Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Grade One: Drawing From the Model

Starting as early as Kindergarten, students are given the opportunity to draw from the model at least once every school year. These opportunities really help young children gain invaluable practice in seeing the human form more accurately, which ultimately strengthens their confidence in drawing any subject.

In first grade, students begin this lesson by looking at a charcoal self-portrait drawing by Pablo Picasso and comparing it to a portrait he did of his son, Paul, when Paul was about four years old in a work titled, Paul As Harlequin. Students were asked to explain the difference between a portrait and a self-portrait and how an artist could more easily render a likeness of themselves or another person. Here, students discussed that in order for Picasso to create a portrait of Paul, Paul needed to model for his father by posing in a very still position.

Students were told that they would be drawing from posing models and were delighted to find out that the models would be their fellow classmates! Students were given the opportunity to volunteer to model for the class in relaxed five minute poses, while the rest of the class was encouraged to focus only on drawing the pose as it appeared from their vantage point.

Grade Five: Action Painting About People

Students in grade five first examined three paintings in which movement was depicted by abstract artists, Elaine de Kooning, in a style called Expressionism, and Carlo Carra and Natalia Goncharov and in a style known as Futurism. In both styles, the artists abstracted by leaving out details, while capturing the main idea or feeling in a subject, while also moving the brush in a way that matches a feeling the artist wants to express. At the turn of the 20th century, these artists thought motion and energy were important ideas for current and future art. Students were led to noticed how the artists explored ways to show the motion and energy of people, animals, machines and other subjects using repeated lines, broken shapes, blurred colors, etc.

Later, students were instructed to create a painting which depicted at least one person in motion. Other creatures, machines and objects could also be depicted in motion. Students were required to emphasis movement in a manner that suggested energy or motion. Artist mannikins and photos were available for students to work from.

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.

Grade Three: Hybrid Mythical Creatures

Third graders were first shown a slide of the Assyrian sculpture pictured above, and asked to look at it carefully. After a few moments, students were asked to identify the different animals comprising the creature depicted. Students were quick to notice there is a lion body, eagle wings and a human head. This combination of animals can only be the famous, mythical sphinx! Many students are familiar with the sphinx, and were led through a discussion of its history within several ancient civilizations. Students were also led to notice that unlike lions, this sphinx has five legs instead of the physiological four. This is because, depending on where the viewer stands in relation to the sculpture, either from the side or from the front, the sculpture will appear to have not only the correct number of legs, but also appear to be walking from profile view.

Students were then shown examples of ancient sculptures of the Sphinx from Egypt and Greece, and compared the similarities and differences in how other cultures have depicted this creature. Contemporary illustrator's renderings of other famous mythical creatures were also shown, including: the Chimera, the Minotaur and the Pegasus. These creatures have famous stories told about them and continue to fascinate people. Students were then instructed to sketch an idea of a hybrid animal of their own design. Later, using their sketches as a reference point, students were instructed in carving their creatures from a block of clay using the subtractive method of hand-building as a starting point. Pieces were later kiln-fired and painted with watercolors.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Grade Two: Narrative Sculpture

Second graders recently created narrative collages based upon favorite stories, but what about narrative sculpture? How do artists take a three-dimensional form and transform into an object with a life of its own?

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 forms: sphere, cube, prism, cone, etc. Students discussed how these forms can be seen and recognized in examples of sculpture, such as Constantin Brancusi's The Kiss. Students were led to notice that which may have started out as a simple form, was later turned into a sculpture with meaning.

Second graders were instructed to begin their clay sculpture with a three-dimensional form appropriately chosen to best fit their idea. From there, they could pinch, carve and shape the clay, as well as add details. Once dry, the sculptures were painted.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Observational Drawing: Revisiting Contour, Blind and Sighted

Fourth graders were given the opportunity to revisit a drawing practice they had originally learned in second grade. Contour drawing is a style of drawing which focuses exclusively on the contour outline of any given shape or object. Skills are often forgotten when not practiced regularly, so it was an exciting venture to rediscover this activity two years later! However, now that the students are older, a new twist was added with the addition of blind contour drawing, an exercise which required the person drawing to NOT look at the object they are drawing and allowing their hand to to be guided only by their sight. This exercise helps to train and co-ordinate the hands and eyes for better observational drawing.
Students were given simple tools and everyday objects, which they also used in second grade for a different drawing activity, and instructed to "warm up" with 10 minutes of blind contour drawing. Then, students were instructed to draw regular contour drawings for the remainder of class time. Students were only allowed to use pen for their drawings, as contour drawings are traditionally done in ink to force the artist to concentrate without the safety of using an eraser to correct mistakes.

Friday, May 05, 2017

May Masterpiece of the Month: Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez

Who Made It?
This painting was created by a Spanish painter named Diego Velazquez in 1656.

Where is the REAL One?
The real painting can be seen at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.

Why Is This Artwork Important?
Las Meninas is not only the masterpiece of Velaquez’s career, but is also one of the most analyzed paintings in the world. Art historians have been trying to figure out several mysteries that are contained within this picture. Las Meninas has also inspired many other artists because it is such an unusual picture. 
First, it is a royal portrait of the young Princess Margaret Theresa, daughter of King Philip IV of Spain. But it is unlike most royal portraits because it is actually like a snapshot photo of a scene from inside the king’s court. The portrait of the princess includes many people in her life, including her maids, her chaperone, her bodyguard, a woman with dwarfism that served as her companion, a member of the royal court, and a boy playfully trying to awaken one of the king’s dogs with his foot! This picture is also a self-portrait, as Velaquez included himself in the picture, as well! But whose portrait is he actually painting? Who is he looking at? If you look closely, the king and queen are also featured here. Can you find them? For many years, art historians have tried to determine if that is a portrait of the royal couple hanging on the wall, or is it their reflection in a mirror and they are standing where we are while the artist paints their likeness? Either way, we are seeing this scene of royal life through the eyes of the king, a rare spectacle in those days. In fact, this picture was commissioned by King Philip and never seen by the public until after the king’s death, as it hung in his private study room. After Velaquez died, the King honored his talent and his service to the royal court by having a royal red insignia symbol painted on the vest Velaquez is wearing in the painting. It is believed that the king painted it on there, himself!