Saturday, February 28, 2009

Week Five- Activity Two

The second half of this week's class was also a painting activity. It was one of those standard activities everyone does with children but they don't know why. When I was teaching art, I left this project to the classroom teachers and focused on helping children to draw pictures of themselves instead.

The child lays down on a large sheet of paper while an adult traces around their body creating a large shadow shape of the child. The proportions are distorted and there is very little resembling the shape of a head because of the hair. There are many ways to fill in this shape. Our instructor elected to have the children work with tempera paint and markers if desired. She also provided yarn for hair but for children this young it would require much adult intervention to glue down the yarn.

Leah was aware that this shape was her. She chose, however, to ignore the idea of adding eyes and other details. She simply wanted to paint. There were only five colors with a single paint brush in each. Remember that there were four children painting at the same time. Needless to say this was not the best arrangement. The best part of this activity is that every child approached this differently. I was going to include a picture where too much parental intervention had taken place but decided against it . What I want to do is caution you that if you are working with your child remember: "It is okay to ask questions. It is not okay to paint it for them. Little learning takes place when you do all the thinking."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Art Class = Week Five Painting Our Clay

Well, we finally made it to the painting stage of this class. The class was broken into two parts.
One part was glazing the clay tiles that were made three weeks ago and the other was a large painting project. This was mainly because there wasn't enough room for all of the children to glaze their pots at the same time.

Leah loves to paint in any form so despite her cranky mood (She seemed very unhappy this morning which is unusual for her.) she dove right into the painting process. I'll let the picture speak for itself. We worked with low fire clay and lead free glazes which is great if you have access to a kiln. I would like to offer an alternative since most of us do not have a kiln.

You can buy great self -hardening clays. They can be very expensive at a craft store as you get a small amount. Check your phone book to see if there is a pottery studio nearby as they usually are a good supplier of large quantities of self-hardening clay. I always used Portland Pottery Supply. I could purchase 25lbs for around $50.00. This sounds like a lot but it keeps well if wrapped up tightly. They can be handled the same way as low fire clay. The objects simply have to air dry. They are a little more fragile but this never seemed much of a problem.

When the clay projects dry, they can be painted with watercolors because the clay still absorbs moisture. The color soaks right into the clay. After the paint drys coat the object with Jazz clear gloss medium or Liquitex gloss medium. This helps to brighten the colors and preserve the clay from moisture. The fish mask is one that I made many years ago in a fifth grade art class using these products.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monochromatic Designs with printmaking

While I was teaching I had to introduce the element of design, PATTERN. Pattern is not always an easy concept to teach to young children. It requires an understanding of repetition. There are simple patterns where you work with one color and two shapes or two colors and one shape. These are called A B patterns. When working with small children, it is best to keep it simple. One of my favorite lessons when I was teaching was set up in two parts. The first part was a monochromatic painting of a shape. The students chose one color of paint and some white and black paint for mixing tints and shades. The main focus of this part of the lesson was to get them to understand that white added to a color made it lighter (tint) and black added to a color made it darker (shade).

The students painted a simple shape like a circle or square on to a large piece of paper with their color. They then added white to their paintbrushes and painted around that shape creating a shadow image. The students either added white or black to their paintbrushes until they had painted around the shape right up to the edges of the paper. The papers were left to dry until the next class.

Step two: Here's where the printmaking comes into the artwork. Students were given white, gold, silver and black tempera paint and small pieces of cardboard (cut from a discarded packing box), sponges and empty thread spools. (the plastic ones have a wonderful wagon wheel image.)
Students were then directed to use these tools to create patterns in the shapes that they had painted. The one included here is that of a five year-old who left her work behind.

One of these monochromatic pattern designs is part of the permanent collection of student artwork of the Westbrook, Maine School Department. Many parents chose to have these images framed to hang in their home or offices. Image my surprise when, about two years ago, I went into my bank manager's office and saw two of these images hanging in her office. One had been done by her oldest daughter, now a high school graduate, and the other had been done by her middle daughter, now in third grade. Both girls had created their work in one of my kindergarten art classes . The mother said that she loved the modern appearance these art works gave to her office. I, on the other hand, was thrilled to see that someone appreciated the beauty of the artwork that young children can produce.

If you are a teacher or a home school parent and would like a full copy of the lesson plan and its expected outcomes in relationship to learning standards, please send me a request in the comment area with your e-mail address and I will send it to you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Found Object Printmaking

You know that old saying: "life has a way of interrupting your plans" or something like that. Well, I had planned to write at least 4 blogs per week but I haven't been able to find the time to sit down and do it. Here is the second of the printmaking ideas. Some people have a problem with using food to make art so I want to offer this alternative.

Materials needed:
A sponge brush or other painting tool
any color of tempera paint
Objects you find in your home

The process is the same as with vegetables. I spent about two minutes looking in my kitchen drawers to come up with the objects that I chose to paint. I found a cork, a wooden spool, a fork, a chopstick, a plastic cookie cutter of a tree, a tea light in a metal container, a potato masher. a pencil eraser and a pastry blender.
The potato masher is perfect for young children because a child can stamp it in the paint and then stamp it on the paper. It creates an interesting grid shape. The cork, the thread spool or pencil eraser can work the same way. You get a clearer picture from the fork tines if you paint the paint on the fork rather than pressing it in the paint. The pastry blender also works best if the paint is paint on to it because sometimes the paint builds up between the spaces when it is just pressed into the paint.

You might wonder what you could do with these stamped images. They are great for teaching about patterns, repetition and sequencing. All of these are skills needed to understand the voice of language or simple mathematics. The are great for creating original wrapping paper. (You can use grocery store paper bags for the paper. Just cut them open and lay them flat) If you use an acrylic paint (Be sure to dress your child in clothing that is not precious to you as the acrylic paint is non-washable.), you can print images on t-shirts or aprons. To set the paint, iron the fabric on a hot setting between two pieces of paper. When printing a t-shirt, place a stack of newspaper inside the shirt to prevent the paint from going to the back. These make wonderful gifts or terrific art shirts!

Friday, February 13, 2009

class 4...Vegetable Printing

Wow! What a crazy week this has been! Too much to do and too little time for me!
This week in the pre-school art class we worked with two different media but I am only going to talk about one for now, VEGETABLE PRINTING.

With the high cost of fresh vegetables this is not necessarily the cheapest of art projects but it does offer some interesting results. I am going to talk to you about how to do this and some other possibilities for printing tools. You'd be surprised by the variety of printing tools you have right in your own kitchen.

We worked with celery, heads of cabbage, potatoes, carrots, green peppers and onions. This sounds like the ingredients for a nice vegetable soup. Unfortunately, the vegetables were not edible when we were done. The instructor provided squares of paper, knives for the adults to use and washable tempera paint. The paper was unsatisfactory for printing as it had a texture which inhibited the image from printing cleanly. Most people would turn to washable paint when working with young children. This isn't necessarily a great idea for print making with vegetables. You see the vegetables have water in them so they water down the paints which already have limited pigment (the stuff that makes the color) in them . This combined with the textured paper really effected the results. The paint was applied by pressing the vegetable into a meat tray that had paint in them. Meat trays make great paint holders for this project.
The images are made by having the child stamp the image onto the paper in an up and down motion.

When I have done this with young children, I used regular tempera. You might ruin an old shirt but the colors are brighter and the images are much clearer. Sometimes pressing the image into the paint results in an uneven coverage of paint on the vegetable. Using a small paintbrush or a sponge brush to paint the vegetable surface gets an more even coating resulting in a much clearer image. A smooth white paper or brown packaging paper like that used for mailing packages is a great surface for printing. Remember that their hands are small so limit the size of the pieces of vegetable that you are using.

I've included some images that you might expect to get using vegetables. Since this blog is getting too long. I'll write about printing with found objects in the kitchen tomorrow.
In the first picture, the image on the left is made from a potato that has been cut in half. The middle image is made from an onion and the images on the right have been made with a hunk of red cabbage. The images in the second picture are made from a slice of green pepper and an apple that has been cut open. When sliced horizontally rather than vertically, you will find a nice
star-shaped image. The potato can also be cut into a variety of shapes. Here I have cut a heart shape out of it. It's a great way to print cards or wrapping paper for special occasions.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Art Class: Week 3: clay

Okay, I apologize I forgot my camera so I don't have any pictures. This week's art class with two-year-olds proved that this is a class about making things rather than learning. We were give slabs of clay to make tiles. It was apparent that the parents were more involved than the children.

Our first assignment was to make a hand print in the clay. Leah had no problem with this as she had already done this. She placed her hand on the clay and I pressed down on it making sure to get the heel of the hand. It is a common error when making a hand print not to get the heel. This is partly due to the awkward angle that the child's hand has to be in order to accomplish this. The wrist must be at a complete right angle or the heel does not print. We were then allowed to embellish our hand print tile with a variety of implements.

This could have been great! Unfortunately, there was only one of each item and eight children. As you can guess this did not bode well. Young children do not have much patience. The other problem was that they were using sponge printing tool. This would be fine with adults but to make an impression with a sponge on clay requires a great deal of pressure and strength, The little kids just didn't get it. Wooden blocks or hard plastic would have been more suitable.

It is great to explore clay with young children but you should do that. Let the child "explore" the clay. Creating a clay tile for Grandma is a project with very little learning taking place. Letting the child roll the clay, smash the clay, coil the clay, squeeze the clay or otherwise manipulate the clay provides them with a understanding of what clay is and how it can be used. Not having a tangible object at the end of the exploration is okay. Such manipulation also is more age appropriate for the child. They are at a stage where they are not so concerned about the beauty of a project as they are about the feel of the project.

I promise to take pictures this week. I think we are going to paint the tiles that the adults made.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Story Starters

Teachers of writing often use one line sentences, like what I did on my summer vacation, to give children a jump-start to writing. This can also be helpful in visual art. I don't mean that you should have your child draw a picture of what they did on their summer vacation. I mean that you could give them a visual jump-start.

When I was teaching, I loved to use children's stories as motivators. My favorite book was one that I rescued from the library discarded books. It was called "The Line Sophie Drew". A very old book, probably out of print as I haven't been able to find a source or copy, the story was about a little girl who drew a line on a page and on each page someone is trying to guess what it is that she is going to draw from the line. It ends with the unanswered question. After reading this book and discussing the ideas, I would give children a piece of paper with a line on it and have them draw a picture from the line. The results were always very interesting and surprisingly different from each other. This works well with children around 4 or 5 or older.

Children also love stickers. Using stickers as a story starter for drawing is also a great idea.
This works best with stickers that are characters or objects. Have the child place one on a blank piece of paper. Ask them where the character is. When I used to ask my youngest child Zach this, he would answer "On the paper. " He was always very literal. I would then say in your imagination is the robot (We'll use this for clarity.) inside or outside. If he said outside. I would say is it sunny or rainy outside. How do I know? What does it look like where he is? Is he alone? I think you get the idea. Leave the questions open ended, letting the child decide what is the correct answer. Often after a couple of questions the child knows exactly what they want the picture to look like. These drawings often led to stories about the experiences of the character which I would write down as they told them.

Other ideas for story starters:
  • A circle on a paper...What could it be?
  • A rubber stamp that the child uses before putting crayon or marker to paper.
  • A piece of torn paper glued on to a piece of paper. What does it look like?

These are just a few that I used. I'm sure that you can think of many more. If you try any of these or some of your own let me know. I would love to know how this idea works for you.

Quote for today: "Too often we give children answers to remember rather that problems to solve." - Roger Lewin