Sunday, October 30, 2011

Great Danes!

Do you know the most famous work of art by a Danish person? If you're reasonably familiar with the Danish culture, you might guess that sculpture of the little mermaid by the water somewhere. Nope.

Our school recently focused on four countries as part of our Global Village Day, taking time to learn deeply about four home countries represented in our student body. The student services personnel for elementary mentioned in passing that if I wanted to do any art lessons about Denmark, that would be great. When I finally got around to researching Danish artists, I was quite disappointed. I've studied a lot of art history in college and now teach AP Art History, but none of the names on this list of artists caught my eye. Until I saw the architects.

The Sydney Opera House was designed by a Dane!

This was just the push I needed to implement the "Architecture of the Month" bulletin board that has been floating around in my head for weeks, based on the book 13 Buildings Children Should Know. I pulled facts from the book and from the internet to create a "Did you know?" about the building. It was fun to see the Aussies at our school respond to their board, proud of their featured building. At the same time, it was great to highlight the design of Jorn Utzon, an architect from Denmark whose design beat out 232 other entries and became the iconic building of Australia.

The board is not my favorite design ever. I tried to create a design that could be updated monthly without much effort. Change out the facts, replace the building, and it's set. My TA did a fabulous job drawing the building, though it seems like it needs something more in that space. I intentionally kept that space large to focus on the building and accommodate for future buildings that might be more vertical in design, but I might tweak it in future months.

Just as I was finishing the display, two moms walked down the hallway, busy preparing Global Village Day lunch.

An Aussie and a Dane.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Family Portraits

I just came back from Shanghai (again) with (more) ideas and (more) connections---attended the ARARTE conference that some art teachers told me about during my first trip to Shanghai back in March. I am excited to get involved with ARARTE and explore ideas from the conference, but I'm still riding high from my first trip. This second grade project comes from Art Is Messy, who graciously welcomed me into her classroom and took me around her school.

Similar to the fourth grade field trip, my students started by looking at an assortment of family portraits. They had to write a sentence about each artwork answering the questions who and where. Next, they sketched two ideas for their own family portrait, accompanied by sentences that told me who and where. The following week, students selected their favorite idea to transfer onto the good paper. A few students found the need to sketch a third idea, like this family portrait on the beach (finished work at the top).

Pencil lines were traced in permanent marker, then the crayon/watercolor experimenting began. My students as a whole are fairly new to watercolors. In the past three years, I've done many resist projects, particularly with oil pastels, but very few watercolor mixing projects. Timing of the project couldn't have been better. Right before the kids started painting, I attended a conference in Beijing (truly, it's been a month of conferences) and learned some great tips from an art teacher working at a school in Guam, including watercolor procedures. We woke up our trays of Prang watercolor with a drop of water, then moved paint onto the palette (lid), even if we weren't mixing, though I really encouraged special mixed colors. We tested each color and various painting techniques on scrap paper because we couldn't erase watercolor. The students watched me make mistakes, painting a black road, then trying to paint the yellow line down the center and watching it bleed, or as we called it, travel. We brainstormed ways to avoid such traveling, such as doing the yellow in crayon first or letting the black dry. As we learned, traveling is not a bad thing, but you need to be in control. Use traveling in trees, grass, sky, ocean, sand---but don't let hair colors travel into skin colors! That makes a muddy mess.

At first, I was a little disappointed by the scale of the people in the finished results. Many of the works function more as landscapes rather than portraits. I wondered if I should have given more direction as to the size of the people, but ultimately decided it was not an issue. The objectives were to tell who (portrait) and where (landscape), plan a project, and explore watercolor. I did not give any instruction about how to draw the figures of their family, and most students preferred to develop their environment rather than the people. So whether their family was on the beach, playing hide and seek, riding horses, or in outer space, the students enjoyed using watercolors and crayons to develop the story of their family portrait. They are excited to do more with watercolors and best, I'm encouraged to give more time to the medium in my classroom!

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