Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cities at Night- EES

First grade artists explored architecture and skylines in their most recent project. They began by looking at examples of skylines at night, and discussing what they saw.

As artists moved into using cut paper to create their own cities, they asked themselves questions such as: What types of buildings are these?  How are they used? Do people live in them, work in them, store things in them?

Students identified many similarities in the buildings we studied. Most have windows, all have some type of door or entrance, all have a roof of some kind. Students noticed that you could count the windows going upward and guess at how many floors a building has.

They noted differences as well- some were tall and decorative, some small and plain, some with roof lines or architectural shapes that suggested that the building might be in a different country.

The roofs of these!
 Details such as streets, sidewalks, and landscaping gave further clues about location.

 Students discussed how to tell if there was someone inside ("The lights would be on.") and how to tell if you would be welcome in also ("The door could be open.").

We discussed how architects make our building safe, adding details such as lightning rods or fire escape ladders.

When the buildings were complete students experimented with using a large nail (instead of a paintbrush) to add objects to their night skies.  The sharp point allowed artists to create tiny pinpricks of light, or to drag a little paint puddle in several directions to create stars, meteors, and more.

Window sills, large arches over doorways, and chimneys adorn the building students made, all while further sharpening their fine motor skills through careful cutting and gluing.

Which leads me to one more thought: whenever you have time at home with your children- maybe over this upcoming vacation- take a few minutes to do an activity that helps them build strength and dexterity in their hands and fingers.  As you can read in this excellent and to-the-point article, many children are not spending enough time refining their grips (on pencils, on scissors) which can leave them profoundly behind peers when it comes time to learn to write.  They need practice, practice, practice to learn to hold an art or writing implement the right way. Consider taking a few minutes over vacation to write and color a letter to a loved one, to cut pictures out of magazines to make a simple collage, or to let them roll out the pie dough on their own.

Have a happy, messy, and creative vacation!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Friendship Collages- EES

Apologies that it has been a while since my last post!  Grading has swallowed me whole.  It sort of looks and feels like this.

Pinocchio and Geppetto trapped inside Monstro
Now, the lighting in my house was a little better, and my quill pens sit idle since we grade online, but I am pretty sure it felt the same overall, and it was lovely to eventually see daylight again.

During this month second grade artists have been creating collages.  They began by making backgrounds with a partner, Students worked together to place tissue paper strips onto a sheet of wet paper, then placed another on top, sandwiching the tissue papers. After they tiptoed over the paper sandwich, they peeled it apart and discarded the tissue, leaving two mirror-image backgrounds.

 From there, artists went in their own directions, depicting a friendship between two creatures. 

Butterfly friends playing with a ball
One of the creatures was a real animal, and the second was a real or imaginary friend of the first creature.

Elephant with his imaginary friend, who is carrying a pencil. "They love to do art together."

Some of these friendships reflected relationships students have in their own lives, and in their families.

"It's a mommy and baby horse eating apples together."
Students gave their creatures an environment- undersea, grassy pastures, etc., in addition to the backgrounds created with a partner.

Orca and eel
Many students chose to use reference books to help them draw their real animal accurately, and it shows in the level of detail that many achieved.

Deep water fish and his alien buddy.
A group of three friends: alligator, butterfly, and mouse.
This one reminded me of the book Amos and Boris, a tale of an unlikely and important friendship between a whale and a mouse, who each have a turn to save one another's lives.

Second graders are doing several projects that involve cooperative partnership work.  Before we began, we spent a lot of time brainstorming what successful partnerships look like, and what they have in common with friendships.  Although not every student will wind up being friends with every other child, we are building the capacity to recognize one another's strengths, and the things that make others want to be with you.

It is both challenging and community-building for students to work this way, especially in creative processes like the arts offer, because everyone wants the space for their own voice to be heard, and it can be hard to negotiate those compromises with another person. My hope is that over time the students will be able to see the strength of the sharing of ideas and visions with multiple minds. 

Love this land-and-sea relationship.  Amazing composition.

In the meantime, their fabulous artwork certainly reflects their understanding of friendships and shared experiences.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mighty Cool! Grade 4 and 5 Optical Illusions- EES

If there is one subject near and dear to me other than art, it would have to be math.  Our world is filled with math, and getting a good grip on it makes your artwork even cooler. Just ask these artists, who popularized optical illusions in fine art.

26th July 1979: Bridget Riley, British Painter (Photo by Evening Standard)
Victor Vasserly, c.1978 (Getty Images)
Optical illusions are what happens when your eye perceives something that is different than reality. The effects that Riley and Vasserly achieved on flat surfaces are nothing short of mind-blowing. Students love optical illusions, perceived space, and implied shadow, and by fourth and fifth grade are itching to figure out how it is done.

Math, my dear, math.  And some great shading skills.

Going backwards in time a bit, you may know the artist M.C. Escher.
Ascending and Descending, Lithograph, 1960
Born in 1898, Escher was said to be a crummy student, and spent a lot of time home sick as well. His dad was an engineer, but M.C. Escher eventually went to school for decorative arts, and shortly later discovered that his artwork was made much, much better with math. So, he spent more time as an adult investigating mathematics journals, and incorporating the concepts and discoveries into his artwork, notably in his tessellations and architectural renderings.  His work is revered by scientists and mathematicians around the world, and is widely sought-after by collectors.

I love this story, because it so neatly describes how an unsure person can come to love math through art, and potentially vice-versa; if you love math, maybe this is your road to enjoy art-making.  Here is some of the student artwork from EES:

Wow, right?!  These kids...
My math goal for this year involves having students gain comfort in using rulers for measurement. These are grade five projects, which began with a grid, and students were able to choose their spacing. Students who felt less confident might have chosen whole inches, whereas students looking for a greater math challenge chose fractions of inches as their spacing measure.

There were no rules around having to color in a grid specifically, or having to stick to the same two colors the whole way through, so the results were varied and beautiful.

The cast shadows really helped students feel that their work was "popping out" as they intended.

To make the cast shadows, students were asked to imply a light source consistently throughout the image, and also to apply that light source to the sphere itself.

Their work is pretty wonderful.  One way to gauge that they love it is the time they are voluntarily filling their sketchbooks with more spheres, and that classroom teachers and parents are seeing these as well.

Fourth graders also used math tools, light, and shadow to create optical effects.  Here is a sampling of their amazing work:

Fourth grade.  

Don't you love this triangular composition?

Look for these in the halls around school.  A display of their work is coming soon!