Friday, January 22, 2016

5th Grade Winter Birch Trees

Artwork by Emery

Fifth graders focused on the art principle of contrast with this lesson.  We studied some of the works of famed American photographer Ansel Adams with an eye toward how he manipulated the contrast in his photographs to emphasize certain aspects of his subjects. 

Ansel Adams, Aspens at Grand Canyon, 1947

Using a 9"x 12" piece of drawing paper, students used masking tape to compose what would become their birch trees.  They were urged to think about asymmetrical balance (for example, several smaller trunks on one side balanced by a large trunk on the other).  Students then painted the areas between their trunks with dark blue watercolor paint, and I sprinkled salt into the wet areas of their paint to give a frosty or snowy texture to their skies.  On a second day, students carefully removed their masking tape and painted light blue shadows across the snow and along the trunks of their trees.  After these shadows dried, bark details were added using black tempura and very small brushes.  I think the lesson does a great job of introducing the students to an important artist while focusing them very specifically on one art principle -- and the results are really nice, too!   

Artwork by Isabel

Artwork by Madison

Artwork by Shannon

4th Grade Face Rattles

They're out of the kiln and headed for home -- except for a few I'm keeping for the spring art show. Great job, 4th graders!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

4th Grade Face Rattles

Art pottery is one of North Carolina's most important and enduring cultural traditions. We spend some time looking at and discussing the origins of this tradition, focusing in on historical and contemporary face jugs (or "ugly jugs" as they are sometimes called).  These came to our state by way of the traditions and art of Africans enslaved in the Carolinas.  In this unit, we adapt the idea of these ugly jugs to a hollow, spherical rattle.

Our rattles are made by creating two pinch pots of identical size and filling one with several pea-sized balls of clay wrapped in paper towel to keep these "rattlers" from sticking to the side of the wet clay.  (The paper towel burns away during the firing process.)  The two halves are then connected to make the sphere, and the seam between the two is smoothed away.  A small hole is drilled into the hollow center to allow heated air to escape during firing and avoid cracking the piece.   Over the course of two more sessions, students learn about the "scratch and attach" method of connecting decorations or other features to ceramics, and they create their face rattle characters.

The rattles pictured above spent the break drying before being fired this week.  Students will no get a chance to paint their details with underglazes before a final firing.

2nd Grade Three-Quarter Portrait Snowmen

Artwork by Barclay

Most early elementary portraits are confined to simply showing a straight-on perspective of a full face,  I show the second graders how, before Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, even most "real" artists' portraits looked that way, too.  Then we talk about how Leonardo and other Renaissance artists made the "bold" move of painting their subjects in a more natural pose, turned slightly so that only three-fourths of the face is showing. (This is a great spot to introduce a zero to one number line or a "pizza" divided into fourths, as many of the 2nd graders haven't been exposed to fractions yet, at least in their classrooms.).  We also discuss how portraits before the Renaissance typically didn't include more than a blank background, but the Mona Lisa and others have a sense of space because the artists also painted their subjects in a setting of some kind.

We then set to work on our own three-quarter portraits, paying special attention to how the carrot nose would extend beyond the head and how the eyes, mouth, and buttons would be off-center.  We also zoom in on our snowman subjects to vary the usual perspective even more and allow a bit more detail.  A ground line is added to the drawing, and students place something - a tree, a house, another snowman, for example - on it to lend their portraits a sense of space.  The white of the snowman is then painted with acrylic paint.  In a second session, details are colored and snowflakes added with oil pastels.

Artwork by Aiden

Artwork by Elsie

Artwork by Riley