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!
Second Graders (!) did these fabulous Picasso Heads! They really got into the spirit of Picasso when they drew and “painted” them with oil pastels. It was very exciting to see how they embraced the fact that not everything needs to look exactly like the real thing … even my very linear thinkers stepped out of their comfort zone for this one!
We first talked about the use of color and shapes in art to communicate feelings and meaning in a painting. Using Picasso’s Portrait of a Woman … the use of blue and cool colors, triangle for a tear, a white/open circle where her heart is, shows us she is very sad. We then moved on to the painting, Girl Before a Mirror. This is an excellent example of Picasso’s use of shape and color. Also, Picasso many times would put a line through the face to show that the subject has more than one personality or many sides. He also outlined everything in black to accentuate his color.
Students drew 3 heads that touched … representing a relationship between their characters. They then had to draw a line top to bottom on each head showing the 2 sides of each “person”. Using shapes for features, students began building the personality of their Picasso heads. We talked in simple terms about what shapes might represent. A heart for a mouth, corkscrew for eyes, etc. Of course, crazy shapes for hair is a given!!! After pencil, everyone outlined in Sharpie – their choice of thick or thin lines.
For color, we used oil pastels. I introduce the fact that oil pastels aren’t really glorified crayons. There is a reason for oil pastels. The pastel goes on nice and thick, but pastels are made to be spread and blended like paint! We use Q-tips to make the pastels look like oil paint and get a heavy coating of color. The use of an everyday item in our art always gives the students a little thrill and makes them think, “what else can I use?” (and no one put them in their ears … (-:!)
OUR RESULTS WERE FABULOUS!
Another of my favorites in 2nd grade because it seems everyone is successful with this project. It is so beautiful that everyone comes away with a frame-worthy picture! This project is one of the few that I spend 2 class times on and everyone finishes.
The first time we meet and after discussing Van Gogh and his interest in Japanese Woodcuts and his studies of sunflowers, students draw their LARGE sunflowers on 12×18″ black construction paper (I like Tru-Color). The vase is a simple stencil to help save time and start the “large” process, which can be hard for some at this age. I ask students to decide if their vase is clear glass or ceramic … if it is clear, what will we see?! They then have to draw the stems in the vase, and many times nice marbles or rocks at the bottom for interest. The vase needs to be sitting on something so students draw a line to show a tabletop. This year, I had one student who thought to make his table small and round … very “out-of-the-box” thinking!
After all the pencil drawing is done, cover white glue along the pencil lines. This will protect the black paper when dry and give it the woodcut effect after adding the chalk and pastels. There is a fine line between too much glue and too little or dots instead of lines etc. but in the end they all look beautiful.
DAY 2 – IT IS TIME TO ADD THE COLOR! I found a use for the chalkboard chalk donated by a retiring teacher!!! It brightens our pictures like crazy!! We use the chalk along with 2 kinds of pastels – regular Cray-Pas and Flourescent Gallery Pastels and the contrasts really makes these sunflowers POP! You have to use the chalk first and blend the pastels in last … the oil in the pastels repel the chalk.
I ask that students cover their entire paper with color and show them that by turning the chalk on its side helps with laying a base of color, as well as giving their art a different look from using the tip of the chalk.
Chalk and pastel tends to be very messy and doesn’t adhere to the paper well. To make sure that these masterpieces can be enjoyed for a long time, we spray them at the end to seal everything. Instead of using an aerosol of some kind (hair spray or you can by a non-toxic that still smells terrible) I mix a little white glue with water (about 1 part water to 6-7 parts water) in a spray bottle and spray across the art. Lay it flat to dry and when dry it is ready to mount!
This project is always one I enjoy because I think it brings out the best in the boys. The boys feel free to experiment a little and bring a little craziness to their bust I don’t always see with other projects. Clay seems to be the medium most boys thrive with. Don’t get me wrong … the girls do great job too, but some boys really struggle with drawing and painting and all those fine motor skill activities and clay helps them realize they are creative and artistic! It’s just like playing in the sand box or in the mud at the creek!
By the time they are ready to do clay 3-d heads, students have not only used clay before, but we have talked a lot about the map of the face – where the features belong (did you know your eyes are really in the middle of your head – not up towards your forehead?!?!) and keeping things in proportion. After some review on all these subjects, they are ready to rock and roll! This project is one that ties a lot of concepts together and students are able to pretty much just enjoy what they are doing and everyone is successful!
The clay I use is gray, self-drying clay (a day or 2) and I try to give everyone a pretty generous amount. A 25 pd brick breaks out to at least 65 students. I purchase it at Blick Art. Students can paint or Sharpie details on if they like after the clay dries.
Of course, our most valuable tool when using clay is our hands, but I also give students a simple toothpick, the sculpture tools I make from clothespins and a hook of paper clip, and it just wouldn’t be complete without the garlic press for cool hair. I like using plates for the clay. It really keeps the desks clean and helps with clean-up.
Filed under Clay, Faces, ~Blog~
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!
I 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!
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!