Booth’s Class Reads The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen

As we moved through Advent at what seemed to be warp speed, I had the opportunity to be with Ashley’s class of Grade fours for a day.  The students were bright-eyed and receptive…an awesome little group.  Woven through the day seemed to be a theme of gift.  So, the story book that I had packed into my bag at home, seemed like it would work just perfectly.

The story I brought was The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, illustrated by Elaine Greenstein.

I felt very peaceful.  Ashley’s class knows classroom routines and the learning environment feels ordered and safe. As we shared a discussion about gift, a story of my own came to mind.

I shared with the class my son’s most perfect gift to me…so many years ago, and I felt emotional, thinking about it.

In the afternoon, I pulled out my book and read it aloud to the students.  No matter the age, students, for the most part, fall silent at the reading of a picture book.  It was no different on that day.  While I’m not crazy about this particular delivery, I did find the story on Youtube.

I would consider the painting activity to be an Expression lesson.  I did not focus too much on skills related to depiction or composition, but focused on how to hold a brush and the idea of stroking paint instead of scrubbing paint.  I guess the interesting thing about asking the students to paint two mittens is the idea that the patterns would match…so they were exploring two things in duplicate.  At some point, I adjusted my own system of sharing buckets of coloured tempera, but quickly fell back to my fail safe routine when I observed the chaos in trading that can ensue.  I had intentionally limited the number of buckets I prepared on this day for the simple reason that I didn’t want a big clean up at end of day, so I prepared 14 buckets for 24 students.  Normally, I would prepare 18.  So, you can imagine that, at times, you would hear someone belt out, “Are you done with the white?”

Thank you, Dana, for your wonderful assist.

The paintings, in the end, were lovely. The Pinterest crowd will find a whole variety of projects based on this story book including fabric arts, oil pastel drawings and paper cut outs…lots that you can do around a story. Advent and Christmas art abounds at the moment, I thought that these paintings might bring the spirit of winter into the classroom, for a longer duration.  Thank you, Ashley.  Thank you, Grade four students. I had a beautiful day!

 

November Paint

One of the components of the Alberta Elementary Art Curriculum is Expression.  Here lies the opportunity for students to explore media, personal narratives and ‘let ‘er loose’.  While I typically embed reflection and depiction in my lessons, as well as inherently guide the students to compose well (all of the strands are connected), sometimes I focus more on the act of painting or sculpting or learning what media can do.  Seasonal celebrations lend themselves well to Expression.  Those educators who lean heavily on Pinterest for their ‘art ideas’ need to remember that these are, for the most part, Expression lessons and often of the variety that focuses on the ‘how to’ rather on the child’s personal interpretation of their internal narrative. We need to be wary of the ‘paper cut out’ approach for the sake of a ‘pretty display’. I think it’s essential the ‘art idea’ bank be balanced with more unpredictable outcomes and never sacrifice the experiences that come with Reflection, Depiction and Composition.

This month the students in my care, painted.  The use of the brush continues to be a skill to be reckoned with.  Turning the brush sideways for thin marks and flat for wider marks, another technique to practice.  Dry brush and wet brush effects can be observed and discussed.

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Creating candlelight separately, to be cut out and glued to the candle after drying…one idea…in the case that you have short bits of time for painting, instead of a sustained period of time.

The resulting collages, including a wreath of evergreen that has been created using green on green, studies in pattern.  In this case a second candle will be added on the second week of Advent (taller), a Gaudete candle on the third week (taller still and pink in colour) and the fourth candle, the last week, leading to Christmas.

Fully painted Advent Wreaths, horizontally on large paper.  Concept in composition was overlapping…we did a few exercises with our bodies before beginning this…talked a little about perception.  Notice North, South, East and West marked at the compass points of the picture plane.  These dots give the students reminders to stretch their images to touch each of those edges.  Chalk allows the students to explore placement, change their minds and plan and scheme.  Pencil is debilitating at this age.  Erasers become appendages.  lol  Just get rid of both.  White chalk rocks!

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Smaller format…still, on coloured construction for an activated picture plane.  Later, to have the candle flames whitened with chalk or white oil pastel…I would suggest that these smaller compositions might have oil pastel underlines or embellishments added after dry.

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Pieter Bruegel’s Children’s Games

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.

Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 037

Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 022

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.

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Atmospheric perspective for 3-6 (St. Mary’s Lake at Glacier National Park): http://sdrv.ms/KlUH9W

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.

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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.

Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 002Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 001

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…

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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)

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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.

Trees in Gradation

 

http://psepta.cmswiki.wikispaces.net/file/view/FebruaryArt+Appreciation+2012.pdf

Contouring Autumn Leaves With Colour

I just pulled this one together quickly for grade fours yesterday afternoon.  I know that there is a plethora of autumn leaf activities out there during these months, and judging by the wind and cold weather in Calgary, those leaves are not going to be around for much longer!

I decided to add some colour to the otherwise, grey weather to come on the weekend, and show the students how to contour…create the hills and valleys that are in every subject we attempt to render in art.  The basic concept is that the top of a fold of fabric reflects the greatest amount of light, so it needs to be coloured with the lightest hues.  The valleys of the fold, hidden from the light, would sit in the darkest range of the same hue.  Similarly, when rendering a face, the creases would be the darkest and the bridge of the nose and the forehead would be the lightest…and so on it goes.

I gave the students some of these examples and then went about talking about the structure of the leaf (new words included the word ‘serrated’ edge) and that vein to vein, we see the same sort of lighting if we really look.  While our contouring would be an exaggeration of this, using white oil pastel for the lightest highlights…the students would see that their leaves would have more dimension than usual if they followed the light to dark formula.  I like how unique each of these leaves became through the difference in student mark making and based on the variety of original depictions.

First, my consistent approach…give the students chalk to draw with on construction paper, in this case, half a sheet of pink or yellow or orange or red.  This provides a variety of grounds and tooth as a receptor to the oil pastels.

Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 021A chalk dot is made on each of the four compass points on the construction paper in order to set out the scale.  Ask the students to create a leaf that reaches each of the compass points.

Describe the veins as organic.  Rulers, erasers and pencils, not required.  Each and every vein is different.

Once the chalk depiction is there before them, review that the veins of the leaf, if in valleys, would be darkest.  Two palette choices were outlined on the board.

#1 White Yellow Orange, Red, Violet

#2 White Yellow Light Green Dark Green, Blue

By providing these choices, the students do not have to do too much investigation in those huge boxes of oil pastels.

Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 022Some students will need some guidance one-on-one once the activity part of this class begins.  Sit with them and walk them through it.  Do one of your own in front of them, encouraging them to apply the oil pastels with a side to side motion rather than a long up and down motion.

Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 025Resulting projects were beautiful!  Thank you, for your class, MJ.

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Migration and Form Line Designs

With autumn, it is easy for teachers to fall into the pattern of exploring, with their students, the changing colours of the season, with a focus on leaves, trees, and soon after that, pumpkins.

Sometimes it nice to notice the other things that are happening during the season, one being, bird migration.

Today the students looked at the stylized geese images of our first nations, living on the west coast.  Respectfully, I’m going to begin by sharing a map.

First Nations Peoples of British ColumbiaWe talked a little bit about British Columbia vacations and I showed the students where you would be heading, if you were on an Alaskan cruise.  I Introduced them to Haida Gwaii and the people’s art of Haida Gwaii.  I showed a short video featuring Todd Baker’s prints and reflected with the students about the images, colours and shapes.

I then showed  the students this image so that they could see the various form line designs included the in these particular geese depictions and then we folded a standard sheet of paper to create sketch booklets for the purpose of experimentation and studies.

goose 2For teacher background…this…(too advanced unless you are studying with middle school or high school students)

I used the word ‘simulation’ with the students, reminding them that we are looking at and simulating the types of form lines that would be used by west coast artists.

For the depiction segment of the lesson, I askd the students to draw silhouettes of Canadian geese. What is a silhouette?  It is the dark shape and outline of someone or something visible against a lighter background, especially in dim light.

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Talk to the students about migration formations.  Ask them for their narratives and memories of watching geese migrate.

Have several exemplars of silhouettes for the students to use as references, reminding them to draw the simple shapes as large as possible.  Each student will be creating their own Canadian goose filled with form line designs.

Here is an example of one of the references used to show silhouettes..

Image taken from stock photos.

Image taken from stock photos.

Once the students settled on one of their depicted silhouettes, then they began to lightly include form line designs within their white silhouette drawings, in order to capture the spirits of the geese.

The students began their depiction, using the three main form line designs; the U shape, crescent shape and trigon shape.  If the motivation is big time, then try to create other animals using the same shapes.

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As the form line designs are used, the designs may pick up something similar to North West Coast first nations art.

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Demonstrate on the white board, the crescent shape, the U shape and the trigon shape.  Students may then begin colouring in their designs, using the specific palette, red, white and black.  I think because the edges need to be clean, the scented markers would like achieve the best result.  The other option, is to follow up this lesson with a construction paper collage, using the same colours and glue stick.

The designs, once finished should not show any of the under-drawing, but be strong bold patterns of red, white and black.

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For teachers who are curious and really want to explore this history, I love this movie.  Thanks, to Sara for her class!

A Final Zentangle!

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The grade six students used permanent markers on top of their glazed paintings and zentangled away!  Their creations are impressive and wrap up a two month contract I enjoyed immensely!  These were fantastic students and I had a great time.  Now, I will return to some of those retirement rituals that I had grown to celebrate so often and in so many different ways.

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