Sunday, March 17, 2013

Be An Artist: Alexander Calder

When I introduce Alexander Calder to children I like to focus on the circus people and animals he created. He made his circus figures using wire and embellished them with ordinary items that might have been lying around his studio. Calder's circus is an important part of his body of work. This year I decided that not only would the students create their own circus figurines out of pipe cleaners and Twisteez, but they would create their own circus scene in a recycled shoe box. I began by asking the students if they had ever seen a circus. Then we discussed the things they saw at a circus. I also used a book about Calder's circus to show them images of his circus figurines. Our discussion and the visuals I provided helped spark the children's imaginations. Then I let them pick their shoe boxes. A mix of construction paper and felt in assorted colors were used to cover the brown cardboard on the inside of the box. The felt was cut into different shapes to create a circus ring, a high wire, stage curtains, and stars to fill the night sky. Although one class session was not enough time to transform the inside of the shoe box into a complete circus scene, the students are off to a good start.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Be An Artist: Andy Warhol

The last time I met with my after school art class I took a photograph of each child. At home I used my computer to take all the color out of the photograph. What I was left with was a black and white image of each student with great positive and negative spaces. This is good. When I talk about Andy Warhol to children I like to show them his celebrity self portraits. His use of bold color in unexpected ways is innovative and exciting. I give the children several copies of their self-portraits so that they can create a series like Andy Warhol. I explain to them that artists often create many versions using the same subject. This process helps artists better explore their subject. I think it also allows the child to take risks and try different ideas. I like the way the children's self-portraits look together in a group and encourage my students to walk around and take a look at their fellow classmates work. Children love to see themselves in different ways. I saw children using bold colors, lines, bullseyes, dots like Seurat, and stripes in their self-portraits. They were at ease trying new and unconventional designs.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Be An Artist: George Seurat

I introduced my students to the French painter George Seurat and explained to them that he was famous for using dots - many tiny dots in his paintings - a technique that is known as Pointillism. His most famous painting, La Grande Jatte, took 3 years to paint and was very large ( 7 feet high by 10 feet wide). I showed them a book that had images of the painting so they could see all the tiny dots. Up close the dots looked separated, but from far away they become a cohesive whole. Then the children chose an image to fill-in with tiny dots and dashes (a cupcake, dog, hearts, a flower). I told them to imagine how George Seurat must have felt painting his enormous painting La Grande Jatte. I asked them if it was easy or hard to fill-in their image with dots? Did their hand hurt? Their answer was "yes" - it was much harder than they thought it would be. Some students used only one color throughout big areas, while others blended several to give their image more dimension. Dots that were small and perfect compared to dots that were wide and imperfect created different feelings as you viewed the artwork. I believe giving students the opportunity to learn by doing is an excellent way for them to better understand different artists and their techniques.