Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4th Grade Ndebele-Inspired Plaster Paintings

In my last post I told you a little bit about traditional houses of the Ndebele tribe in Southern Africa. My 5th graders made paintings inspired by the outside of their houses while 4th grade students made artwork inspired by the inside. From Evergreen.edu,
"The second form of early designs were made by dragging the fingers through wet plaster, usually cow dung, to leave a variety of markings, from squiggles and zigzags to straight lines. In this form of painting, the entire wall was divided into sections, and each section was filled in with contrasting finger paint patterns..."

When I read the part about dragging fingers through wet plaster, I just could NOT get that idea out of my head! I knew that there were several small boxes of plaster left from who knows how many art teachers before me and I had never had a use for it before. I decided to do some experimenting and find a way to use it for this project.  I do not have very much any real experience working with plaster so I learned on the fly. My first experiment was just a regular plaster/water mixture on cardboard which obviously flaked right off when it dried. Next, I tried mixing in glue and mod podge and that seemed to do the trick. It was kind of hard to get the right consistency every time so it worked really well in some classes and not that well in others. I finally figured out that part of my problem was the container I mixed it in. The first class of the day went really well. When I tried to mix more plaster in the same container, I hadn't had time to clean out the first batch of plaster so it reincorporated and ended up really lumpy. Just wish I would have realized it sooner! Modeling Paste would be a MUCH better choice than plaster for this project but I didn't have any on hand and couldn't order any supplies yet.

The first class was a quick introduction and demonstration. Each student got a piece of cardboard (I chopped cereal boxes into pieces) and wrote their name on the back. I went around and dumped some of the plaster mixture on each piece. The students spread the plaster quickly then used their fingers to divide it into sections and draw lines to make patterns in each. Some designs were pretty complicated and some were very simple based on how the students figured out to manipulate the plaster. When it didn't work out, it was more my fault than the students'. I told them that we were just trying something new to see how it would work and reminded them that we can learn even from "failures". I don't have any pictures from the first day because I was covered with plaster and didn't want my camera to be too!

In the second class, we reviewed different color schemes (warm, cool, complementary, monochromatic, neutral, primary secondary, etc.) and the students were supposed to pick one color scheme to use on their paintings. Some stuck with their scheme and some got confused and used different colors but that's ok, too.  I did suggest using one color to paint the grooves from their fingers to make it easier to see the pattern. Prior to the painting session, I did quite a bit of work. The cardboard was bowed and I saw some really cool designs just starting to chip off. I was too stubborn to give up on the project, so I sort of glued as much of the plaster back to the cardboard as I could using bottled glue and mod podge. I also found that mod podge worked really well to seal everything back together after the projects were painted.
Bowed cardboard...
I'm filing this project in my "maybe try it again someday with better materials" category.
Complementary color scheme
Primary colors
Warm colors
Neutral colors- this one reminds me of a rib cage
Intricate design with cool colors

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea! Thank you for sharing it. I think your student examples look terrific.