Thursday, May 19, 2016

Grade One: Places We Live: Vertical and Horizontal Cityscapes

Students in grade one were shown two examples of how artists plan their pictures to fit within vertical and horizontal compositions, depending on their ideas. After much discussion, first graders were guided to see that the height of the tall skyscraper in Radiator Building by Georgia O'Keeffe, could best be emphasized in a vertical rectangle, while a horizontal rectangle can help focus our attention on the person on the rooftop of a building in Rooftops by Hugh Lee Smith.

Students were then given many rectangles cut from neutral colors in various sizes. They were instructed to use these simple rectangles to form buildings and cityscapes of their own design within either a vertical composition or a horizontal composition. This would require planning ahead of time, as their building(s) should be emphasized by the direction with which they held their paper.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kindergarten: Pinch Pots

Kindergarten students recently began a unit on clay and its sculptural properties. Students were first given oil-based clay to experiment with the many ways clay can be manipulated. This was done as a class, in a succession of steps guided by the teacher.

The following week, students looked at Animal Vessel, a piece of pottery from ancient Mexico that is carved in the shape of a magical animal. Students were then asked a series of questions while carefully looking at the selected work:

What do you notice about this artwork?
What is it made from?
How do you think this vessel might have be used?

Students were then introduced to earthen clay and instructed in the required steps to construct a simple vessel using the most basic of hand-building techniques. They were also encouraged to use pottery tools for creating texture in the surface of their pots.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Grade Two: Using Collage To Tell Stories

Students in the second grade began this lesson with a visualization exercise to help them picture images in their minds with their eyes closed while listening to a reading of "Aladdin and the African Magician" from the ancient collection, A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. After the story was read aloud, students were shown a collage inspired by the same story by artist, Henri Matisse entitled, The Thousand and One Nights. Students were then asked to find shapes which depicted some of the key elements of the story, including two magic lamps, lightning and a cave. Students were led to notice how Matisse chose only a few shapes to represent what he felt were some of the important parts of the story, while also incorporating other shapes and cutting techniques to create an visually interesting composition. Students were also shown examples of picture books illustrated with collage by several contemporary illustrators such as Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert.

Students were then instructed to create a collage based on a favorite story of their choosing. Fairy tales, ghost stories, myths, folklore, movies, and chapter books were all among the many ideas selected for this lesson.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May Masterpiece of the Month: The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough

Who made it?

This painting was created by an English artist named, Thomas Gainsborough, in 1770.

Where is the REAL one?

The real painting can be seen at The Huntington Collection Library in San Marino, CA.

Why is this artwork important?

The Blue Boy is Gainsborough's most famous artwork out of the hundreds he painted. It is believed to be the portrait of the son of a wealthy merchant, however, there is no proof. Most likely it is a tribute to a much earlier artist, Anthony Van Dyck (1559-1641), whom Gainsborough greatly admired. We know this because the portrait features historical costume. The Blue Boy is wearing clothing that was in fashion over a hundred years before this picture was painted. In fact, The Blue Boy bears a strong resemblance to Van Dyck's painting, George and Francis Villiers, which is another portrait of young boys dressed in cavalier costumes.

While being a successful portrait painter, Gainsborough prefered to paint landscapes and would often try to work natural scenery into the portrait backgrounds as he does in The Blue Boy. However, what makes this painting so striking from Gainsborough's other works is the strong, dignified pose of the boy, the glow of his face from the darker background, and the highlighting on his satin suit and left leg as it steps forward. These subtle elements show us Gainsborough's mastery of skill as a painter.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Kindergarten: Patterns All Around Us

In this unit, students will be exploring the element of pattern further. Kindergarten students began this lesson by looking at the two selected artworks and were asked to identify as many patterns as they could see. Some patterns were obvious, while other were far more subtle. Students were asked to imagine how they might print the patterns used by the selected artist instead of a brush or drawing tool.

Students were then shown a demonstration on using wooden stamps dipped in tempera paint to create a repeating pattern of geometric shapes. Students were instructed to draw a picture of their choosing which would include patterns created by the stamps, though many students also chose to include drawn patterns.

Grade One: People In Motion, Near and Far

First graders began this lesson by discussing their favorite parks and playgrounds and the kinds of outdoor activities they enjoy doing. Then, students examined several artworks which depict people who are moving and engaging in outdoor activities such as playing, dancing and beach wading. Students described how the artist of each painting was able to show us what the people were supposed to be doing in the various actions, i.e. arms bent, legs in striding positions, etc.Students were then led to notice how the artists showed people and objects which were close to the viewer and those which were far, and discussed how objects appear smaller and higher in a composition to indicate distance, and how the horizon line helps to place those objects within the picture.

Students were then instructed to draw an outdoor scene of people engaged in an activity, such as dance, sports or play. They were also required to use scale to depict items within the picture which were near and far from the viewer.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Results Are In! The Brackett School Annual Concert & Art Show 2016

This year's art exhibit, Echo In the Woods: Art and Music Inspired by The Enchanted Forestwas a big success thanks to the hard work of students and the support of Brackett staff and families. As always, many thanks for your ongoing support and appreciation!

Mixed Media Collage

Kindergarten students were first shown the work of found-object sculptor, Melissa Stitzlein whose large-scale butterfly sculptures defy expectation with their size and materials. Students were quick to notice that the intricate butterfly bodies and wings were comprised of found scrap metal, furniture, glass and plastic, while still maintaining the colorful uniqueness of real butterfly species. Students were also shown the work of Paul Villinski, who creates delicate butterflies cut from scrap aluminum soda cans and arranges them into larger, whimsical installations. Students were led to notice that both of these artists are transforming discarded materials, as well as the appearance of a living creature, into something unexpected and new.
Students then discussed the concept of the Enchanted Forest as a fictitious landscape often featured in old stories, particularly fairy tales, and how such stories contain elements of “magic” and transformation. In such a place, the ordinary resident life forms may be changed and dramatically altered from our usual expectations of them.
While being encouraged to consider that all butterflies come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and markings, students were instructed to create their own butterfly, and to plan and allow for deviations as their butterflies were to be “enchanted” and transformed. Students discussed the principle of symmetry and led to notice how symmetry is present in a butterfly’s shape, as well as wing markings. This helped students plan their design, as well as use a variety of unexpected and “found” materials to transform their butterflies into a more enchanted variety.

Grade One
Paper Sculpture

Students in grade one were shown several examples of contemporary sculpture inspired by nature. They discussed the artist’s choice of materials, as well as use of form and scale to create something that did not mimic nature, but rather suggested it’s influence and allowed the viewer to impart their own interpretation. 
Students then discussed the concept of the Enchanted Forest as a fictitious landscape often featured in old stories, originating in fairy tales, and how such stories contain elements of “magic” and transformation. However, in addition, students also discussed how such places have inspired artists to imagine what such places might look like and to create original artworks that either depict possible representations, such as in illustrations, or to fabricate such an imaginary natural landscape from actual materials, such as in a sculpture. Students were shown examples of artist renderings of imagined enchanted forests, and compared them with the natural sculptures and outdoor installations by sculptors inspired by such imagined depictions. Students were quick to see how something easily created in a drawing or painting could be translated into something tangible, but also tempered by the restrictions of reality. Here, materials are often used to replicate something completely different from itself, and that is the challenge a three-dimensional artist often must face.
Students were then instructed in the basic principles of paper sculpture and the manipulation of a variety of materials used to suggest the idea of an enchanted toadstool, a common resident of the damp forest. Students were informed that their creations would help create a fabricated environment inspired by the Enchanted Forest.

Grade Two
Sculpture Installation

Students were guided through a discussion about the element of form, and how it differs from the element of shape. They were then shown and asked to identify examples of three-dimensional geometric forms: sphere, cube, prism, cone, etc. Students discussed how these forms can be seen and recognized in examples of sculpture, and were led to notice that which may have started out as a simple form was later turned into a sculpture with meaning.
Students then discussed the concept of the Enchanted Forest as a fictitious landscape often featured in old stories, originating in fairy tales, and how such a place is often home to “magical” occurrences and creatures, such as fairies. However, students were told that such stories developed long ago when people held strong beliefs and connections to the natural world and the wild landscape around them. Tales of “fairy folk”, creatures of many sorts that could be helpful or mischievous towards humans, arose out of this connection and people’s intimate relationship with the earth. 
Students were then shown illustrations of several examples of different fairies, such as The Pixie, from the book, Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, 1978. Students were led to notice how different in appearance each of these creatures were, and asked to consider in what kind of house such a fairy might live. Students were then shown several examples of garden “fairy houses” that were created from geometric forms from many materials, and decorated with natural materials collected from the forest floor. Students created their houses from fired clay, were required to consider style of the house and to construct it from hollowed geometric forms. The houses were then painted with watercolor paint and embellished with natural materials of the student’s choosing. 

Grade Three
Three-Dimensional Collage

Students were introduced to this lesson with a discussion about sculptures of famous hybrid animals such as the Great Sphinx of Giza in Giza, Egypt. People have heard legendary stories about magical combination animals since ancient times and such mythical creatures continue to inspire writers and artists today. One such artist is James Prosek, a naturalist/artist who occasionally creates life-like drawings of animals in impossible combinations. Students were amused with several examples of his humorous drawings and later examined several examples of mythical creatures by collage illustrator, Eric Carle taken from his book, Dragons, Dragons (and other creatures that never were),1991.
Students then discussed the concept of the Enchanted Forest as a fictitious landscape often featured in old stories, originating in fairy tales, and how such a place is often home to “magical” occurrences, transformed elements and mythical animals such as dragons, unicorns and centaurs. Students were told that such animals are so legendary to modern people that they continue to be recognizable and to make appearances in many fantasy stories by more recent and contemporary authors, despite having origins in ancient times.
Students were then instructed to create an hybrid animal of their own design from construction paper using basic collage principles. In addition, students were instructed to include pop-up elements to create the illusion of background, middle ground and foreground more effectively. Students were encouraged to consider what they felt would be an interesting or appropriate environment for their animal to live, and whether it be a realistic or enchanted habitat.

Grade Four
Large-scale Paper Wall Murals

This lesson began with a discussion of what the Enchanted Forest is: a fictitious landscape often featured in old stories, particularly fairy tales. Students then compared two very different artist interpretations of the Enchanted Forest, one pleasant and delightful, the other mysterious and foreboding. Students discussed that while not every fairy tale includes a forest location, it is often used as a literary device to represent a place of refuge, of potential danger or a chance for adventure for the story’s characters. In this way, the forest, itself, becomes a character within the story rather than a mere backdrop, and as such, contains as much expressive power. This capability of expression is often utilized by visual artists when using shape, line, color and form in any given artwork. 
Students were then given a brief history of the art of silhouettes, which originated as an 18th century paper craft, and shown how artists of all eras have since adapted the art form in a variety of media. Whether it be the shadow puppet, animated films of Lotte Reiniger in the 1920’s or the large scale, painted murals of contemporary artist, Kara Walker, artists continue to use the image of isolated shape to convey mood and meaning. 
Students were assigned to groups and instructed to work as a team to construct a large scale wall mural depicting a scene of a fairy tale and/or capturing the mood and essence of an enchanted forest. Each team member was required to contribute at least one element within the piece and because the forest plays a key role, each mural was required to include at least one tree. Students were encouraged to depict the tree with expressive mood.

Grade Five
Ceramic Sculpture

Fifth grade classes first discussed the concept of the Enchanted Forest as a fictitious landscape often featured in old stories, particularly fairy tales, and how such stories contain elements of “magic” and transformation. In such a place, the ordinary resident life forms may be changed and dramatically altered from our usual expectations of them.
Students were then shown several examples of the work of contemporary glass artist, Dale Chihuly, and discussed the abstracted botanical quality of his work. Chihuly creates pieces that often derive inspiration from nature while representing forms that are at once, alien, yet familiar. Is this how a plant or flower might appear if under a magical enchantment? How can an artist transform the idea of something natural into something that appears supernatural? How can materials such as glass and clay be used to suggest such an idea? To further investigate these questions, students were shown examples of clay sculptures by several contemporary ceramic artists such as, C.J. Jiliek and Steve Belz, who use combined materials such as wire and metal in their clay pieces while conveying the idea of abstracted botanical forms. 

Students were then instructed to plan and design a clay sculpture that could connote the idea of some form of plant life under an enchanted transformation. Sculptures were constructed from fired pottery clay and later glazed, but students were also encouraged to plan for incorporating additional materials to include later, once all previous steps were completed, in order to express this idea further and to promote added interest to their piece.