Friday, September 25, 2015

Paul Klee Water Color lesson

One of my college professors described a Paul Klee watercolor as "perfect." That may have been the only time I have ever heard a work of art being described as such, and it really made an impact on me. Paul Klee was a Swiss/German artist who was part of the Blue Rider Group of painters and later became a teacher at the famous Bauhaus School. In 1937, when Hitler had his famous "Degenerate Art" exhibit, Klee was included on the list of artists to be ridiculed. He fled Nazi Germany to Switzerland where he painted the remainder of his days. He was an accomplished musician, a lover of nature, a master draftsman and teacher. His effort to reduce things to the very essence and provide balance and harmony, is something I really admire. I also have a nephew whose middle name is Klee. What's not to love?

I began Klee week in my classroom with a documentary on the life of the artist. I discussed, with my students, the various styles his work took over the years and the variety of media he used. Next we focused on a few water color paintings and looked at the things they had in common: the vertical and horizontal lines, arrows, color harmony.

Each student created their own compositions, some using grids, others using symbols, some using horizontal lines broken up by a few vertical lines, or arrows.

For those with no vision, I would follow their directions and draw lines on the watercolor paper using Elmer's glue.

For some of the low vision students, I would reinforce the lines they drew themselves with hot glue to help them stay within the shape boundaries. My low vision students tended to mix the cakes of color, muting the clean, bright colors, which turned out to be a bonus. I love the earthy tones they created. While no one will probably ever describe my students' work as "perfect," I think there is beauty in the imperfection, and I'm glad Paul Klee's work could inspire them to make something of their own.

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