Saturday, February 28, 2015

'Fractured Faces' - the Picasso Slip 'n Slide!

I was searching through some folders a couple of days ago, and I unexpectedly uncovered the artwork which you see on for this post.  I have been blogging for about 5 years, but I've been retired for 3 of those 5 years, and I taught for 34 years before I ever even started blogging!  So that means I have 34 years of art projects and lessons that I have never shared.  So now and then, I'd like to tell you about some of them.
These lessons were completed before I started regularly photographing student work (in the days before the ease of digital photography), so most of what I have to share with you are my personal project samples, and not student work.  The images in this post are from lessons when the students were learning about Pablo Picasso.  The students were looking at his cubist portraits.  They noticed that the models often appeared like they were looking in fractured mirrors.  And the models were often viewed from multiple angles at the same time, with front views and profiles in the same image.  And the images were frequently bright and colorful and unexpected, and had a wit and humor about them.  So out of these revelations about Picasso's work, came this lesson, Picasso Portrait Slip 'n Slides, or alternatively called Fractured Faces
To start, students drew a goofy portrait, (as shown in the image above) which could, if desired, include elements of profile and front view, with exaggerated features.  Then, using a ruler, the image was divided up by several lines.

The students then colored the face using markers, and cut the image along the  ruler lines.  Students were given slightly larger pieces of paper, and the portrait was arranged on the paper like a puzzle.  Then, before gluing, the puzzle pieces were slid in one direction or another and slightly rearranged, while still retaining enough visible elements of the face.  When the students were satisfied with their compositions, they were given the go-ahead to glue them down.
Finally, the negative space in the original image, and the new negative space that had been created when the image was moved about, were all colored as well.  The image above is a sample of student work for this project that I discovered with my samples. 

Sometimes the images were filled with colorful patterns and designs, as in the images above, and sometimes the shapes were filled with areas of solid color, as in my sample pictured below. 
You may be surprised to see me posting a lesson that uses just marker, because usually I like to have my students work with materials that they are not likely to have at home.  But sometimes, it just works.  And sometimes, if many of my other classes were working with messy materials, I would have one grade level work with something non-messy to give me time to prep and clean.  So for this project, the bold colors of markers worked great.  But you could certainly vary this lesson in many ways.

For example, see the still life below, my sample.  For this project, I looked at and drew a still life arrangement of various bottles.  The drawings were 'fractured' with ruler lines before coloring.  The drawings were then colored with oil pastels, using rich patterns.  Though this wasn't cut apart as with the portraits above, it certainly could be. 
In another variation (sadly I couldn't find a sample), students drew a simple fractured image on a small piece of paper, tracing the lines thickly with a black marker.  Then, a piece of clear acetate was taped over the drawing, and the spaces between the lines were colored thickly with oil pastels.  The lines were left uncolored.  When complete, the acetate was flipped over onto a piece of black construction paper, which showed through the clear areas of the acetate re-creating the black lines.  The results are really cool!!

Today I read a conversation on on the Facebook Art Teacher page, about whether to show students teacher examples of final products, or not.  There were concerns about students copying if they saw your completed sample.  However, I feel strongly that students need to see a finished example, so that they have an understanding of where they are going.  Certainly, once it is shown, it doesn't need to be left out where it could potentially be copied.  But I think that kids need to see something completed, to understand the level of craftsmanship you expect, and to help guide them with choices they make along the way. Just my opinion, I know.

Before I end this post, I need to give a shout-out to the wonderful Patty over at Deep Space Sparkle, who recently posted a cubism project available for purchase in her online shop. It was ironic that I unexpectedly uncovered these pieces a day after she had posted about her project, and I'm exceptionally appreciative that she gave me the go-ahead for this post despite the timing.  Thank you, Patty, you rock! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

We all have to start somewhere! - 'The Bridal Party'

Today, while searching for something else, I came across the pictures in this post.  They are  pre-digital; they were taken during the 1985-86 school year, my first year in the district where I spent the next 27 years.  I had already taught high school in another district for 8 years, and when my job was cut, I spent one year teaching K-12.  In 1985 I began teaching K-8 in the district where I finally I retired 3 years ago.  These photos are from the first year of that job.
 In this new position, I had nobody to consult with; I was on my own.  I had no experience teaching elementary (other than my student teaching experience 9 years prior), and there was very little left behind by the previous art teacher.  I believe I was hired because the high school art teacher (who worked in another building, in another town) saw my name on the application and recommended me.  He had been a good friend in college; I appreciated his trust in me.
I taught K-4 in a miniature ramshackle makeshift classroom (a tiny former basement locker room) in a teeny school in a rural village, that served as my art room in the morning and a music room in the afternoon, so there was a piano, and other musical equipment in the crowded space.  (The superintendent didn't even want to show me the room before I accepted the job, because he was afraid I'd change my mind.)  Luckily, there was a sink, and a couple of cabinets for my materials.  They custodian put casters on the table legs so that the music teacher could move the tables aside for her movement activities.  Every morning, I would move them back. In the afternoons I drove to another building in another small town to teach grades 5-8, where over the next 13 years I went from having no room at all, to a variety of shared situations.  It all changed finally when my school district consolidated into one K-12 building and I got my very own K-6 classroom, where I worked until my retirement.
Anyhow, I knew elementary art teachers did papier-mache.  I had zero experience, (I had never even done papier-mache in art class as a kid) but nevertheless dove in.  My young niece told me she had just made a papier-mache lady using a bottle as an armature in her 3rd grade class, so I decided it was a good way for me to begin.  We collected bottles and stored the work-in-progress on a fire-escape staircase inside my room, and on top of the old-fashioned radiators, and anywhere else I could stuff them.  I strung an illegal clothesline across the room for wet paintings, since there was no drying rack.  I distributed materials from the piano bench and top of the piano. The music teacher and I passed like ships in the night, alternating schools daily, but luckily somehow became good friends despite her annoyance at my wet art projects dripping everywhere.
I found a bag of wheat paste in the room so that's what I used that first year.  The projects we created were rough and crude, but the students thought they were wonderful.  Several students decided that they should work together and make their projects into a bride, groom, and bridal party.  The images in this post were from the work of that little group of students.  The next year I found an article in School Arts about making kachina dolls out of bottles and detergent caps (for the heads) and with some experience under my belt using a bottle armature, they were pretty successful.  I'll share the photos of them another time, but in the meantime here's one that I made.
Over the coming years I was able to hone my skills and by the time I retired, I was often teaching workshops in the use of papier-mache at my state conference, and it had become my favorite material. 
So if you are doing something you've never done before, and the results are maybe not quite what you hoped for, remember two things:
  1. You are not damaging the kids by starting from scratch and learning with them, and turning out work that is less than perfect, as long as you approach it with enthusiasm and a positive spirit.  They will enjoy and appreciate the experience, and be proud of what they have created.  We all have to start somewhere!
  2. It will get better, and your successes will grow over the years.  Don't be afraid to dive in, and let the adventure begin!