Thursday, February 28, 2013

2nd Grade Gyotaku/Collage Results

Here are a few of this week's gyotaku results from 2nd graders. As children cut out their fish, colored the eye (trying to pick up one color from their background) and glued the fish, meaningful conversation included words like: overlap, diagonal, horizontal, and balance.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Gyotaku Lesson

2nd graders are in the midst of making Gyotaku (Japanese fish prints) and multi-media collaged ocean backgrounds. 5th graders made Gyotaku a few weeks back and the printing process was the same for both grade levels, so you can check it out HERE.
Even though I told each group that our fish were not real, but made from rubber, I got a lot of suspicious looks as kids approached the "fish table." I heard several students asking their neighbor, "Are these REAL fish?"

I loved when one little girl, who was rubbing her fish print paper, looked up and said,"This is like giving the fish a massage!!" I'm still chuckling at the image!!

We started with a short Smartboard introduction and then kids had some images of underwater plants to refer to as they collaged their ocean scene.

They cut grasses, coral and kelp first, gluing it all on with dots of Elmer's Glue All. Taught students to use little dots instead of spreading on the glue like peanut butter!

The last step was to add fingerprint texturing to the coral and fingerprints for the round parts of their kelp. **In the lower corner of the above photo you can see the glue cups and sticks we use for almost all gluing in the art room. The board is white foam core with layers of wax paper glued or stapled on. (When the top layer gets too yucky I just peel it off and the underneath layer is already there and ready to go.) We let the glue dry in the portion cups and just add more glue on top of the dried stuff until the cup is pretty full. Then you can just pop the dried glue out and start all over again! The sticks are sandwich sticks from Smart & Final and we reuse them for quite awhile, too. I find that this method encourages using the glue very sparingly, dot by dot.
 They painted bubble wrap and printed bubbles, experimenting with color.

The illustration boards that students were using were a variety of light and dark blues and greens. We talked about which paint colors were more likely to produce contrast on the light or dark backgrounds. I heard kids talking a lot about which colors would "show up" best -- LOVE those purposeful conversations!!  There was also talk about line directions, overlapping and texture. When we cut out the fish prints and glue them I'll post the results.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

CLEAN Brushes = CLEAN Paints!!!

Clean brushes definitely translate to CLEAN paints.

You may remember that last week I referred to a blogger who posted about having her students show that their brushes were clean at the end of class by testing the cleanliness on her own arm before they left class. At the time I couldn't find that "heaven sent" blogger's post. I finally found it, right there on my Blog List with a picture of brushes to guide me -- "How could I have missed it?" I asked myself. Anyway, click here for the link to Mrs. Picasso's Art Room and the complete article on clean brushes.

We have implemented her idea during the painting process to keep the paints from looking "muddy." For the last 2 weeks I have had 2nd graders use the trick of testing their brushes for cleanliness after their "swishing and wiping" in water by touching the brush to the top of their hands before getting a new color. The kids get a kick out of doing it, and it has worked beautifully for cleaning the brushes AND keeping the cake temperas looking, if not pristine, pretty close to it!!!! Thank you, Denise!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pattern Pathways & Mixing Browns

2nd graders, using an ant farm photo as inspiration, created black crayon patterned pathways this week. That was the first part of the lesson. Next, using cake tempera, they mixed complementary colors from the color wheel to experiment with different brown tones for the background areas. My final focus was use of the paint brush, including brush control and, of course, how to clean it well.

There was a lot of changing colors, so kids had ample opportunity to clean their brushes. I asked them to "Swish, swish, wipe and check." The checking part was new for me. I read about it on somebody's blog recently (I can't remember which blog and, unfortunately forgot to pin it -- sorry!). Anyway, this clever teacher (whoever you are) has the kids check if their brush is clean at the end of class by painting the "clean" brush on her arm. Loved it so much, I asked the kids to paint their "clean" brush on their hand each time they cleaned it before dipping into a new color. Worked like a charm!!! If you were the one who wrote about this recently, let us all know, and THANK YOU!
Some students did step 3 and others ran out of time or chose to leave their pathways black and white.

This was the ant farm photo that we used as a model for how ants dig their curvy tunnels:
And, finally, here is some of the students' work:
 I was so pleased to watch students work so conscientiously to experiment with how much of each color to add to their mix to achieve the brown they wanted!! We used recycled white, plastic lids (which they easily cleaned themselves at the end of class) for palettes.

For some of the classes I mounted their 6" X 6" abstracts on a colored matte:

Instead of mounting these, I had the kids assemble them on the rug, trying to connect their pathways in a pleasing composition. This was really fun to watch! There were a LOT of directors in this part of the collaborative process!!!!

This was a portion of one group's work:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Viewfinders - How To & How NOT To!!

Last week I had kids make viewfinders to use in creating their mini-abstacts (here). Most 5th graders had no problems with the basic directions. For others, not so easy!!
Here were the steps:
Fold: "hamburger" style (fat), not "hot dog" style (skinny).
 Trace around rectangle which is placed ON THE FOLD. I wanted the viewfinders to have 1-inch square cut-outs. Since I don't have 34 standard rulers and we weren't going to have that much time, I had pre-cut some little 1" X 1/2" rectangles for the kids to use as a quick stencil.
Cut out.
Finished product!!

Now, in all fairness, most students came pretty close to making a viewfinder like the one above.

However, there were these, too:

 This little rectangle was folded in half around the fold.
This student placed the short end of the rectangle on the fold.
You KNOW what happened here, even though we talked about this before starting.
And then there were those that had trouble determining a "skinny" vs "fat" rectangle.

I know that with Valentine's Day creeping up, many teachers will be sighing as they observe similar cutting skills this week. Even though we model, demonstrate, remind students of possible pitfalls, we will still see that some students just need a little more time and practice. So, the word of the week: PATIENCE!!!! Have a fun Valentine's Day!

ps. To all of you on the East coast who may be shoveling out about now, I wish you well. Here in Southern California we are already seeing signs of Spring!!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I haven't had kids use viewfinders in YEARS, but a post I saw last November here got me thinking about them again. I tried a few "mini-abstracts" of my own during the Winter Holiday using catalogues I was getting ready to discard. I was immediately hooked for several reasons -- I'll get to those later. First, though, let me show you some 5th grade results:
Love the movement captured in this drawing!!!
This student worked to carefully place color blocks accurately.

What a nice example of shading in the white area!

These were all completed in one class session (about 40 min. working time).

We started this project looking at a small "abstract" photo on the Smartboard, identifying properties (shapes, colors, shading, etc). Students then tried to find where this cropping came from in the larger photo.
I modeled how to make a viewfinder, mark the midpoints on the viewfinder and the 6" square of drawing paper to use as register marks and overlay crayon colors to blend exact hues. As it turned out, that is a whole other article that I'll post later.

You can see how this student shaded his reds with orange and black.

I asked students to choose drawings that were non-representaional. This child turned his drawing sideways to create his abstract. These were actually 2 chicks -- but I love the way they look abstract at this angle. He actually worked very hard to capture shadows and texture that he observed.
I asked students to mount their drawings, first on a color of their choice, and then onto a 9" X 12" piece of black construction paper along with their viewfinder and  magazine selection. Part of my lesson was teaching children about mounting their work leaving black showing on all sides of their mounted work. These kids are often asked to create posters or visual presentations in their regular classrooms, so this is another useful skill for them to have.

Aside from that, why do I like viewfinder exercises so much?? Well, first, I find that the small scale helps to train the eye for larger observational drawings. Second, color matching is an acquired skill that gets better and better with practice (as with anything, I guess!). And, finally, I LOVE how the results provide so many examples for discussion of composition, not to mention pattern, color, repetition, etc., etc........ I think, that if I taught in an upper elementary regular classroom, I would be doing these or variations of these once a month!!!