Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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.

Observational Drawing Challenge: Drawing from the Model

Students in all grades practice drawing from people from observation each year, as people can be very challenging and an important subject within works of art. Drawing from complicated poses help students to understand how shapes and forms within the human body relate to each other in a drawing, as well as in reality. The most thrilling part for most students is the opportunity to pose voluntarily for their fellow classmates. This is also an important part of understanding the artist's process and a chance to experience the other side of life drawing, from the model's perspective. 
Before beginning, students are reminded to approach the drawing in the same manner as drawing anything else from observation, particularly inanimate objects which students find infinitely easier to examine. Students were reminded to draw only what they saw in the pose from their specific viewpoint, giving careful consideration to shapes, lines and textures as they appeared.

Fourth and fifth grade students are given the added layer of practicing a special kind of warm of drawing called gesture drawing, which are quick exercises that force the artist to look at the entire pose by eliminating time-consuming detail in order to loosen up their limbs and see all parts of the body as a sum of the whole. A demonstration was done with the teacher, a student volunteers to see how seeing and continuous drawing for 30 seconds will help train the eye to see more. A series of fast poses and drawings are sketched before moving on to a final, "long", ten minute pose.

A typical gesture drawing by a student

Student models are encouraged to choose high-action poses, or other poses that would be too difficult in a long pose, as gesture drawing rarely last longer than 1 minute. Once adequately warmed up, students were ready to focus on a long drawing, adding detail as time allowed. The following examples are from grade five students.

Grade Five: Personalized Relief Sculptures

For this lesson, students in the fifth grade were shown various examples of relief sculpture, ranging from examples from ancient Egypt to contemporary Mexican folk art. Students discussed how materials have changed over time, and how subjects vary from culture to culture, but the basic techniques of relief-building remain the same. Students were asked to describe the difference between relief and free-standing sculpture, as well as high relief and low relief.

Students were instructed to design a personal symbol to represent themselves in some way, inspired by how artists use symbolism in artworks of all sorts to convey information and meaning. After creating a symbol in relief from thin cardboard, students were able to incorporate the decorative elements of embossing and then covered the cardboard with tin foil and used a pencil to gently press designs into the surface. The foiled surface was then coated with a thin layer of india ink, which was rubbed off later, bring up the more subtle designs and textural effects.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Results Are In! The Brackett School Annual Concert and Art Show 2018

This year's exhibit, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing: Music and Art in Celebration of the Sea, was a huge 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!

The Ocean Unexpected: 
Kindergarten students began this lesson by discussing and looking at examples of animals that produce bioluminescence. Most animals that produce bioluminescence are very small and live in the ocean. This led to a discussion of animals and plants that are too small to be seen with the naked eye and require the use of a microscope. Students were then shown examples of microscopic artworks, created by Victorian artists using single cell algae life forms known as diatoms. These aquatic life forms, found in both fresh and salt water, number over 100,000 known species and were collected and arranged in minute, often geometric, compositions focusing on pattern and radial symmetry. Students were led to notice these elements, identifying patterns and discussing how radial symmetry is used in other artworks such as stained glass and ceramic tile compositions. 
Students were then given a variety of small gadgets and household objects to dip into paint and instructed to plan and create a radial design incorporating pattern inspired by Victorian diatom creations.

The Ocean Reimagined: 
Grade One
This lesson allowed first grade students to explore the medium of paint in greater depth by including different techniques and materials while imagining the characteristics of water and waves. Students were first shown two examples of paintings by Winslow Homer (Breezing Up and The Life Line) and two examples by J.M.W. Turner (Fishermen at Sea and Bellrock Lighthouse), comparing the paintings and noticing the differences and similarities in subject, the waves, weather and time of day. Students were informed that while Homer and Turner were both greatly inspired by the ocean in many of their works long ago, many artists today are still inspired by different qualities of the ocean, such as color, texture and movement, and discussed how these qualities are affected by such factors as changing light, weather conditions and the lunar gravitational pull. As example, art works were shown by three different contemporary artists who use different materials such as drawing with pastels, collaging with maps and, in the case of Zaria Forman, painting with her fingers instead of brushes to replicate the texture of water with painstaking accuracy.
This lesson consisted of several steps in layers, including painting with watercolors in wet-on-wet techniques, with tempera for wet-on-dry techniques, and later incorporating oil pastel and collage. All the while, students were asked to use their imagination to allow their brushstrokes and materials to suggest the qualities and characteristics of water and waves under various conditions. The paintings were later traced and cut into a fish shape for installation in a class banner school of fish.

The Ocean Revisited: 
Grade Two
For this lesson, students in grade two were introduced to Gyotaku printmaking, a method traditionally practiced in Japan several centuries ago as a way for fishermen to record particularly memorable catches before it later influenced artists and developed into an art form. Students discussed this technique and its history before examining several examples of gyotaku prints by contemporary artists who have stretched the boundaries of this traditional technique in new creative directions. Students were then told that they would be combining traditional and new techniques of gyotaku printing in an artwork of their own. First, students were show a demonstration of printing in the traditional method using black tempera paint and rubber fish models. Thin paper was placed on the rubber fish and gently rubbed to create a print. Once completed, the second step was to create a background with which to mount their fish prints. Students were given a variety of materials, including watercolor and collage and encouraged to combine materials and utilize previously learned techniques such as watercolor resist and wet on wet painting to create interesting and vibrant effects to highlight their fish prints. 

The Ocean Reinvented: 
Grade Three
Students began this lesson by viewing four selected art works, each of a specific ocean animal, but each addressing a different artistic approach. The first example was a large kinetic whale mask created with moveable parts by a Kwakwaka’wakw artist in the native North American northwest and decorated in traditional style. The second was a sculpture of a crab constructed from found objects by contemporary artist, Harriet Mead, and the third was a comparison of two mixed-media sculptures of angler fish by Jud Turner and Lee Gutterson. Students discussed the meanings of these terms (kinetic, found object, mixed-media), the decision of the artists to use their chosen materials in these manners, and how those decisions ultimately affected the final appearance of the work. Students then discussed how the ocean is scientifically categorized into five separate zones and compared the five animal categories which reside in the ocean: birds, fish, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates. Students watched short videos of deep-sea submersible explorations to help inspire them and remind them of the wide variety of animals that dwell in all of the five zones. For this lesson, students were given the option of working independently or with a partner to create a mixed-media ocean animal, and were required to include at least one moveable part. The animal could later be decorated realistically, abstractly, with stylization or a combination of styles.

The Ocean Endangered: 
Grade Four
Students began this lesson by viewing, The Great Wave of Kanagawa, created by Katsushika Hokusai in 1832, and compared how it inspired artist and environmental activist, Bonnie Monteleone in her mixed-media version of the print, Plastic Ocean. Students discussed Monteleone’s motive for creating this redux of Hokusai’s masterpiece and were informed that many contemporary artists have been using their artwork to raise awareness of the rising problem of plastic pollution in our oceans and the threat it poses to marine life. Students were shown examples from a traveling exhibit, Washed Ashore, organized as a installation of sculptural work by Angela Haseltine Pozzi, from plastic debris she found and collected from local shorelines. In contrast, students were then shown works by Tara Donovan, who uses disposable goods to create highly transformative sculptural works unified by color and multitude. Students discussed that Donovan’s work typically appears inspired by nature, but upon closer inspection, surprises the viewer by revealing the material to be something mundane and manufactured.
Students were then instructed to create a sculpture from only one particular disposable material in any amount, chosen from a selection, using ocean forms as their inspiration. Students were encouraged to consider textures, patterns and forms found in the ocean, particularly those found among animal lifeforms. 

The Ocean Reconstructed: 
Grade Five
Fifth grade students began this lesson but examining and comparing two different ceramic clay sculptures by contemporary artists, Denise Krueger and Diane Lublinksi, noting the differences in color, use of form and degree of detail. Students were quick to notice, however, that both artists appear to be inspired by ocean life forms such as coral, sea urchins and barnacles while using varying amounts of realism in their approach. Students were then introduced to the work of Courtney Mattison and her large-scale ceramic installation series directly inspired by coral reefs, Our Changing Seas. Students watched a video of Mattison describing her decision to use her art work to bring awareness to the environmental threat to our world’s coral reefs due to global warming and pollution. Students discussed the differences between healthy and dying reefs, the reasons why coral reefs are vital to marine ecosystems, their contribution to coastline protection and the process of “coral bleaching” which results in dead reefs.
Students were then instructed to create a clay form inspired by ocean life forms such as coral, anemone, shellfish, etc, and were required to include at least one repeated form. The degree of realism or abstraction was up to each student, as well as the number of forms used, textures, patterns and colors.