Tuesday, May 19, 2015

1st Grade Collagraphs

Collagraph is a type of printmaking that involves preparing the plate by gluing textured materials into a composition before inking the surface and printing. There's a good little summary HERE
In all of my printmaking experience, I'd never tried collagraphs before. While planning lessons utilizing recycled materials at the end of the school year, I couldn't resist the urge anymore and gave it a go. I picked 1st grade to try the technique, mainly because I hadn't decided on anything else yet! In the future, I will probably reserve collagraph for a higher grade because of the difficulty in inking a plate that is not flat.
I had many of the same materials from the Recycled Art Challenge 2nd and 3rd grade students participated in available for 1st graders. Pretty much any flat-ish material that you can cut and glue will work. Here are some materials we used:
  • paper scraps
  • yarn
  • paperboard saved from cereal boxes
  • burlap
  • bubble wrap
  • corrugated paper (I found a whole roll from an old bulletin board kit)
Other necessary materials are scissors, bottled glue, printing paper, block printing ink, brayers, and trays for ink.

We cut the materials into shapes, arranged onto a board (we used a dense fiberboard but you could use cardboard instead), and glued in place. This is not a time to skimp on glue! Elmer's glue held most things in place just fine, but the bubble wrap sometimes peeled off when the brayer went over it. I'm not sure, but it's possible another kind of glue may have worked better.

In the 2nd class when the glue was dry, we inked the plates and pulled 2 prints. I don't have enough brayers for each student so I put one tray (we use cookie sheets) of ink and one brayer in the middle of each table. Students at each table took turns printing and helped remind each other of the steps.

The first print was done on 50# drawing paper and the second print was on copy paper. I ordered a case of brightly colored copy paper just for printmaking.

I've found the easiest way to glue yarn onto a surface is to draw the design with bottled glue before tapping the yarn into place.
I don't know about you, but I'm always scanning recycling bins. Sometimes I grab the negatives from die cut shapes and letters. The scraps yielded some of the sharpest images in the prints.
I think I will try to spend some more time playing with collagraph printing this summer.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Primary Weaving- Collaborative & Choice

I introduced a weaving concept to each grade at my primary school.
Kindergarten- Basic idea of weaving- over-under/ collaboration
1st Grade- Paper Weaving options
2nd Grade- Embellishing options for paper weaving
3rd Grade- Yarn weaving

Instead of asking each Kindergarten student to complete their own weaving project, I really just wanted them to understand what weaving is and to practice the over-under pattern. My first idea was to have each Kindergartener take a short break from their choice project to come to my table and practice weaving one strip in one of the large paper looms (12x18 inches) I'd cut for each class. After each student finished his/her strip, they wrote their name on one of the squares they'd created.

That proved to be a time consuming venture. After two days, a better idea came to me. After the introduction in my last Kindergarten classes, I sent students back to their tables where they worked with their groups to weave strips through 9x12 inch paper looms I'd precut. Not only was it faster, there was teamwork and problem solving. Only one student wove at a time, but they helped each other remember the pattern.

Other than in Kindergarten and 1st grade, weaving projects were optional for the students. Not all of the 2nd graders chose to weave paper, but I think all but a few 3rd graders did because they were SO excited about using yarn. I've found that the easiest looms for students to use are made from foam trays. The space between the suspended yarn and the bottom of the tray makes it easier for students than weaving on a flat surface. We displayed the yarn weaving projects by stapling the piece to a 6x9 inch piece of paper labeled with the student's  name.

Many students tried cutting different designs in the planning of their paper looms. The students who wanted a more traditional grid-like weaving used a precut 1 inch strip to trace the lines they would soon cut.
 Some 1st graders used their paper weavings as an interesting background for something else.
 Here are some 2nd grade projects exploring more ideas for embellishing weavings. From left to right, there is a weaving project with a handprint, weaving through painted paper, weaving through a marker drawing of tie-dye, and circles collaged on top with the letters of the student's name on top.
 Weaving projects with stamped paint on top.
More students want to do extra work outside of class on yarn weaving than on any other project. This student stuck to the rainbow pattern for the entire project. She worked on it in art class for a few weeks before taking scraps to finish it during recess.

Weaving has proven to be a very engaging project for my students over the last few years. Weaving is also one of the lowest cost projects. The looms were made either from meat trays I saved and sanitized at home or from recycled cardboard or mat board. I've also picked up 2 trash bags full of yarn at garage sales for under $5 total. It lasts a long time! I did buy some plastic weaving needles and though they were also very affordable, they are not necessary. Students can weave just using their fingers.

Over the summer I hope to try weaving a pouch. I've seem some lessons online but haven't yet had time to give it a go.

Do your students love weaving as much as mine?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Recycled Art Challenge (Continued)

In honor of Earth Day, my 2nd and 3rd grade students participated in a "Recycled Art Challenge" where they had 2 class periods and a ton of different "recycled" materials with which to make something. The project could be 2D or 3D, but most went 3D. We saw lots of collaboration and creativity. I already shared a few photos a few weeks ago (see here) but I wanted to share some more photos of the students' art as well as a list of their favorite materials (at the bottom of this post).

Above we have a pop monster and a collaborative Minnie and Mickey Mouse project. The pop monster (my term) was made of a pop can, 6 bottle caps, a bunch of pop tabs, curling ribbon, tissue paper, and cardboard. Mickey and Minnie were made by two friends. One student made each figure but they worked to make their sculptures match. They used paper towel tubes for the bodies and juice can lids (tons were donated) for the heads. The idea came to them after seeing the red and white polka dotted wrapping paper scraps I brought in. The bow was made from tissue paper and Mickey's shorts were made from scrap paper in the collage center.
There were probably 6 students working on the landscape theme. Some worked with partners and a couple worked individually. They used old file folders as a base and tissue paper, ribbon, can lids, and watercolor wells for the flowers and trees. The nest in the tree on the left was made from leftover shredded newspaper from the Bird Nest lesson I taught 4 years ago. Yes, that's a long time to keep shredded paper, but I bet some of you have held on to random supplies longer than that! :)
Here we have a textured collage and an alligator or crocodile, whichever does not show its teeth with a closed mouth. The alligator/crocodile was made from egg cartons, cardboard, tissue paper, and bottle caps.
 An art creature and glass of lemonade... The art creature has colored pencil stub legs and watercolor well eyes. The lemonade gets color from tissue paper.
One of my ASD students is kind of obsessed with computers. He was always asking if I had any computer magazines for collages and wanted to spend any time he could get away with talking about computers. I was not surprised when he whipped this laptop out for his project. He used a piece of drawing paper for the base, bubble wrap for the keyboard, and some foam packing sheets for the screen. He used cereal boxes to make the frame and buttons.
 Several students wanted to make rooms. The top left shows a folded paper base with magazine cut out pop-ups. The top right is a bathroom. I like the sink the best. He found one of those flattened blue marbles (my elementary school counselor called them dragon tears) for water and used watercolor wells for all the basins after constructing the walls from cardboard.
 Here's another room. The student would have added more details if she hadn't run out of time.
 I should have taken a photo of this project from another angle. She spent a lot of time wrapping the different parts in tissue paper. The stem is a paper towel tube and the leaf is cut cardboard.
 There were lots of "machine" models made. Lots of cars, tanks, cannons, etc. The student who made the above tank figured out how to make it "shoot" marker caps. When he pushes a new cap through, the front cap shoots out!

Here are my students' Top 10 Favorite Materials for the Recycled Art Challenge

  1. Cardboard tubes (paper towel and toilet paper)
  2. Egg cartons
  3. Can lids (with smooth edges, of course)
  4. Bottle caps
  5. Pop tabs
  6. Tissue paper (saved from holidays and birthdays)
  7. Cardboard (saved from boxes)
  8. Bubble wrap (saved from shipments)
  9. Play-doh lids
  10. Parts from old watercolor trays- the wells and the "ladders"
Another favorite material that was not exactly recycled, but was leftover from some project and donated, was burlap! We had it in blue, green, yellow, and red. It was really fun for them. I wish I would have thought to bring more fabric scraps from home.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Multicultural Art Education: Inspiration from Kehinde Wiley

This semester I am enrolled in a Multicultural Art Education course. I think I expected to learn how to use art and artists from "other" cultures- meaning "other" countries- in my lesson plans but I was pleasantly surprised with the focus on contemporary artists and the idea of my students' individual cultures playing in to the term. We read textbook chapters but we also watched some great videos, including Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk, The danger of a single story and a short film, Identity. We've also discussed gender issues, representations of beauty in the media, and more.

     For our final project, we were to choose a contemporary "multicultural" artist whose work interested us and create a work of art inspired by them. I was in the mood for a portrait so I chose Kehinde Wiley. Wiley's portraits definitely make you stop and look. Before I read anything about his work, I was just drawn to the patterns and detail of his figures. I noticed that all of the models fit into minority groups and I noticed that some of the poses seemed familiar. After doing some reading and watching a PBS documentary about a series of paintings Kehinde Wiley was working on, I learned that his idea of painting minority figures in poses pulled from grand paintings in art history is in response to visiting art museums as a child and not seeing anyone that looked like him. Wiley is intentionally claiming a place for those minority figures, usually absent from art history, and he is being very bold about it. 
     The figures in the paintings are not just placeholders- they are powerful! Though the pose comes from art history and the attention paid to rendering the portrait is also reminiscent of the strong history of portraits, the rest of the painting is very contemporary. The models, whom Wiley finds and casts while walking the streets of Harlem or other locations from which he is working, choose how to present themselves to be photographed. The models are most often photographed wearing their street clothes; the models control how their identity will be portrayed. The other contemporary twist on Wiley’s paintings is that he replaces the scenery of the background with ornate decorative motifs, which remove from the painting "any sense of place or location" (http://kehindewiley.com/about/)
     Though there are some women in Wiley’s paintings, including an entire series entitled “An Economy of Grace”, most of his portraits are of young men. Instead of using a male model, I wanted to empower one of my female students. I think being asked to model was a confidence boost for the students who posed for me. It was like telling them, “Yes, you, YOU, are worthy of this. You are worth recording in paint, just as you are.”
         I came up with a short list of works from art history and visual culture that featured women and photographed several students in those poses. The images I referenced were Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (1665), the “Nefertiti Bust” (New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, 1340 BC), Nickolas Muray’s 1939 photo of Frida Kahlo, “Frida on a White Bench”, and the “We Can Do It!” (1943) propaganda poster created by J. Howard Miller during WWII.
One of the first "sketches"
     After reviewing my reference photos, I quickly narrowed it down to one student, a 5th grader named Jaliah, who had the right “girl power” attitude I was looking for in the photos. I played with ideas to turn in my first set of “sketches” created in Adobe Photoshop to receive feedback from my classmates. In the first set of sketches, I was undecided on how to handle the background so I tried several ideas. I love the patterns that Wiley uses in his paintings but I didn’t want to copy his style too closely.
     I photographed Jaliah a second time when she was wearing her favorite colorful jacket. It is much easier to roll up a real long sleeve than a short one so it made more sense in the “We Can Do It!” pose, which is the idea I chose.  I took the advice of my classmates and went with a patterned background created from manipulating a WWII era textile print.

     I took a note from Kehinde Wiley and used a projector to trace the composition on to my canvas- two photos were merged to use the face from one and the body from the other, and the altered textile print. I painted the patterned background first, using acrylic paints for a speedier drying time.
Next, I started working on the skin tone, layering in colors of oil paint.
When the skin was mostly complete, I started to work on the fabric.
I continued to work on the skin and the face, making small adjustments.
Overall, I am very pleased with the finished painting. Other than some murals, this was the most time-intensive painting I’ve ever made, timed at a minimum of 18 hours just physically painting and who knows how many in planning.
I knew something was off just a little bit. The painting of Jaliah looks older than a 5th grader. When I saw her standing next to it, I finally realized that I had a slightly different angle on the face and the body photos I merged, making her face look fuller and her look more mature. I showed the painting to Jaliah and the rest of her class and after we convinced them that I really did paint HER, she exclaimed “but I suuuuure do look like a woman!” I think the goal of empowering a student through this project was achieved. I’m titling the painting “Jaliah Can Do It."

References
Johnson, L., Chermayeff, M., Chermayeff, J., Veselic, A. (2014). Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace [Television series episode]. In PBS Arts. PBS.

Kehinde Wiley Studio KW Studio. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.kehindewiley.com/about/