Friday, March 1, 2013

How to Paint the Mona Lisa

Here it is: the grand unveiling of the 6th graders' rendition of Da Vinci's masterpiece! I couldn't be prouder of my students for the fine work they have done--and the dedication they showed to the work's completion by giving up valuable lunch recess time to finish in time for our Youth Art Month exhibit!

There is the product, smiling in all her enigmatic glory on the walls of the Rahr-West Art Museum in anticipation of Sunday's opening! And now for the process:

1. The prep work: students are more than capable of helping with this, but I was an Art teacher on a mission to finish this job in 3 class periods, so I prepped the materials: 60 9" squares of canvas cut and primed with gesso. I did not gesso all the way to the edges, in order for the cloth to be more flexible for sewing purposes and also to provide students with a "boundary" and not paint all the way to the edges. When students received their squares, they traced a slightly smaller 8" square with pencil (leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges) before drawing their section.

Other materials for step 1:
-photocopied outlines of Mona Lisa with grid drawn & numbered on top. We used 10 rows, 6 columns.
-I made little "viewfinders" to make it easier for students to isolate their assigned square on the grid.
-projected or posted copies of Mona Lisa in color for student reference.

2. The work begins. First task: assign squares. I called each table up to the front one at a time and helped students choose a square individually, keeping a master copy in my possession of who was responsible for each number. Students labeled the back of their canvas with name, number, and a convenient arrow pointing to the top of the composition. When we were all set, it didn't take long for students to transfer the contents of their square to the canvas using pencil.

3. Paint. We used a limited palette of acrylic paint: black, white, skintone, brown, green and a purple/brown mixture were the only colors offered to students. We demonstrated and practiced different techniques for hair, skin, cloth, sky, and foliage.

4. Most of the students finished within 3 class periods, but those who needed more time were motivated to come in during recess when they saw how it looked when puzzled together!

5. The part where I use a sewing machine for the first time since Home Ec. class in 8th grade!!! I am deeply grafeful to the wonderful 6th grade teacher at my school who came in, ON A SNOW DAY, to bring her machine (and trust me to use it) in order for this to happen! My stitching may not be even, but I had a grand time and am thrilled to see the work come to completion!

6. Reflection: Before taking the quilt to the Museum, I dedicated one 6th grade Art session to a grand unveiling. We used the first part of the class period to learn about Leonardo Da Vinci and view/discuss his work. At the very end, we unfurled Mona Lisa to a "drumroll" that the students were only too happy to provide! They each got to find their squares, admire the textures and styles represented in the squares of classmates, and bask in a sense of accomplishment at a job well done!

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