Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Grade Three: Architectural Facade Collage

Students in grade three have been learning about architecture and how architects plan buildings. For this lesson, students learned that the front exterior wall of a building is called a facade and requires specific elements to be considered. The facade of the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy was discussed and examined. Students noticed that architects, like all artists, often borrow design ideas from existing buildings and adapt them to their own ideas. 

Using collage medium, students were then instructed to design their own building facade, paying special attention to the details and a various structural elements such as arches, columns, balconies and towers. Small details were added using markers.

Grade Two: Mock Glass Window

For this lesson, second graders examined several examples of historical and contemporary stained glass art works. The art of stained glass originated in the form of windows. Students discussed places and buildings were they have seen or might expect to find stained glass windows. Homes, churches, temples, restaurants and public buildings are among the most common buildings to find stained glass. Students were informed that stained glass windows were originally intended to give medieval cathedrals the feeling of being a special place during the dark Middle Ages.

Students were instructed in how to make their own "mock" stained glass using plastic transparency sheets and black construction paper. Once students cut symmetrical shapes and designs into the black paper, the transparency was coated with colored tissue paper glued on the back, allowing the sunlight to illuminate the colors when help up to the light.

Kindergarten: Stick Puppets

Kindergarteners wrapped up their costuming unit with a lesson on constructing stick puppets. This was also a good segway into our next lessons which will be about celebrations. Students were first shown reproductions of the above artworks and led through a discussion with a series of questions:

“What are the people doing?”
“What are the people wearing?”
“What have the artists repeated in these artworks?” (lines, shapes, colors, patterns, positions of figures, costumes and uniforms)

Children were especially guided to notice the interesting clothing worn by the performers depicted in each of these artworks, and were then told they would be constructing stick puppets of people wearing interesting costumes. Students were first instructed to draw the shape of the person onto a piece of oak tag, then cut out the person using scissors, and finally decorating their puppets using a variety of collage materials made available at their table.

Grade Four: Pinch Pot Vessels

Students in grade four were shown examples of ceramic pinch pot vessels created by a method of clay construction known as “hand-building”, which differs from wheel-throwing construction. Pinch pots are a fundamental method of construction, created by using the thumbs and fingers, simultaneously, to squeeze and press the sides of the vessels into uniformity.  Artist examples all depicted a variety of additional techniques which were used to create interest and more complex designs. Techniques included relief building, scoring, textural impressions and altered form that differs from the standard circular form of a traditional pinch pot. 

Students were then guided through the pinch pot construction process together, and then were later encouraged to include some of the additional techniques discussed in the artist exemplars. Once the pots were fired, the pieces were glazed with color and fired a second time.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

December Masterpiece of the Month: Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley

Who Made It?
This painting was created by an American painter named, John Singleton Copley in 1778.

Where Is the REAL One?
Copies of this painting can be seen at The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA.

Why Is This Artwork Important?
Copley is often considered "America's first painter" because he accomplished a high level of technical skill when most art in Colonial America were self-taught folk artists. He earned his reputation as a portrait painter in Boston, MA before moving to England to paint more complicated subjects. Watson and the Shark is Copley's first and best achievement at painting a historical event, but it is unusual from most examples of history painting because the event took place during Copley's own lifetime and is about an individual person rather than a classical scene from ancient times. It is also unusual because it clearly depicts the fear and suspense of the event at a time when paintings showed people in heroic and noble situations.
Copley demonstrates his skill even further by organizing this painting so that our eyes are guided to look at certain elements within the picture. See how certain things seem to "point" at other things, forming a triangle. See how objects such as Watson's arm, the shark's fin and the boat oar all guide our eyes to the middle of the picture.

An Actual Event
Copley was hired by a man named, Brook Watson, to paint this scene which Watson described from an event that occurred when Watson was only 14 years old. While swimming in Havana Harbor in 1749, Watson was attacked by a shark and lost his leg before being pulled to safety. He lived to become a successful merchant and lord mayor of London. 

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.