Thursday, February 16, 2012

Abstract fun with chalk pastels


This project is an annual favorite with my 2nd graders. We discuss abstraction, and the unusual way we will use materials. Where's the paper? Oh, it's soaking in the sink. Yup, ugly gray 'bogus' paper, soaking wet, is our paper for this. We take it to the table, write names on the back in black, and flip it over right onto the table. DO NOT put newspaper underneath - it will absorb the water and make the paper dry too fast. We will be coloring with chalk pastels, which turn paint-like on the wet paper.

Anyhow, the rules are simple. Since the paper is ugly-colored, so it must be totally covered. No scribbling. No recognizable objects (houses, trees, faces, animals, flowers, etc.) Colors can be blended. Black is used last.

We used music for inspiration: Gustav Holst's The Planets - mostly Jupiter, a little Venus and Neptune, and a wee taste of Mars. In the subsequent art class, we coated with Mod Podge for a lovely sheen and to bring back the rich colors of the wet pastels. We painted over the black first to seal it, and then the other colors, carefully laying on the Mod Podge without rubbing. Aren't they cool?

The girl who did the piece below told me: "I liked it until we listened to Mars (the bringer of war). Mars messed me up; I used too much black, and it made my picture look too angry."

I posted about this process here last year, but then we used Jim Dine and hearts for our inspiration. Here's the whole bulletin board full of these fun abstractions that I hung up today.

A word about cleanup: use old sponges. I spray the tables with cleaners and the kids go gung-ho washing them down, but I did end up throwing away sponges at the end of the morning, because they were so BLACK with chalk dust. I suppose for those of you who have tray to work on, they could be taken to the sink and rinsed, but I'm a big fan of making messes and cleaning them up. I mean, it's an art room. I'm not afraid to get the tables dirty, and the kids LOVE to sponge. No spray cleaner? A can of shaving cream could be a great alternative. Spread it around, and sponge it up! Your tables will be clean and your room will smell good too.

22 comments:

  1. I like the way the kids resisted the urge to mix all the colors together. Most kept their colors clear (not muddy). They also REALLY got the idea of abstraction. I particularly like the first two.

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  2. I love this so much but it is making me so jealous. If I did anything close to this with my second grade right now there would be a behavior specialist called. Class size and behavior has made projects like these take a backseat. I have to live vicariously through your blog! I used to do stuff like this all the time when I taught elsewhere!

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  3. I have never used wet paper with chalk pastels. These are wonderful! I love seeing them displayed together because they are all so unique. Have to try this!

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  4. They are all beautiful! They could hang in MOMA!

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  5. I remember drawing on wet newspaper with sidewalk chalk when I was little. I saw it on a kids video from the library. I don't worry about the tables getting messy, but I feel bad for the custodian who works so hard to get them spotless! Somehow he even cleans sharpie marks off. I want to tell him it's an art room and it's ok! Not that he would ever complain about it.

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    1. You are extremely luck to have a custodian who cleans tables!!

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  6. Phyl-
    I can't wait to try this! A question: what is bogus paper? I assume it is not just gray construction paper.

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    1. Rina, bogus paper is a thick strong fibrous gray paper, ugly and durable. It holds up quite well when soaked. I usually soak a few extra pieces (I cut them 9x12" size) because a couple of them will tear per class. Plus occasionally kids will color a hole into the paper, and I solve that by taping a piece of construction paper behind the hole when they are doing the Mod Podge step and you can't even tell it's there - I just pick a color that blends well with the artwork.

      I have purchased the bogus paper either from Nasco or Sax (School Specialty) and it is very inexpensive. I think it would be a good beginners paper for charcoal too, because it has a tooth. Good luck!

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  7. Shaving cream is one of my favorite clean up tricks. Also, baby oil for oil pastels, which I think I learned from you.

    Last summer we did a chalk pastel project on muslin soaked in milk. Once they dried I ironed them to brighten the colors and set the chalk. This project sounds fun and I'll have to try it soon. Kid's love surprises like wet paper!

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    1. Nope, Melanie, you didn't learn the baby oil trick from me (though it's a good one). I've used baby wipes for oil pastels but it does get pricey.

      Your project sounds really interesting. One question: don't they smell from the milk after a while? (I mean doesn't the milk residue spoil?)

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  8. These look wonderful. Love the touch of black at the end, too. Thanks for the idea of soaking the paper and using chalk!

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  9. Hi just wondering if you can use wet black cardboard for this exercise and is it acheivable in one lesson if i do the mod podge when dry? thanks

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    1. Artlings, I've never tried that, but I assume it would depend on the kind of cardboard. The bogus paper is like a blotter paper texture and holds up quite well when wet. I also think the 'tooth' of it is very good for the chalk pastels. I'm thinking you probably couldn't soak cardboard the same way, or it would fall apart, but heck, why not try it and see? As for doing it all in one lesson, we did all the coloring in one class. I really do think you need to let it dry thoroughly before you do the ModPodge. If you try it on the cardboard, let me know how it turns out!

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  10. Hi Phyl! I have been following your blog for a few years! Love it! I am wondering where you get bogus paper?

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    1. Thanks, Emily! I order the bogus paper from Nasco Arts & Crafts. I just checked, and it is still listed there.

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  11. Phyll, hello! My question is about how you sealed your final project. Did you paint on the mod podge? Spray it? Or how? And did you spray first with anything?
    I made a piece with chalk pastel and need to mail it. I want to spread a thin mixture of glue and water like I THINK I remember from an old tv show called Art Attack. But I am new at chalk and really love the way the piece turned out. Do not want to smear it now :) I appreciate any ideas TY!

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    1. Good question - I had explained how we did this in a previous post, but here it is again!: We painted ModPodge over the surface of the artwork, on one color at a time, rinsing the brush between colors. I had them lay the ModPodge on thickly without rubbing - kind of like frosting cupcakes! The ModPodge dries clear and shiny, seals the artwork, and brings up the luster and vibrancy of the colors.

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    2. I imagine any acrylic gloss would work the same way, or a spray acrylic sealer. I like the ModPodge for the nice glossy look when dry.

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    3. TY! It makes sense that using a thick approach would be a benefit and cause less smearing.
      Appreciative!

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  12. Do you have to use Bogus paper? Or can you use some other heavy paper?

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    1. If you are going to soak the paper, you just need to make sure it will hold up. Experiment with other papers! You can also pre-draw shapes with acrylic, and then use a brush to wet areas and color them in with the chalk. Watercolor paper works well for this. Experiment!!

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