Monday, August 31, 2015

Activating the Negative Space

Last May, I attended my son and daughter's school Fine Arts Open House, where I saw some pretty amazing student work. I told their art teacher that I was going to steal some of her ideas, and  she was fine with that, which is how I knew she was a real artist. We get our inspiration from everything we see. Plus, teachers are generally willing to share ideas. For one of the projects, her students used spray paint and stencils as the background, and I thought, "My blind students could do that!" I bought some stencils and made it the first real project of this school year.

We started our lesson by looking at artworks in which the subject matter was nature, and we discussed why artists have been inspired by nature throughout the ages. This led into the question of what beauty is, and a discussion on aesthetics. This is one of our standards to teach. I had the students each make three nature themed preliminary sketches for a painting, which fulfilled another standard. We had a critique before they chose the best of their sketches for their painting. 

Normally at this point, I would have had students begin by painting the entire paper with a background color, but I was afraid some of my low-vision students wouldn't be able to see their lines as well without the white paper for contrast. So they drew their image before painting the background.
Then they made the background more interesting with the stencils and spray paint. "Activating the negative space" is another art standard.   And using a variety of painting techniques is yet another standard. Talk about bang for your buck or rather, standards for your project!

Finally they painted their subject matter in the foreground. 

When they started painting over some of their stenciled designs it became apparent what I'm talking about when I mention "push and pull" or visual weight. We were literally tucking the designs behind the most important part of the painting: the subject.

A few of my blind students needed modifications. Some needed me to hot glue their subject (in this case pinecones) so they could paint independently.

Other students with very low vision needed close circuit TV magnifiers so they could zoom in on a small part of their large painting and see what they were painting. 
All of my students seemed pleased with the results, and when they're happy with their work, I know they'll continue to work hard.

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