Thursday, October 27, 2011

O'keeffe inspired abstract landscapes

(aka Slug paintings)
I'm really excited to share this lesson I did with my 6th graders during their color/painting unit. I'm also proud to say I came up with this one and didn't have to "barrow" it (although I'm sure plenty of people have done similar things). I think this would be good for 4th-8th grade.

After completing our color mixing stars it was time to apply our new skills and learn how to tint and shade. I flipped through my art books looking for inspiration. When I came across the work of Georgia O'keeffe I knew she would be a great artist to study but I didn't want to do the typical large flowers. Well thank you Georgia! She has a impressive body of work of landscapes and super, super abstracted flowers. Paintings that I feel is not usually represented when people talk about her work.
So I made a Google Doc about O'keeffe that featured some of her lesser known works. I made sure to include works that used warm colors, cool colors, neutrals and tints and shades.
Here is a small sampling of O'Keeffe's work that inspired us

I wasn't too surprised that most of my student's were somewhat familiar with her work and they had a great time viwing and talking about her work and guessing what the paintings might be about. They wanted to talk and talk and talk about her art. After an entire class period I had to stop them so we could start making art!

I gave each student three rectangles of paper. On the back of paper one I had them list the warm colors (primary, secondary and intermediate). On paper two we listed the cool colors and on paper three I had the kids list a color and then how to make a tint and a shade. Then we flipped the papers back over and lined them up touching each other.

I had the kids start at the upper left of the 1st paper and pretend they were a slug crawling acrross the paper leaving a trail of slime. They slimed across all three papers from left to right. Then we went back to the left-hand paper and down a bit and repeated the slug trail. And then one more time. Finally I said the slug could make one shape on each small paper.

Now each rectangle of paper has 5 spaces to paint. On paper one kids had to mix and use the warm colors, a different color in each shape/space. Same on the cool color paper and ditto on the tint shade paper.
Some kids were really confused on the idea of tint and shade (like this example) but the end result is still wonderful.

After each rectangle was dry I had the kids line up their papers again and go over their dividing lines with a thin line of black paint. This was really hard for a lot of kids and made the artwork look a bit messy. In the future I think I will have them make the dividing lines with black oil pastel or marker. These look so good on display together. Even if the rectangles did not get matched up correctly they still are successful.

Monday, October 24, 2011

google docs I love you

A big bear hug for google docs!
I'm a waddling 38 weeks pregnant right now. The act of getting up from my chair at school is epic. Walking and talking and breathing....well those things don't happen at the same time anymore. The kids and adults in the building stop me in alarm each day to inquire, "how much longer?" and if I'm ok. As I was stapling up art on Friday a teacher asked me..." should you be doing that in your condition?" " a wall?" I replied..."yeah I think it is safe for me to be stapling."

In the midst of this late pregnancy thing I have become addicted to google docs. I have a PC at home and a mac at school and I want to be able to work on lesson plans at both home and school and pull things up a will and not have issues with compatibility. Have you used google docs? You can make simple power-points and word documents and such. Everything is saved online and to your gmail account (and I know you have one if you are using blogger;) It is so easy to make my presentations at home and pull them up at school. I can keep my presentations privet or make them public to people I choose or anyone. If a student is absent I can email them the link to the google doc presentation and they can view it at home! If a parent couldn't make it to back to school night they could go online and see my presentation. Furthermore if a parent wants to see what we are doing in class they can look at each presentation.

Best, best, best of all when I am on maternity leave I can upload anything I want my sub to be able to have onto google docs from home and she can access everything with a click of a button and share it with the kids. We can both add and remove from presentations....its pretty much a dream for someone who is horrible with technology (as I am). I have promised my husband I will NOT get on google docs at the hospital after the baby is born.

Ok blame it on the hormones. My ode to google docs is done.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

the value of value part 2 : Pumpkins!

Then comes creating value with colored pencil or crayon via two methods: method one, finding a light, medium and dark of one color and method two; how much pressure is applied. Most kids are still moderately interested at this point. They like anything with color and can easily follow along as we add form to shapes like apples and pumpkins using correct value.
Every fall I do this pumpkin lesson where we LAYER different values to show form. I think 4th grade and up could do this. Here are the step by steps including what colors we used from the good old .40 cent crayola 20 color box.
Draw a pumpkin, add a cast shadow and a ground-line. Outline brown.
not a great photo but: lightly color the entire pumpkin with goldenrod or dandelion. Color the stem with yellow green, color the cast shadow gray, the ground blue and the sky violet.
time to layer with different tones or values. Start at the middle of the pumpkin. Color the top and bottom 1/4 with orange. Move to the segments on each side of the middle. color the top and bottom 1/3rd with orange. Move to the outer two segments. Color them fully orange. Go back in with the goldenrod/dandelion and go over any areas that were not colored orange. Layer your color. Grab a red-orange/scarlet and color a little bit at the bottom at each segment and the top of the two outermost segments. Re-outline in brown.
Now the cast shadow. Color a layer of indigo over the gray and then some black right under the pumpkin. For the ground do another layer of blue and blue green. Add some of both to the cast shadow area. Last use green and brown on the stem.
Last I have the kids use some purples do the "sky" area so it ties into the cast shadow and doesn't distract from all the work in the pumpkin.

You could also do this with larger sets of colored pencils...some prismacolor scholor pencils would be GREAT for this...but spendy and you would need a lot of sets. I know the kids like this mini lesson because they ask to take their pumpkins home as soon as we are done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the value of value (and gradation) part 1

For some reason I find it easiest to teach value by going paint, then crayon, then colored pencil then graphite. So we start with paint.
Official definition of Value (tone, tint, shade...) "refers to the use of light and dark, shade and highlight, in an artwork."

Middle school definition of value..."this is hard, why do we have to do this....I want to do something fun!"

Ah teaching value at a more advanced level can be a pain in the butt. I find younger students are perfectly happy to learn how to make tints and shades with paint...they delight at the magic of creating colors. Middle school students are less impressed. Remember I'm working with 6th and 7th graders who have never had art they need to learn some basics but are not longer easily amused. I need them to learn how to make tints and shade, tone, or value or whatever you call it in your classroom with paint, colored pencil or crayon and the dreaded graphite pencil.

Most students can easily grasp the idea of tints and shade in paint and when guided create a decent black and white gray-scale in paint and tints and shade of a color. While not the most exciting thing in the world it is pretty easy to to.
Students that feel tint and shade is too easy are challenged to gradate between two or more colors on the color wheel. Then to show their new skills I asked them to tint and shade or gradate a background and add a silhouette image. I even give them some silhouettes of people in motion as I am more interested in their ability to tint and shade or gradate than anything else.
6th graders shows she gets the concept
6th grader who basically understands the concept but needs a bit more practice with making small changes in color and using the paintbrush
7th grader who has been exposed to the concept twice now. Understands the color mixing... decent but not great paintbrush control
7th grader: 2nd time exposed to concept. Has mastered tints, good paintbrush control and starting to think about compositional choices as she choose to have her tinting follow the shape of the silhouette.

One of three bulletin boards showing off value or gradation, lots of teacher and student response to these.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Franz Marc...second steps

Well a few people showed interest in doing a collaborative lesson...or at least were enthusiastic about the prospect of something Franz Marc inspired.

I've been trying hard to do research on Franz Marc and finding surprisingly little. Marc was a young German man who was interested in theology but the son of an artists and as a young adult attended art school. He came in contact with Van Gogh, Matisse and Gauguin. He shared Van Gogh's interest in spirituality and color symbolism. I see why he liked Gauguin's saturated colors and Matisse's organic shapes, Fauvist colors and less realistic drawing style. I learned he died at age 36 when killed in WWI and I have found a few quotes from his letters to Kandinsky who he founded the Blue Riders group with. The other books and articles I have found about him are in German, and while I took 6 years of German in school, I'm finding my translating abilities to be limited.

There is a Scholastic Arts from 2009 about Franz Marc called Working with Color. Anyone have a copy of it? I'm having trouble getting my hands on one.

So onto the lesson. I'm going to try a few different approaches and post them. I also encourage anyone else with ideas to make a sample and post it. For this first try I only used oil pastel and did the animal first and background second. I asked my husband what animal he would be and what color would symbolize him. He choose blue and a dog and then specified our dog Dexter. OK I said. For the setting he choose the forest because we like to go camping and he wanted to look up because he is an optimistic person so I have him looking up at a star/sun thing.

I started by drawing the dog and my first drawings were too realistic for a Franz Marc lesson so I had to loosen up my approach. I will encourage the kids to go simple and not too detailed. I also wish I had drawn my dog bigger. Then I made the setting, a sun/star thing, a pine tree and an organic shaped ground.

Then I outlined the dog in dark blue. While looking at Marc's work I noticed a lot of complementary color pairs. So I made the ground orange. The tree as green so I made the sun/star red. I think it would be helpful to ask the kids to use two complementary color pairs for the majority of their work.
why does blogger do this?

Next it was time to color the dog. I found a light, medium, dark blue and white. I tried to show some modeling like Marc did by choosing a few highlight areas and working my lights and darks. I would have to give the kids a lot of guidance on this part.

Next I found 3 oranges and worked on the ground making sure to put a darker orange/red shadow underneath my animal. This part was pretty easy. Next I went up to the sun/star and worked in reds and a little orange...also easy to do and demo to the kids.

Over to the tree and I decided to add a row of tree's in the background that overlapped and got smaller to show depth and space. Maybe I should have left it be at just one tree. I'll stick to one tree in the next sample. Once again I found three greens and worked lights and darks.

and now we are left with the sky area. Part of me wants to use watercolor paint with it and salt but I don't know how Franz Marc-esque that would be. I'm also not sure about the sky color. A purple maybe?

So now it is time for feedback on attempt #1....what is on track and what could be done differently. For my next attempt I will do something with paint.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

let's build a lesson together...Franz Marc

I'm about to suggest something that may be a huge disaster. Something that despite the 100's of art teachers blogging and reading and sharing each others lessons that I don't think I have seen much of. Something that may make some people uncomfortable.

I am going to suggest we put our creative brainpower together and create a lesson together. One that has ideas and feedback from lots of comments and blogger. One that doesn't really "belong" to anyone.

Am I just trying to get other people to do my work for me? Seriously no. I'm more trying to using that great P.D. word...collaborate with my coworkers. It's just that 10 years ago I would be doing this in person with the other teachers at my district and now that we don't have meetings together, and the Internet is the great staff room for art teachers...I dare us to try to collaborate online.

So if you are with me read on! Maybe we can make this a monthly thing where people send in a topic or artist they want to create a lesson for/about and we work together to make something awesome.

Lesson mission: Create a lesson inspired by Franz Marc that asks students to think about expressive color

Artist: Franz Marc

Materials available: Tempera paint, oil pastels, paper, colored construction paper, scissors and glue

Target age range: 4th-7th grade

Specific goals:
*Students will view and discuss the work of Franz Marc
*Students will learn basic info about the life of Franz Marc
*Students will discuss the concepts of expressionist, abstracted vs. realism and cubism
*Students will brainstorm an animal they feel represents them
*Using a variety or resources students will draw this animal
*Students will position their animal in a pose that expresses a feeling or personality trait
*Students will discuss how different artist and cultures give colors different meanings
*Students will brainstorm their own personal color meanings
*Students will choose a color for their animal that has personal meaning. They must be able to explain their color choice beyond...I like purple best. More like, "I choose purple because it means to be Royal, rich and powerful and I want to be those things."
*Students will create a Franz Marc inspired background/setting for their animal

*What material would be best for drawing and coloring the animal? (paint or oil pastel)
*What material would be best for creating the background setting? (paint or oil pastel)
*What kinds of guidelines/suggestions will help students make an interesting setting. Should it be more cubist...should they be able to just create whatever setting they like, should small details be allowed or not allowed?
*Should the animal and background be created on the same paper or on separate papers and then glued together.
*Should the animal or background be made from collage or is that getting too Eric Carle-ey (he is a big fan of Franz Marc by the way)
*How can we make sure the animal is in proportion to the rest of the artwork
*How can we help students think of expressing emotions and personality traits through color, through animal choice and through animal position. Should we brainstorm as a class, as table directed should it be?
*Do you have a completely different way to approach this lesson (still using the supplies's what we have)
*Are these way to abstract of concepts for 4th-7th graders?

Comment with your thoughts and ideas if you want to play along. EVERYONE who contributes ideas and feedback will get "credit" on our final lesson that we make. Maybe you want to make a mock-up of what you think would look great for this lesson and put it on your blog. Just link back to this so we can get as many amazing art teachers working together as possible!