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.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Collage Project for Kids

Some of my young art students are very challenged when it comes to fine motor skills. So, although this lesson can be used to teach children vocabulary, such as, "medium" and "collage,"or concepts such as "overlapping translucence shapes creates new shapes and colors," and, "repetition creates a sense of unity," it also hits on the extremely basic skill of tearing tissue paper.

That's one of the things I love most about art education. You can use the same project to reach children with a huge range of ability levels. Some will go home to tell their parents about the importance of Abstract Expressionism in American history. Others will go home knowing how to pat down a piece of glued tissue on paper.

After talking about the medium of collage, I introduced the students to printmaking.  I found some dot makers, which I believe are used for BINGO. Is there a more simple way to learn stamping?  Some students made multiple pictures, entirely with dots, since it takes so little time. Sometimes I  stress to them the need to slow down and make conscious decisions. 

In the end, though, I found there wasn't a bad one in the bunch.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Collaboration Celebration!

We are back in school and my art room is abuzz with busy artists! Last week, as schedules were getting settled and students were trying to learn class procedures, I had them each create a portfolio (giant paper folder). They had their choice of medium, as long as their name is the focal point. Some used foam stamps, others, marker, hot glue, colored pencils and stencils, and pastel. But with a huge range of ability levels, I found that some students, and some classes work more quickly than others. In order to keep each student engaged in the creative process (and out of trouble), I kept a large piece of butcher paper a table.

I used green paint to divide the paper into round shapes, which were then hot glued, so that blind students could feel their boundaries and stay in their section. When anyone had some extra time, they were invited to use pastels or oil pastels and create a pattern within a shape.

My advanced class of low vision students made their own "mural" by dividing black paper with high contrast lines, creating triangles of various sizes.

It was a great introduction to not only shape and repetition, but unity and variety as well. Every class has students who are very unique, but we can be united as a community of learners, just as parts of a "mural" can be visually united. We also discussed the fact that collaboration means having respect for others and their contributions. I have a good feeling about what is possible for my students this school year.