Monday, December 21, 2009

4th Grade Geometric Shape Op Art

Op Art is a style of art that confuses the visual senses by generating optical vibrations or ambiguous or undulating spatial relationships. I created the Op Art picture above to introduce the style of Op Art we would be creating to my students.

4th grade students brought together art, math, and science when they created their own Op Art using geometric shapes and complementary colors. First the students practiced measuring skills by using a ruler to create a grid. Next, the students chose geometric shapes and arranged them over the grid. I had a list of shapes that will show up on the Math State Assessment so I created (labeled) laminated shape stencils for them to trace. Finally complementary colors were chosen and added to the artwork. Complementary colors are opposite on the color wheel so the color relationship enhanced the optical vibrations.

This is probably the most successful student example.

I don't know how successful this project was overall. Most of the students acted like they had never used a ruler before. Maybe they haven't. Maybe I'll try it again after they have had me as an art teacher for a couple years. Even after I demonstrated measuring, marking every inch, using the ruler to draw a straight line, reviewing, reviewing, and reviewing some more, I couldn't believe how many different ways the students came up with to not follow directions! Some didn't measure all. Some got WAY off on their measurements. Some only measured on one side and tried to eyeball it to make a straight line to the other side. Some measured all four sides but didn't use the ruler to draw the connecting line. Some measured correctly but didn't line up the ruler.

Then the color part was tricky and I understood that. I really don't think it was too hard for the students but a lot of times they convince themselves that it is before they even try! The project was done in about 2 and a half 40 minute class periods and almost all of them could have used more time. The project had to end with the semester so several students took their drawings with them to finish.

Most of the examples I used to introduce Op Art were found on the Scientific American website in the article from November 18, 2008 called

Art as Visual Research: 12 Examples of Kinetic Illusions in Op Art

The article included useful information and a slideshow of examples.

Bridget Riley and Op Art <--- Cool recording of her speaking about colors


  1. I thought my students (11-12 years old) were the only ones who were not able to work with a ruler. Your story could have be mine! How recognizable! Although it's a little sad, I couldn't avoid the smile on my face while reading!

  2. Is there a general rule or way to color this type of project?

  3. Nevermind I figured it out. Color the grid first then the designs that overlap... Thanks for the cool idea!

  4. This is my 2nd year teaching art for my son's class. Last year it was second grade, this year, 3rd. Last year I had many of the same struggles that you had. It was really frustrating. Some of the skills I thought 2nd graders should have, most didn't. I found simpler is always better. I plan on doing this project in a couple of days, but I am being a little proactive. Instead of having the students do the measuring and drawing, I am printing up pages that I created in Excel where all the measuring is completed. All they have to do is color. I think that in itself will be hard enough. I will let you know how that went.