Friday, December 13, 2013

African Fabrics

Fourth graders looked at fabrics from Tanzania, Mauritania, and Senegal. They brainstormed common characteristics, including geometric shapes, bright colors, and, stylized objects from nature, and patterns.

Here is a kanga fabric from Tanzania that they saw and discussed:

Each kanga contains a blessing or a wish. This message in Swahili translates as:

"Destined to be safe, I remain protected, and your evil wishes have not materialized."

Here is a hand-dyed fabric from Senegal. It is several yards long and was made with a batik technique. It is a piece of clothing that wraps around the body.

The students had a fun time guessing the function of this fabric from Mauritania.  Can you guess what it is? Hint: Look at the loops...

It is a khaimah, a Mauritanian tent. The white side faces up, toward the hot desert sun. The colorful inside provides a beautiful canopy for those who sit inside.

After exploring these beautiful fabrics, the fourth graders sketched their own geometric designs. Then, they carved them into styrofoam sheets, which they used as printing plates. They rolled printing ink onto the printing plate, being careful not to put on too little or too much ink. With practice and experience, they learned to use the correct amount by both looking at the styrofoam and listening to the sound as the roller went back and forth over the ink- ideally, it should make a sticky noise.

Here are some of the results of their hard work:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Second Grade Havdalah Spiceboxes

Second graders created beautiful spiceboxes with Sculpey, a polymer clay. The spicebox is used on Havdalah, a ceremony bidding goodbye to the Sabbath. We smell the sweet spices like cloves to remind us to have a "sweet" week.

As an introduction to the project, we looked at spiceboxes made of metal, ceramic, and wood.

For the base, they created a simple pinch pot. For the decoration, they chose colors with contrast and they flattened and rolled the colors together to create a spiral. Then, they rolled clay thin to create an outside layer. I sliced up the clay and they adorned their pinch pots. Here are some of the beautiful results!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

First Grade Color Theory

First graders have been exploring the color wheel!

They learned about primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), and through projects based in experiential learning, they discovered how to mix and blend primary colors to create secondary colors (orange, green, and purple). Each project builds upon the next, as the color theory gets more complex. This week, they learned about complementary colors, which are pairs of colors that enhance each other- for example, blue and orange. They observed that Jewish painter Sonia Delaunay often juxtaposed complementary colors in her abstract paintings, and that Van Gogh used a blue background in a self-portrait to amplify the orange of his beard. 

For the first activity, I used a lesson with a game format. I told them that they needed to create a collage using primary colors, but that I'd be trying to "trick" them by giving them all the colors. I acted quite dramatic when a student picked up a purple piece of paper. I walked around offering them extra materials, and they had to say "yes please" to primary color materials or "no thank you" to secondary color materials. They gladly accepted blue glitter, but told me politely to put the purple ribbon back in the closet.

We looked at a work of art by Roy Lichtenstein, who often used primary colors in his works.

Another artist who often used primary colors is Piet Mondrian.

Here are some of the collages!

The next class, I introduced them to secondary colors. I told them that we would be making a color wheel, and that their project was to create circles with each color we had talked about- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. To their surprise, when they got to their seats, all they had was red, yellow, and blue! They had to figure out how to make their own secondary colors by mixing and blending paints. When the paints dried, they created their own color wheels:

The next week, we looked at pictures of Marc Chagall's stained glass windows from Jerusalem and they used layers of red, yellow, and blue cellophane to create secondary colors. I hung them up on the windows and the art room looks so beautiful!

This week, we explored complementary color pairs- blue/orange, red/green, and purple/yellow. Complementary colors are used for emphasis because they amplify each other when juxtaposed.  We looked at paintings by Sonia Delaunay, who often used complementary colors.  

The first graders drew circles and shapes and made sure to make the best and brightest drawing by putting the pairs of complementary colors together. Here is one example:

I developed this unit several years ago, and I love how it is both sequential and completely experiential. Each project helps the first graders see colors in a new way, through a variety of different media. And because the learning is based in experience, it really sticks with them! I have students who are in fourth grade who still point it out whenever I wear complementary colors. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

8th Grade Zentangles

Eighth graders explored Zentangles, a series of patterns and designs created by two artists as a hands-on alternative to focus and meditation exercises.  Though Zentangles appear complex, they are made of individual patterns that consist of simple lines and shapes that anyone can create.  The eighth graders had many choices of media, including fabric, paper, paint, and they could even create their Zentangle designs on everyday items like CD's, light bulbs, and lampshades.  They used official Zentangle patterns from the creators' blog in addition to their own original pattern designs.  Here are some of the amazing results!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Made in the Shade

Seventh graders have been learning about value, which is an element of art.  In visual art, elements are the properties of artwork that you can experience through sight and touch. These include:

  • Texture
  • Space
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Value
  • Line
Seventh graders learned that varying the pressure on a pencil can create a range of light and dark values.  To practice their shading, they created a line drawing, then divided or "shattered" it with dividing lines. Then, they shaded each newly created shape in with their pencils.

In other words, when faced with "shady" situations, these seventh graders used their "values" to guide them.  Here are some examples: