Grade Two Explores Emily Carr

I had a placement this afternoon where the class, in fact, the entire school, had opportunity to watch a morning theater performance, “Emily Carr – Small Wonders” performed by
Canadiana Musical Theatre. So, it only made sense that I follow that with an art extravaganza in the Grade 2 class. This class has been helping me with my french lately and this has been great fun.

The inspiration for this lesson comes from Hilary Inwood. I’ve been pouring over her stuff the past couple of weeks, absolutely in love with the types of small books, and works based on nature and ecology that she has been writing about and creating. She has a large publication list and I encourage my friend-educators to look her up. As my readers know, I’m quite big on picking up litter and being a steward of my environment. I harvested from my own recycle bin and cut up three cardboard boxes this morning to be used in this activity.

First, we got the projector warmed up and watched a couple of short movies about Emily Carr, the artist. While the children enjoyed the morning performance, they didn’t have opportunity to learn a lot about Emily’s art. As we looked at several tree and landscape images, we talked about the wind and about the blowing shapes, in the sky, on the land and in the trees. There was a bit of chat about British Columbia and the big tall evergreen trees and imagining walking through the woods there in the dark.

Before recess, we opened nine factories, most having two factory workers, but some, having three. I reused chart paper that was set aside in the art storage room, as factory place mats, deciding to use that for collage paper later on as well. Here, the students prepared a lot of collage papers in the approach of Henri Matisse, to be later selected and used for creating a personal landscape in the manner and energy of Emily Carr.

So, the factory workers went to work, using white, yellow, turquoise, green and blue tempera paint blocks and large brushes. A helpful tip is to keep paint blocks out of the individual cupped containers as those are very tricky to clean. Instead, I just set them out on palettes or margarine container lids. Much easier to wipe off afterwards. Reminders to the students: “Stroke, don’t scrub, your brushes.”

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Time for recess! Over the fifteen minutes, the collage papers dried and I cleaned out the water containers, the brushes and the palettes. Ready for students to rumble!

The students entered, rosy cheeked and eager. I projected the following image for some sketching in their sketch books. I also demonstrated how when we draw evergreen trees, we don’t have to draw all of the individual branches, but can draw big clumps of branches all at one time. Among the Firs 1931

Among the Firs 1931

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To begin our compositions, we sorted our papers into two big piles on the floor, like piles of leaves. We talked about the way the wind blows most of the time…side to side…this way and that…most of the time it’s not going up and down. So, I initially requested a vertical composition (up and down), with the wind motion being wavy, but side to side. “Mix up your papers, guys, to get lots of variety!” I had brought a long a bag full of cardboard cut to size (different sizes and shapes) for compositions and a variety of tree trunks, strips also cut out of boxes.

I showed them Above the Gravel Pit by Emily Carr.

AbovetheGravelPit

The results…ta duh!

With advanced and Division II classes, you might add three layers of hills (foreground/middle ground and background)…and several trees. At all grade levels, given time, you might also want to add textures/shading/highlighting onto the tree forms with oil pastel, before gluing. Because this is a young group and I am a visiting teacher, one tree did the trick!

Thank you, Grade 2, for the magic of an afternoon making art!

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The Melt

For three days, Calgary has enjoyed beautiful temperatures.  It has been a long winter…lots of snow and bitter cold.  In fact, this has been such a melt that on many intersections throughout the city, the drainage doesn’t seem to be sufficient or blocked, to the detriment to some homes.

Mike Drew of the Calgary Sun captured this image of a residence in Sunnyside.

Photo Credit: Mike Drew, Calgary Sun QMI

Photo Credit: Mike Drew, Calgary Sun QMI

In the morning, Max-walking is dangerous, given that this water freezes up and leaves the sidewalks, virtual skating rinks.

Apart from these symptoms of changing weather, there are some beautiful moments in nature.  We just got home from our daily walk about Frank’s Flats and it is absolutely breath taking.  Lately, I’ve noticed magpies flying with pieces of nesting material dangling haphazardly from their beaks as they instinctively prepare their nests.

I’m a huge fan of Duke Farm’s Live Eagle Cam.  It was an awesome thing, this year, to witness the laying of three eggs.  The notations from the site are as follows and a still photo I just saved a moment ago.  I encourage my birder-readers to follow the progress of this family.  What magic to witness male and female trading off places in the nest and sharing the responsibilities for the eggs.  The history of Duke Farms can be read here.

Eagle March 10 2014And for those who think that watching an eagle on a nest is the same as watching paint dry, be advised that last year, this particular event was caught on live cam…

Update 2/24/2014A 3rd egg was laid on 2/23/2014 in the afternoon.  Thanks you viewers for your valuable observations throughout the nesting season.

Update 2/20/2014
A 2nd egg was laid the afternoon of 2/20/2014.

Update 2/18/2014
An egg was laid in the afternoon of 2/17/2014*. Snow in the nest should begin to dissipate as temps rise during the day over the next few days. The cam will remain zoomed close in on the nest bowl to aid in detection of additional eggs.

Update 1/14/2014
Soft grasses are being deposited in the nest bowl to act as cushioning and insulation, these signs are usually a prelude to egg laying behavior.

So, today…teaching grade one…while I was tempted to make art around St. Patrick’s Day, our Lenten Journey, the Stations of the Cross or Penguins!!!  I ended up following my own muse, the nesting birds.  And the children did NOT disappoint.

Where’s our teacher?  Are you our teacher? Yeah! We get to paint!

Off with the coats there, buddies!  On with the shoes!

Who is the engine? Who is the caboose?  The caboose isn’t here!  Oh, no!  Pick a caboose, will you and take this attendance down, please.

Announcements. O’ Canada. Prayer.

I saw a magpie carrying a great big branch while it was flying the other day!

IT WAS BUILDING A NEST!

It’s so warm and the snow is melting.

IT’S GOING TO LAY A EGG!

A nest is like a bowl…do you remember what horizontal means?

WIDE!! (I notice, with this response, that the grade ones have been measuring things…they have a whole new vocabulary!)

Do you remember what vertical means?  You’re right! Up and down!

Today you may choose to build a nest on vertical sky OR horizontal sky…whatever you wish.  Remember that the nest will fall out if there are not enough branches.  I’ll show you a bowl shape in some branches. (I demonstrate a BIG drawing on a vertical piece and then on a horizontal piece of blue construction paper).  Three branches will work…or four…or five.  The nest (to repeat) looks like a bowl.

Grab your chalk…you can do your sketch now.  As I’m stirring up some earth tones of paint at the paint center I ask the children if they remember the THREE steps to painting…

DIP! STROKE!

Oops!  We forgot a step!

WIPE!! 

Yes…please wipe your extra paint off of your brushes.

The students use the paint station with finesse, two hands on buckets…walking…taking turns.  Let’s use the darkest brown for the inside of the nest.  It will show that it is deep and dark…a good place to sleep.  OF COURSE WE CAN PAINT LEAVES!  I quickly mix up five different greens. Trading off begins and the paintings are set aside to dry.

We go to the reading corner to share in the rhyming poem, Five Little Penguins…yes, readers, you’ve got it…same as the Five Little Monkeys!  We talk about visits to the Calgary Zoo.

After recess and recess snacks, we add our nesting materials into the mix…talk about birds collecting strings and grass…and talk about how penguins nest.  We talk about how the Dad sits on the egg while Mama goes to eat fish…and how Mama sits on the egg while Dad goes to eat fish.  We cut and paste and then add in the birds.  BEAUTIFUL!  Let’s set them aside so that the glue can dry.  Hailey says out loud, as she’s placing her nest gently on the corner, “I love mine.”  I think to myself, “This is what’s really important.”

Printing…letter w!  Here we go!

P1150505 P1150506 P1150507 P1150508 P1150509 P1150510 P1150511P1150515 P1150516 P1150517 P1150518 P1150519 P1150520 P1150521 P1150522 P1150523 P1150524 P1150525

En Plein Air

I found this image in my archives.  I was a highschool student at the time, living in Great Falls, Montana and attending Charles M. Russell High.  My Paternal-Grandparents and so many relations lived in the Magrath-Raymond-Lethbridge area and so between 1970 and 1973, we would drive up to visit, a blessing, given our very nomadic military lifestyle.

One summer, I stood in the water, at the edge of Grampa’s fishing pond and painted this image.  The flies would land in the wet oil paint and my forehead was itchy with the perspiration that collected under the hot afternoon sun.  As I look at this photo, I feel very nostalgic and so many associated thoughts come up for me.

But just for now, I’m enjoying looking at the painting done by a young girl in more-than-awkward circumstances and thinking about her techniques, observations and how she saw that place for an afternoon.  I’ve learned so much along the way.  Painting is ‘magic’!