Thursday, January 31, 2013

Middle School Louise Nevelson-Inspired Relief Sculpture

I have come to admire the work of Louise Nevelson more and more over the years. Her large-scale assemblages of castoff wooden objects resonate with a viewer through the familiar contours of the forms combined into a monochromatic landscape of enclosed spaces.

Students worked on a 10" x 20" sheet of foamcore. They were encouraged to look through their own "junk drawer" at home to look for castaway objects to include in their work. Of course, I contributed several boxes full of the castaway treasures that seem to magically multiply in my storage room at school! Objects were attached with hot glue and painted with a tint or shade of acrylic paint (straight hues were off-limits as we explored value as a color property).

We identified the design principles of unity, rhythm and balance as being especially important in our compositions, and focused on these as we progressed in our work. These are quite interesting pieces to comprehend, but unfortunately also quite non-photogenic!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

5th Grade Jasper Johns Collaborative: Numbers

***UPDATED: here is the final product on display!

As in the past years, 5th grade students collaborated on a large-scale Jasper Johns-inspired piece as we begin to explore the concept of Pop Art. Past cohorts of 5th graders completed Flag and Map, so this year we are moving on down the line to make our own version of Numbers in Color!

Preparation of materials: thankfully, the materials were much easier to come by this year! I cut one 6"x 8" yellow base of tag board per student, as well enough numbers 0-9 (1 for each student) using the school's Ellison Cutter-- this took a little time, since I could only cut one letter at a time due to the thickness of the tag board!

To add some sculptural relief to our work, I also set out sheets of 3D styrofoam sticky "dots." The jury is still out on whether the 3D effect will enhance or detract from the final effect, but I thought it was worth a shot!

 We painted with primary colors of acrylic paint; I mixed white with the yellow and the blue to make them more opaque.

When students came in for class, we spent the first 10 minutes looking at Scholastic Art's Jasper Johns edition and discussing the use of symbols as subjects for his art. I distributed numbers; students painted the yellow base first, then added and painted the number stencil. Now all I have to do is figure out the best way to combine the works into one large collaborative piece-- check back in soon for the finished work!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013


My three lone 9th grade students sit in with my 7th-8th grade classes and follow the High School Intro to 2D Art curriculum because they could not be scheduled into the 9th grade classes this year-- these students are doing some fantastic work that I often neglect to recognize in my posts!

A major focus in the curriculum is the recognition and use of a full value scale in our work. After still life studies and value scales, the culminating project is to develop a full-scale value drawing using micrography. Rather than shading in the dark areas, students use black fine-tip pens in varying concentrations of handwritten text to accomplish the purpose. They are challenged to simulate textures, contrast, and value through different directions and styles of writing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2nd Grade-- Visualization Exercise with Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition"

2nd grade students are preparing for a unit on Wassily Kandinsky. To get into a proper Kandinsky mindset, I decided to have students listen to four selections from Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and produce images based on visualization of the music, just like Kandinsky did.

Students divided a 12"x18" sheet of drawing paper into quadrants and used markers and colored pencils to record images that came to mind as they listened to each selection. I am always impressed by the consistency from year to year as 2nd graders recognize themes that are scary, silly, or proud and important-sounding.

The selections:
1. The Gnome

2. Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks

3. Baba Yaga: The Hut on Fowl's Legs

4. The Great Gate of Kiev

Here are some of the results! I encouraged the students to write descriptions of their work, but as we had about 5 minutes to work on each drawing, our spelling was a bit rushed!
Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his "I Have a Dream" speech

Lots of spider-chasing in this series! In selection four: "army men saluting the [unintentionally backwards] flag;" I cannot decipher #3 but judging by the arrows it appears that the small brown creature comes to an unfortunate end in the alligator's jaws!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Favorite Things (and other things)

Favorite thing: creative sculptural birthday treats.

 Thing that is not a favorite thing: this.

Monday, January 14, 2013

6th Grade Tours the Junior High

We are nearing the end of first semester, and already the students are signing up for next year's courses. Yikes! It is hard to believe how fast the school year is going.

Tonight, the dual worlds of my traveling teacher lifestyle (elementary & junior high) collide in the form of Orientation Night. The 6th grade elementary students come to the junior high school for a tour of classes and a sampling of electives. Following the tour, they choose their electives for the 2013-2014 school year. Naturally, I want as many as possible to sign up for Art! The art teachers have been hard at work this afternoon filling the room with displays from each course offered to students in grades 7-9.

In our District, we do the following:

Grades 7 & 8 offer mixed-grade classes. There are four choices, and students may take one or all during these two years. Each class is a survey of drawing, painting, printing, ceramics, and sculpture.
Art Gallery: I am slightly biased in favor of this class that focuses on Art History as inspiration for various projects!
Around the Art World in 90 Days: This course uses art from various cultures as inspiration.
Art & Design: This class focuses on the Design Principles as a means to improve our artwork. We do many projects that have a "graphic design" leaning and incorporate both digital photography and drawing on the iPads.
You-Nique Art: Maybe the name is a little silly, but the class has been very fun to work with; the focus of this class is using your own experiences, memories, and interests as subject matter.

9th Grade students, while still present in the junior high, have the option to complete a high school Intro to 2D or Intro to 3D course that serves as a prerequisite to more advanced high school classes.

Check out the Wilson Junior High Art room-- the students' work looks great!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

First Grade Clay Owls

Fresh out of the kiln today after a glaze firing!

First grade students are finishing up our owl unit. The adventure began with a reading of Jane Yolen's lovely book Owl Moon, followed by slides of various owl species and the formation of a KWL chart (what do we Know, Want to know, and after instruction, what did we Learn) of owl facts.

When the anticipated clay day arrived, students traced basic owl templates into slabs of clay. They practiced the slip-and-score technique for adhering a beak, wings, and eyes to the body of the owl, then embossed textures to their work using assorted clay tools.

Owl Template:

Once the three classes have rotated through, I go through and poke a small nail hole in the top of each project. It warms my heart when students of years past tell me they still have their first grade clay owls displayed at home!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Middle School Plaster Masks

I am happy to see the 7th and 8th grade "Around the Art World" class finishing up some fantastic masks!

In a previous post, I shared our plaster mask-making technique. After this initial stage was completed, we progressed through the following steps:

1. Students viewed slides of traditional African masks and discussed observations and similarities between the designs. We noticed the geometric abstraction and sometimes elongation of features, observed color schemes, and discussed the use and placement of patterns to highlight facial features.
2. Students sketched various mask ideas based on the form of either animal or human faces.
3. Using hot glue and cardboard scraps, students built up on the form of their original masks to abstract the features. Some made their masks into animals, others created headpieces or altered the facial shape. These additions were covered in plaster strips.
4. A base color of acrylic was applied, followed by accent colors in the form of patterns and shapes.
5. The gel pens I ordered arrived JUST IN TIME for the students to render intricate designs on top of the paint!
6. If desired, students added raffia and beads to embellish their work.

Monday, January 7, 2013

5th Grade Monochromatic Self-Portraits; 2013 Edition

I have now repeated this project for several years due to the consistently outstanding results (here is last year's post)! This year, I asked students to practice for the painting by creating 10-step value scales with tempera paint; steps1-5 being tints of the color and 5-10 being shades, increasing incrementally in value.

Painting these self-portraits in a monochromatic scheme teaches students about using and mixing values, but also releases them from the expectation that the portrait should be strictly representational. I find the abstraction of the color, values, and brushstrokes to be very intriguing and always leave these out on the bulletin board in the hallway a little extra longer!