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.
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!
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.
As much as the elementary art curriculum focuses on giving the students a wide variety of art making experiences…reflection, depiction, composition and expression, it is natural to be drawn toward the reasons for the seasons and to create images based on selected thematic happenings. Of course, Advent, Christmas and winter provide for some of these opportunities.
I’ve seen variations of this Division II lesson, taught throughout the school district. Its success lies in the contrast between cool and warm colours.
The subject matter (trees/hands/cars/ornaments) can also vary. The activity below demonstrates the most expressive qualities. There is evidence that, although the teacher provided some limits regarding subject matter, the students were really in the drivers’ seats.
These are a few examples of the warm/cool thing I found displayed in different schools. In the example below, the selected media was coloured marker…one could also use oil pastel or paint pucks paint pucks. These require skill where painting/drawing up against clean edges is involved. Required materials; white bond paper for pencil crayon/marker, ruler and pencil. Draw a triangular tree shape first, with emphasis on it filling a large space. Do not cave to the temptation to template the trees for the students because the variety of height, width and size will create some excitement in your overall display. Where possible, encourage the students’ unique interpretation. Draw intersecting lines from one edge of the paper to another. Don’t create shapes that are unrealistically small, depending on the media you’ve chosen. I’m always into big and bold.
Recently, while guest teaching, a class at St. Isabella School was in the midst of creating these pieces for an Advent celebration and will later bring them home to parents as Christmas gifts.
I enjoyed this approach because it offered experimentation with a variety of media. Before I arrived on the scene, the students had coloured regular photocopy paper with Mr. Sketch markers in patterns and designs, either cool or warm colours. Whether this media is applied to coffee filters or regular paper, the colours will melt into one another with the addition of water. They are also easy to clean off of desks with a regular wipe if you haven’t already created laminated place mats for this purpose.
Holes were punched into the top of a water bottle, and when the pieces were completely coloured, they were sprinkled with water. Once dried, these were transformed into three coniferous trees
A teacher can release a bit of control, as she or he feels comfortable. For example, for predictable tree size and shape results, you can draw this cut template on the back of standard white print paper before. An option would be to have the students flip the paper over and draw out their own tree designs before cutting. Guaranteed, more funky and less pretty!
I had the students tape their heavy weight paper to their desk tops with masking tape. For this activity, a paper with no tooth is preferred. When paper accepts water, it bubbles or expands. As it dries, if attached to a surface with tape, it will shrink again and flatten.
I showed the grade four students a Youtube video that demonstrates how artists use wet-on-wet technique in their watercolour paintings.
In a room without a sink, this is all you need to have. Before the water was used, I quickly walked around the desk pods and pulled a sponge filled with water across each of the compositions. The students had already placed their palettes of paint pucks on a paper towel in the center of one of the desks. If the student used warm colours for their trees, then they chose cool colours for their background palette. If the student used cool colours for their trees, then they chose warm colours for their backgrounds. As well, each desk pod had a single container with a small amount of water to dip into as they pulled the pigment into their composition. It was suggested that using the lightest colour first would be a good plan so that the dark colour would not impact all of the other areas too quickly.
I talked to the students about how, at the horizon…where the sky meets the mountains/land, you typically see the lightest colours of blue. As you look up into the deep sky, that is where you see the darkest blues.
Have the students choose their colours for their palettes (paper towel sheet) and ask them to put a wee drip of water on each puck to soften the pigment. Included in their clean up, have the students dump their containers of water into the bucket and place their brushes bristle down in the water at the same time.
After the activity, ask students to use a dry paper towel to wipe off their puck and place them side by side in order to dry separately. Art students need to participate in studio clean up from the very beginning of their education.
Recess! And the backgrounds dry. Don’t remove the tape from the desks until they are completely dry. Have something planned for after recess that takes the students away from their desks and in their gathering space.
Once the backgrounds are completely dry, the students cut out their trees, draw embellishments with silver and gold metallic sharpies, and arrange on their backgrounds, with glue sticks.
One or two early finishers can prepare some papers in brown green and black, to be used for the trunks of the trees.
This is where I left the scene of the art extravaganza. Next day…some printmaking as students used the butt end of their pencils, dipped into white acrylic paint, to create a peaceful snow flake thing. This is a very step by step explanation, but I thought some of you might wish to try these out, if not this year, then next. Thank you to the grade four teachers of St. Isabella, for letting me participate in this festive adventure.
Happy New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Horse! The grade twos in my care today enjoyed a book written and beautifully illustrated by Ian Wallace, Chin Chiang and the Dragon’s Dance. It was a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate the possibilities of a dragon in visual journals afterwards. Visual journals are such an entry point into the imagination! Another awesome day as a guest teacher!