Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Introduction to Succulent Plants

Nick R works on capturing the details from the plant specimens.

I have always been fascinated by a category of plants known as "succulents." These plants are great at storing water in their leaves and because of this, the shapes of the leaves are usually plump, thick and round.  These simple shapes provide excellent subject matter for student artists.  The forms are simplified, but when combined in groups, the resulting compositions can be very intriguing!
 Many of these plants are popular  and easy to find in local nurseries and home improvement stores. You may even have some of them in your home or garden.   Some common succulents include aloe plants, sedum and various cacti.        ( Yes,  the plural of cactus is cacti!)
I purchased ten different succulent plants that became the "models'" for our observational drawings.  I also gathered several books about succulents and printed color photos of container gardens.  The students explored these resources and each person handed in an index card with five facts that they learned about the plants.
After deciding which plants they wanted to draw, they carefully observed the specimens and drew two or more plants in a container of their own design.  It was important that each container have an ellipse.  An ellipse is a shape that looks like a skinny oval, and it works well to represent the opening of a pot.  Keep an eye out for ellipses as this lesson progresses.  I will post pictures of these beautiful drawings soon!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More Art Inspired By Oaxaca!

Donita's use of pattern helps make her animal look like it could jump off the page!
 Here is another sampling of more incredible animals inspired by Oaxacan woodcarvings.  It is so fun to see how each one has its own personality and such a wide variety of shapes, lines, colors and patterns.  Did you notice how the frames made from collaged papers put a nice finishing touch around each animal?  It's hard to tell from the photos, but these pictures are BIG: we used 18 x 24 paper, and most of the animals fill up the whole space!  Scroll down to see if your picture is here, or maybe you'll see artwork made by someone you know! Enjoy the mini-gallery of art!
I'm not sure if those little butterflies are bothering this big rabbit that Alexia M. created!

Matt P. has a unique pattern on his huge owl:  glasses of wine!
We still aren't sure what animal this is, but it looks like Casey W. put a pink quilted vest on it!

I like the way that Starr's fox is covered with roses in soft pastel colors.

Katie L. made a sea turtle who looks very happy to be covered with really cool patterns!
Anthony M.  combined different printed paper, wallpaper and fabric scraps to create an attention-grabbing frame around his serious looking owl.

Chantavy's cat is hiding out in a background of leaves cut from wallpaper scraps.

Madison D's little bunny looks like he's hypnotized or maybe he's in love with ...?!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Animals Inspired By Oaxacan Woodcarvings

Alex C. made a beautiful array of scrolling patterns.

The students have finished working on a unit of study that included viewing a video of woodcarver Zeny Fuentes.  He is a folk artist who lives and works in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Zeny learned how to carve wooden sculptures from his father, and now this tradition continues to be passed down from one generation to the next.  Amazing repeating patterns and unusual body positions are some of the characteristics that make the sculptures created in Oaxaca so unique!  Check out some examples of high quality woodcarvings by clicking the link below.  It is fun to see the price that they are sold for and to know how valuable some of the sculptures are.  The range of colors and patterns are amazing!  I asked my students to draw and paint an animal inspired by the sculptures made in Oaxaca.  Everyone searched through magazines and collected samples of interesting repeating designs in all sorts of colors and patterns.  We worked on large white paper and used tempera paints, oil pastels and paper scraps collaged in the background areas.  The results are bright, whimsical and fun!  http://www.oaxacafinecarvings.com/

Jenny's armadillo is cute but she told me he has a meanstreak!
Matthew B. did a nice job working with a variety of blue patterns.
Luis' fish looks like he's diving down really fast!  Is he hunting for a meal?
Tim's griffin looks like he's wearing a sweater and tiger-patterned pants!
Jacob's background pattern is orange and contrasts well with the blue fish.
Megan's rabbit has many little friends to hang out with in her detailed background.
Tatum put alot of thought into making sure she used contrasting colors!
Barry's dragon is skinny because he was carved from a tree branch. I love the wings!
Elicia's animal looks 3-dimensional because of how she placed him on the paper.  See how he's coming right out of the frame?
Anya's fox is adorable in plaid and it looks like he's wearing a dotted green coat.
Sophie's animal appears to be enjoying himself as he rests within a well-coordinated background.
Ian B. used the strong contrasting colors of vivid orange and blue to make his raccoon "pop"!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Make It 3-Dimensional!

 I wonder why Mrs. DeSimone would show a picture of this...Read on to find out!
Yikes! What is all this stuff about?

The challenging part of the lesson was to form each of the mannequin's body parts with tan craft paper (from a giant roll) and different sizes of rubber bands.  No gluing, stapling or taping would be allowed, and the students were at first perplexed and concerned about how they would accomplish this task.
I decided that the best way to proceed would be to have each person make an empty template of a standing mannequin on manilla paper.  This provided a nice starting point and the students used this drawing like a visual map to fill in each part and measure their progress.

Mr. Mannequin says, "Hey, I'm really coming along!"

During this process of making each part we all learned that it was important to compress ( squish) each piece so that the air was out of it.  This made the parts stronger and more solid feeling so the rubber bands could hold things together better.  When all of the parts were made, the students then needed to decide on the final pose for their sculpture and use the hot glue gun to attach it to a new background paper.

Shae, Angel and Max T. all made great mannequins that each have a unique personality! Check out the way that we finished the lesson by using common office supplies to make a repeating pattern as a frame!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Take A Look At Me!

So here is the little wooden man that inspired our project!  Made out of wood and hinged at each joint, a wooden mannequin is a tool that helps artists learn more about the human body.  The mannequins were very important to this lesson because the students were able to study and observe the simplified shape of each limb.  Understanding the shapes and sizes of each body part helped everyone to have a clear idea about how to make each part into a three-dimensional form.