Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mapping Out Negative Space

 In the last post, I mentioned how realism is currently stressed in my 8th grade classes to prepare students for some of the rigors of high school Art.  I came across the work of Leslie DeRose. DeRose takes images of bikes and mixes them with maps, paint, and a few other materials to make some really eye-catching artwork (as I have not contacted DeRose, I will not publish her images here, but please do take the time to click-through to see her wonderful work!).

DeRose plays with foreground/background and negative space. She uses maps as the foreground, and they take the shape of the bikes.   I thought this would make great project to review negative space, realism, and to reiterate drawing skills. . . . If you aren't able to draw a killer image of bike parts, your work won't turn out.

I don't know DeRose's process (her finished works are soo lovely), but here is our simplistic paper-tempera interpretation/homage to her work:

1. I collected maps.  Honestly, I've been collecting them for years.  Most of my maps came from those visits from teacher-insurance people who always give out freebies (like maps) when they visit. I've been keeping them (and collecting from other teachers) for a special project like this.

2. I printed out about fifty different versions of non-motorized bikes (some look futuristic, some vintage, some typical).

3. Students selected a bike and made a view finder.

4. Students draw a contour line drawing of exactly what they saw inside their viewfinder on a white sheet of paper.

5. Students then traced their contour line drawing onto a map (map sheets and contour drawing paper were the exact same size and pre-cut by me). Students used two light boards and the windows to trace.

6. Students painted only the backgrounds of their map drawings using values of one color (we used biggie cake tempera and liquid tempera paints).

7. Students used a contrasting paint pen color to re-trace the contour line map drawing of their bikes

8. Students mounted work and prepared for display.

 This student just really wanted to do a plane. . .And, I said "of course!).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Formal Portraiture in the Middle School Art Room

 I have a real healthy appreciation for thematic projects that focus on social and emotional issues. . . These sorts of projects typically translate to abstract and/or artwork that does not rely upon realism. Since many of my students will go on to take more advanced Art classes at the high school level, it is important to me -and the the High School Art teachers- that my students have some experience with formal, academic, realism drawing.

My students love themselves, so I figured a self-portrait drawn in a mirror would be a good starting place!  One my favorite artists who focuses on the human body is Egon Schiele. . .Now, Schiele doesn't seem like a very nice guy. . .In fact, I dare say he was a bit of a really nasty, deviant, perverted criminal (some of his subjects are a little too young and posed a little too proactively, and he got into trouble for exposing some of his art to minors). . .But, I do like his artistic style. . .So, I taught my students how to add the painted white paint and ochre wash elements of Schiele's style without ever mentioning his name. . . Honestly, I  just don't want my 13-15 year-old 8th grade students to go home and Google/Bing search Schiele and be exposed to such nastiness.

This project was completed by my 8th grade students.

1. Every student had a mirror. . .Sort of like this one (they snap into 2 mirrors super-easy, so I reinforce that top "fold" with duct tape/clear packing tape. It works like a charm!)
2. We practiced drawing from observation for two class days. Each day we focused on different parts of the face.  I modeled how to draw the face using my own face, mirror and a document camera.
3. We began each class with 2-3 quick-draws, and we discussed how this warmed us up for drawing (like stretching before running)
4. We discussed how drawing from the shoulder yields better results than drawing from the wrist, and I demonstrated.
5. On the third day, students began a contour line drawing of their face
6. On the fourth day, students added shading and value (I modeled how to do this)
7. Next, students added an ochre wash
8. Finally students added an outline of white tempera and then a bit more value shading for added "oomph" and contrast.

There are great girl-student portraits too. . But the ladies requested to not be featured on the blog. :)

Closing the Art Gap

It has been mentioned here before, my current 6th graders have not had a lot of Art Ed experience prior to this year.  After a bit of sleuthing, I've discovered there are a few reasons for this:

1. One of the feeder schools flooded a year ago, and was damaged beyond repair.  The displaced students did not receive Art in their temporary environments.

2. Elementary students in my immediate area do not attend Art class on a weekly basis. Instead, they visit Art in a rotation of once every 8 school days. . .This translates to having Art class approximately once every two weeks.

3.  Several students admit to not having Art since third grade or younger.

4.  I teach a lot of transient students who have bounced from schools who had Art to those that did not.

Needless to say, my sixth graders are struggling to perform tasks that most 1st and 2nd graders could do with minimal effort. And, just to clarify, I am not holding any elementary Art teachers accountable for my students' lack of knowledge; my students have simply not had the level of exposure most would expect of sixth grade students. I've had to drastically change the projects I intended to do with my sixth graders to accommodate their gaps in Art Ed.

The largest hurdle has been the fact middle school aged students want to draw realistically, and firmly believe the only "good" art is realistic. . . But, my students struggle to draw some of the basic geometric shapes!  I asked if the students had completed a "guided drawing" before, and defined a guided drawing via demonstration. . . Y'all. Not a single student had ever done a guided drawing!?

I've been spending most of the year utilizing 3rd-5th lesson plans, and incorporating "twists" to meet the Performance Standards for 6th grade Art.  One of the biggest parts of this is trust.  The students didn't know, and therefore didn't trust me at first. . .Now, they are willing to "go" with what I ask and trust that I am guiding them down the right path. For example, I might say: "I know our drawings look sort of wacky and silly right now, but trust me, that is what you want! We are going to add details and that will help your drawing become awesome and amazing!"

Having said all of that, I'm really excited to show you two projects that really demonstrate how my students have developed!

I designed a two-project unit about the Legend of the Koi Fish.  The basic version of the legend is thus:  The koi fish swim up the Rainbow River. One lucky koi is chosen to become a dragon. Koi and dragons are symbols of good luck in Japan.  My students LOVED both of these super-fun projects, and they were huge confidence and ability boosters!

What is soo exciting here is that you can actually see how much better their drawing skills have become in just two projects! Some of the koi fish look a little like manatees or some other water-beast. . But, the dragons! Oh the dragons!! They look amaze-er-ring!

Here's how it all went down: (vocab: koi, Japan, legend/folktale, collage, drawing, guided drawing, oil pastel)

Koi Fish in the Rainbow River
1. I read the Legend of the Koi Fish
2. We did a guided drawing to practice drawing koi
3. Students drew 2 koi and colored with oil pastels
4. We painted two sheets of large paper using blue and green watercolor paint
5. We invented patterns and drew them on our painted paper
6. We tore our painted paper into strips
7. We glued our painted paper together to make waves the river
8. We glued our koi into our rivers
9. We displayed our rivers on the wall

Dragons Swimming Above the River
1. We reviewed the Legend of the Koi Fish
2. We did a guided drawing of a Japanese dragon (they have three or four toes!) on scratch paper
3. We practiced drawing simple parts of a dragon face (spikey hair, whiskers, etc.)
4. Students drew their dragon on a large sheet of white paper
5. Students traced their dragon with permanent marker
6. Students painted their dragons
7. Students cut out their dragons
8. We displayed our dragons above our koi fish river

These dragons really remind me of the fabulous Ms. Phyl!