Tuesday, September 13, 2016

September Masterpiece of the Month: George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Who made it?
This portrait was created by an American artist named, Gilbert Stuart, in 1796.

Where is the REAL one?
The real painting is owned and shared between The National Gallery in Washington D.C. and The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA.

Why is this artwork important?
Stuart was a famous portrait artist, creating portraits of many famous and important people, including the first six US presidents. He actually painted several portraits of George Washington, yet this one remains the most famous. It is also unfinished and was used as a "study" of Washington's likeness, which Stuart then used as reference to create other, complete portraits of Washington. He also created many small copies of this portrait and sold them for $100 each. Portraits of Washington were in high demand at that time. This particular image of Washington also appears on the one-dollar bill. Although it is only a reference study, this portrait is considered to be Stuart's most skillful due to his masterful handling of the layers of paint and contrasting skin tones.

Welcome Back! News and Updates

I hope the new school year is off to a great start for everyone. Classes have begun smoothly in the Art room. As I have been meeting with all the classes for the first time this year, it has been interesting to hear of the student's summer art adventures. I was impressed and pleased with how many students reported that they saw art in some manner, this summer. I shared some art I saw this summer while on a visit to MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA. The artworks consisted of examples from 
Colombian-born, Miami-based artist Federico Uribe’s magical, colorful, sculptural menagerie of animals, as seen above. Students enjoyed guessing what each sculpture was made from, given that all were constructed from functional objects. Can you guess what this sheep's fleece is made from?

In addition to catching up with students on their first art class of the year, students in grades 1-5 have been creating their art folders for the year, in which they will store all the artwork created this year. These folders will go home in June. In their second class, students in grades 2-5 will be creating their own sketchbooks for use during observational drawing and painting activities throughout the year.

Some new changes this year include the Art Parent Board, located outside the Art room. Various updates and information will be posted here throughout the year, in addition to this blog. I will also be making myself available every Wednesday after school from 2:30-3:30 for anyone who would like drop by and discuss any matter of concern. I will also be available by appointment, and can always be reached via email at dchisholm@arlington.k12.ma.us 

What Happened to Masterpiece of the Month??
I have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents and staff with our Masterpiece of the Month feature since its inception. I assure you it has not disappeared! I have moved the board to the 2nd floor, outside the library due to the increased need for more display space in the gallery for student work. Classes are bigger than ever, and all classes visit the library at least once a week, making it an ideal public viewing spot for students.

Please be sure to check back soon as new posts and projects will be posted here in the near future. Thanks for your ongoing support!

Friday, April 29, 2016

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.