Of course! The Osprey are on my mind these days, so let’s see what Grade Three can pull off! I shared, with the students, a few of my own photographs of Osprey. We talked about the similarities and differences between Eagles, Hawks and Osprey because, even adults, get them confused with one another.
Earlier in the day, the students had discussed, with me, the aspects of a champion. I told them that I am a champion for nature and always will be. They told me stories about their champions and then went to their seats to write a couple of paragraphs about someone they consider to be a champion in their lives. During art, we would be champions for nature, by talking for a while about how Enmax has built platforms throughout our city in order to help the Osprey out and to protect them.
Then, the students would use their artistic practice to be champions, by making art that would teach others about the Osprey.
David Allen Sibley is an American ornithologist. What better person to demonstrate some real basics of the form involved with drawing a profile view of an Osprey? The students made three sketches in their visual journals. YES! Three! Practice practice practice! If my readers want to see how challenging it is to draw the beaks, the form of the body and the head shape, try to draw along with David Sibley, here. While I wanted to do a small composition with the students in chalk pastel, I also wanted to prepare them. The practice was invaluable and the compositions ended up fantastic!
I recommend that you put this video on silent as the music is very irritating…however, I wanted to give the students practice drawing the Osprey looking the other direction. Most chose to incorporate this posture for their composition and worked from their own drawings, as references.
Here’s some of what the students accomplished. Thank you for your class, Jenn. The students were absorbed and determined as they produced their compositions. Having the practice under their belts, the chalk drawings took a little over 30 minutes…no pencil was used in the compositions.
Pencil sketching from projected Youtube videos…
Students used white chalk to block in their simple contour lines to define where their Osprey would be placed in the composition.
With a foundation of Reflection and Depiction, the students then had opportunity to Compose and Express, using the media. They learned to leave bits of the ground (green paper surface) exposed…to turn their chalk pastels onto their sides and on the tip, for different mark making. A very absorbed activity.
When all was said and done, some of the students shared with me that when they were in Grade Two, I spent a class drawing Eagles with them. I showed them a Live Eagle Cam from Duke Farms. No eagles showed up to nest at Duke Farms this year.
I think that it’s a very cool thing that some of these students have studied the Eagle and now, the Osprey.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to teach a beautiful grade six class. I bit off more than I could chew, however, because we did not completely move through to the end result that I had in mind in this exploration of Pieter Bruegel and the study of two pieces, Children’s Games and The Hunters in the Snow.
Before the lesson began, I had the children sketch in their visual journals (every kid should have one…just love these!) a scene where children are playing winter games outdoors…recess, skiing and snowboarding, skating, building forts or any other activity. This student added the smaller figures into her original plan, after we began to practice doing mini figure plans in our journals…I loved that the cross over had happened in learning, just naturally.
The reflection section of the lesson was more engaging than I thought it would be and the students needed to become familiar with the handling of a paintbrush. It’s all good and we need to be flexible with our expectations. Lessons are more exciting when they are left open-ended.
Here are the two pieces and a very good analysis of Hunters in the Snow. I did not use this in my class, but thought it might be of interest to teachers who want a quick background on how to talk about art. The resource I used with the students is a short power point and I’ve provided the link below.
As we spoke about winter landscapes, we talked about how to achieve atmospheric perspective. We talked about the mountains and what they look like on the west horizon. I talked about my walks around the pond and what I see daily. I talked about the different colours on the pond. We looked at Bruegel’s piece and discovered that ice on a river/canal/pond is not necessarily white and sometimes is a very dark colour. We talked about the figures and their gestures and activities and how indistinct they become as they get further back in the picture plane.
I realized as I was teaching that there were some terms that the students were not aware of and so I had to back step a little, so very quickly, they learned the terms background, middleground and foreground. It is easier to speak of art when the vocabulary is there and you are just not always pointing.
At some point there was a conversation about emoticons…a term that I didn’t know. :0) Here they are. If this hadn’t been grade six, this conversation wouldn’t have come up and it was fun for me. I always use the example of ‘Pictionary’ when I talk about symbols, but because we became interested in the facial expressions of Bruegel’s figures, this was so appropriate. Go KIDS!
We discussed the fact that none of the figures in Bruegel’s piece have emoticon faces, nor do the snowmen. I suggested the idea of just indicating the face with small marks, instead of distinct smiley faces and that whenever insecure, as I would be, turn the figure so that its back is to the viewer.
I talked about the fact that we were going to create our own landscapes in the spirit of Bruegel so that we would all choose, for this piece, a horizontal profile.
This is what my board space looked like by the time we had finished our chat…Glory be for projectors. In my day, I used to hold up little prints.
With chalk, the students blocked in three or four horizon lines, depicting their foreground, middle ground and background, depending on what activity they chose. I told them about being stuck on a black diamond ski run, as a beginner skiier at one time. I told them what it looked like in my foreground…but, as I skied toward the edge, what I saw before me. The boarders in the crowd laughed.
Here are some examples of the chalk drawings.
When we began to paint, I had buckets of white and sky colour prepared so that students could begin with some fill in. In progress…
From there, the children told me what colours they wanted as middle tints and I was able to just add to the buckets of white and we avoided waste. Here are their paintings with colour.
Don’t forget that the day was flowing like all days will…the students began with math. At some point in the morning, they exchanged their books at the library and they enjoyed the wonderful stories of Jeff Stockton, an artist in residence. We completed our landscape paintings and cleaned up before our science lesson about rotation and revolution.
I realized that the second part of the lesson and the insertion of the figures into our Bruegel landscapes would have to wait as a follow up to the lesson with their art teacher. I gave them all of the prep work, however and they created fanciful plans in their visual journals.
Here are some of their mini-mes. We made distinctions about stick figures and these mini action figures by studying some of Bruegel’s.
After sketching these, the students can then go into their tempera paintings with pencil (a nice tooth is provided by the dried paint) and the figures can later be coloured in with pencil crayon or fine tipped marker. Earlier, the students and I observed how Bruegel used red on the figures in most of his compositions in order to carry the viewer’s eye throughout the composition, so red should appear throughout the student works, in scarves/hats, coats, ski equipment in order to imitate this compositional device. We shared a lot of laughter as we pretended a one inch figure would be skiing down a mountain in the background. One students said, when I likened it to Godzilla skiing, “Either the person is too big or the mountain is way to small!” :0)
The following images show the Bruegel figures incorporated, with some thoughtful consideration about scale and gesture, into the winter landscape spaces.
I’m including this lesson for my readers in case they want to do something different with white plus one hue. Thanks to Jenn, for her class.
I had the morning to enjoy the fact that my egress window was under construction. Once the crew packed up and the shop-vac was loaded into the truck, I headed over for a lovely afternoon in Jenn’s classroom! Love what this lady does with her class, especially her writing activities! Halloween, just passed, I have to post these…a fantastic idea for learning the art of writing descriptive paragraphs. Give the students their own gourd! Look at these! Amazing!
Once settled in, attendance taken, quiet reading and a recitation of ‘In Flander’s Fields’, I got the students prepped for their afternoon Remembrance Day Liturgy in the gym. I have to say that I’m so grateful for the Catholic School District, where we are free to openly pray and share scripture. The celebration was so wonderfully organized by Grades 2, 4 and 5. No surprise, but I silently shed some tears in the back of the gym where I sat…it was such a touching service. I liked the music so much. The grade fives sang Dropkick Murphy’s The Green Fields of France.
The Grade four choir sang, so beautifully, In Flander’s Fields. Amazing job, Tracy and Melina. I’m posting the same number performed by another children’s choir.
Once the liturgy had ended, there were only 40 minutes left to explore the poppy lesson that I had taught last week in a full afternoon. The children, though, were so receptive and task oriented, I decided to see what we could accomplish. Well…to my amazement…we reflected, created depictions, used oil pastel for detail after blocking the poppies in with chalk, and finally, filled in the petals with brilliant red paint. I really like these and find the finished works remind me a lot of Georgia O’Keefe’s poppies…perhaps providing a window to a written reflection. Thank you for your class, Jenn. What an awesome afternoon!
I loved these sensitive little drawings so much that I’m going to post them all!
There are many approaches taken by artists to achieve perspective and build an accurately proportioned and modeled figure/subject on a flat surface. They sometimes use a viewfinder when it is difficult to determine the overall composition of their piece.
Some of my readers may not know what I mean when I talk about overall composition…here are a couple of ‘rules’ that any artist can basically ‘throw out’ of their artistic tool kit if they wish…but, I tend to observe these.
In the past, I have used a slide frame as a viewfinder and shared that tool with my students. What a basic viewfinder will do is eliminate a lot of the chaos that appears around the subject of the piece the artist is composing and crop the piece so that the composition is dynamic and gains interest.
Another technique that helps to accurately transfer information and placement of content in a composition is to grid both a flat reference or photograph and the larger surface of the canvas/panel or paper with squares of equal proportion. (The number of grid squares measured on the reference must be the same as the number of grid squares measured on the drawing surface and the ratio of those must be consistent in their ratio, 1:4 for example.) What the viewer/artist sees in the top right hand square is then transferred onto the drawing/painting surface accurately. Here are a couple of examples of paintings and drawings rendered by my former middle school students, using this technique. I think that this provides an exercise for student artists in observation and in training those brain/eye/arm/finger muscles to work together.
View finding and using a grid system are only two techniques used to compose. On this subject, there is a huge and sometimes complex manner of creating a well-proportioned image. Any and all techniques are available to every artist to the extent that they wish to use them. It is often a magical thing to make reference to some basic skills in drawing and painting before one tears into self-expression. If it is not your intention to distort figures in your work, it can be a frustrating thing to do beautiful painting and mark making that is lost because the eye travels immediately to the loss of foreshortening or proportion.
I have randomly selected a couple of videos here that demonstrate formal techniques.
Then…there is also the Fibonacci principle. Wowsah!
Presently, in Calgary, my friend, Douglas Williamson, is the featured artist at Collector’s Art Gallery. He has a practice that includes some of the very technical aspects of rendering and painting. I admire his work and his dedication.
Most of the time, quite frankly, especially during events like Rumble House painting, I ‘eyeball’ it and remember that my teachers always told me that I had a bit of a natural sense for composition. I just naturally eliminate peripheral visual information that I don’t want included when I am plein air painting or working in my studio. Artistic style and intention need to be kept in mind and not forgotten. I think it’s a dangerous thing when one artist tells another how things SHOULD be done. Some artists work in a purely intuitive manner.
As I’ve discussed before, many contemporary artists access slide projection or image projection in order to create a large and accurate view. Some among us label such artists ‘cheaters’ and this makes me laugh because typically the connoisseur of art knows little about the process. Ted Godwin demonstrated his technique for me in his studio, as did Bill Webb. With every brush stroke, the works created by both artists became unique and while accurate in terms of the perspective, breathed the life and human touch not found in a photograph.
Recently, I saw that a facilitator, Francois Lavigne, at the wonderful create! in East Village had constructed a viewfinder that I thought would be fun to use while doing a seated sketch.
So, I headed down to see Wendy Lees and the gang at create!, now housed in the Center of Hope next door to the Salvation Army. Present yesterday, were people I care about so much, but haven’t seen for the longest time. It was nice to meet Margot and Philip Lozano of Momentum, as well! I hoped to hook up with Francois and purchase a viewfinder…and I did! WHOOT!
One of the projects during the open session was a section for a Calgary Public Library project in the works at create! So, I sat down and painted me a panel and ate up the varied and enthusiastic conversations that ensued. Thanks, Wendy! Thanks, Francois. If you are an artist who is interested in the purchase of a viewfinder, please contact Francois directly here.
dropping items to the Women in Need shop
Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow nesting in the vent across from my kitchen window
sprouts in the garden beds
return of water birds and the songs of red winged blackbirds, crows, geese, frogs, robins
crisp morning air
picking litter at Frank’s Flats
painting with children
keeping a close eye on live cams…eagles…wolves
I wonder how other women seem to have their ________together, especially those with young children, a career and outside-of-work volunteering and exercise programs. I took on a contract, teaching grade three, beginning last Tuesday. You’ve been wondering why I haven’t been writing? Why my poetry response to each day has gone to the wayside? Well, let me tell you, it’s a crazy life we’re living; crazy-busy, that is! Max is still getting out to Frank’s Flats each day when I arrive home, dragging my feet and tempted to slouch on the red sofa! We’re still out there. And…we’re out in the middle of a field at 6:30 every morning and I drill at least twenty Frizbee throws into the darkness while Max, like a bullet, whizzes into the abyss. These two daily events are the routines I can manage. All else seems to be crumbling. I laugh as I type.
Yesterday morning, I stood in line for the photo copy machine. You try to minimize the use of paper, but truly, paper is a blessing when it comes to a full day with grade three! There was Lina (perhaps spelled wrong). She was/is beautiful! I was taking pause (a wait in a photo copy line just may be your only pause all day long) when I noticed how put-together she was. A pony tail was lifted to just that perfect spot on the back of her head, speaking of youth and optimism. YES! Pony tails DO speak! Accessories, colours, textures and the shoes! I asked her, “How do you do it?” I’m not going to spill the beans on her particular life at this time, but let’s just say, it’s a busy life she lives and while she says that she’s bubbled up inside, she expresses herself with friendliness and calm.
This gave me something to think about during the day.
Before I headed for Rumble House (late, as per usual), I captured a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, as I washed my hands. I looked at my reflection. Those eyes spoke to me. (not going to write down what they said)
And while I was so so tempted to recline and find a good Netflix binge for the coming two hours, instead I walked to the computer in search of a reference image of a glam girl…I wanted to paint some concept of beauty, whether facade or authentic classical beauty…I wanted to explore the beauty-feminine, thinking about all of those amazing women who are so diligent in their lives to become ‘the archetype’ full-on. I printed off a reference and headed out.
Arriving at 7:30, I grasped one of the concepts determined at the wheel…’what inspires you’ and the one and a half hour painting frenzy began. I didn’t get a chance to say hello to Paula. I was excited to meet up with friend, Bronwyn, from East End. I parked my easel next to Dawn. Priscilla came by and showed me an awesome book of portraits, flipping pages and pointing out beautiful contrasts and powerful black and whites. I met Miriam, James Young and Anna. Enriquito gave me a big hug, as did Rich. A couple of very friendly Shaw guys came by and interviewed me about the community, Beatles music played in the background and voices buzzed. There was energy and life and creation.
Thanks to Jess for purchasing this one at auction.
At auction, I saw that many of the artists captured the ideas that were floating my boat.
I cherished painting last night at the Rumble House. Stories from Paris were my first stories of the day because, rising early, I had a coffee in my hand and some free time. I clicked on the news. Sigh. Twelve human beings killed.
In the past, I’ve been appalled with satire that was posted on social media regarding MY GOD…MY JESUS…MY LORD. There’s no way on earth I could understand the inhuman approach to such disturbing images that got a ‘big laugh’ from the throngs of the Faceless Facebook personae. At the time, I was struggling. At the time, my Mom was struggling…she was struggling for breath in hospital, having been afflicted with pneumonia. No one loves/loved Jesus more than my Mom. So…how did I feel about the public hatred for Christianity…the insensitive portrayal of MY Saviour? I felt hurt…attacked…defiant. But, how did my actions play out? I expressed my point of view on the subject. I shared my feelings. I confronted and even celebrated my faith. I understood that not everyone sees things my way and that doesn’t make me a lesser being and it certainly is no deficiency in the other.
Given who I am, I doubt that I would truly appreciate the perspective or satire shared by the Charles Hebdo weekly newspaper. It’s just not in me to poke fun at any person’s faith or ideas. However, what was accomplished by mowing down the lives of human beings who were simply expressing their opinions in a democratic society, can only be described as shocking and deeply disturbing. I was left speechless as I thought all day about how much I treasure my freedom to express.
So…what did I paint?
I thought about a few different contexts and melded them. I knew exactly what I wanted to paint.
For one reference, Grampa Moors used to spend hours watching Loonie Tunes, his favourite being The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Grampa, after a day in the woolen mill, would pull down his suspenders and turn on the cartoons, laughing in his way (I can hear it right now, as I type), while a whole row of youngsters curled up under his arm on the sofa while he did. I don’t think that there was anything more violent in my childhood than watching this miserable, but somehow hopeful, coyote, blown up again and again or clobbered at the base of a huge ravine by a giant boulder. He always got up. Something about the aesthetic and characters of this wee cartoon, reached into me yesterday…and I remember the cartoon with a great deal of affection.
Who might possibly paint a portrait of this violence…and make it seemingly banal and even humourous? OH! I KNOW! Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) This would be somehow satirical…right? How could I build upon this? The artist paints an artist painting Wile E. Coyote…hmmm….what if the unsuspecting artist has as his possible undoing, his own subject matter! A bit of tension. I KNOW! Dynamite! And so the connections developed…I sought out a reference where the subject is Johannes Vermeer, painting…here it is, Vermeer At Easel circa 1662-1668.
I hoped that I might adjust the composition…and modify, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to be able to pull a Vermeer out of my bum in 2 hours.
So, in the end…I positioned the figure on the panel so that I had that space in the upper third…I KNOW…I will include the word SATIRE, for those people who need it spelled out for them. It DOES SEEM that a lot of people don’t understand OR appreciate good satire.
In the end, I am grateful for the generous bidding that took place on the piece. I thank Rich and Jess for hosting on a relatively quiet night…grateful for Jennifer and Andy because I always enjoy a good conversation…for Mike who had some interesting things to tell me about Paris…for Gavin who drove me to the station…for Claire, former student, who showed up for her first paint night and for Robb who purchased this piece at auction, but best of all, the offer of rides/support/coffee and just general generosity. I’m richly blessed by this community. (although the set cost for an adult fare on the C-Train IS ridiculous)
That’s a question I asked Grade Two this morning and there were only three students who had seen Cardinals and they were delighted to tell their stories; two of the three had seen Cardinals on television. The most interesting story was the one told by a wee boy about going on a trip to see Grampa and in the wilderness (his word) they saw four red birds. I told the story of seeing Cardinals in Belleville, Ontario when I went there to visit my father. Someone talked about those kind of birds having Mohawks on the top of their heads. And then this guy came up.
I’m going to tell you the truth…I found today’s idea on Pinterest. YIPPEE! Inspired by illustrator, Charlie Harper, many variations of this same activity can be found and managed, with, I hope, a focus on unique interpretations of the theme. Here in Calgary, these children would not be as familiar with Cardinals as they would be with Northern Flickers and Magpies. I think these activities could be suited for local birds as well. But today, I was into the red.
I wanted to manipulate the compositions to teach EMPHASIS and so the red was a pop of colour in an otherwise muted background.
Materials: Blue 18 x 24 construction paper with tooth. White chalk for foggy fuzzy edges of background trees, White tempera, large bristle brushes, flat, two sheets of red poster board cut into small squares….two sheets enough for 23 students.
First, the students had depiction time. I talked to them about how the Cardinals that we created were going to be like cartoons of birds. Every single bird would look different depending on a lot of factors. To begin with, we would practice drawing shapes…the body being a raindrop shape with the Cardinal’s Mohawk feathers on the top. “Try big wide raindrop shapes and thin ones. Try big and small.” This little sketch was borrowed from one variation of this art lesson, found at Art On My Hand.
The eyes will be oogie boogie eyes that pop out past the bird’s body. The legs…”Try long, short and bent. How can you make the bird look like it’s flying? How can we show wings? The beak is like a diamond shape and then just draw a line through the middle.”
Our drawing practice looked like this.
After sketching for a while and exploring all sorts of possibilities, out came the large blue paper. I demonstrated how to press chalk and make dark lines and then showed how to move it and press on it to create light marks. I touched the top of my paper and the bottom, on a vertical, to show how large the background trees needed to be. I asked if any of the students had been outdoors recently when we had wind and snow and fog. Lots of stories there! :0) “What did the trees look like?”
“Our foreground tree…the one the closest to us…is more detailed. We see more when something is close to us. I can see your noses right now, but….when you are out on the playground, I can’t. We will paint the tree that’s close to us. What do we call a tree’s body? (trunk) What about its arms? Where are its legs? (limbs, branches? and their legs are underground) What about its fingers? toes? (It’s fingers are twigs. branches?) Expression and Composition time…with one short pause to remind the class not to SCRUB, but to STROKE. Here is what their trees looked like. Off you go! Recess! PUT ON YOUR SNOW PANTS!
TiAfter recess, not much had to be said…a factory of Cardinal makers nested at their desks and the room was an industrious hush. Absolutely amazing stuff as they created, invented, problem solved. We all agreed that the tools we needed from the bins were scissors, glue sticks and thin black markers. The fat ones were just too tricky.
This is what they created.
Thank you, Grade Two, for an amazing day at Our Lady Of the Evergreens School
Textures were achieved by the use of line and pattern…one built upon another to create owls of all sorts. Aspects of this activity were challenging. Already, at grade four, you can see where the freedom of childhood drawing is winding up. The questions are beginning to surface. Can I do this? Is this good? Does this look like_____? In the end, the owls have wonderful facial expressions and magical whimsy.
Sometimes Picasso said it best…
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ― Pablo Picasso
Oh my gosh…this painting was a struggle! This is one where I would like to see time lapsed photography of the process because it evolved so much over a two hour period. The concepts were flunkies (or some such thing) from night school, bikes and seven hearts. I decided to focus on a single theme, the seven hearts. The midnight riders of last week had frustrated me a tad, so I knew that I really didn’t want to tackle that one. Night was also a concept that I didn’t want to take on.
So…first of all I related with the number concept of ‘seven’. I think that I’ve always seen that as my ‘lucky number’. Hmmm…what is that? I’ve never won anything because of the number seven. It has not played any pertinent role in my life! Why would I even perceive it as ‘lucky’. Ooogie boogie…really!
Anyway, embedded in the piece is a portion of chapter seven from each book in the Old Testament…they read from Genesis, right to left…and then on into the Gospels…ending though, in Luke. This was a bit of a time USER, so, do I regret it? No.
Next, I applied a prism of tissue as my ground, from top of composition to bottom, beginning with violet. This was a decision that, in the end, haunted me because I struggled with colour scheme throughout the exercise. I had seven roses in my mind as an actual depiction, but when I used my red…it was just too warm when placed on top of its violet and cool blue surroundings. In retrospect, I would have sketched in my space for the roses and built the texture up to and around the foreground, developing the roses from the very beginnings.
This is where the push and pull began to occur. I placed the primary rose too low in the composition and too central. After applying generous paint, I then had to remove it and altar the placement. Colours began to muddy and I thought that I was in trouble.
I ended up pulling a wash of gold over most of the piece to create unity and then worked pthalo blue into the bottom third to push back the remaining tissue story (yellow,orange and red), leaving just enough of an underpinning to resonate with the red in the roses. I changed the placement of the primary rose left of center and built gestures of six others to pull the eye through the composition. Sigh…
It was during the final five minutes that I resolved the composition and that in itself, was a relief. I find it very interesting that a single decision in colour or the placement of an element may steer your piece into a direction that doesn’t work and then you have to pull the entire composition BACK or remove the element. It’s a push and pull thing throughout the experience. The entire process left me wasted. I’m smiling as I type this because the truth is, nothing can be more wonderful than being given a challenge and then seeing it right through to the end.
Thanks to Paul and Emma for purchasing the piece at auction. As the result of the challenges I faced, the piece ended up with a sense of multiple layers and a rich textured surface. Let us not even speak of the colour!
Thanks for the photo, Belinda!!
I can only hope that someone at the event caught some images of the process. I would really enjoy seeing how I progressed through the piece. It’s one thing to tell the story, but it would be quite another to see it. This is the benefit for the people who attend the Gorilla House! They are able to observe the process as nearly 30 people create amazing work.
Talking about life…art…wood…dreams.
My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living. Anais Nin