Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Monochromatic Scenes in Silhouette

   Let's be honest. You almost didn't read this post. The name for this project is terrible. Monochromatic Scenes in Silhouette? Hardly rolls off the tongue, and kids will look at you oddly when you say it.  Even though I wanted to call these landscape/seascape/cityscape/ or-sky-only paintings simply scapes, to ease matters, I couldn't. Because scapes  are a whole other thing, and here in Vermont, kids actually know what they are.
Garlic scape. Obviously.
And the kids would wonder, why are we silhouetting the flowering tops of garlic plants in the moonlight, Mrs. Elliott?  That's nonsense. Delicious in pesto and stir-fry, however. Try it sometime.

Anyway, now I am stuck with this dumb name for their amazing projects. If you have a better one, please recommend it. Moving on.

Monochromatic sky and hills

Students in fourth and fifth grade began this project by creating a color they loved, and using only white+the custom color to create a sky. We began with white at the light source, gradually adding hints of color circling outwards. Some students created only sky, while others added water, hills, and mountains.  To do that, students had to consider if the color of the hills showed atmospheric perspective (paler in the distance, darker in the foreground), and if adding water, did it reflect the sky?

That was the first class (or for some, the first and second). During the next class, students experimented with both collage and ink, to see which they preferred for creating objects in silhouette. Once they were comfortable with their choice, they began on their painted background paper.

Some artists created cityscapes, such as these. Do you see that tiny laundry line on the right-hand image? 

One of the hardest parts of making art is knowing when to stop. We have been talking about salting your food as a good metaphor for this. No salt might be bland, a little is delicious, and too much is just overwhelming, and not yummy anymore.

The classes have been working on telling one another when to stop, before it goes overboard. Our mantra has been Just because there is space, doesn't mean you need to fill it.

In other words, when giving constructive feedback to each other, resist telling your friend to fill all empty sky space with planes, UFOs, hot air balloons, and a thousand birds. Pull back a little, and focus feedback on how the artist can improve what is already there. Our mantra has been helpful enough that two students actually thought they had gone too far, and elected to come in at a recess to begin again.

The results have been overall pretty wonderful, although the ink can be difficult to control, drips easily, and therefore requires flexible thinking about what to do if you make a mistake.

The artist who made the picture above did that task beautifully. He dripped quite a lot of ink in the upper right third of his painting, just when he was nearly done. Bamboo brushes are both magical and tricky like that. After gathering feedback from peers, he decided to turn it into the dark smoke stream of a jet.

You know a project is great when kids are so proud of their blending, their ideas, and their product that one shouts "I feel like a real artist!" Now the lesson just needs a better name!