Friday, May 29, 2015

A Rainbow In Our Classroom! RES

This week I welcomed a class into the art room, and when they sat down, this is what I saw.

So vivid!
Ooooooh, I said.  So. Much. COLOR!
Naturally, I did what I always do when there's so much color.  Organize those colors into rainbow order.
Autumn is excruciatingly beautiful, and a little disorganized.  So I help it out.
 It's my own little obsession.  You'd never know it looking around the art room, but I love, love to arrange things into rainbows when there's a minute.  Books on a shelf, leaves on the forest floor, rocks on a beach.
At Rock Point

So, my third graders asked me, do you really do that?

On Lake Champlain

Yup, I admitted. As often as possible.

Tomatoes readied for canning.
  Before I could continue class, before anything else could happen, I had to see it.

Go for it kids! 

Ms. Darby's class!
Look at that amazing living rainbow of children! Aren't they beautiful?!
  I had to stop myself from organizing them into a color wheel.

So much beauty in the world around us when we stop to look for it.  If you (or your marvelous children!) find or make a rainbow this weekend, share it with me and I will add it to our blog!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kindergarten Self Portraits!- RES

Kindergarten self portraits.
What else needs to be said?  Gah!

That face.
 The earnest sweetness of these just slays me, every single time.

Get yourself ready, families, these are framers.  
Kindergartener artists have been working on these for four classes, and it shows!

These paintings are a culmination of a year of learning to mix colors, as well as looking for and drawing familiar shapes.

Their personalities really shine through in these.

Everyone worked very hard to figure out mixing their hair colors. 
When the paint was dry, some students outlined in pencil, others used markers. 

Artists were free to create the backgrounds and clothes however they wanted, keeping in mind the goal of making their self-portrait realistic.

Realism, in the world of a Kindergartener, is a loose term and highly individualized. For some students it might mean Do you have ears yet? while others might be at the point of Include all of the parts of your eyes- iris, pupil, etc.

Most artists chose their favorite color(s) for the background, while others created outdoor settings or used color to make patterns.

 These artists were amazing. Eyes in the middle of their heads, hair not only attached but covering their foreheads.  Eyebrows.  Expressions. They really did it all!

Love, indeed
That little pink shirt sums it up!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Textural Clay Vases- RES

Like all children everywhere, my students love, love clay. I use it constantly, the steady Skutt kiln chugging along to keep us in business.  First graders recently studied Kente cloth in art class, and the design elements are very transferable to clay textures.

These vases are fully glazed and intended to be used.  Forming the basic cylinder shape was the building challenge.   To help hold it in place we used cardboard tubes.

To make this cylinder, I taught first graders how to stretch a slab. Although this was a skill that I learned at a much later age (as in, high school), I decided to give it a whirl with these marvelous kiddos, and most of them did a fantastic job at it. Anyone who preferred to could also use a rolling pin to create a long, thin rectangle.

That rectangle was then wrapped around the tube, and a small circle was added to the end to create the bottom. If you were to take the tube out at this point, it would look like this.

That would be fine, but we kept our tube in a little longer so that we could add texture.  Using both traditional clay tools and household objects like forks, artists added designs to the clay, being careful to not cut too deeply through to the cardboard.  Although, if that happens, it could still make a nifty pencil holder.

I usually take out the cardboard while the clay is still a little damp. Clay shrinks as it dries and can crack if you leave the cardboard inside. Sometimes these are hard to wrestle out, so no worries if you do leave it in, it will just burn up in the kiln.

After they come out of the kiln, they are white like the ones above, and I teach students how to coat the whole vase and wash away the high spots, leaving glaze in the textures. It's not a requirement, but it is another design choice they can try to highlight the texture patterns, at which point it looks about like this one below.

Additional glaze in a different color can be put all over, and the textures will still show after firing.

The one area students have to glaze fully is in the inside, to allow it to hold water. Students can achieve a fun range of colors when they begin to overlap the glazes.

Clay projects are particularly important to do with the youngest artists. The material requires lots of pressure to manipulate, which helps build the strength needed to support finer tasks like handwriting.

Clay work promotes hand-eye coordination, attention to detail, and concentration.

It is therapeutic and forgiving- it is just mud after all, so if you mess it up, squish and begin again.

The same basic building technique could also be used to make cups, mugs, and containers with lids, simply by changing the diameter of the cardboard tube and the decorative techniques you try.  And if you are lucky to live near a river (or maybe even have too much in your yard!) clay is free!  Dig some up, throw it in a bucket and keep it damp for kids to play with. It doesn't even have to be fired to be fun. If it dries out, let it soak in water for a day or two and it will be ready again to play with.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pretty-messy - RES

Second Grade artists are beginning a new lesson this week that uses chalk pastels, and they are totally smitten.  They asked me this morning to take and share pictures of their hands.

"I think my yellow hand is awesome!"
And why not?  It's pretty-messy.  By which I don't mean, "Wow, that's so messy," although it is that too.  But it's also messy to the point of being a big, beautiful mess.  Pretty-messy.

Pretty-messy, especially with those pink nails.
Kids were lining up to show me- "Mrs. Elliott, take a picture of me! Look at my hands!"

So, here they are sharing their colors with you. In honor of children everywhere that love a good, pretty ol' mess, I hope you have a creative, fun, beautiful, and messy day!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thinking in the Abstract- RES

There are not very many lessons that I repeat year after year, but one perennial favorite with my grade 4 students is abstract painting. That is a wide open category- and that is my intention.

We began by looking at a presentation of artists with very different styles- Frank Stella, Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko, Paul Klee, and Jackson Pollock, among others- and considered their craft.  How did they get the paint on the canvas? What emotions are revealed?  What do you see?

Blue underpainting

 Artists began their own work with an underpainting, creating a tint and a shade of a single color, roughly dividing the page in half. This is the layer upon which the rest of the painting is built.

Tint and shade of purple

The second class, we experimented with masking off areas of the underpainting to allow them to show through later. We used- surprise!- masking tape for this. If your students are working on paper, it helps if they get the tape a little linty on their clothes so that it doesn't  rip the paper when it is removed.
Adding the masking tape

 Artists added paint with a brush,

and added texture with texture combs.

Before the end of class, we remove the tape to reveal the colors or designs underneath.

Before the tape is taken off...

The third class is all about experimentation- we spray the paint with toothbrushes,

And after!
fling it with brushes,

texture and blend it with sponges,

drizzle it with spoons,

and sprayed it with water to make the colors runny.

The results speak to the styles they observed.

It would be fair to tell you how my classroom looks after.  Which is, to say, colorful. Fortunately, mess does not especially faze me, but if your home/classroom is not ready for this level of mess, splattering could also be done outside on a nice day or over a drop cloth.

The floor under the splattering table

That's why it's an art room.
Where else can in life can you make a mess, and end up with something so gorgeous, like these?

In a kitchen, actually- which reminds me that many years back I read the incredible book "Why a Painting is Like a Pizza," and it has forever colored how I speak about and look at abstract painting with students. Food and art are almost inseparable. These grade 4 artists worked to make their art look fresh, varied, and offering different focal points throughout the work.  Just like a good plate of food.