each layer of detail prints because it is in relief, meaning each part is raised up so that the crayon can make a black line when it is rubbed over the printing plate.
Students  here are using  frottage to make a series of nine crayon rubbings. Frottage is a French term for an art technique  where an image is made by "rubbing" to create a print.  Another word for this type of work is called a "collograph print." All of the images for this lesson were made with a peeled black crayon. I enjoy using this method with my students because it is inexpensive, fun and produces a sophisticated, highly textured final product.  I would love to hear what you think about my lesson!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Final Look at Stained Glass

     Erin's picture makes strong connections to her Irish heritage.

The stained glass project was a great success!  The students came away with a stronger connection to their personal heritage as well as improved watercolor pencil technique.  I would recommend that anyone who wants to teach this lesson takes the time to allow the students to do the research about their names during one class period.  I was unsure about how they would respond to actually using an art class to do research on the computers, but I was pleasantly surprised by their interest level and enthusiasm. I hope you enjoy viewing these finished pictures!

Sakari found out that her name means "Sweet One".  Check out how she showed that in her work!
Sydney's last name means "to chase".  Oh!  Suddenly the fox chasing the rabbit makes more sense!
Arianna used bright colors to go with her "loud" (see the musical notes)and outgoing personality.