Calligraphy and Chinese Yo-Yos

The past 2 weeks students have been celebrating Chinese New Year and learning about the Chinese culture in general.  With that in mind, we made Chinese yo-yos.

We talked about how the Chinese doesn’t have an alphabet, but uses symbols that represent words.  I found interesting symbols on the internet and we talked about how the symbol for “heart” looks like a happy face, “fire” looks like a burning fire, “brave” looks like a warrior etc.  Of course, I also included the symbols for “Happy New Year” .  We also talked about what symbols and colors in general are important in Chinese culture.  Lucky colors are red and gold, coins, dragons, chrysanthemums, fish, etc.

We then talked about the brushes used for calligraphy noting that the brush bristles were very thick, long and tapered, which allows artists to “load” their brush with lots of ink and then make the brush strokes very thick to very thin by how hard they pressed down on the brush.  Some artists now use pens with nibs or  markers that have the 45 degree angle which helps artists get the thick to thin look.

I asked students to design their own “chop” or signature for their yo-yo.  Many Chinese artists create their own unique signature or mark that they stamp on all their work.  It incorporates symbols that are unique to that artist.  I suggested not just the initials, but a picture of something that they loved(a football, book, ballet slippers etc.)

Students received a thin white paper (copy paper) for practicing/tracing, 2 sheets of symbols to trace, black Blick markers with the pen angle, and a yellow paper for the final yo-yo design.  After practicing their calligraphy (I was excited because so many decided to free-hand their work instead of copying and with much success!) they put it to the yellow paper!  Then they added a little color with their own markers.

The last step is to tape the end of the paper to a thick bamboo bbq skewer (with the end cut off) and rolled it tightly up.  We rubber banded it and 10 minutes later the paper was trained and the yo-yo could be used!

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Filed under 3rd Grade, Chinese New Year, markers, ~Blog~

The New Creative Artist – A Book to Inspire

New Creative ArtistI recently discovered the book, The New Creative Artist, by Nita Leland.  She calls it a “Guide to Developing Your Creative Spirit”.  I have read other book by Nita Leland in the past and have found her to be very insightful and generally spurns me on creatively, but she has outdone herself with THIS book!  It is chock full of inspiration.

There is an activity to stretch your creativity for nearly every day and the book explores many mediums and new ways to use each one.  Many of the exercises use everyday things you may have around the house and is easily adaptable to helping change up your lesson plans or personally trying a new technique.

In the book, Nita Leland discusses forms of Art and Craft (printmaking, quilting, scrapbooking, etc.), as well as Realism -vs- Abstraction.  There is also a complete chapter on building your confidence as an artist.  The ideas in this book help you stretch your own ideas for lesson plans, as well as your personal art experience and I think it is appropriate for artists of all ages!

The book is really well laid out and easy to read.  A beautiful book!  Try it!  If you can’t find it at the library, Amazon or Barnes and Noble sell used books for around $14.  It is a hard-back, ringed book and easy to flip through.  I like the rings because it opens fully and stays open while you are following the instructions!

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Filed under Right Brain Ramblings, Sparks~Inspirations, ~Blog~

Peter Max and Acrylic Postage Stamps

I LOVE this project because it introduces an artist who is still alive and painting today, as well as exposes my 5th grade students to a more “modern” medium ~ acrylic paint.

Peter Max’s art is not only eye-catching and appealing to young children, but his subjects tend to the ones that are easily remembered and appreciated.  We talk about his influence on pop/psychedelic/60’s art (beatles’ Yellow Submarine), as well as his modern take on painting iconic things and people.

I love the book, The Art of Peter Max by Charles A Riley and we look at many different examples of his very distinctive style.  This book is chock full of visuals!

Peter Max paints very freely and doesn’t worry about getting that perfect paint color or line on his page.  I encourage NOT cleaning your brush much and just “loading” your brush with 3 different paint colors and just explore the paint and colors.  I love the shrieks I hear when I turn the paint plate upside down and hold it there for a minute or so to demonstrate to students the thick paint that doesn’t mix and mingle with other colors like other mediums they are used to using.  The unique properties of acrylic paint (we talk about these too) really lends itself to this project and older students appreciate using a medium they have never experienced before.  It is so flexible and forgiving they can’t really mess up and the bright colors used make all the paintings beautiful.  This project always goes up on the classroom boards afterwards!

I chose the postage stamp theme because it was a different way of looking at the paper and it celebrates all the philanthropy Peter Max has done through his art.  I mention that every July 4th, Peter Max paints canvases of the Statue of Liberty and the proceeds of the sale of the painting goes towards her continued restoration and maintenance.  At one time, Peter Max painted numerous paintings of Lady Liberty, donated the proceeds and, some say, he single-handedly saved Lady Liberty from disrepair.  Peter Max also designed postage stamps to raise money for our National parks – hence the postage stamp theme!

I demonstrate and encourage students to play with the paint and the colors with their brushes.  There is lots of dabbing and rolling of brushes to get different effects.

Starting with a stencil of a postage stamp, students trace the stamp outline which will become the paintings frame.  After painting and the paint dries, the final step is to cut out the postage stamp! 

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Filed under 5th Grade, Paint, Peter Max, ~Blog~

Paisley Madness For You to Color

I absolutely LOVE Paisley patterns.  This is my personal version and I am sharing the black and white line drawing for you to fill in with your own color scheme.  I like it best with ink pens or markers.

This is a “no brainer” that can be done by kids of ALL ages!

Enjoy!

paisley outline to color

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Weaving and Building our own Loom

Third graders study Indians and do a lot of discussion about how they use natural resources for all their needs.  I thought it would be fun to think about how they make their blankets and anything else that is textile related.  After some discussion about how the indians (and pioneers for that matter) had no stores that sold fabric etc., we talk about how yarn is created (spun from animal hair) and how they dyed the yarn (plants and minerals).  The ancient craft of weaving is found in countries around the world and people have woven yarn and fibers to make useful items for centuries.

We then talk about the weaving process itself and how a loom is made and the weaving is held together.  The indians made crude looms by securing tree branches together, then evenly tieing thin string from top to bottom (the warp).  Weaving then begins with the “weft” yarn.

Creating a loom with 3 straws is an interesting project because it makes students think about how they can use everyday things to help construct their art.  There is an element of problem solving with this project that I like.  This project can be a stretch for some 3rd graders because they haven’t quite developed the fine motor skills or the “following directions” skills necessary for success.  Usually, everyone comes out with something lovely, however and I think the boys appreciate this project more than the girls!

The biggest challenge is getting students to understand the concept of weaving and catching one straw at a time in an “in – out” and “around” pattern.  Once they have their “ah ha” moment though, everyone works really hard to finish.  I give directions in a number of ways … verbal, demonstration, and then actually physically help move the hand for some.  For some students, it is difficult holding the loom and weaving at the same time.  In this case, I masking tape the loom to the desk and that seems to help.

The loom is secured at the top with masking tape, black yarn inserted for the “warp” using sparkly pipe cleaners to catch and pull through, we tie off the multi-colored “weft” string (thank you Wal-Mart), and then the weaving begins!

About 10 minutes before our class is over, I walk students through carefully taking apart their loom and tying off their weaving.  Make sure the “warp” threads stay in place!  Pull the straws down out of the weaving!

Wallah – they have a bracelet or a bookmark!

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Filed under Weaving, Yarn, ~Blog~

Shaving Cream Clouds for Special Needs

The best thing we can do in our special needs classes are to give them the opportunity to explore.  Shaving cream is the PERFECT medium to do that with!

During these classes there is little patience for long explanations, so we simply talk about using our imaginations and try to draw a shape we might see in the fluffy clouds above.

I mix 1 part white glue to 2 parts shaving cream in a small foam bowl and mix it well with a popsicle stick.  When it dries, you are left with a wonderful “foam” that doesn’t disintegrate like dried shaving cream does.  The white glue acts as a binder.

Using heavy blue paper as our “sky”, students draw their shapes with pencil.  Someone had the wonderful idea of tracing around their hand and making a hand cloud.  Some of our students need help with the drawing and tracing and simple is definitely better!

Using a coarse, stiff bristled brush, students then applied their “foam”, filling in the cloud with beautiful, fluffy whiteness!

It is important that students “dab” their foam on.  If you “paint” it on you won’t get the heavy application.  I think more is definitely better than less!

Clean up is a snap – there is nothing permanent about shaving cream and white glue and everything washes up easily.

If you are doing another classroom right away and the bowls aren’t too messy they can be re-used.  The foam won’t set up for another hour or so.  When it does it develops a little “crust’ on the top that can be peeled away too.

Later this year I will be doing this project in Kindergarten and extending the project to include visualization and how to “think” in color, as well as drawing themselves in the clouds somehow.  Everyone loves this project!

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Filed under Shaving Cream, Using your Right Brian, ~Blog~

Peace to All – Color it for Inspiration!

As a young child, I always loved making random swirls across a paper and coloring the fractured pieces.  It is sort of making something out of chaos.  Choosing the color combinations are key to success!

Lately, I have been thinking about my random chaos drawings and thought it would be fun to do again … only with a theme in mind.  I was trying to get a stained glass affect and outlined the actual image in black pen, which in hindsight I think was a mistake.

Attached is the black and white version of this peace sign mosaic … what can you do with it?!  I would love to see what everyone comes up with!  Please share!

peace sign mosaic to color

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