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!