Tag: art project

Teaching Abstract Art: When the Simplest Concepts are Actually the Most Complex

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Abstract art is one of my favorite types of art and it’s an art form that I always include in my high school art curriculum. It can be hit and miss, some years they get it and run with it, other years it’s like pulling teeth. Despite my mixed results I am committed to always including it in my lessons because it can be under-appreciated by those who don’t understand it. AKA, please don’t tell me “I could’ve done that.” Because guess what, you didn’t.

Abstract art may look simple, but it is in fact one of the most complex forms of art and reflects a much higher level of thinking (yes, there is a lot of thinking that goes on in art making). Because of this fact I was very wary of doing an abstract art project with my advanced class this year. They are a wonderful group of kids, but overall their technical ability and creativity level is lower than what I typically have in my advanced classes. My tried and true projects were very hit and miss this year, and I felt like a failure of a teacher. I just couldn’t figure out my “in” with them.

So of course, knowing all of this information I decided to develop a new abstract art project that was bigger than ever and more open ended than over. I was convinced it was going to fail miserably, but I continued down the path anyway.

I attribute the formation of this new lesson to watching cartoons with my two year old. We were deep into watching Inside Out for the 1000th time when the abstract thought scene came up. If you have never seen it, Google it, it’s an amazing explanation. The characters show the progression of abstract thought through verbal and visual explanations. The characters literally abstract before your eyes. The light bulb turned on.

I put together a PowerPoint including a link to the clip (plus a few other video clips) and three abstract artists to show examples of the three main elements in abstract art: Piet Mondrian for line, Wassily Kandinksy for shape, and Mark Rothko for color. The only guidelines I gave my students were it must emphasize either line, shape, or color (all three will be included, but one will be showcased) as well as balance, unity, and a focal point. The three elements are the building blocks and the three principles are what make it a successful work of art.

I was so worried. Typically with my abstract projects I have my students start with a concrete base, such as a photograph of a landscape or an object, and I help them simplify and abstract it before they start painting it. But this project took it to a new level, it was high level problem solving. I set them off to work and as always with a new project I worked on my example along with them.

Each student got a 36″x48″ canvas. This was the largest any of them had ever worked. I sent them off to sketch and I began to work on mine. I decided I wanted to focus on cool colors, with pops of warm, incorporate an acrylic pour somehow and emphasize line. In my head I wanted the organic shapes of the acrylic pour pattern juxtaposed with the geometric lines. First I painted the entire canvas using the cool colors I planned to incorporate into the stripes.

Next, I used a ruler to create a line pattern. I had a loose idea to focus on diagonal lines, but from there I started laying the lines out and made adjustments as I went.

Once I felt confident with my pattern I began filling it in.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I wanted the bright orange to help create a focal point.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Again, I had a loose idea of the colors I wanted and would scatter them around the canvas before starting another. I would periodically take a step back to make sure the colors looked balanced before adding more.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I wanted the background to make up some of the stripes and as I began filling in the lines I decided I wanted to have more of a variety of shapes, rather than the same width lines covering the entire piece. To create that look I didn’t fill in large chunks of the lines and instead left the background showing through.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I waited until closer to the end to add more orange stripes to make sure they remained the focal point. At this point I loved the piece. I began questioning whether or not to add the acrylic pour aspect. But, I decided to follow through with my plan. The organic look of the pour would either elevate it, or hurt it, but at least I had photographic evidence of this point in case I hated the final version. Plus, you can always paint over what you don’t like.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I didn’t want the acrylic pour to look like a paint spill on top of my piece. I wanted it to look intentionally included. To achieve this I decided to let it fill in some of the strips, but have clean strips cutting through it. I carefully taped up specific sections and tried to visualize where the paint would fall.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

At this point I had never done an acrylic pour before. One of my students was familiar with the process, and she did some on her abstract acrylic. I read a few how tos, watched a few videos and carefully watched her technique before trying it on my own (once my class had dismissed just in case it was an epic fail). I put my acrylic paint colors in individual cups and mixed it with water, floetrol, and tested some rubbing alcohol on a few. I poured the smaller cups into a larger one, alternating the colors.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Full discloser, the first pour was a HUGE failure! I didn’t thin the paint enough and it ended up being a huge glob of paint that would not spread. I quickly wiped all the paint off and had a moment of silence for the wasted supplies. Attempt two went much better. I still sweated a bit as I tried to spread the paint while maintaining the beautiful cells, it’s way harder than it looks.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

After layer one I decided I wanted a little more, so I did a final pour on the lower half.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

After letting it dry overnight the moment of truth came and I began peeling off the tape. I was slightly disappointed, the paint still seeped under the edges of the tape, which meant a lot of clean up, but I was excited about the potential. After a lot of cleaning up edges I decided I was very pleased with the end result.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

And the best part is the tape will make an amazing visual journal page in the near future.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

In case you are wondering this project ended up being the most successful project of the year. All of my students excelled and these large scale abstract acrylics made beautiful and impressive additions to our annual art show. I don’t know if I can attribute the success to my enthusiasm for it, working along with them, breaking it down into basics, or my Inside Out clip, but whatever it was I will take a win at the end of the school year.

If you are interested in learning more about this project check out my Teachers Pay Teachers lesson plan here. It is designed for advanced or AP art level high school art students, but I believe the basics can be kept and it be sized down for earlier high school or middle school students.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Check out more visual journal pages here and more of my TPT products here. Help spread the word by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.
How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Teachers Pay Teachers: Principles of Design Worksheet Pack

So far this summer I have enjoyed a break from my normal teaching schedule, a trip to South Africa, Hilton Head Island, Smith Lake, and I’ve been getting extra snuggles from my little man Cooper. In addition to traveling and snuggling, I have also been working hard to get new items posted on Teachers Pay Teachers. Last year my August and September earnings from the website funded a trip to Europe for my husband and I. This year, and for the foreseeable future, I hope to save my earnings for a home renovation. It’s a big goal I have set for myself, but I am confident with a lot of hard work I can get there.

My last post, over two months ago {whoops} focused on one of my newest Teacher Pay Teacher products, a revamp of my hand drawn elements of art worksheets. Today, I finally got my final worksheet of my principles of design pack added to the website. Check it out here.

This pack includes eight worksheets. Each worksheet focuses on a different principle of design. I created worksheets for balance, emphasis, movement, proportion, repetition and pattern, rhythm, unity, and variety. On the front of each handout there is information on different ways you can incorporate that principle into your artwork.The back of each worksheet has an activity for the students to complete to test their understanding of the information on the front. I use these in my Introduction to Art classes, which are added to their art notebooks and checked for daily grades at the end of the semester. Now that I have two versions of the elements and principles worksheets, I plan to use one set in my Intro class and one set used as a reminder for an upper level course.

These sheets were created for grades 4th-12th grade. Some have more complex ideas, and may not be suitable for younger than 4th. I would encourage use of these in levels as high as AP art, when the elements and principles are one of the bases for grading the portfolios.

I loved making each of these. Each were inspired by a piece of my life or a simple occurrence at the time I was designing them. My emphasis worksheet is an obvious reflection of my love for chickens. My repetition and pattern worksheet was created on a very rainy day while I was vacationing at Smith Lake in Alabama, which inspired the cloud and water design.

If you haven’t checked out products on Teachers Pay Teachers yet, I strongly encourage it. There are some amazing, creative teachers out there and you are helping to support another person directly involved in education. It has also helped me become a better teacher because I find myself cleaning up my lesson plans and PowerPoints to make them better sellers, and better teaching tools in my classroom.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! I recently did a major design overhaul, I hope you enjoy the cleaner look. Help me spread the word about my Teachers Pay Teachers products, and in turn help me expand my house to fit my expanding family, by sharing this post with others. Thanks for stopping by!

[subscribe2]

Fused Glass Paint: Birch Tree Dinner Plates

Birch Tree Plates

For the last two years I have been experimenting with fused glass with my high school students, and for personal use. I immediately fell in love with the puzzle like method to piecing together my designs. My high schoolers always claim this assignment as one of their favorites. The forgiving nature of glass creates a very predictable outcome (to read more about my fused glass lesson check it out here).

After I got a handle on fused glass basics, I decided to branch out and see what else glass making had to offer. In my pursuit of fusing knowledge, I discovered glass paint. It opened a whole new world of adding design to my pieces, and I have loved every minute of experimenting with it.

Birch Tree Plate Small

Glass paint enables you to easily add organic shapes and designs to your pieces. I now use glass paint to scribbles bird nests, write words, and add the thin lines to my birch tree plates.

To create my birch tree plates I begin with white glass, black and white or blue glass, and a sheet of clear glass. I cut the clear glass to a 10″ circle, then cut strips of white and black glass. I lay them on top of the clear, then cut the edges to curve along the edge of the circular, clear sheet. I alternate the white, for the birch trees, and the other color, for the background. A couple drops of Elmer’s glue helps keep the glass in place as I work.

Birch Tree Plate Back Small

 

Once the clear sheet is filled with the stripes, I flip it over, leaving the clear on top of the striped pattern. I use black glass paint to paint thin lines on the white glass stripes, to add detail to the trees. Every now and then I scribble a tree knot before moving onto the next set of thin lines.

Birch Tree Plate Large

After the details are added I place the glass piece in the kiln, stripes on the bottom, clear sheet in the middle, and glass paint details on top. I fire the kiln up once, to fuse the glass to one layer, then set it in a mold and fire the glass a second time. The glass melts just enough to take the shape of the plate mold.

To read more about the necessary supplies to start glass fusing and get my firing schedules go here. Check out these plates in my Etsy shop here.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and read todays post! Help me spread the word about my blog by sharing it with others on your preferred social networking site. I couldn’t do it without you. Thanks for stopping by!

[subscribe2]

Mixed Media Artwork: “Caged” and “Trapped” Re-Re-Interpreted

A couple of months ago I posted about a student’s reinterpretation of my pieces, “Caged” and “Trapped“. I was incredibly flattered as an artist and high school art teacher that she chose me to study for her high school art project. I answered a few questions about myself and my artwork, and asked only that she send me an update with pictures when her piece was complete. As soon as her e-mail came through I couldn’t help bragging on her (and myself) by sharing it on my blog (check it out here).

Shortly after I was contacted by Amy I received an e-mail from another student, Alice, regarding her high school art project:Mixed-Media-Caged-and-Trapped-1024x485

“Hello, my name is Alice. At the moment I’m doing my GCSE art, and my chosen topic is caged. So that is how I found ur very unique and quirky art, “Caged” and “Trapped”. Which I can honestly say I love, with the tones of blues used. At the moment we are branching out our ideas by looking at other artists, so I chose u as an artist. However, while looking at ur website, I found no information about u, would it be okay if u could please allow me to have some information about ur education, and why u really become inspired by art and interested in many different types of craft art. Thank you very much for reading.”

I couldn’t believe it, once again I was being interviewed, studied, and presented by a student. I excitedly answered her questions about my background, making me realize I really need to include an artist bio/statement on my blog, and once again I asked if she could send me images of her final project. As spring semester came and went, followed quickly by summer, Alice’s project was pushed to the back corners of my brain, until last week when I received an e-mail with photo attachments:

“Hello, you probably don’t remember me but I e-mailed you late January time explaining that I had took GCSE art and my chosen topic was caged. I Caged Interpratedpromised myself then and there, that I would e-mail you once I had got my results for my GCSE art. This was because you were such a key influence in how I explored the topic and how I made it my own. I become quite obsessed with blues and mixed media, and am still obsessed with it now, after your piece “Caged” and “Trapped” (which I love so much). So I would like to say thank you, for being such an inspiration for me. And also, I managed to get an A* in my art, which I’m rather chuffed with (A* is the top grade). I have also attached some photos, I’m afraid I never photographed my final exam piece, of trapped, but have added some of my own pieces that I did and my final exam piece which is the artwork with a hand holding a vulnerable child. But to end this e-mail, I’d like to say again, just thank you very much.”

About Me Assignment

I absolutely love seeing how my work can influence someone else, it’s incredibly flattering for someone to use the words “inspirational” and influential” about me. Moments like this make me feel like a true artist, rather than a weekend creator and afternoon blogger.

Alice and her Work

In addition to boosting my ego I also love seeing what assignments students are doing in other art classes, especially in other countries. I enjoyed seeing her sketchbook about my artwork as well as other assignments she completed in and out of class. Based on her sketchbook assignments, I am very impressed with the amount of planning and prep that goes into each project. Alice is obviously a talented young artist and I hope she keep sup the good work! She just might have inspired me to have my students research and contact their favorite artists to see if they can also make someone’s day.

Artwork by Alice

Thanks for taking the time to read my post! Help me spread the word by sharing with others, I can’t do it without you! Thanks for stopping by!

[subscribe2]

Art Lesson: Collaborative Relief

IMG_5674

At my previous school I always taught a lesson on the grid method by creating a collaborative grid with my students. Each student would get a section of the original image, and they had to enlarge and re-draw it. In order to accurately re-draw the image they had to pay attention to where lines and shapes intersected the outside edge of the image, which in turn taught them the basic concept of the grid method (read more about this here).

In the process of changing schools I also changed my teaching title, which meant a lot of new lesson planning was ahead of me. I was now exclusively a sculpture teacher, teaching 3D I and 3D II classes. Although I had taught sculpture in the past, and spent a lot of time in ceramics class in high school and college, I felt a lot of pressure to re-create assignments, and think outside of the box. After all I was moving to a private school with an established and impressive art department, I felt I had big shoes to fill in my new work environment.

Although it has been stressful at times trying to produce examples and create new projects, I have loved every minute of it. It truly is amazing how different a class can be when you actually have the budget to support it. I now had the ability to teach interesting, complex, and creative projects, without the fear of running out of supplies with no money left in my budget.

As excited as I was to have a new challenge in my life, I did miss some of my old projects, including my Intro to Art collaborative grid assignment. One day while reminiscing on the past, as I often do, it dawned on me that I could do a collaborative grid project in sculpture, by focusing on relief carving. I had my doubts that everything would come together during the project, but once all of the pieces were in place, I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked. I am so proud of my students and I hope another sculpture teacher can find an interesting way to implement this into their class.

IMG_5679

THE ASSIGNMENT: Collaborative Relief

OBJECTIVE: For students to learn the history and techniques of relief carving, and apply those techniques in a collaborative relief carving project.

SUPPLIES:

  • Lizella Clay
  • Rolling pin or slab roller
  • Ruler
  • Needle tool or knife
  • A variety of clay tools and textured items to carve and add texture
  • Low fire underglaze (I used blue, green, red, brown)
  • Low fire clear transparent glaze
  • Kiln
  • Wood panel
  • Black Paint
  • Heavy duty glue

STEPS:

1. I began this project by introducing my students to the artists, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, and the famous Florence Baptistry doors competition. I had the students vote on which “Sacrafice of Isaac” relief they liked better, and we continued to discuss the doors as well as the Gates of Paradise doors.

2. After the history lesson I introduced the assignment. I explained that I would randomly hand out a 1″x1″ section of a larger image, and they would have to recreate it as a relief sculpture on a 6″x6″ clay slab. We discussed carving techniques and looked at the variety of tools they could use to create different textures.

3. After the assignment was explained they got to work. Before they started the project I had taken an image of our Fine Arts building, divided it into a grid, and put a number and letter on the back of each square (1A, 1B, 1C, etc.). I made sure to make a few copies, the students tend to misplace their squares and it helps to have extras on hand. As soon as the students got their slab square cut they had to flip it over and carve the letter and number into the back of it.

4. After the students completed their squares I fired them and had the students glaze them. I knew every line and shape would not line up in the image, so my goal was to create a sense of unity through the glaze. I instructed the students to loosely paint underglaze onto their tile (I set up a few colors of blue, green, brown, and red) allow it to dry, then wipe it off with a wet sponge. This technique caused the underglaze to stick in the textured areas, and wipe off of the smooth area, giving it a loosely painted quality. Once the colors were added they painted a layer of clear glaze on top, and once again wiped it off. I loved the shiny vs. matte look this created.

5. Once the pieces were fired a final time I glued them to a piece of wood I cut to size and painted black. My plan is to eventually add a black frame and display it in the Fine Arts Building.

IMG_5682

My students were as impressed as I was with the final product, and it was a huge hit at our annual art show. I love how each piece is important to the whole, and how it truly came together in the end.

IMG_5680

Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you find useful information you can use in your classroom! Please comment if you have additional tips, ideas, or have done something similar in your class! Thanks for helping my spread the word about my blog by liking, tweeting, commenting, and subscribing! I couldn’t do it without you!

[subscribe2]