Thursday, April 23, 2015

Georgia O'Keefe Enlarged Flower Assignment

Art History Books are full of male artists, so I always enjoy when I can teach a lesson based around a woman as important as Georgia O'Keefe, the Mother of Modernist Painting. I love how she takes something as small as a flower and makes it so large that you have to take notice. For a spring-time appropriate assignment, we discussed O'Keefe's history and subjects before students each chose a flower to use as their subject. I'd originally wanted to make them choose a flower that was native to our state, but it soon became clear that they would work harder if it was a flower to which they felt a personal connection.

Many students used a print out of a flower, drew a grid on top of it in order to duplicate it on a large piece of paper (also with a grid). Oil pastel was the medium of choice for my students with low vision

Although for those who are blind, I drew their flower in hot glue, and then they used watercolor to fill in the shapes. Every student seemed to take a lot of pride in their finished product.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kite Making

Kites can be canvases for drawings or paintings. Kites can be sculptural. Kites can be functional works of art. For our kite-making unit, I offered my students a variety of kite styles to choose from. Then they decided if it made more sense to use wooden dowels or straws as the support. They chose whether to make the body from plastic, paper, tissue paper, wax paper or fabric and decided whether or not to draw using oil pastels, markers, or colored pencils. Art making is about choice making.

It seems like a big stretch to tie this into American History, but we did probably spend forty minutes discussing the accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin. He was famous for his electricity experiment using a kite and key, but when he was much younger, he also tied a kite to his toe, curious to see if it would pull him across a pond if he were to float on his back. It worked! I suppose you could say we studied aerodynamics too when we tried to fly them with some success.

The tissue paper didn't hold up very well for the box kite or tetrahedron kite, and had to be remade using bulletin board paper. Live and learn.

Some students re-purposed their batik assignment and the acrylic that had soaked into the fabric gave it a little more wind resistance than plain fabric.  
You may recognize the motorcycle on the kite below from Prince's Purple Rain Album. Everyone has to bring their own ideas to the project.
Four people who made tetrahedron kites put them together to make a much larger one. This kite wasn't finished until the weather got too wet to fly, but we may try it out if the sun ever comes out. The blue on the top was originally one kite with four tetrahedron components, each component requiring 6 straws. String is pushed through the straws and tied together before gluing paper around two sides.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Puppetry Arts in the classroom

The last couple of weeks, I have watched stoned faced students erupt into giggles when being hugged and kissed by puppets. For blind children, it is important to get to touch the mouth of a hand puppet as it opens and closes, and shake hands with a puppet arm. They each got to try out several kinds of puppets and listen to silly my voices. I showed an episode of the "Muppets" and talked about how someone has to invent each character and make it by hand.

When it came to art production, my elementary students began at the beginning, which for me is the paper bag puppet. No childhood is complete without making at least one.

It didn't take long for me to sew dozens of little finger puppet bodies, which these kids took to new heights. It's important to discuss lots of ideas and offer a variety of materials before students come up with a solution that will work for them. I was surprised at some of the ideas they had, like feather for hair and a goat-tee, or a yarn loop to make a girl's hula hoop.

Older students watched power point presentations on puppets and video clips of amazing giant marionettes to ancient shadow puppets. They then made their own shadow puppets with two pieces of black paper, wire, and metallic markers. Dowels and brads work too for moving parts. But I am saving our dowels for another project.

The marionette project used paper towel rolls (we still have plenty left over from all of our toilet paper roll crafts), paint, string, and Popsicle sticks.

Puppets and marionettes marry visual arts with literacy and performance art. We wrapped up our unit by taking a trip to the Center for Puppetry Arts to watch an amazing performance about "The Diary of Anne Frank."