Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Observing Indian Corn: Compositions Show Repetition!

For this lesson, my students were required to view real ears of Indian corn and identify the parts of the corn.  The kernels are repeating rows of ovals, the husk is crunchy and textural, the corn silk is thin and
linear.  The ear of corn is one big oval.  We also looked at a handout I made with several different close-up views of all sorts of corn in various compositions.  It was fun to see the natural variety that each image showed; for example, some of the kernels were in irregular rows, the colors varied in each ear, and each kernel had a strong highlight.   

Everyone made four pencil sketches of ideas for compositions inspired by the shapes they observed in the corn. I stressed that they needed to design a composition that used some part(s) of the real corn, but also demonstrated a strong use of repetition. Then we selected the best one to re-draw on a 12 x 18 white paper.  I explained that they would need to add heavy crayon coloring to all parts of the drawing except the background.  We would be completing their pictures as a crayon resist.  Heavy coloring applies a good layer of wax so that it can repel the diluted tempera paint that we would cover the image with.  If I did this lesson again, I would reduce the size of the paper because the coloring was quite time-consuming and the kids' hands were hurting by the end of the lesson!
Check out these very different images that were all inspired by corn! These were all designed by my 8th Grade Visual Art students.
I love how the picture above has a "batik" look to it!
Ovals inspired by kernels float across the background while a "husk-inspired" group of shapes flows across the composition like flames!
"Hey dude, what do you think of my psychedelic corn?"  I think it is creative and original!
Multiple ears of corn work to make an interesting overlapping composition.  Great use if different green values and multi-colored kernels.
I thought this one was very cool; kind of like rivers floating around the other parts of the corn.
The negative spaces were filled in with the paint at the end of the lesson.  I love the contrast with the vivid colors of the kernels!
This one sure has a strong use of repetition!  Jared S. from period 3 used rows of ovals with a consistent light source.  Some students finished early so they made a simple frame with a pattern that used real dried corn as part of the design!
One final piece of student art by Sara M. in period 1.  I love her color choices and the vertical composition.  She really worked hard on this and it paid off!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mixed-Media Triptychs Have Visual Movement!

I am sure you can see the amazing amount of problem-solving that Amanda C. from Period 3 put into this triptych! After searching through numerous magazines and selecting a limited color palette of peachy neutrals, crystalline grays and minty greens, she arranged the magazine pieces into an abstract branching pattern.  The artworks that these 8th grade students created are impressive, and I have included several beautiful examples in this post.  But first, let's take a moment to break down the objectives for this assignment and to discuss the materials that we used.
I created a handout explaining the art history of early triptychs, which were commonly featured on alters, and we learned that the word translates to "three panels".  We then looked closely at several examples of triptychs from the 1500's to abstract contemporary art.  I stressed that although some triptychs contained three separate panels where each image was self-contained, we would be focusing our work on creating a triptych that would show one composition traveling across all three panels.  I explained that our theme would be "branches" and we reviewed another handout with all sorts of branching patterns in different styles.  Students began to brainstorm the type of branches they might show as well as the direction they would organize their branches across the three panels.
We made the background by dividing an 8" x 12 piece of chipboard into three horizontal sections with pencil lines.  Students were required to show value changes from light to dark and reverse the value changes in the second section and repeat the value changes in the third panel.  In other words, the top and bottom sections showed similar gradation and the middle section was the opposite. This neutral background would serve as the base upon which students could arrange contrasting collage pieces. We used acrylic paint for this, and since we had completed our huge unit on value, this was a review skill.
The primary objective for this lesson was for students to figure out a way to show visual movement. How could magazine images be combined to represent a branching pattern that would lead the viewer's eyes throughout all three panels of the composition? 
In this image we can see the strong diagonal that Selin C. from period 1 has used to organize the large tree branch that moves from left to right across her triptych.  Although the branch is brown, she adds pops of color and flowers of different shapes and sizes to add interest to the work.
Mary D. also used brown magazine pieces to form the branches in this work, but the scale is more delicate and she realized that two branches would be necessary to complete the composition across all three panels. The small insects are pictures of diamond jewelry; the blue butterfly in Selin's work is made from magazine scraps she combined herself. Both are lovely additions to the artworks!

Student artist Noah C. from period 3 worked hard to make good choices for this triptych.  The abstract cardinal on the left faces into the composition to help the viewer's eye return to the cheetah-patterned branch that moves from the right upper corner.  Pops of red represent berries and help to unify the work.  Can you see the small cheetah hiding in the branches?

Okay, so some of the boys weren't in love with the theme for this assignment.  I guess that "branches" are too close to "flowers" for teenage boys.  Even so, some male students chose to make their triptychs have flowering branches and they even selected "pretty" color schemes.  This artwork is by Nicholas H. in period 3.  When I asked him about his work he said, "Oh, I thought they had to look girly." Not a requirement ; we both laughed.

On the other hand, Austin from period 4 did his best to add a heavy dose of masculinity to his work.  These abstract branches fill up the space aggressively with strong red pictures of cars.  Each branch has several smaller limbs that are growing "fruit" made from fancy car wheels.  I like the geometric and jagged angles of this one, do you?
Blessin' from period 6 used photos of the tops of open lipstick to represent the fruit on the bottom tree branch.  The top branch has buds made from images of mascara wands, which she artfully combined with leaves of her own design. Limited color choices really create a nice sense of repetition!
Edeline's work is always strong and this triptych showcases her skills.  The brown magazine pieces are arranged very thoughtfully to create realistic shadows; see how the lower branch is darker because it is underneath the larger and lighter one?  They branches also create a clear sense of movement across all three panels.  Beautiful work!
Not all branches need to be brown and realistic!  Mary M. made her branch explode with vibrant colors, oversized blooms and an array of stars and berries.  Her painted background ranges from very strong black areas to clean bright whites.  Mary is also a fine performing artist, and her flair for the dramatic is evident in this piece!

Lelia did a great job on this triptych because she had a plan and she stuck with it!  Sometimes it only takes a little searching to find the magazine pages that will work for you; other times it takes a real scavenger hunt.  Well she was lucky enough to find some large colored pages that she cut up and created her branch with.  Adding the details was a cinch because she found a bunch of pictures of really cool glass ornaments to use.  Here is a close-up of part of her triptych:

I love the way this fancy bird is nestled into his nest!

To complete the lesson, I used the paper cutter to chop each student's work into two 4" panels and one 8" center panel.  The students used small pieces of cardboard to "pop up" the work about 1/2" off  a colored construction paper that served as a frame.  This was done rather quickly with my help and two low temp hot glue guns stations for the kids to use. I think this step really enhanced the work because of the added depth the work had when it hung on the bulletin board.

I would love to hear from you if you enjoyed this lesson, or if you have any questions or comments!
I am sorry I have not been posting as often, but this month has been a very difficult one for me on a personal and a professional level.  No need to focus on the negative...teaching my students is what keeps me sane!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A "Frankenweenie" Finale!

The students have had wonderful results creating black and white portraits during our unit on learning about value and contrast.  As a special way to end the unit, I thought it would be fun and educational to watch the original version of Tim Burton's short film "Frankenweenie".  The original is from 1984, and  featured live actors, (including Sparky the dog) all filmed in black and white.  The entire film is about a half hour long, so it was the perfect amount of time for us to go to the auditorium, watch the movie and complete a worksheet with five short answer-style questions.  The film is humorous, quirky and proved to be a wonderful tool for getting students to look for the ways value and contrast were used.  In a perfect scenario, it would have been awesome to take a field trip to the movie theatre to see the new "Frankenweenie" after viewing the original.  I am curious to see the ways that Tim Burton expanded the story line in the animated version, and the kids were also interested.  Next year, I could rent the DVD and we could really get into some great discussions about the similarities and differences of each film.  The students came away with a stronger grasp of how black and white can be used to establish mood, drama and suspense.  Ms. DeSisto's 7th grade art students and Ms. McKenney's 8th grade art students came and enjoyed watching it with us.  It was a nice way for the entire Art Department to come together to use the big screen in the auditorium to inspire our students!

An image from the new version of "Frankenweenie" shows a full range of values from white all the way to black. Just like in the original, this helped to create a sense of drama and established the spooky mood of the film.

The bull terrier in the short film must have been a really great dog with a lot of patience!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Painted Portraits Show Contrast and Value!

We worked from reproductions of portraits by master artists because the objective of this lesson was for students to carefully observe, locate and apply the many value changes in each image.  The original was  "Portrait of Dolly" by Kees van Dongen.  The student artist is Edeline from Period 1 and in this close-up we can clearly see the many brushstrokes of black, white and gray values she has applied.  Beautiful work!

The lesson began with students completing a painted value scale to show how black and white paint can be mixed in varying amounts to produce samples ranging from light to dark.  When the paint was dry, students cut their scale into one strip so they could use it as a "tool" to help identify specific values in the photocopy of their selected portrait from a master artist.

I had them tape the photocopy of the portrait onto one of the windows in the art room, and then tape a sheet of white drawing paper over it. They taped just the top so they could readily flip the paper up to look at the portrait and see if they were missing any details.  When viewing the portrait when tracing, it was important to trace the outside areas of the image ( the perimeter) as well as the inside shapes.  I asked the students to turn any areas where they saw a shadow or a visible brushstroke into a shape as they were tracing. Some of the students chose paintings that were loaded with these areas while other portraits had less "interior mapping" to trace.

This is what the portrait being traced in the photo above looked like after this stage.

The next several days were spent with each student using their value scale to identify specific areas on their photocopied portrait.  Slowly, they mixed and applied each value to their traced copy.  I reminded them that if they had a specific value on their brush they should apply it everywhere that they saw it at that time.  That way the entire painting progressed rather than just finishing one perfect area and then re-mixing the same values again later.  We found that this helped us to paint faster because there was less mixing to do!  The work pictured above shows a photocopy of a painting by Matisse and a value scale and portrait in progress by Emily in Period 5.

These friends from Period 5 are busy comparing their work to the masterworks.  You can see them mixing and applying a range of values to their portraits.  It looks like Janisse, (pictured in the front) has completed the portrait and now has the easier task of painting the background area.  Well done!

Let's look at some finished paintings!  This portrait is after one of Gauguin's images of Tahitian women. I put the whole 18 x 24 poster on the photocopier and then cropped out the parts of the image that we didn't need.  It was so important for the students to see the master images in grayscale;  but it was also fun for them to see the colored version of the images.  So I left the big posters out on a table and many students chose to take that image to their work area as another source of reference.  This portrait was painted by Janeliz in Period 1.  I think she did a lovely job!

It was fun to see how one student's version would differ from another student's rendition of the same portrait.  Here we can see  a tougher, gritty style done by Trejur in Period 4.  The use of dry brush technique creates a sense of danger in her character's personality and the overall mood of the image is darker than in Sara's version below.  Her painting has a gentler approach with well-groomed yet tousled hair and a kind expression on the face.  Both students did a wonderful job of placing the lights and darks in the correct places.  I realized that although we were copying from master works, each student could infuse the work with a sense of self identity.  As an art teacher, I found it fascinating to see the end results.
I have more work to share with you soon!  What did you think of this lesson?  We'd love to hear from you. Thanks!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Introduction to Shading, Value and Contrast.

Ana in Period 5 demonstrated a strong grasp of how to use an ebony pencil to shade a value scale, then she shaded a sphere, and finally she shaded a sphere with one colored pencil.
These three exercises helped to review and in some cases teach the important skill of shading to my 8th grade Visual Arts students.
Hi everyone!  We are working hard on a series of exercises to help us understand the ways that artists can use value to create contrast in their work.  Value is simply a range of light, medium and dark.  By applying varying pressure on one's ebony pencil, shadows, medium tones and highlights can be added to a flat circle to create the illusion of a round sphere.  Most students found that this technique was easier to achieve with an ebony pencil rather than with one colored pencil.  The ebony pencil was more forgiving because the lead could easily be blended with an index finger or a paper stump tool.  The colored pencil was more waxy and did not blend or erase as easily.  Some students were worried about their work looking scratchy and the transitions betreen light, medium and dark values were more difficult to execute properly. Working on small paper 4 x 6 is recommended since the students may become easily frustrated if asked to work larger at this age level and skill level. Just use a gluestick to mount all thre exercises onto a piece of black paper and you have a nicely organized introductory project! 
I am looking forward to sharing the rest of this unit with you soon.  I have even stepped out of my comfort zone and ventured into using "Portraits" as subject matter.  You know many of my lessons are nature based, or inspired by animals or other cultures.  I thought I would challenge myself and give "people" a try for the next lesson in this unit.   So far so good and I'll try to post our progress shortly.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Amate Paintings: Creating Visual Records.

Remember how I told you we made two sheets of faux amate (tree bark) paper?  Well we used the second sheet for this assignment.  Above is an authentic amate painting that I purchased several years ago while on my honeymoon in Ixtapa, Mexico.  I selected it because of the wedding scene, and yes, I realize there is a rooster fight taking place in the foreground!  I shared this piece with my students and it served as the inspiration for their assignment.  We discussed the ways that people can keep a visual record of the events that take place in their lives.  This could be done through a painting, like the folk artists in Mexico, or by taking photographs, keeping a Facebook page, recording videos, etc. We talked about how important it is to keep a visual record of our lives.  I explained to the students that although the Mexican artists were farmers, not all of their pictures were of farming activities.  For example, the one above shows a special occasion as well as the traditional sport of rooster fighting.
   The students completed a planning worksheet where they listed ideas for possible artwork.  They were asked to consider everyday events in their lives as well as special occasions.  It was exciting to get to know my students better as we all discussed the many activities that filled their lives.  Even the everyday, such as getting ready for school or taking care of the family pets, allowed each student to gain a new perspective on who they are. There are many ways to teach this lesson by I am including the resource I found to be the most helpful.
    Multicultural Education company Crizmac has their "Gente del Sol" curriculum and it is a great resource and provided these lesson objectives. It was written by multicultural expert Stevie Mack.  They also have a video about the process of making amate paper and show a folk artist painting on it!

 I stressed that the following criteria needed to be included in their compositions:
1.  Stacking of objects and characters without an obvious ground level.
2.  Many characters and objects closely place together.
3.  Unusual size relationships.
4.  Bright, arbitrary colors.
5.  Outlining in black marker or crayon.
6.  A repeating border pattern.
7.  Some of the paper should be left unpainted.

Once an idea was selected as the "best" each student moved forward by completing a pencil sketch on a 12 x 18 manila paper. Here we see Amanda's restaurant scene.  Check below to see the finished work!

When the pencil drawing was complete, students used a black marker, ballpoint pen or black crayon to outline all pencil lines.  The waxy surface of the faux amate paper made it very difficult to outline in marker, so crayon is recommended!

Students used a variety of tempera paints as they began to fill in all areas of their work.  It is pretty important that you purchase several florescent colors so that your amate painting has a color palette
similar to the authentic paintings from Mexico.  The bright paint adds a unique quality to the work and the kids are also highly motivated to use it!

Here is the finished version of Michael T's painting from above.  You can clearly see the ways that he has incorporated the objectives from the criteria list.  I love the giant herd of animals wandering through the middle of the picture.  He shows us the different areas of action that are going on in his visual record of a special event he enjoyed: a family camping trip!

I am including a bunch of awesome paintings, each one unique but all great fun to view.  I hope you will try to figure out what sort of event each student has recorded.  Some are of everyday events and some certainly are not!  The painting above was created by Blessin in period 6.
Jeriann in Period 1 did a great job stacking multiple figures as she filled up this beach scene!

Adam in Period 6 shows that arbitrary bright colors can still come off as masculine if the subject matter is like this!

Kelsey in Period 1 took full advantage of not having to create a composition with a traditional "ground".  Check out the close-up of the adorable and detailed road race runners below!

Each person is less than 2 inches high and I know this was a lot of work!  The details can really set your picture apart from the rest and Kelsey always does her best work.

Alex. P. was concerned that her finished painting was " Too Much".  Too many objects and characters, too many arbitrary colors, too many unusual size relationships...I told her it was great fun to look at! I appreciated that she took risks with this assignment and tried "everything" in one picture!  Keep it up!

Let's contrast her painting with Noah's from Period 3.  Both students met the criteria as outlined in the objectives.  Noah chose to really control the composition: his work is highly organized, the picture is divided into small sections of activity.  There are numerous small dots of paint meticulously applied to form patterns.  Is one better than the other?  Not in my book!

Remember I asked you to keep a lookout for Amanda's finished work after showing you her pencil sketch at the top of this post?  Here is is!  There is so much action, so many characters, such vivid use of color.  Somehow, the whole image has a sense of unity while the scene vibrates right off the paper!

 Zachary D. in Period 3 sure is a jock!  How many sports can one guy fit into one picture?  Awesome way to fill up the paper with a variety of colors, characters and shapes!

And then there is a true individual; Trejur from Period 4.  Her work maintains her unique style even while she successfully meets the objectives of the lesson.  I'm impressed, Trejur!

Sara's amate painting was inspired by her everyday activity of playing her favorite video game.  Don't ask me the name of it, but she proved she has a knack for remembering details since she drew all of this from her memory!
You know what they say about the quiet ones, right?  Janisse let's out her inner "wild woman" in this picture that shows her practicing her own music in her bedroom as she remembers her first concert and the mosh pit below!
And finally, the lovely and very talented Faith M. shows us some of her favorite Christmas memories in one incredible composition.  She masterfully included all of the criteria while infusing her picture with an extra dose of "adorable" along the way.  I suggested that this image could easily become the family christmas card this year!  Faith, I appreciate that you went the extra mile on this assignment!

Please let us know if you have enjoyed viewing our work! I love to read your comments and feedback!