Ancient Greek pottery was the inspiration for this project. I thought the students were going to be studying Greece at the time of the lesson but the schedule had changed. Guess they just got a little preview. The students viewed (described, analyzed, interpreted, and judged) images of Greek pottery and discussed the positive and negative space relationships, the monochromatic silhouettes, and how the images showed action to tell a story. The students thought of their favorite things to do and chose one activity to show in their silhouette paintings.
I really liked the image below and the students were excited to find out that the central figures on the pot are boxing! I called on individual students to make observations about the pot and after they had shared their initial observations, we just went through each of the elements of art and discussed how each is used on the pot. The pot, a three-dimensional work of art with two-dimensional surface decoration allowed for a great discussion on positive and negative space. I like to tell them that negative space is the space around a space to get their attention! The actual pot is positive space and the empty area around it and through the handles is negative space. When it comes to the decoration, the figures and designs in the darker color are positive and the lighter color (empty space) is negative space.
I told the students that the figures and props in their paintings were going to be one solid color to make the entire work monochromatic (mono= one, chromatic= color). A monochromatic color scheme uses tints and shades of one color. A tint is a color with white added to it and a shade is a color with black added to it. I had a wooden drawing model that I put behind a piece of fabric serving as a makeshift curtain to show them a silhouette but it was still hard for the students to grasp that everything they drew was going to be one solid color. I finally thought to remind them of the iPod commercials that showed the silhouette and that helped. I happily made a fool of myself to demonstrate finding the best angle to show the action of the activity the students had chosen. I asked for ideas they had come up with and showed a straight-on and profile view and talked about which would be a better choice for each.
The students didn't have very much experience drawing figures so I told them just to do their best. Before they started drawing, I talked about the ancient Greek ideas of the "ideal" human proportions. I told them that we didn't need to worry about faces since just the silhouette is shown but that your foot is the same size as your head and that your body is about 8 heads high. The students in the first 6th grade class didn't believe me so I had one of the students measure my head. Then we got to integrate math! The student said my head measured 8 inches so we multiplied that by 8 to get 64 inches. They I had the students divide 64 by 12 to convert the inches to feet. We came up with 5' 4". I am really 5' 7" but I told them that is pretty close! The students chose a piece of construction paper and spent the first class drawing the silhouettes in pencil. I normally have assigned seats but to make it easier to handle paint for the second class, I grouped the student by the color of paper they had chosen. I passed out pretty small brushes and the students painted in their figures/props. We need to keep working on craftsmanship but here are a few of the more successful student examples: