Okay, let's get this out of the way:
Why are these landscapes magical?
Because my first graders understand, and can paint, light on an object. What?!
|Ka-pow! Look at that light.|
I have been on a mission to work backwards from my own assumptions about age, skill, and capacity to understand complex techniques and concepts in art. Every time I dare to think to myself maybe that's a bit old for them... I cut myself off with So why not try it? What are you afraid of?
|Hello. I am a first grader. And I just painted this.|
It's a complex thing to ask myself- how can I create a lesson that is simultaneously accessible for all, challenges all levels, builds room for creativity, and teaches something, well, sort of brave.
|That mountain range. I want to be standing in this picture, right now. Like Mary Poppins.|
This lesson began with talking about the sky, and light. How can you tell what time of day it is in the sky by just the light and colors? No stars, no sun, no moon. And how can you show the weather, or the temperature, without props like clouds and rain?
|Deep stormy colors, darkest towards the top.|
Students began by thinking about how to show a specific time of day by considering where the light would be coming from and what that light might do to colors. On the first day of this project, students used masking tape to retain white paper for a few trees to come later, while they watercolor painted a sky without stars, suns, or moons.
|Deep dark night|
In the second class, we looked at how light is cast on objects, and using their bodies to look at light and shadow, first graders determined that whichever side is closest to the light is brightest. They noted that the same was true of objects around the art room- the darker side was not facing the light source.
|Painting the trunks|
See the brightness in the sky at the lower right of the picture above? Therefore the right sides of her tree trunks are a lighter tint than the left sides, which are facing away from her suggested light source.
|Bright blue afternoon|
Students learned to blend tints and shade for the tree trunks, and, using a different brush, to stipple for the leaves or needles of the tree. They considered where their light source would be, without showing it- and creating a painting where the trees show us the light, instead of the moon/sun/stars.
|That deep dark night, now with cool moonlit trees.|
By the end of the second class, students had accomplished what might seem (okay, to me) like a ridiculous feat- suggesting a light source within their landscape. In the nighttime picture above, we can see that the artist is showing that the trees are lit from a light source to the right of the frame.
|Adding mountains, wind, vines, etc.|
During the third class, first grade artists used oil pastels to add details to the landscape, focusing on elements of nature in the world around us in Vermont- mountains (which are still snow-capped), flowers, water, animals, etc.
|"Look, I added a fallen tree!"|
|"It's the start of sunset when the sky is still a little blue.|
It's very clear that these are Vermont artists.
How many first graders have seen the Northern Lights?
|"I made the Northern Lights!" Aurora Borealis as viewed from that little cabin on the right.|
Just remember for a second- these are painted by six and seven-year-olds. These artists continue to surprise and amaze me with their grasp of concepts and ability to execute a vision.
|Trees and flowers awash with sunset glow.|
Just one more. It has a bunny, so I think you'll love it, too.