Thursday, February 9, 2012

Opinions, please


I introduced my 5th graders to Laurel Burch. They loved her work and were thrilled to be making papier-mache cats (those are my samples-in-progress and a Laurel Burch feline above).

They stuffed bags, they built body parts with cardboard tubes, newspaper, and cereal box cardboard; they taped and they taped some more; and they papier-mache'd with "dog drool". Now we are cutting holes in the bodies and inserting the tails and heads, hot-gluing them in place, and papier-mache-ing the seams.



Next steps will be a coat of gesso and then acrylic paints, and then embellishment.
So - here's where I need your opinions.

All along we've called these "Laurel Burch cats". We built the faces to mimic the faces of her fantastic felines. But now, the kids are saying:
"I'm going to paint mine to look JUST like my cat!"
"I'm going to paint mine with camouflage colors."
"I'm going to paint mine with Cougar colors." (our school colors, a hideous yellow-gold and green)
"My cat is going to be all black."
And so on......

All along I planned to have them paint them in rich colors, loaded with patterns, and never once did camouflage or Cougar colors or real cat colors ever ever cross my mind.

They LOVE the cats they have built. Should I take this away from them to make them paint them the way I WANT? Or should I let them make them truly their own? Opinions, please?

35 comments:

  1. Oh man, I can just imagine these beautiful jewel colored patterned cats but maybe they will surprise with their own patterns and you can do a second project 2D with patterns. Draw their cats and pattern them up. Man, I wish I could be in your class : ) ..... that's my opinion

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  2. Maybe you could require some part of it to be inspired by the artist such as the color scheme or patterns. Or maybe not after the artist at all but some element or principle they have been learning about and other than that one requirement give them freedom to do what they want. That way there is still some unifying theme but they get to express themselves as well. Hope that helps! By the way, they look amazing! Great project. Looks like they have worked really hard. :)

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  3. In my classroom I always find myself struggling with a similar question: should I encourage student creativity even though it may result in a less-than-stellar product, or be more controlling so the students can have the experience of making something that they can be really proud of (and receive a lot of complements for). Although sometimes I do push my students to follow my instructions closely, more often I will let them run with their creativity.
    If I were in your situation and the kids were independently coming up with creative, self-directed ideas for their cats I would let them run with it. It is simply what exit outcome (hooray for teacher jargon) do you want them to have: to visually show they understand art history by referencing Burch's artistic style, OR encourage them to have creative, artistic, risk-taking experiences.

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  4. These are looking SOOOOOOOO fabulous!!!!! I, too, wish I could be there making one with you all! Reminds me of a time in high school when I made a paper mache cat for a good friend. She moved away for college and settled on the East coast. Years later she told me she had dragged that cat with her for the longest time! So nice. Now, to your choice issue. I have mixed feelings. First, I think I'd try to saturate the kids with google images of Burch designs (and maybe some other similar motifs) and try to "sell" them on that type of cat rather than realistic in hopes that they would change their minds. I frequently tell kids that if I wanted realistic I'd take a photo. The other thing I often do when kids want to do one thing and I really want something else, is ask them to do this project using my guidelines and then do another one at home using their own guidelines. And then, sometimes, I say, "Sure, try it that way -- you're the artist!!" Good luck. (ps. I'm DYING to see the finished cats -- especially the design variety.)

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  5. I think I would encourage them to paint them as Laurel Burch cats, but let it go for those that want to do something else. You can encourage them to paint with brighter camo, or their cat along with a few patterns.

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  6. Let them go with their vision but bribe them with brightly colored glitter?

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  7. I just pinned this... didn't see it was yours. Very nice!

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  8. How about saying they have to use a certain amount of colors....at least 3? That way they will still be able to express their own versions without having all the cats look so similar. Whatever you end up doing the cats will look awesome! I can't wait to see the finished product!!

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  9. So excited to see these finished - whatever you decide. The shapes are wonderful! I was wondering how long did it took to create these.

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  10. I often have this problem also. I give them all the examples and when I have that free thinker I ecourage them to go with their idea but within the main objectives I have for the project.You want them to be creative and "think outside the box". The cats they designed are inspired by Laurel Burch but sometimes our creative thinking takes us down another road.... (by the way the cats look great!)I think if you let the few go their own way you will still have those that prefer the patterned cats and in the end it will be successful for all.

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  11. The art teachers moral dilemma! I would say they need to include at least ONE of Laurel Burch's design aspects/elements/themes in to their design scheme. You could limit the color choices, which would help.

    My 5th graders are painting their names in graffiti on canvas boards and I need to allow some creativity within my parameters, for the students who ask, such as a monkey painted hanging from a letter J. Most students are happy and relieved that I define the assignment. But the monkey girl likes to stretch so I will require her to pre-draw and plan more so it doesn't look poorly executed.

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  12. Here's your solution:
    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Paint-Cats-Ethics-Aesthetics/dp/1580082718

    It's a book I use every year for my classes. We talk about how the people who do this are professional, use natural non-toxic dyes, etc. and Do Not Try This At Home. Mostly, the kids don't even believe the cats are painted. Nowadays, most accuse the authors of photoshoping the pictures. Either way, it's a fun discussion and their reactions to the pictures are awesome.

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  13. Your students are right :-)
    http://www.snopes.com/photos/arts/paintedcats.asp

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  14. If it were me, I would give them freedom within certain constraints- maybe they have to choose a color scheme or include patterns, like what HipWaldorf said. They are looking great, by the way!

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  15. I would have the painting session take 2 sessions. (three if you are adding embellishments).....first class they paint the entire cat one color. The second session, use a 6 color palette of primaries, brown and white...(have them mix their own secondaries on little papers...or plates)....last class will be embellishments.....

    inspiration comes from many places.....that is what we are here to teach.....some might be inspired by their own cats....some by pretend cats, some by the artsist you introduced them to.....ask them where their inspiration comes from and go with whatever they want.....ultimately that is what an artist does....

    Miriam

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  16. I love these! I'm so impressed with your ability to teach papier mache. I'm wondering, too how long they took your class to complete.
    As for painting. Go with the Laurel Burch colors. You spent the time talking about her and so she is the inspiration. The choices are varied within this color scheme but if there is a kid who doesn't want to go this route, don't force him.
    If everyone choses natural colors, then it wouldn't be a Luarel Burch inspired project.
    Okay, so I'm a little biased...I can't wait to see the finished Laurel Burch cats!!!

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  17. Okay this painted cat thing is new to me and beyond bizarre. What is that about??? If you show them that I think you will have a class full of silent kids with their jaws dropped. . . it's kind of like clowns, scary!

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  18. NOOOOO!! I read your post and before I got to the bottom I was imagining how beautiful the cats would look with bold bright colors and gold paint as an accent color. If the students want to have a black cat then they can make it at home with their parents. This is a Laurel Burch project and the best part about her work is the COLOR.

    I also want to say the cats look AWESOME. This is such a cool project. I will be doing this project in the future. I love the cats!!!!!

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  19. Love the forms and can't wait to see them with color! I too would love to see bold and bright colors and patterns, but also understand your dilemma. I taught a similar lesson years ago and recall a few students mentioning that they wanted to paint a black cat or orange and black stripes. It turns out that they started to see other student's more colorful work, and they changed their minds (added more color as they worked)...lol. You can see my 3rd grade student's work here in our Artsonia gallery http://bit.ly/yafvv7
    I am sure they are all going to turn out great!
    ~Suzanne Tiedemann
    http://baart.weebly.com/-blognews.html

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    1. @ Suzanne - your student cats are ADORABLE! I absolutely love the twirly whiskers :) Can you tell me the body-structure process you used? They are so sweet - the kids must have been thrilled.

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    2. Thank you! They created the legs and head using newspaper and tape, and attached them to a water bottle. Then, they wrapped their forms with plaster craft strips. We did this approximately 8 years ago, but seeing your student's cats is super inspiring. If only I had the storage space that I had back then. I will be checking in to see how these turn out. I know they will be fabulous!!

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    3. Aah, plaster bandage! I love plaster bandage for how quickly it hardens but it is expensive and I think the texture can be a detriment. But it would make it easier to stack projects closer together since the papier-mache has to be kept apart while drying or they stick. I use plaster bandage with my 6th graders but can't justify the expense on the younger kids. When I taught 7th/8th grade, we used it to cast their faces for masks, and I've done that with some younger kids in camp programs. So much fun. As for storage, my room is piled everywhere with cats and cat body parts - it's definitely crazy.

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  20. Oh lordy, I never expected my indecision to inspire so many interesting comments and introduce me to the wacko hoax of painted cats! What a crazy conversation I started! So let me answer some questions and respond to some comments:

    First of all - as to how long this takes, the answer is TOO LONG. I've had a lot of absences due to stomach bugs, and constantly have 5th graders coming and going for band lessons. I love that the kids play instruments, but HATE that the music teacher (who is otherwise the high school instrumental teacher; remember we are a K-12 building) doesn't pay ANY attention to our elementary schedule. It took 2 to 3 sessions to build the bodies, tails, and heads. Then a couple of sessions to papier-mache. Then a session to assemble the cat and do a little more papier-mache. A session to gesso. And a couple of sessions to paint and probably one more to embellish. That adds up to about 10 sessions, plus more for slowpokes and absences. Remember, our art classes meet TWICE in a 6 day cycle for 40 minutes. Some of the kids have also worked on their cats during lunch a couple of times a week. So it's a big project. But if you did them all with bread bags, keeping them more consistent in size, and kept the head simple it could be faster. We were very picky, building the pooch-y cheeks and distinct nose shapes of a Laurel Burch cat.

    Erica - our first disagreement!! NO NO NO glitter!!!! I am a glitter-free art room. Despise the stuff! But I will be offering glitter glue and metallic paints.

    As for the colors, I made some big decisions this afternoon. I stayed after school until an ungodly 6:30pm, spending much of that time painting one of my cats. I painted the previously white one, with a Laurel Burch blue palette. I started with pthalo, added some touches of a lighter value, and patterned with metallic silver and gold. Then I used craft foam to make the distinctive human eye shape, and added some red and gold eyelids. She's not done, but I think she looks quite elegant. I'm hoping that when the kids see it they will get excited.

    My plan is to give them a variety of colors to paint a base coat - pthalo blue or cerulean, reds, etc. So the kid who wants camouflage will have to paint a base coat of perhaps pthalo green. But there will be no pastel pink, gray, or ochre type colors. They will have the option to grade the colors of the base coat (such as red to orange). For patterning, the colors will include metallic gold and silver. If someone wants a cat like her black and white patterned cat, the base coat can either be black or white. I'll be liberal about the pattern choices, BUT I am going to be clear - there will be no wiggle eyes. The eyes will be Laurel Burch eyes with human shape and distinct lids.

    As for those painted cats, I agree Erica, a little creepy! But as a cat owner I am sure it as a hoax. No self-respecting cat would sit still for that kind of thing!

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  21. Note: for those of you planning a project like this, order LOTS OF MASKING TAPE and NOT the cheap stuff. If it is real crepe paper-y it doesn't hold well. I use a 3M tape and would gladly look up the style # if anyone needed. It's gotta stick good enough to attach the legs etc!

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  22. Sounds lie you've made the decision so I'll just look forward to the finished product. Can't wait! I LOVE Laurel Burch cats!

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  23. Phyl, I did papier mache cats when I was at another school many moons ago. I only had 2 classes of 20 so it was easier. I also did it all while working off a cart. Yep, I did say many moons ago. Now I have 6 of every grade level so it is hard do to papier mache. I know your cats will be fabulous! I would love to see the LB color scheme with the fun patterns, Prang has awesome metallic markers. Also,I agree with the tape a roll for every student works the best. Can't wait to see the results!

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  24. This happens to me often and most of the time the student is disappointed in the results and then wants to go with the lesson idea. I know these took a lot of time. What if you took a photograph of your example, blew it up and photocopied it. Then students who want to try a different color/pattern idea could try out their idea in 2D first, and or their idea and a Laurel Birch idea and then decide? I'm trying to think of an easy way, not sure it that works?
    Jody

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  25. Awe , I just had this problem with my 3rd grade...showed the kids a beautiful presentation on Laurel Burch....had some interesting stimulating conversation with the kids...when it came to working on our cats, done with chalk, and blending techniques, they all wanted to draw with black and brown, like their cats at home! I reviewed the purpose of the lesson, redirected them, showed them an example which I had done( which I seldom do)and then, they made the connection, and did a super job. Love love love the papier mache idea! Can't wait to see the outcome.

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  26. I loooove this project and I would like to try it out with my 5th graders this year. How did you create the faces and heads of the cats? Is it newspaper waded up to shape and taped with masking tape? I saw you used pieces of newspaper and paper mache together to create a clay type substance. Did you use this technique at all when making these cats? Thanks so much for any suggestions! :)

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    1. Ms. Williams, thank you for your comment! If you are just making CATS (without the Laurel Burch element), we've make the heads just by wrapping and taping a wad of newspaper, and then adding ears with cereal box cardboard.

      For the Laurel Burch heads, we went for a very specific look, so we started with the taped ball of newspaper. (I tried several alternatives to see what worked best.) Then, using cereal box cardboard, we cut a face shape, including the ears, looking at the flat outline shape she used for her heads. We slashed the bottom with scissors and taped it to the ball of newspaper (are you with me so far?) then we used Popsicle sticks or wooden ice cream spoons (like from Dixie cups) and hot glued them on for the distinctive nose shape. We added wads of newspaper and/or bottle-caps for the rounded cheeks and taped and/or hot glued them on. Each one came out totally differently. Sometimes the kids had to use wads of newspaper to fill in gaps under the cardboard, but in the end they all worked out OK.

      As for the shredded paper/papier-mache mix, we did not use it much on the cats - actually I used it with a few kids to strengthen weak tails or ears. But it is ridiculously strong, and could be a super alternative for the cheeks.

      The heads were papier-mached and when they and the cat bodies were dry, we inserted them and hot glued them in place, and then added a layer of papier-mache on the necks. After they were gessoed and painted, we used a lot of colored foam to create eyes and distinctive eyelid shapes, and sometimes to make the noses more visible. And lots of glitter glue.

      Honestly, it was a pretty time-consuming process, so if you want to keep it simpler, just go with a wad of newspaper and add features with paint or colored felt or foam, etc.

      I hope this helped! Let me know if you need any further info.

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  27. Thank you so much! I will keep you posted on our progress! I plan to start soon :-)

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  28. Oh the joy of having an art teacher who actually teaches about art instead of simply being an extension of a social studies class. I remember art classes in two different states and all of them were taught by grumpy men who made us make things their way and always relating to one of our curriculum courses.

    How I would have loved to have a teacher like you who shared the work of a well-known artist and actually gave some thought to creativity and letting each child develop their own vision vs sticking to a lesson plan.

    I realize that the kitties have long been completed by now but I do hope that you found some happy medium whereby your kids could explore Burch's work while finding their own creative voice.

    If you are still making these with any of your classes, perhaps the only rule is that it can't be painted like a "real cat". I also like the three-color minimum idea.

    I cringe at the great loss of artistic talent that died at the hands of the 'must do it my way' 'art teachers' who were inflicted on me and hundreds of others.

    From your post and the comments you've received, it's great to see how many wonderful art teachers are out there allowing today's children to develop a love of creating things instead of turning art class into something tightly controlled and devoid of fun.

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    1. Crochetflowerlover, I am always tickled to receive well thought-out comments on the blog, but yours really has me tickled pink! Rest assured, there are many wonderful art teachers out there! And if you look through my blog posts of last spring, you will see many photos of the completed cats, which all-in-all, turned out fabulicious!! (I just invented a new word!)

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  29. I know this was last year, but what about a sweater? or a vest? Done in Laurel Burch colors and patterns? A BIG long sleaved sweater, and it has to be done first, so those who decide to do the actual lesson as you started it, may have time to get their heads painted, and the others may change their minds (or not!!)

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    1. Hmmm. A sweater for the cat?? Or just a sweater design on paper, and then paint the cats as desired? Doesn't really matter - since they were all completed almost a year ago! But thanks for the idea.

      As for me, I would DEFINITELY wear a Laurel Burch patterned sweater!

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