Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Color Field Paintings on Cardboard

We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. -Rothko & Gottleib

Color Field painter Mark Rothko's work presents a fantastic opportunity for discussion and practice of color theory. Viewing his works, students were asked to describe each painting using one word. Prompts included: what emotion could the painting represent? What season? What time of day? Is it sinking or floating? Light or heavy? Students were excited to discover and share how different combinations of colors can produce unique emotional responses in artwork.

Viewing a color wheel, we reviewed prior knowledge of color families; students remembered warm, cold, primary, secondary, and complementary colors. We added "analogous" to our repertoire, and we were ready to go!

Session 1: Since we were so excited to talk about Mark Rothko's artwork, we had only enough time left to write our names on the back of a piece of 8"x16" cardboard (thank goodness I had so many boxes) and hot-glue three small cardboard scraps to the surface. NOTE: I pre-cut these scraps in various sizes, but checked to make sure they were less than 1" high (to accommodate a yarn needle) and that the corrugated tunnels were going in the correct direction! Take care as well to warn students that cardboard pieces must be at least 3" apart so the needle will room to escape each one.

Session 2: Students chose three colors of acrylic paint for their palettes. Many chose analogous colors, and some preferred the bright clash of complementary colors. Inspired by Rothko, we used rectangles as our primary shape. Students practiced different textures and edge styles for each shape, painting the entire surface of the cardboard. How impressive to see 75 fourth graders paint 75 unique compositions of rectangles!

Session 3: For a finishing touch, each student chose a string of yarn that would provide an color accent and textural element to his/her existing composition. We learned to thread a yarn needle, tie an anchor knot, and weave the yarn through the corrugated tunnels of the cardboard. To avoid unsightly yarn tails, each new thread was anchored on the back of the cardboard and poked through to the front to begin and end the weaving.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Henri Matisse-Inspired "Beasts of the Sea"

I am forever thankful to Henri Matisse for creating work that translates with such ease to Art Education. Colors! Patterns! Textures! The opportunities to incorporate Art Elements and Design Principles are enough to send any Art teacher into raptures. The students seem to love Matisse's bright, playful compositions. We turn a slideshow of his paintings and cutouts into a guessing game:
  • What patterns can you find?
  • What shapes do you see?
  • What do you think the title of this artwork should be?
Henri Matisse is classified as a Fauve artist, a group known for its use of intensely bright, non-representational color. The name translates to "wild beast." Thus, we chose to study a Matisse work by the title Beasts of the Sea (1950).

Students began with a roughly 8"x18" piece of watercolor paper. Each student chose three colors of watercolor paint, limiting the palette to create UNITY in our artwork. With these colors, we created two vertical columns, stacking boxes of various sizes. In the following art class, we practiced cutting out spirals (tricky), long curvy shapes, short spiky shapes, and even the splatter shapes Matisse was so fond of. Shapes were carefully arranged to create BALANCE in the composition before being glued down. We had some extra time, so students had the opportunity to glue the finished work to a black background paper and create a pattern in the border.