Friday, July 21, 2017

Super Hero of Nature!

Recently I taught a week long art class at the Pelham Art Center (PAC). The class was called Art Inspired By Nature and I used a bird's nest as a provocation for creating art. However, on the first day of class I was fortunate to stumble upon Artist Anki King's sculpture in PAC's courtyard. This piece would become another provocation for the students in my class. 

King works at PAC and took time out of her busy day to speak to the students in my class about her sculpture. She began by telling the children that it took her three days to collect enough materials to complete this piece. The materials were carefully selected from a wooded area on land her friend owns. The children wondered if it was hard to work with this particular material. King told us that when the sticks, vines and twigs were first brought to PAC they were still full of moisture, which made them pliable and easy to mold into the shapes she wanted. We asked King about her sculpting process. "Every piece found its way to the right spot," King said. She further explained that after sculpting for many years she intuitively knows where each piece needs to go. When we asked her what the piece means she explained that it represents man's relationship with nature and how we need to take care of the environment. She told the children "The sculpture is a Super Hero of nature!"

The children were quiet and listened to King intently. They seemed satisfied with her explanations. The children walked around the sculpture and in the space between the person and the cape. Then the children started to walk through the cape. Carefully the children lifted their legs over the vines or crouched down to go under the vines that make the cape. They not only spent time observing the sculpture, but they became a part of the sculpture too!

The children drew the sculpture twice using white drawing paper and a black sharpie (for contrast). On the following day the children used liquid watercolor to paint on their drawing. The results were fantastic! Each drawing and watercolor painting represented a unique point of view. In addition, the children's personalities were also captured in their drawing and painting style. 


Meandering Time
Coincidently, King also has a painting called Meandering Time on exhibit in the PAC's gallery. During a break the children went into the gallery to admire her work. We looked at the painting and discussed what we thought it meant. The children made a connection between the title (Meandering Time) and King's passion for nature. One child said, "The images in the painting look like clocks." Another child said, " If you don't take care of nature time will turn grey." When I asked the child," What does the color grey remind you of?" She responded, "Blah." I knew then that the children really thought about what King had told them the day before and it had resonated with them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Imprints with Papier Mâché

Recently we made imprints using plastic nature plates and instant papier mâché from Blick Art Materials. The nature plates are commonly used for rubbings, but in this activity they are used to make imprints. An imprint is a mark or figure impressed on something. The indentations on the smooth side of the plastic nature plate produce an imprint when filled with papier mâchéOnce the papier mâché is dry peel the plastic nature plate away from the papier mâché. If you pull the dried papier mâché away from the plate you may break the papier mâché imprint

Mix Water With The Instant Papier Mâché
Until Consistency Is Moist

Use The Smooth Side Of The Nature Plate 
Place Papier Mâché On Nature Plate

Press Down On Papier Mâché 
So It Fills Indentations

Thickness Of Papier Mâché 
Should Be 1/4 Inch

Leaf Imprint After Being 
Removed From Nature Plate

Crayons And Markers Work Well To Embellish Imprint


Clay Charms

Making Clay Charms is a fun art project that every student can complete successfully. My students enjoy working with clay and they like making things they can use. The clay charms we made are an ideal project for this reason. 

I use Crayola Air Dry Clay to make the charm. I give each child a small fistful of clay. I tell the children that the charm needs to be the size of a silver dollar pancake. I suggest they roll the clay into a ball then flatten it into a pancake with their palm. The charm's thickness should measure no more than a 1/4 inch. I use the end of a pencil to make the hole. The clay charm needs several days to dry completely. 

While the charm is air drying you can take your students outdoors to collect interesting items found in nature. After you have collected your materials they should be put on a piece of paper and flattened with a heavy book or object. They need to be flattened so they do not curl up on the charm. 

When your charm is dry and your leaves are flattened you are ready to proceed with the final steps. Coat the front of the charm with a layer of Mod Podge. Then, put the leaf (leaves) on the charm and cover it with another layer of Mod Podge. The Mod Podge acts as a glue and a sealer. When the Mod Podge dries your charm will be shiny and protected.

The last step is to put a ribbon or string through the hole and hang your charm where you can enjoy seeing it everyday.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Wood Sculptures

I often use small wood pieces in my art class because they present wonderful opportunities for children to learn about balance, gravity, building, and sculpture. The wood pieces are open ended and force children to use the materials creatively. Each time I use wood pieces in my art class it is always a new and unique experience for teacher and students. Mixed into the wood pieces were familiar wooden objects such as corks, popsicle sticks, spools and wooden spoons used for ice cream cups. These objects were also repurposed by the children in new ways. I observed one child pile small, wooden spools in random positions on her cardboard base. Eventually the pile was not just a pile anymore, but a sculpture that was interesting to look at from all angles. It had personality, energy and shape. Other pieces were more straightforward: a row of flowers; a horse; a football; and a person. These pieces were innovative in their own ways too. The children managed to transform odd wooden pieces into familiar objects. Throughout the initial stages of the creative process the children were taking risks and seemed really comfortable with their choices.
I also noticed that during this particular class the art studio was buzzing with chatter. A strong sense of community has been established and the children have quickly formed friendshipsI like listening to the children talk as they work. The topics range from books to ice skating to playing poker with family members and using potato chips for money. Being observant and a good listener helps me understand my students better, which in turn helps me be a better teacher. 

I wrote down a few quotes from the children about their work: 

"I am making a junkyard, so the possibilities are endless." 

"I don't know what I am making." 

"I am making a horse!" 


Repurposed Cardboard Bases

Elmer's Wood Glue


Beginning the Sculpture

Sculpture in Progress

Completed Sculpture