Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Class Portfolio of Trading Cards

We ended our Wednesday After School Studio class with an artist trading card exchange.

Artist trading cards are small works of art about the size of a trading card (2.5 by 3.5 inches).

The photo above shows the assembled collection of cards on the light table before the trading began.

What was so exciting to watch was how many variations on technique the artists explored.

A communal work table allows for lots of sharing of materials and ideas.

Collage and water-color crayons.

Paper weaving, stamping and paper sculpture.

It was fun to see techniques that “think outside the card” and push the boundaries of the small 2-D format.

Also lots of affirming messages and a broad range of experimenting with technique. The small format seemed to lend itself well to experimentation, inspiration from friends and trying new things.

A bonus at the end, each artist got leave with a small portfolio assembled of classmates’ images.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Art Ideas for the Thanksgiving Holiday

Express your Gratitude with Art
  • Create your own place-cards for Thanksgiving dinner - leave room for each guest to draw or write something they are thankful for
  • Draw or paint a picture for a favorite relative or friend - present this to him or her and share why you are grateful to have that person in your life
  • Create a family gratitude poster - hang it in the kitchen and let people add drawings and ideas over the course of the weekend
  • Interview a family member about what his or her Thanksgiving was like as a child - draw pictures showing then and now and see what is the same and what's different
Enjoy Family Togetherness with Art
  • Be inspired by Andy Goldsworthy and take a walk (you may not have to go farther than your front yard) collecting colorful leaves - choose a color and see how many different shades of that color you can find in the leaves
  • Look around for "found art" in nature - interesting shapes in branches, beauty in the form of seed pods, see what you can notice - the photos below are a leaf that dried in a unique shape and a leaf that left a "print" on my bumper after the rain

  • Enjoy a family drawing or building night - work individually or in pairs to draw, collage, build with blocks or create with recycled materials - share your work when finished. This is a great way to discover some of the hidden creative talents in a group and a fun way to get everyone involved.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Using 2 Sides of the Paper to Tell a Story

This is the turkey and he has to go all the way around to the back of the paper... get the candy and the noodles.
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"Oil Pastels are Like Magic!"

This artist was particularly delighted with oil pastels. She liked the creamy texture and discovered a great new surprise when she tried watercolor over top and the bright vibrant colors showed through.

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Building Inspires Drawing

An avid builder in the studio, this young man set out to create a building with a selection of different blocks from our collection.
He combined wood blocks, cardboard shapes, and light table blocks to find just the right shapes for this elaborate design. His design required attention to the structure as well as the decorations - keeping it all in balance.
He chose to draw his building as a way to record and remember it - taking his artwork from the 3 dimensional building to 2 dimensional drawing and a challenge of mapping objects and space on the paper.
He worked with great detail and persistence. Below is the final drawing (with color) in the background behind the artist and his building.
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Painting with Passion

From the artist: "If you want to do one of these you have to take your brush and believe that you can have passion in it."
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Collage Idea Board and Long Overdue Thank you

A fall project in our studio has been to create more visual teaching and inspiration materials for our artists. In a choice-based environment, students are often working in a variety of media and with a variety of subjects. Teachers as well as peers are a great resource for technical assistance and problem solving. There is also much more opportunity for students to work independently and having lots of resources available helps with this.
One idea inspired by Teaching for Artistic Behavior is the creation of menus for use in different centers in the studio classroom. Menus provide a visual reference of the materials, techniques and vocabulary young artists will use in working with a given media.
Here is an example of an idea board for collage added to the studio this fall.

Now for the (long overdue!) thank you.
This idea board was created by a group of students from Princeton University last spring as part of a spring break trip sponsored by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. The group's focus was to gain hands-on experience with the benefits of art-making for various populations. The Pace center is the main community service organization at Princeton and sponsors service activities, internships and Breakout Princeton trips such as this one.
Photos below show some of the process of creating the collages to show a variety of uses of media and methods.

Collage work is materials-rich and can often look like quite messy when in-progress.
Here unique edged scissors and a hole punch are combined with color and texture from a recycled painting. Rolls of colorful tape form another collage in the background.
This artist cut small shapes from different colored text pages and used these to build an image.
Many thanks to the group for sharing their time and creativity with us. One participant shared, "I learned a lot on our trip, and I have so much respect for those professionals who have dedicated their lives to imparting their love of art to others."
Many thanks to Jessica Marot for her help with background information about the PACE center.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Between Spaces and Risk Taking

This painter began in a manner familiar to young children, trying out colors he mixed as well as mark making techniques on his paper. Below we have dabs, a painted circle and a larger painted area of a lighter color.
Often, particularly after mixing, children are committed to their colors and reluctant to allow them to touch or mix on the paper.
Today, however when I offered the challenge of what could go in those in between spaces, the artist had some ideas.
He began by carefully painting a lighter pink around some of his dotted marks.
This processs continued with some yellow, again with great concentration and determinatino to fill in all those little spaces between the dots. Finally a darker color is used to complete the last bit of background.
In encouraging children to think about backgrounds, whether with an abstract image or a painting of a beloved person or object, I often phrase it as a challenge, to see if we can cover the whole page with paint and color. It is usually only after kids have been painting with me for a while that they are ready to rise to this challenge. I begin gently, the first time a child paints in the studio, I might approach at the first announcement of "I'm done!" and express curiousity about the "in-between spaces." Noting the colors on the page and wondering if there is a color in his or her palette that he or she might want to use in the in-between spaces. Many children consider for a moment and tell me "No, I'm done." As they gain confidence as painters, children are more likely to take the rist of painting the in-between spaces.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Story of the Sign - A Community Mosaic

When we began work on the sign, we posted pictures of our first few mosaic sessions and a description of the process. Now that the sign is installed, I thought I would share a few more pictures of the process and bits of the story of its' creation.
The earlier post featured work on the first side of the sign, shown below.
Here, the work table for the beginning of the second side.
One young artist became interested in painting glue on her hands to "stamp" on the mosaic - as an alternative we suggested tracing her hand and then painting that with glue and gluing down pieces to better record the image of her hand. Here is that first hand beside that of a friend and her mom - the idea quickly spread.
In our after school studio, work on the mosaic was a favorite, each eager to add a hand to the composition.

This artist compares her hand with her mosaic creation.
More artists and more hands and then the final piece - background complete.
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Make Any Day World Drawing Day

These photos show our studio set-up for our community art event last June celebrating World Drawing Day. These are also great drawing prompts to try at home and with friends. See below for some ideas to get started drawing.
A selection of blocks on this table invite builders to create a structure and then draw it. This can be great practice drawing shapes and their relationships in space.
This table is set with pine cones, flowers and items from nature, offering drawing as a way to practice observation. The soothing effect of nature can be highlighted by really focusing on structure and details through drawing.
An invitation to explore! This table is set with recycled crayons, oil pastels and color sticks with an invitation to experiment with color, line, texture and mark making.
This table features oil pastels and a choice of black and white squares of paper with the suggestion to work in series to create a narrative with drawings. The suggestion is to have a beginning, middle and end. Many artists used tape to improvise books from their series.
Sometimes a big blank page is intimidating. Here artist trading cards (2.5 by 3.5 inches) are offered with an invitation to complete small drawings to trade with friends. This small format is a great invitation to fun and trying new things - a good way to get started - artists often create many small studies before beginning on a bigger piece.
The drawing and building moved to the light table, here is an example of a maze built by a young artist. The drawing of the maze is below.
Some of our favorite books about the drawing process.

Learning to Engage and Persist in the Studio and at Home

The second habit of mind is engage and persist. It relates to the development of focus and concentration as well as frustration tolerance and the ability to work through a challenge using creative problem solving skills. I think of my own household and my desire to develop a can-do attitude of stick-with-it-ness in my kids.
In the studio we find attention spans grow over time as children become more familiar with the tools and materials. So setting the routines and expectations as discussed in developing craft helps set the stage for engagement.
One important part of the engage and persist habit in the studio relates to a commitment to the process rather than the product. One of my favorite quotes from the clay table "I like it here because you are allowed to smash what you make." This came from a very accomplished young clay sculptor. With clay there is a time to keep going and a time to wedge the clay back into a ball and begin again. She understood this and would often begin her clay work with several playful sculpture before settling down into a piece she planned to save.
Play can also be an important component for the child who has trouble beginning, often because they are worried about whether they will do something correctly or well enough. I remind kids that artists often begin by playing with ideas and materials and that they may want to do the same. Once they get over getting started they can engage in the process.
Set backs are a natural part of the creative process - it is how we deal with challenges that determines success. Modeling problem solving, error recovery and that it is okay to ask for help or take a break can help kids to work through frustration. The studio is a good environment to practice creative risk taking with a supportive environment other artists.
By mid-way through our sessions, I find it challenging to ask artists to disengage when it is time to clean up. When kids are very motivated in a creative activity, it can be difficult to transition to something else. I find that routines help here too; we can offer reassurance that there will be time to come back and continue. At home this might mean having a display shelf for in-process lego creations as well as bins for loose parts. It is much harder to disengage if you fear your hard work may be lost. Discussing, writing, or drawing next steps and even gathering or listing the materials that will be needed can also help children to disengage and be ready to step right back into their work when they return.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blocks, Drawing and Building Continued

This post follows an earlier post about a class of avid builders. This week we placed the blocks center stage on the table where the kids usually began (instead of off to the side in a building center.)
They began by experimenting with different structures created from the blocks.
Exploring balance and angles.
Once they had settled on a design, we offered pen and paper and encouraged drawing the building.
The diagram grows and details are added.
The children asked for paint to add to their drawings - the colors together with the drawn characters really make this fantasy story come alive.
“The Moon and the Sun”
The sun has 12 legs and the moon has a thinking cap on. The people are climbing through the tubes and there’s a window on the top of the building. I think it was my block building. Two of the stars have glasses on them and the stars have hair on them. The people climb through so they can get in the house.
Click here to see other posts about drawing and building.
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