Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Middle Eastern Doors




Central Idea: Expression of belief is all around us.
Lines of Inquiry: Middle eastern architecture, the roles of pattern in Islamic art

These lovely ceramic and glass  pieces would have been a great culmination of a unit focusing on Islamic Art but it being the end of the year and given the time it takes to "do clay", we worked backwards.  The doors were the first thing we did and then we backtracked and explore patterns and their role in Islamic art.

I got the idea for this project over here, but I adapted it a bit.  The children were given pre-cut slabs and I had examples of middle eastern archway shapes for them to take a look at.  They decided on their shapes for the whole piece and the interior door.  In retrospect, this would have been a good design lesson for them to play with in their sketchbooks-- but again,  it was May and we just didn't have enough time.

The children were given scrap paper that was cut to the same size as their slabs-- they had to fold it in half and draw half an arch, then once they cut the folded paper it was perfectly symmetrical.  They used the paper as a tracer for their clay and then used that same piece to draw, cut and trace their interior door.

Here was the success criteria for the patterns which were imprinted with screws:
The most challenging part was using a subtractive technique to carve out the interior doors.  This is where the glass shards were going to go so they needed to be level and deep enough to hold liquid (hot molten glass that is!).  Many kids made them too shallow or poked holes in the bottom, it wasn't easy.

After the bisque firing, the kids used three coats of Crystaltex glaze and then the fun of picking glass for the doors began!  I had a ton of glass for fusing left by the previous art teacher but glass marbles or broken bottles would work just as well. I look forward to next year when this unit and project can get given the time and attention it really deserves. 


Monday, May 19, 2014

Pinch Pots with a Twist

One of my favorite ways to get kids to think creatively is to get them to look at a familiar object in a new way.  My fourth graders this year took on the age old elementary art staple, the Pinch Pot.  Once they knew the basic method to create the pot, they had to make theirs unique but still functional.

Here are some of the results:





I have been away from my blog for a while (the last post was January) I was busy creating a little pinch pot of my own, our little miss Maya, born 11 Feb 2014.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Australian Aboriginal Story Paintings






Transdisciplinary Theme: Who We Are
Central Idea: Stories are shared in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes
Lines of Inquiry: Why we share stories, How stories enrich culture

I always find this unit tricky to integrate with not because of the content (usually authors and illustrators) but because typically the students write their own stories in their classrooms and then illustrate or make a book cover in art class.  Sounds logical, but what happens every. single. time is that by the time the kids are done with the editing process, the unit is almost over and there is never enough time to make the covers or illustrations in time for their Open Houses or however they want to share their summative assessment with their parents.

This year, I tried something different.  I used this unit to introduce the Grade 3's to heavily symbolic Australian Aboriginal Art and the concept of Dreamtime.  We began with a See Think Wonder using this photo:


The children were very curious and made some great observations.  Many classes were convinced that she couldn't possibly be a "real" artist because she is sitting on the ground and "looks poor".  Lots of, "interesting observation, what makes you say that?" on my part!  Food for thought about what makes a "real" artist and how our personal perspective influences the way we interpret art.

The next step was to introduce the children to some symbols that are typically found in Aboriginal art and talking about why those symbols might be important in their culture.  The children were provided with some aboriginal art prints and they looked to see if they could find some symbols they recognized.  Some examples can be found here: 

I found a bunch of other examples online and made a few symbol reference sheets.  The children worked in their sketch books and wrote their own stories using only symbols.

The last step was creating their own Australian Aboriginal paintings using an australian animal of their choosing as the main character.  Each child drew a large outline of an animal on their paper and painted both the animal and the background.  When the paint was dry, they added the second layer-- large lines or shapes but no small details but no dots or symbols quite yet!  It is very helpful to have a sample of each stage visible so they can see the process.

Last class the kids were given black and white paint markers and a tutorial on how to use them properly.  I find these work so much better than Q-tips or the end of paint brush handles to make nice round dots.  The did a lovely job with the details and yes, everything was done in time for the Open House. :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Georgia O'Keeffe Macro Flowers






The Grade 3's just finished a Georgia O'Keeffe artist study and even the boys who balked at drawing flowers were really engaged.  We started with a book from a favorite children's art series, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists.

It was especially poignant that Georgia went to art school and was working as a professional artist at a time when it was not considered appropriate for women to do so.  The children were horrified at the thought, despite the fact that we live in the only country in the world where women do not have the right to drive.

We started the art creation part of the unit by looking at the difference between cartoony "symbolic" flowers and the real deal.  What makes a 2D image look "real"? What's the difference between drawing what we see and drawing what we know?

I drew a few flowers from photographs using the document camera and the children then chose five flower images from a huge pile and drew them in their sketchbooks.  This was simply to get experience drawing what they see (getting away from the cartoons/symbols).

The next step was choosing another flower and drawing it HUGE on a black piece of paper.  We talked about cropping and zooming in-- making the flower feel powerful.  Again, I demonstrated on the document camera first and then they chose their own flowers from the pile and tried it.  Tracing over the lines with white glue was the next step.  The dried glue lines really do make a difference for emphasis in the finished piece, and they help young children consolidate their efforts into one small space at a time.

When the glue was dry, the children had a lesson in shading/blending oil pastels before they attempted it on their final pieces.  I gave them the handout below and demonstrated coloring in one direction, following contour lines and blending colors with the document camera.  They got to practice on their own using whatever colors they wanted, and when they were done they graduated onto shading our final pieces.


The last step was a quick reflection on what they've learned, these were displayed under their artwork:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monochromatic Cultural Landscapes





What does a landscape tell us about the culture of the people who live there?  How do climate and geography affect how people look and what they might wear?  How do religious beliefs influence architecture?

The Grade 4's did more than just look at the tricks artists use to make objects look close and far away.  They explored various landscape paintings from around the globe and discovered distinguishing characteristics that give clues about the people who inhabit those landscapes.

We talked about our location (Saudi Arabia) and what symbols we might use to make our landscapes distinctly Saudi.  The children learned how to mix tints of a color and to paint each layer carefully.  The last step of the project was the most fun bit for most-- adding the details in with paint markers.  The children are immensely proud of their first paintings on canvas!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sustainability Posters










The Grade 5's recently completed a Unit of Inquiry on Sustainability which was a great link for an inquiry into the art of Chris Jordan.  If you've never seen his work, particularly his "Running the Numbers" series, you've got to check it out.  The children were gobsmacked by some of the statistics that he portrays in his pieces.  We started with the Zoom In Visible Thinking Routine using Jordan's "Wave III."  We started looking at a very close part of the piece and as each slide of the Power Point got further and further away to reveal the completed piece, the children had to explain how their thinking changed with each slide.

Next, the children came up with a plan to create their own Chris Jordan style piece using PowerPoint.  Everyone started with a statistic that they wanted to convey artistically.  This worksheet helped them plan: 


The easiest way after trial and error was to start with a "coloring page" (line drawing) and fill it in with repeated images that somehow related to their statistic.  The goal at the end was to make the completed poster large, so they also needed to understand how to use Google Search tools to look for large size photos.  The last step was adding their statistic to the work in a way that was visually pleasing and then popping the jpeg into blockposters.com to make it bigger using our A4 printer.  

The children have yet to decide where in our community the posters will be hung, but sharing them outside of school is a great example of taking action!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chuck Close Style Self Portraits







Holy cow, I can't believe these are finally done.  These took my Grade 5's ten 45 minute sessions to complete!  I started in August with an introduction to portraits and  I used Chuck Close's "Emma" as part of a See Think Wonder activity.  The kids were entranced with Chuck Close's life story and all of the obstacles that he had to overcome during his life. 

I photographed each child and had them make a sketch using an online photo editor.  (The photos had a  lot more spunk and personality when I took them instead of the kids taking their own photos in PhotoBooth).They printed their sketches in A3 size and traced them onto large grid paper.  They colored one section at a time (hair, skin, clothes, background) and planned their colors carefully in their sketchbooks.  

They evaluated themselves based on the criteria on the rubric below: