Grade Four’s Homage to Ted Harrison

A beautiful person and artist, Ted Harrison passed away on January 16, 2015, at the age of 88.  The world is losing so many heroes…and Ted is one.  Having a beautiful heart and eye for simplicity, he loved the northern skies of the Yukon and never failed to share his delight with anyone he met.

One of my big encounters with his illustrations was in the beautiful version of The Cremation of Sam McGee…a poem I used to challenge my grade sevens to memorize from beginning to end.  And every year, at least three students did!

I recommend that you introduce Ted Harrison to your classes.  For years, Ted’s work has inspired works by school children of every age.  When scented coloured markers came into vogue, so did another lesson based on Harrison.  It’s wild what variety of lessons we invented as art teachers.  The students loved it all!

Ted Harrison in Grade One Ted Harrison in Oil Pastel Ted Harrison in ChalkSomething I appreciate Ted saying in the video below is that if one is ever tired of life or inspiration, try looking up at the sky.

So, today…I looked up at the sky.

This morning, driving to school, I noticed a dappled sky above the rising sun…brilliant yellow, pink and orange, with a soft cerulean blue below an arch of cloud and an electric blue, above.  That was it…in the afternoon, I would paint the SETTING sun with the grade fours…thinking about chinook arches and dappled clouds over the mountains.  And so it went.

I line the back of construction paper with masking tape, when I can find the time.  This allows some durability.  Tempera paint tends to make paper, especially cheap paper, a bit crunchy after a while.  This way the work can be preserved for those folks who like to save things forever. (pointing at myself)

??????????Always use coloured paper for these paints as it creates a bit of an ‘under painting’ and activates the surface, taking away the intimidation of white or that ucky beige.  Below…see my favourite yogurt buckets.  Every art storage room needs at least twenty of these to be shared around.

DSC_1942Recess and the painting pods are readied…that, and a piece of chalk for drawing, placed at each desk.

??????????A paint station (Palette) is readied…two brushes in each bucket.  Students travel back and forth with colours agreed upon by every pair…back and forth they go.  The place is like a HAPPENING!

DSC_1945 DSC_1946I always work through a sample…don’t expect to have the students do something that you haven’t…how else will you know their struggles or the pitfalls of the lesson?

First…the short ‘review’ of dip, wipe and stroke.  Surprise!  You always discover that a lot of students haven’t handled a brush very much.  (Painting IS MESSY!!) Show them where to hold the brush…not at the white tip.  :0)  Explain how to share the paint center and remind them to keep two hands on the bucket on each journey to and from.

Regarding the composition, first I spoke about portrait as compared to landscape format and explained that just for today, the composition would be landscape.  I explained how clouds that are closest to the horizon line appear smaller…and as they are found higher in the picture plane, they can be depicted as larger and then they almost seem to come over our heads.  “Often, Ted Harrison outlined some basic shapes in his paintings and serigraphs…instead of painting up to the chalk lines, how about leaving some of the paper unpainted and the coloured paper will become the lines?” (some of the students got this)

“No…I don’t want you to do a giant sun.  No…no sunglasses…no rays…not today.”  I went back to describing how the morning sun had not yet shown itself, but that there was a really bright light next to the land.  I knew the sun was coming up.  So…for the sunset paintings, I hoped that the sun would be almost gone from the sky.  The teacher can always drive the vision…as long as he/she has one.  I’m sharing mine with my readers.  The teacher also benefits by allowing freedom within the vision.

“OH!  Why are those small clouds near the mountains the brightest?  YES!  The light from the sun is hitting them first because they are the closest to the light!

I explained that because the students were focused on the sky, the mountains needed to be located below the one third line. (Yes!  You’ll have to talk about dividing the landscape into thirds.)

The chalk is picked up and the students begin drawing, planning, and problem solving.

“Yes!  As soon as you’re ready, you can get your first colour. PLEASE, don’t everybody begin with the mountains!  Choose any colour and away you go!”

Magic happened.

DSC_1948 DSC_1949 DSC_1950 DSC_1951 DSC_1952 DSC_1953 DSC_1954 “Pick up a paper towel with your first bucket of paint.  This will be your place mat…slip it along the edges as you go and then you won’t have to wash your desk!  If this gets super sloppy, you might need a second place mat.” DSC_1956I asked the kind caretaker if I might have a bucket half filled with water in my classroom.  This would provide a portable sink.DSC_1957 DSC_1958 DSC_1959 DSC_1960 DSC_1961 ??????????Tonight, as I walked Max at the pond…I captured some of the clouds.  We had an energetic hike about the area.  It was so darned beautiful!

DSC_1968 DSC_1967 DSC_1966 DSC_1964A wonderful class!

Night Skies and Bats

The evening air was so refreshing tonight and the atmosphere very mystical.  Tree branches were being blown by a bluster of wind.  The sky was still slowly turning from blue to black, with a waxing crescent moon to the southwest.  Stars were visible in each of the windows between the clouds.  With such a bright backdrop, light etched the edges of the surrounding clouds.  In the wide open field I stood, gazing upward, taking it all in.  Every now and then, lightning flashed…but tonight, no bats.

For about a week, I was taking Max out to this open field in the dark of night. My head seemed to be dive-bombed by bats on each of these occasions.  It was so mysterious to me.  Darting away, again and again, I’d hear that distinctive call, and as if to be on roller coasters, they would speed across the navy sky, changing direction at will.  Amazing stuff.  On the first night of this phenomena, I didn’t feel at ease with the experience, but on following nights I took it all in.  Nature provides many gifts if we are present to her.

This short video shows the type of experience I enjoyed.

This next one helps to identify a bat’s sounds.  When there are several around you at once, the sound, of course, is amplified.

I was thinking that, as well as all of the other action we need to take to be good stewards of our communities and the world, we might also make the effort to be conscious of light trespassing…more and more there is a horrendous amount of light pollution.  It would be an awesome thing to do to think about your neighbours and turn off your lights.

waxing-crescent-image2

An astronomy update for August can be heard on Calgary Eye-Opener, here.

Clouds, Like Sailing Boats

Such a beautiful afternoon, edging the pond.  I really enjoyed observing the large numbers of water fowl, birds and muskrats.  So much calling out, of every variety.

In grade school, I used to play a clapping song with my dear friends and sing, at the same time,

“Like snow-white sailing boats,
On a blue sea’
High in the heavens
the clouds float so free.
If I could fly to one
If I could ride on one,
Sailing and sailing,
what pleasure ‘twould be.”

Today was a day just like that childhood song, captured in a few words…but, oh soooo big!

This from inside a Sing Song book….

And…the rest of the lyrics.

Cloud Ships
Tyrolese Folk Song
Like snow white sailing boats on a blue sea,
High in the skies are clouds floating free.
If I could fly to one, if I might ride to one,
Sailing and sailing, what pleasure ‘t would be!
Like white sailing boats on a blue sea, blue sea,
High in the skies are clouds floating free.
If I could fly to one, if I might ride to one,
Sailing and sailing, what pleasure ‘t would be!

I should look down from my ship in the sky,
On cities, forests, and lakes passing by;
I should sail far away, and at the close of day
Anchor my cloud to a mountain top high.
I should look down from my ship in the sky, the sky,
On cities, forests, and lakes passing by;
I should sail far away, and at the close of day
Anchor my cloud to a mountain top high.