Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grade One: Printing A Stencil

First graders continued their exploration of shapes and patterns by examining the minimalist painting, The Gift by Kenneth Noland. Students were led through a discussion and series of questions to help them decipher and understand how Noland created this carefully planned painting in order to repeat the shapes of the circles. Once the process of stencil-making was explained, students were instructed in making their own stencils and how to print them using tempera paint in a variety of combinations to make repetitive patterns and designs.

Grade Two: Gyotaku Fish Printing, Old and New

Students in the second grade took their previous printmaking experience from earlier grades to new levels with the introduction of this lesson. Gyotaku printing was traditionally practiced in Japan several centuries ago as a way for Japanese fisherman to record particularly memorable catches before it influenced artists and developed into an artform. Students discussed this technique and its history before examining several examples of gyotaku prints by contemporary artists who have stretched the boundaries of this traditional technique in new creative directions.

Students were then told that they would be combining traditional and new techniques of gyotaku printing in an artwork of their own. First, students were show a demonstration of printing in the traditional method using black tempera paint and rubber fish models. Thin paper was placed on the rubber fish and gently rubbed to create a print. Then, students were ready to try the technique on their own.

Once completed, the second step was to create a backgroud with which to mount their fish print. Students were given a variety of materials, including watercolor and collage and encouraged to combine materials and utilize previously learned techniques such as watercolor resist and wet on wet painting to create interesting and vibrant effects to highlight their fish print.

Grade One: Looking at Shapes in the Human Portrait

For the past few weeks, first graders have been studying shape and how it differs from the natural to the man-made world. Most students can identify and cut basic shapes, but using them in a meaningful way and using them to represent various subjects is something which takes some focus and practice.

Students discussed the shapes found in the human face and how they vary from person to person. They were then instructed to cut out shapes to depict the human face in a collage portrait. Students were allowed to construct a self-portrait, a portrait of someone they know, or a random portrait of no particular likeness.

Kindergarten: Expressive Masks

Kindergarten students are now beginning their first extensive unit of the school year. This unit deals with various forms of costuming and celebrations. As we think about art which is worn on the body, masks usually come readily to mind. Discussion begins with asking students about the many uses of masks and listing them on the board: disguise, theatrics, festivities, ceremony, protection, etc.

Students are then shown two examples of African masks and are asked for what purpose they think these masks may have been used for. They are also asked to find various shapes, either geometric or free form, within the design and structure of the masks. Kindergarteners are asked about facial expressions and what they are. After making several different facial expressions of their own, students are shown two more examples of African masks and asked to identify their expressions.

This lesson takes several weeks to complete, as even paper masks are very time-consuming to construct. Each week consists of new teacher demonstrations and students are shown two teacher examples which convey strong facial expressions. Students are then instructed to think about what kind of shapes can be used to help convey the expression they will choose to depict on their mask, i.e. how will sharp triangular eyes differ in expression from large, circular eyes? What kind of shapes can be used for eyebrows in a shocked expression, or an angry face? Once the facial expression was completed, students were instructed on embellishing the mask with hair.

November Masterpiece of the Month: The Boating Party by Mary Cassatt

Who Made It?
This painting was created by an American artist named, Mary Cassatt, in the years 1893-1894.

Where Is the REAL One?
The real painting can be seen at The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Why Is This Artwork Important?
The Boating Party is considered one of Cassatt's best works because of its bold colors. large size and off-center arrangement of people and objects. In the late 1880's, Cassatt saw an art show exhibition of Japanese block prints, which influenced her so much that her style of painting changed. Cassatt showed using her earlier, softer Impressionist style and now used bold colors, patterns of flat colors and solid form, and the horizon line near the very top of the picture-just as Japanese artists would use!
The Boating Party is set off the coast of France, where Cassatt lived most of her life, on the Mediterranean Sea. Cassatt uses the colors of blue and yellow repeatedly, giving the painting a strong burst of color. She planned her picture so that several objects in the painting seem to point toward the baby. The baby is the FOCAL POINT of this picture.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grade Three: Tiny Treasure Boxes

Third graders discussed the use and decoration of container design. Students viewed examples of decorative boxes from different cultures and discussed the design, materials and function of each one. They discussed how this wooden box created by a Japanese artist, held the special purpose of storing incense. Noting the planning and execution of design upon a three-dimensional cube and its possible function and purpose allowed students to realize that everyday objects can be made beautiful by artistic skills.

Students were given a template of a box which they were then instructed to decorate using pencils and/or markers, giving special attention to how one side would of the box could impact another side, as well as the top and bottom, in a wrap-around design. Once finished, the boxes were cut from the template, glued together and as an option, embellishments could be added to the interior and exterior of the box.

Kindergarten: How Artists Use Shapes

This project marks the first of activities which will span longer than one week to complete, throughout the year. It is important for students at this age to strengthen their fine motor skills. Learning to control and manipulate scissors and drawing utensils is challenging and takes time and practice. What better time in the year to introduce kindergarteners to the element of shape?

Week One: Students were first shown flash cards of some easy (and some not-so-easy) to recognize geometric shapes. Their attention was then brought to Mondrian’s painting, Tableau 1, and asked if he used any of those shapes in his painting. Students were then given an envelope to store up to five geometric shapes they had chosen from a selection pre-cut by the art teacher. Once their shapes were selected, they were allowed to embellish the shapes with markers to make their selections even more special. They were also allowed to decorate their envelopes and then store their shapes for safe-keeping until the following week, when they would use these shapes in a creation of their own.

Week Two: Students reviewed the geometric shape flash cards. This week, however, they are delighted to find some new surprises: organic, or free form, shapes amid the geometric ones. Students were introduced to both groups of shapes and how they differ from each other. They were then instructed to take their previewly chosen geometric shapes from last week and arrange them into a creative composition. What can be made from your shapes? How can they be turned into something other than a square or triangle?
Once shapes are glued into place, students were instructed to cut and add an organic shape to their composition. Markers were used to help further clarify their idea.

Observational Drawing: Everyday Objects, Up Close

Students in the second grade had a chance to examine everyday objects up close and notice small features about them they might not otherwise notice. A variety of hardware tools, cooking utensils, office supplies and art-making equipment was placed at each table, allowing students to explore them via touch and sight. Students were instructed to draw from these available objects and encouraged to try shading and texture techniques. Some chose to focus on one particular object, while others drew from several.

Observational Drawing:Revisiting Contour, Blind and Sighted

Fourth graders were given the opportunity to revisit a drawing practice they had originally learned in second grade. Contour drawing is a style of drawing which focuses exclusively on the contour outline of any given shape or object. Skills are often forgotten when not practiced regularly, so it was an exciting venture to rediscover this activity two years later! However, now that the students are older, a new twist was added with the addition of blind contour drawing, an exercise which required the person drawing to NOT look at the object they are drawing and allowing their hand to to be guided only by their sight. This exercise helps to train and co-ordinate the hands and eyes for better observational drawing.
Students were given simple tools and everyday objects, which they also used in second grade for a different drawing activity, and instructed to "warm up" with 10 minutes of blind contour drawing. Then, students were instructed to draw regular contour drawings for the remainder of class time. Students were only allowed to use pen for their drawings, as contour drawings are traditionally done in ink to force the artist to concentrate without the safety of using an eraser to correct mistakes.