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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Let The Light Shine Through!

Emma drew many small fragments of "glass" and added warm colors while larger background areas are in cool colors.  I love the way that the bird looks like it is surrounded by lightning! Emma used this to symbolize "power" which was part of the meaning of her name.

The stained glass pictures are finished and they are a huge success!
  Check out the great artwork here and because there are so many wonderful images I will need to do a second post with more of them!  That's a great problem to have; too much super work to chose from! 
Matthew R shows that he truly is a "Gift from God"!
Shaniya created symbols that include a bow and arrow to represent her Native American heritage.   Her name means "I'm on my way", which she showed as footprints moving across the picture.  Look at how some parts of the picture are very transparent and the symbols are very opaque.  This creates contrast!
This lovely image was created by Claudia who learned several interesting facts about her name.  Claudia means "lame" so the strings on the ballet shoes are wrapping the bird's leg like a bandage to represent an injured  leg.   The ballet shoes were used to show her love of dance,  and her last name translates to mean "black bird."  the large areas of yellow are like rays of sun that contrast nicely with the fragmented "glass" in the rest of the background.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Identify Yourself! Learning About Symbols and Stained Glass

Angel learned that her name means "bringer of good news".  She came up with the idea of using the stork on her own!
Samantha's composition made good use of one big symbol, the horseshoe, as a focal point .   She learned that her last name means "blacksmith", so the horseshoe symbol represents the trade of her ancestors.

I look forward to reading each issue of School Arts Magazine, which is published by Davis publications.   I  have had se my lessons published in SchoolArts and I hope that they have inspired other art teachers to try something new.   So this month it was my turn to be inspired by another teacher's lesson.  That lesson is in the digital edition of the September 2011 issue, and was originally taught to high school art students.  I decided to tweak it so that my 8th graders would be able to learn about the origin and meaning of their first and last name.  I also asked them to list some character traits, just so that they would have enough information to work with.
The goals of the lesson were for students to research these things about themselves, generate original symbols  to represent these findings, and combine them in a drawing that used a "stained glass style".   I took each class to the computer lab so they could research the meaning and origins of their names.  I made up a worksheet to help keep them focused and asked them to work primarily from the information at  The students really enjoyed this part of the lesson because everyone was excited to look for the information that would inspire their artwork.
Back in the art room students did more brainstorming, some rough drafting and then moved on to white final draft paper.  I showed them examples of stained glass windows.  Some of these examples were real thanks to other teachers answering my request for help with finding actual stained glass to show the students.  I  also printed out a bunch of other examples from various pictures found in google images.  It was helpful for students to see examples of the outline drawings called templates; these are used by artisans before constructing the stained glass.  We talked about how none of the shapes could "float" within the picture, as well as the "metal outlines" that we would represent with black sharpie.
The drawings were quite impressive, even before any color was added.  I'll check in again soon to show you how they really "glow" once the colors were added!