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!
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!
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!