Saturday, July 21, 2012

Model Magic Miniatures Show Movement!

This sculpture shows the exemplary craftsmanship that its maker, Alex C. uses on all of her work.  She shows us a peek into the secret world of a  land of moss and mushrooms, and she even lets the viewer know that these insects are characters with personalities all their own.  Look closely and you'll realize....
Oh, the wise ant tells important tales to the two younger ants as he leans on his walking stick!  Congratulations to you, Alex, for being named  2012 Aldrich Junior High School Outstanding Visual Art student!  I had so many wonderful students this year and I will miss all of you!
Let's take a look at some more wonderful examples of this lesson and be sure to read about the process and objectives I've included below!

Plastic texture rubbing plates were used to impress these designs into the wet Model Magic to form an interesting ground.  The pile of seed beads represents "food" collected by the walking insects.  I thought the color palette used on this sculpture was unique and added to the whimsical mood of the piece.

Nicole created some diverse terrain for her insects: the water cascades over the edge of a group of rocks, clumps of grass emerge from within the current.  A butterfly floats casually above, moving away from the "carpeted" land.  Look closely and you'll notice that the red beetle has been upended and is floating legs-side up in the water!
Michaela P. really enjoyed making this pleasant scene that features bees, ants and a caterpillar going about their business under the watchful gaze of a sunflower.  I love the inclusion of "ant trails" implied by the way she painted her base to show a cross-section of the soil.
Ants scurry around their ant hole as a dragonfly looms overhead.  The shag rug scrap adds a nice contrasting texture with the heavily dotted "sand" of the ground.  Keep in mind that each insect needed to be less than three inches in size.  Hannah P. did an awesome job making these tiny black ants from Model Magic!
Jessica A. made insects based on scientific observation, but you can see a real sense of personality in each of her characters!  I'm fascinated with the giant green cicada flying over the scene! 

This highly detailed miniature insect sculpture makes great use of a variety of media including Model Magic, wire,  plastic transparency scraps, wooden scraps, tempera paint cakes and ultra-fine sharpie marker and acrylic gloss medium.  It was made by lovely and talented 8th Grade student Arden B.

This lesson was great fun and considering that it was our last "big" project of the year, it really kept everyone motivated to keep working hard right up until summer vacation!   This was due in large part to the use of Crayola's amazing product," Model Magic".  I tell the kids that it works like a clean clay: it has all of the properties of air dry clay without the mess or the long drying time. It works especially well for small-scale projects like this since large or thick pieces of Model Magic can tend to stay spongy inside and over time may develop cracks as the moisture evaporates from the product.  If you have never used this product with your students I would highly recommend that you give it a whirl.  You can paint it, blend markers into it, apply craft materials like beads and stick wires and pipe cleaners into it.  It really is a great material and  kids of all ages are highly motivated to use it!  The only down side is that it can be expensive to use with a large group, so once again working on a small scale might be a smart choice.  Buy the white model magic rather than the pre-colored packets, since students can personalize their work with paints once it has dried.  This would be the most economical way to go!

Alexia is shown working to make the habitat for her insects.  Two wood scraps were hot-glued together then covered with Elmer's glue and a thin layer of Model Magic.  She added many pieces to form a spiky grass-like ground.

I asked students to make a minimum of three different insects, and at least one of them must be shown flying.  They were also required to have at least three levels in their composition.  Since this would be a table top piece, I encouraged them to consider the habitat for their insects: some areas should be high, medium and low. This would help create movement in the sculpture.  We brainstormed "movement" words like diving, attacking, marching, turning and descending.  Each student made two sample sketches of which insects they would include and how these insects would interact to show movement. Then they had several class periods to sculpt their parts which we stored on styrofoam lunch trays.  
Wet Model Magic easily attaches to other pieces of wet Model Magic simple by pressing them together.  If something was dry from the day before, students needed to attach those parts with a low-temp hot glue gun.  We painted everything with tempera paint cakes, which I love because of the paste-like quality of the paint when applied with limited water.  Yes, no drips or spills to worry about!
Extra parts such as transparency plastic wings and wire legs were attached.  Some students even experimented with some donated carpet scraps to make grassy areas on their base.
This was a wonderful way to end our expansive unit on "Observing Insects".  It required concentration since the scale was so small, as well as the use of creativity and problem-solving skills.  I was glad I saved the sculpture assignment in this unit for the grand finale, because the students were genuinely interested and excited by this assignment.  I'd love to hear what you think about our work!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fabric Scrolls: Diluting Ink To Show Value

A gentle, swirling motion sets this composition of insect wings, abdomens and antennae apart!  Read on to learn about how we created these gorgeous ink on fabric scrolls!
Ryan D. created a complex composition of insect parts that includes wings and heads as well as environmental textures like leaves and a honeycomb.  He handled the ink very well by using undiluted black india ink for the darkest value, adding water to gradually lighten the ink to make several different gray tones.  
Due to the high interest levels of my students, I decided to add an additional project using ink on fabric.  Unlike the glossy sheen of the satin we used for the last assignment, this time we worked on big pieces (12 x 18) of white cotton.  Once again, I was able to get a large supply of fabric for virtually nothing from the Rhode Island Recycles for Education Center located in Providence.  If you are interested in trying this lesson with your students, any fabric such as cut up white bed sheets would work just fine.
   Students were required to use the books to find a variety of body parts from different insects as well as natural objects from the habitats that the insects would live in.  I asked them to draw a composition that combined these parts in an interesting way that included overlapping and considered how areas of light, medium and dark values would work together. They used a regular pencil to draw their composition and erasing was possible, but not that easy on the fabric.

Many students preferred to use a small brush and undiluted ink to outline areas  before adding diluted ink washes with a larger brush.

If you've been reading my posts, you know that my students were very familiar with how to create value because of the past lessons we worked on this semester.  I would recommend that you have your students complete a simple value scale to practice making a range of grays before they move onto the fabric.  May be you are all about experimentation and you would have your students "learn as they go" and just give a demonstration and let them go for it!
 Either way, each student will have more success if they have at least three plastic cups to vary the amount of water that is used with the ink.  I would also suggest that they start with the darkest, undiluted ink first, then use larger brushes and more diluted ink for lighter areas
Look closely and you'll see a cocoon, wings, a caterpillar's back, antennae and a dragonfly's abdomen!

You might be wondering why the title mentioned "fabric scrolls" when these look like they are just rectangles .  Well, we use hot glue and added two wooden dowels, one on the top and one on the bottom, so that they stuck out about two inches past the fabric.  Students used a sharpie marker to color the ends black.  I hung the finished scrolls from the clothesline in my classroom and they looked liked amazing insect flags! I have just one more lesson in the insect unit left to post... and it's a sculpture lesson! Here's a hint: This time we proved that bigger isn't always better!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Insect Lesson # 3: Ink on Satin

Here are some beautiful examples of the third lesson in the Observing Insects Unit!
 For this assignment, I was inspired by the satin fabric over a thin chipboard backing I got at the Recycling for Education Center in Providence. I find lots of great materials here, but this was an unusual find. Originally used as the insert of the packaging for jewelry in a decorative cardboard box, the satin paper had a slight tooth to it as well as an attractive sheen.  I was able to buy two packages of seventy sheets each, and they were the same small size as the paper we had already used for the other two insect lessons!  Yeah, no prep-work for me!

I asked students to select one insect to draw in pencil on the satin fabric paper.  It was possible to erase, but some evidence of mistakes would show if a student drew too heavily with the pencil.  Students were careful to draw lightly, and they were eager to see how the ink would react on the satin.  We knew that it would absorb the ink and that each line would be much wider because of the spreading due to the way the fibers were easily saturated.  Students used a tiny brush and practiced drawing with black india ink on a spare satin paper before moving on to their drawing.

Sometimes a small amount of panic would set in when the ink would spread outside a student's pencil outlines: it was important for the kids to adjust their drawings to make any "mistakes" become part of the finished work.  I really enjoyed watching them problem-solve and think on their feet while they used this difficult media.  It really was unlike any other material we had ever used before!

The ink was absorbed very quickly so students could move on to applying a variety of colored pencil details and shading to their insects.  Once again I suggested a simple background so that the insect would stay as the focus of the work.  You can clearly see the sharp details here in this close-up of a dragonfly.  This student artist challenged herself to use the brush and ink on the wing details, and she did an amazing job!  

  I thought that the range of textures produced by the reaction of the ink on the satin was very diverse.  Some images have a soft, diffused look.  This was effective for areas like the "fuzz" on the legs and thorax of this bee.

Other times, the ink could be applied to create strong, dark lines.  This image of a cicada shows the wonderful contrast between the ink and the shading of the colored pencils. It was fun to color on the satin and the pencils made a funny noise if you colored quickly back and forth!
In the end, the students were challenged by this assignment and the different media added some novelty to the insect theme to help keep everyone interested in finishing this assignment.
In fact, we were so interested in the ink that I came up with another assignment; this time students used diluted ink on cotton fabric.  I'll write about it in my next post!