Monday, December 26, 2011

The Christmas Visitor

Hi. It's me, Max, again. You may remember me from Thanksgiving (see post here). Well, I came back for Christmas with all sorts of new ways to torment the grown-ups! I did avoid the table they had set for Christmas Eve dinner until they had finished up and left for the living room. Wasn't that nice of me? I tried to climb in the dishwasher -- they didn't take too kindly to that. But, I didn't go after the Christmas tree. They had put it up above my sight level, so I didn't really notice it. It wasn't a real tree, so the scent didn't alert me. These humans can be pretty crafty!! I REALLY got my dad's attention when I tried to find a way past the fireplace screen and climb in there. I don't know what all the fuss was about; it isn't a real wood burning fireplace so there were no messy ashes and the thing wasn't even turned on 'cause it was in the 70's outside!!

As you can see above, I did find a new "favorite spot." I discovered that the bathroom sink fit my fluffy fur shape perfectly -- just like a nest. They all came to see how cute I was in there, and it didn't seem to annoy them enough to chase me out, so I kept returning there all day.

I was so active all day that when Christmas day came I was too tired to even enjoy all the ribbons, papers, etc. I did get up from my nap long enough to discover this great bag that somebody must have gotten just for me. I'm such a lucky little dude:)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jean Dubuffet

This week 4th graders started by viewing slides of some of Dubuffet's work and discussing his progress as an artist throughout his life. I read about another Dubuffet art project a ways back HERE where the teacher posted a cool site with music also written by Dubuffet. We listened to a bit of that, too. The kids had some great comments as to how his music compared with his art!!! VERY interesting and insightful!!

We then started to work creating a Dubuffet inspired paper sculpture. I bought some 110# white cardstock for this so that it would be stiff enough to stand without sagging.

First, students got 1 piece of 8 1/2" X 5 1/2" piece of cardstock and three pieces cut 8 1/2" X about 2 7/8". They cut the three smaller pieces into organic shapes.

They cut slits where appropriate and assembled the 3 pieces to make a "base" that would balance. I had the students do these 3 pieces first for 2 reasons: 1) to make sure they used 3 pieces as a firm base and 2) in case some kids worked slower I wanted to make sure that they at least had a 3-piece sculpture. Once they had learned to assemble those 3 pieces, the larger two pieces that they would do next were pretty easy to add on.

Once students figured out their construction, it was time to add lines or design motifs. We did not stick to Dubuffet's color palette, but I did as kids to limit their palette to  2 colors, plus black.
The base is piece of 6" X 6" illustration board that was donated to us.
Some classes were taking longer to complete the coloring process, so I had them assemble the white pieces so they would understand the process. They then took them apart and took the pieces with them so they could finish them back in their classrooms. Thank you to the great 4th grade teachers who were willing to have the kids complete the work with them. This was my last day with 4th graders for this 4-week cycle, so there was not the option of finishing next week in art class!!

With winter break coming up soon, I also showed students how to take apart a cereal box and recycle the cardboard to make a sculpture like this. Here is the one I made during the last vacation at home:
I hope some of the kids try it at home!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Circle Paintings on a Windy Day

This was definitely "one of those days!!" Winds up to 100 miles an hour in Southern California, although we did not have the high winds that were predicted in our little corner of the land! That being said, on a day when I had about 125 drippy, wet, painted pieces (some large like these and some smaller projects) that needed drying space, a little breeze was welcome. I ran out of drying racks before lunch, so I strung some rope on the patio and hoped the winds would not kick up too much. (I was in luck!)

4th graders worked cooperatively in groups of 4 on circle paintings. They then took their color of paint and traded tables, so that each piece of work had 8 colors of paint. After a while I had them return to their original work to finish it up. Our focus was BALANCE (dark/light, primary/secondary, warm color, complementary colors).

We are displaying all the panels together as one, large mural. I told the kids that ultimately I would cut each work in fourths and they would each get one fourth of their original piece (they all put their names and room number on the back of "their" panel). Everyone seemed fine with that concept:)

There were a few considerations that helped the in the project's success:
1) Pre-mix enough paint to last through the day.

2)Set tables up without chairs so movement doesn't result in spilled paint. Having a meat tray under the portion cups of paint provided a resting spot for the brush that would support its weight.

3) Have sponges handy when brushes drop or paint spills ( have a carpeted room, so this is something I think about).
4) Model the process first, before kids get started. We had the rule that each person puts down their color once in the center before all 4 start to paint simultaneously. We also had the rule that you kept your own color throughout the painting time. Our third rule was that we worked from the center out, touching a color someone else had made.

5) Students discovered it was smarter to paint solid areas first and then add dots, designs, etc.
6) Really reinforce how much you value the kids' meaningful conversation about how color and design elements support making a balanced piece of art. We actually had groups of parents touring the school today for a visitation day, so in addition to the 30+ kids in the room there were 4 groups of between 10 and 15 adults coming through as we were painting. I was SO proud of the "art talks" kids were having in their groups. That, actually, is the most rewarding part of doing this lesson. I am so grateful to Barbara's Thought of the Day (here) where I first learned of Circle Painting sometime last year.
7) I showed my class some of the photos at before we started working.
I'll add the rest of the circle paintings (that are currently drying) as soon as I have them up in our hallway display case.