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.


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