I have fallen in love with the art of Keith Haring. It just makes me happy. I love the simplicity of his art, as well as the messages he sends to us of tolerance and unity through his images. He has left a wonderful legacy of images that represent love and positive messages. How can you not help but smile when you look at his art?
In the classroom, we focus on how Keith Haring shows movement, as well as the simplicity of his art. He generally uses bright and solid primary and secondary colors and lots of color … hardly any white space … and outlining his images in black. There are very few details in most of his work and he does a great job of showing movement through the placement of lines. We also talk about “underground” art and street art, which is how Keith Haring became noticed – with his N.Y. Subway wall murals. Even though “street” art is sometimes considered grafitti and the artists can’t sign their names, they have their own icon or symbol so people know who was the “contributor”. Keith Harings was known as the Radiant Baby. You can see how Haring included it as a “signature” in much of his early work.
The artwork we actually do is another “new” form of art… Artist Trading Cards. Just like baseball, football, Pokeman cards, artists create their own Art Cards to trade with other collectors and artists in the medium they are known for. There are actual conventions held for trading!
We did ours in the Keith Haring style of something or someone in “motion”, simply using Sharpies for the flat color Haring always used. After focusing on the art and outlining everything in black, students made sure they included their lines that showed motion.
They turned out fabulous, if I do say so myself!
My son, who is very interested in street artists, recommended I watch the movie, “Exit through the Gift Shop”. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and I watched the movie this past rainy day weekend thinking it was going to simply be a documentary on this counter-culture underground movement called Street Art. It was so much more … at the end of the movie you should ask yourself two questions, “What is Art?” and “Who decides it’s Art?” There has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not the movie is “real” or not … I’m not sure it really matters, in the end.
Without telling you too much about the movie and giving away the good stuff, the movie was made by the most famously anonymous street artist, Banksy.
An amateur filmmaker, Frenchman Thierry Guetta aka “Mr. Brainwash”, shoots reels and reels of film on the pretext that he is making his own documentary about street artists and their nocturnal pasting and spraying. There are many interesting focuses on different artists, most notably Banksy and Shepard Fairey (founder of Obey and the artist made famous by his iconic Obama image), who allow the filmmaker to go along on their adventures.
The drama intensifies and in the end … well, I think it has a wonderful twist. I thought it was interesting how bitter the street artists were in the end. Did “Mr. Brainwash” sell out? Is he smarter than everyone else? Is he a fraud? Is “Mr. Brainwash” nothing more than a character made up by Banksy himself?
All in all, it is a very entertaining and interesting movie! Let me know your thoughts!
Last week I visited the fantastic exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco … Pulp Fashion by Belgian artist, Isabelle de Borchgrave. The fashion was life-size period costumes made from nothing other than paper and paint (of course it was either glued or stitched together). Not only did I thoroughly enjoy her beautiful, realistic creations, but I really appreciated the thorough explanation of her process. The video was well done and you could get “up close and personal” with her art.
The costume time periods ranged from the renaissance period to modern-day Coco Chanel.
De Borchgrave uses stencils and other techniques to re-create the uniformity of fabric and I especially liked the use of metallic paint. That really made it look like silk. The foundation paper is quite thick and looks to be very heavy and resilient. The lens paper lace was fantastic and all the tucks and pleats … mind-boggling! Beads and hair pieces, and even the hair itself, if necessary, was made from paper. Every piece was a little different and had a different flair and inspiration. All the pieces were exhibited on simple paper mannequins.
In the last exhibit room was a presentation of costumes De Borchgrave created using actual paintings in the Legion of Honor for inspiration. They were incredible!
At the end of the day … we decided that it was impossible to decide on a favorite. We even tried to break it down by room, Everything was beautiful and different.
Not only did I have a great day with my good friend, Linda, but was really inspired by the creative use of paper and stencils and how it could be translated into the “real thing”. I have pulled out the mylar, the textile paints, and the tees to create my own stencils and give it a go. My creative juices are flowing!!
I am constantly amazed at the skills of my students and this project was no exception … especially with regard to the boys. Painting flowers isn’t generally their favorite thing to paint, but it takes a lot of patience to paint botanical illustrations and they were up to the challenge.
They were BEAUTIFUL!
We began with quite a bit of discussion about how the point of botanical illustration is to accurately record the plant in all its forms. Botanical Illustrations began as a scientific study that turned into an art form. Artists work very hard to exactly represent the plant, down to dissecting the pods, showing what it looks like underground (roots, bulbs etc), showing leaves, flowers and other parts in all their different forms. Then they “glaze” watercolor in many sessions to get the colors just right.
I had a wide selection of plastic fruit and flowers for the students to choose from and they started their drawing. Of course, we didn’t worry so much about the roots etc, just the flower/fruit and a stem and leaf. Given our already tight time constraints, they worked exceptionally hard to get as far as they did.
After the sketch was done, students used watercolor pencils to add the color. We talked about the blending of colors and how that helps with low lights and high lights and showing where one pedal ends and another begins (or one grape …) I asked them to work with a minimum of 3 colors … starting with yellow (which I believe to be the foundation color for nearly all things “natural”.
Being fifth graders, they have a really good background in color from all our other classes and they did a remarkable job thinking about color mixing and how it would help or hurt their painting.
All in all, it was a great send-off project for my lovely fifth graders… they are off to middle school! This is my first group that I have taught from first grade on up and I really believe it shows in their work! Good luck to them all!
One of my all-time favorite children’s authors is Maurice Sendak … I have spent hours reading his books to my 2 boys and everyone knows his iconic “Wild Things” from the book Where The Wild Things Are”. I was looking for something to re-energize my second graders and this was the thing to do it! We had a blast making our Wild Things Masks!
Since all of the “Wild Things” in the book were based on real-life characters in Mr. Sendak’s book, I asked students to think about the personalities in their lives and create their Wild Thing around them. I’m pretty sure that there was some embellishing of characters, but isn’t that what artistic license is all about?!
Starting with tag paper, students drew a large head that took up most of the paper. Sendak’s characters were all bigger than life, physically and in personality. The shape of the head was at the discretion of the student. I gave them templates to help make big eyes, as all of the features in Sendak’s characters were large too. We talked about dimension and how that means there is something that pops off the paper. I was expecting that at least one feature on their mask was going to pop off, giving some dimension to their character and making it more life-like. Students are familiar with manipulating paper from first grade projects and it all came back … accordions, corkscrews, twisting paper, cutting a tab to make the horns stand out etc.
Using pastels, students colored like mad. Everything had to have color! Then they got down to the fun of putting dimension on their mask … a tongue sticking out, jagged teeth, horns, hair, a beak – you name it, we had it. It was wonderful!
After all the dimension was put on, students were given googly eyes and feathers. I hold these myself took help keep things under control … especially the feathers!
If there was time … students then cut out their mask! I think Maurice Sendak would be proud of all imagination and creativity that went into our Wild Things!
How did they make more than one copy of a book before the printing press?! What do you mean there was no such thing as a copy machine?! A typewriter?! Carbon paper?! What the heck?!
The printing press was an invention that truly made the world a better place. In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented a way to make multiple copies of books and mass media. Before movable letters and numbers, books were re-written and illustrated one by one and were only seen and owned by either the church or the very rich. Having books, illustrations and printed media produced by a press meant that the more common person could be educated and break the cycle of poverty and repression.
With the above in mind, printmaking in art is Printmaking is the process of making multiple pieces of art, where painting makes only one piece of original art. The prints are made from a single surface or plate and creates an “edition” that is signed and numbered. Artists will either carve or make a raised image on the surface of a plate using wood, stone, plastic rubber etc. The then ink it and make a print.
Our 5th graders made their own printing plates using styrofoam (you can buy these through Blick … Inovart foam). Our ink was simply black tempera paint. I gave students a piece of scratch paper to play with their designs first. They transferred the design to the plate by placing the paper over the top of the plate and redrawing.
Students carefully etched their design into the plate, making sure they had a deep groove. Remember … this will be a negative image! If you are writing on your plate, make sure it is a mirror image or it will print backwards!
Instead of expensive (and messy!) brayers that roll on a uniform amount of ink, we carefully brushed the paint over the plate until there was a very thin coating of paint. Too much meant a messy image and too little meant a spotty image. I don’t give students water … it creates a huge mess and only serves to water down the paint, making it difficult to get a good print.
Lift/peel your paper from the plate and see how you did. Didn’t work? These plates are meant to be used over and over! Try it again … (-;
Today I asked the Kindergarten classes this same question … and the answer came back a huge “YES!” Their art work today was beyond even my optimistic dreams! It was a perfect project for a warm Spring day … full of bright glorious color!
Before exploring our Kandinsky Style, we talked about shapes and how everything you draw is made up of different shapes just modified in your mind to tweak a little and make up the whole. A simple example is a house … what shapes do you use to draw that house? Rectangles for the structure, triangles for the roof, square for the windows, and so on. We then moved on to something a little more complicated. If you want to draw an elephant, you would start with an oval for the body adding some wrinkles and details, a tube for the nose, ovals for the ears adding wavy lines around the outside to make it look more realistic, etc.
We then talked about Wassily Kandinsky, the russian artist credited with painting the first piece of abstract art that was made up wholly of shapes. Showing them his famous painting, Concentric Circles … we now had our theme. I reminded them to look closely at his painting. Did he worry about the colors mixing? NO … it only added interest to his painting so, don’t worry about it! I think that was very freeing for many of my art shy kinders!
We talked about how to use the tempera cakes neatly and how to keep the colors clean without too much water. They did a great job dabbing their brushes on the paper towel and the applying the paint. You will notice there is no black or brown … I only give those colors out sparingly and for particular projects because the project tends to lose it’s brightness and we are dealing with “mud” at the end of the project. (:
Using 12×18 heavyweight paper, we folded our paper together in half 3x to make 8 rectangular sections to begin our shapes and concentric rings. They then chose what shape to put in the centers of their paintings. I encouraged alternating colors for the rings, but some had their own idea about what they wanted to do, which is great … that is what individual creativity is all about.
A little note … I also did this project in our younger special needs group and while I didn’t take pictures )-: they were also very successful. We scaled back the project to only 4 very large sections and a limited amount of paint. We had lots of smiles!