Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Natural Forms Become Radial Designs!

This intricate design was made by the careful arrangement of blue and green beach glass, various seashells and small polished stones.  It was great fun to see how each student had a different way of placing the natural forms to make a unique radial design that demonstrated pattern, repetition, symmetrical balance and movement!
In this photo you can see the handout I prepared as a reference to get students thinking about radial designs.  In simple terms, a radial design moves out in a way that starts from a center point.  I already had several large bins of seashells sorted by size.  Students can reach for shells easier if you also sort them by shape, like having all of the spiral shells in one bin and the clam shells in another.  I had a large bag of smooth beach glass donated by a friend, and this added an element of color that the kids really enjoyed. Finally, wooden craft sticks worked well as an additional manipulative that added a linear element to the work.  You can see this in my sample design in the photo above; the sticks look like the spokes of a wheel.

I gave my students the choice to work alone or with a partner on this exercise.  The first step was to use pencil to trace a huge circle tracer to fill up the 18x24 paper. I suggested that they start their design by figuring out an interesting arrangement of parts for the center of the design first.  Once this was done, the students usually had an easier time adding and building the rest of the design.  We did not glue or attach the nature objects!  This allowed the students to move things around, make adjustments and try different ideas as they worked.  I really liked watching all of the visual problem-solving that was involved!  

 Here is the finsihed view of the radial design Danika is working on in the previous picture.  Some students chose to keep their design open and let a lot of the white paper show.  Others really thought that more was better and they used as many objects as they could fit without losing the overall clarity of the design.

This radial design is very intricate and I love the heavy perimeter made by the polished stones.  The inclusion of groups of spiral shells forms shapes that look almost like crosses!

If you look closely, you can see the faint outline of the pencil drawn circle.  Most students chose to cover the line, but I still think this design is well done!

This one really used many craft sticks!  Still, it has a sense of whimsy and I like the focal popint in the middle that uses a huge piece of turquoise beach glass!

When students were finished making these great radial designs, I gave them the option of using their cell phone to photograph their work.  Most of them chose to take advantage of this, and were more than happy to send a photo of their work to someone during school time!  Doing this made cleaning up and sorting the objects less of a "sad" task, because the work would live on in a photo! 
This activity worked very well as a way to keep everyone active and engaged.  I used it during the last week of school, when sometimes I don't want to start something huge, messy or time-consuming!  I hope you enjoyed seeing the results.  Feel free to leave me a comment!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Keep Calm and Do What?!

The image above shows the front and back of a vintage style paper tag designed with a new take on the popular " Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan.  This student artist used small stencils to letter the front with an ultra-fine sharpie.  She added a magazine image of the cat, she drew musical notes with the sharpie and filled in the rest with colored pencils.  

If you're anything like me, you have probably seen a variety of merchandise cropping up featuring humorous spin-offs on the traditional British slogan, "Keep Calm and Carry on." Tee shirts, coffee cups, magnets and stationary are being sold with all sorts of variations on this theme.  Dog lovers can appreciate "Keep Calm and Carry Treats", while teens get a kick out of " Keep Calm and Hug a Zombie".   I learned that the original slogan was printed on propaganda posters by the British government in an effort to calm fears about the possibility of invasion during the second World War. The posters were not widely distributed and are quite valuable today.  Below is a photo of one of only a handful of original posters.  This one is located at Barter Books in England. I think is is really cool how you can see the texture and wrinkles in it although it is framed to keep it safe and protected.

The poster has such a strong graphic message due in large part to the bold lettering and the simple image of the crown.  My students and I discussed the concept of expanding on this theme to create a new (often humorous) version inspired by the original poster.  They began by brainstorming a list of possibilities, then sketching a simple image that could visually illustrate their words.  This was a challenging task, mostly because of the small size of the paper tags.  I asked that they include an image to step up the degree of difficulty and to add more art skills to the assignment.  The image could be drawn or they could collage onto the back of the tag.  The lettering looked more uniform and graphic when we used plastic letter stencils or small rubber stamps pressed onto a black ink pad, so I discouraged hand drawn lettering for this assignment. We tried to add words so the letters were justified through the center just like the original.  I am including several examples so you can get a feel for the broad range of slogans and images created by these talented 8th graders. Let me know what you think!

 I especially like the extra effort Nicole M. put into this lovely colored pencil illustration. It fills up the entire back of her tag with vibrant color and a sense of movement!

The images on this tag clearly correspond to the slogan on the front right down to the inclusion of the tiny polka-dot bikini and the use of a bright sunny yellow background. The tiny scene is made entirely of magazine collage that is carefully composed and glued in place.

Sometimes we were frustrated with the tiny stamps because the ink would create a small halo of extra black areas around certain letters. You can see it around the "e's" above. This was the primary reason why some students opted to use the stencils instead. Still, this tag "cracks" me up...Yes, I know it's a bad "egg" joke but I couldn't resist!

I made this one just for fun while working with a group of students.  I drew the little Great White on the front, and used magazine collage and drawing for the image on the back.  Note the way that it is fun to change to wording in the middle of the phrase if necessary; Using "I" instead of "and" changes the the meaning slightly and keeps it fresh for the viewer.

I wish she had added a different color to the cute arms and hands on the front of the tag, but the cheeky expression on the hand-drawn monkey makes up for it!  The background is a magazine picture of long blonde hair...

This tag is simple but very effective.  Man, does that roller coaster have some dips and loops!

This student told me that she likes to write stories and is is an avid reader.  I thought it was very cool that she used the lettering stamps to fill in the back of the tag and further emphasize the idea of typewriter letters.  She added an image of an old-fashioned typewriter and found a different image of an arm to overlap with it.  What a great way to use the space!

That's all for now!  I still have one lesson to write to complete posting every lesson I taught at Aldrich for the 2011-2012 school year.  After that, I will share lessons from the two Summer classes I just finished teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).  Be sure to check back soon and leave feedback or ask questions because I love to hear form you!