I’ve often reflected on how great Kandinsky’s “Circles” art can be as a learning tool for children. It is colorful and simple, graphic and exciting and I have yet to meet someone young or old who isn’t pleased by it. My second graders had a great time learning about colors and color relationships through this work of art. Students practiced folding paper and creating proportionate sections to contain each color coded box. Each box had to be labeled on the back with the color relationship that would be used on the front. For example, the back of one box could read “Primary Colors” and the front of that box would be filled in with circles of red, yellow and blue. Students had to chose at least 3 different color relationships to represent in their art. Some students chose to chose more and label their artwork accordingly. I had one student label his boxes “Complementary- Purple and Yellow”, “Primary”, “Cool”, (and the funny part) “Old” (Grey, white, black), “Royal” (Blue and Purple), and “Pittsburgh” (Black and Gold). I’ll have to remember the “old” color family!
5th Grade took a mental field trip to Oaxaca Mexico to get in the mood for traditional craft. We learned about how traditional artists there create beautiful painted wood carvings of all different types of real and make-believe animals. Students listed to a book read aloud (Dream Carver) and watched a you tube video to see first hand how careful and focused these Mexican artists have to be. We engaged in a brainstorming activity to help access our creativity and discover what animal spoke to us and would be a good choice in our own artwork. Some students came up with real animals while others combined parts of their favorites to create a fantasy animal. This lesson taught students about armature construction, the similarities and differences between traditional and modern craft, and many different sculpture techniques (papier mache, overlapping, structure construction, skeleton, balance, layering etc.).
These are some great shots of the students working on their armature construction. They start out using balled up newspaper and help the animal come to life by adding tape and papier mache. The final step in construction is to layer the armature with many layers of white gesso adding strength and a bright base coat for their colorful paint.
The 6th Graders and I had a fantastic discussion about traditional craft and modern craft. We discovered how many different places around the world have been making some variation of coil baskets for many, many years. Looking at images of coil baskets from places in Africa compared to places in the America’s and even places in Asia was interesting and caused us to question what a modern craft is and how it becomes modern. We thought the most impressive and appealing baskets were the modern craft baskets made out of telephone wire in different countries in Africa. These were impressive! Our own experience making coil baskets was hands on and focused on developing intricate motor skills. We tried very hard not to get frustrated and our final products are fantastic!
My 6th graders had fun learning about abstraction and the artwork created by contemporary artist James Fowler. This is the artwork we focused on:
Our artists process stressed transformation and forced us to cut apart our paintings and rearrange them in new ways. Students had to chose a color scheme to focus on and accurately represent those color schemes in their work. Here are some examples.