Tag: painting

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.

Homemade Valentines with a Toddler (and paint)

This year is the first year Cooper gets to celebrate Valentine’s day at school. Last year, as a one year old, he was a little too young to participate in the festivities. But this year, he gets to exchange valentines in the big kid room. We were asked to bring in 19 valentines to exchange with all the students at his daycare. I decided while he is still young enough to not have an opinion about what valentines to bring, we would make our own. Plus the art teacher/mom in me thought it would be fun to have a craft project over a very rainy weekend. 

We started by using the easel he got for Christmas. I limited his color choices to pink, white, and silver, gave him two brushes, and let him go to town. I did encourage him to cover the entire page, but other than that, this was 95% Cooper painted. I decided to use the paper that came with his easel since it was large and already attached to the easel, but if I could go back I would’ve used a thicker paper instead.

We painted two large sheets of paper using pink, white, and silver, then let them dry overnight. The next day we flipped them over and painted the back of the sheets with red and glitter red paint. I was much smarter first time around, having Cooper paint without a shirt on. I forgot to take his very white shirt off before painting with very red paint. Luckily, we were using washable paint, so the paint that inevitably ended up all over his shirt came out after just one wash.

After we finished painting and the paint had dried, we started adding some other decorations. One of Cooper’s favorite parts was stamping with the heart stamp.

Next, I began cutting up the sheets of paper into smaller valentine size pieces.

After cutting and folding them, we punched out heart and star shapes. I kept the pink and white on the outside and red on the inside so the heart cut outs would pop. The heart puncher was very hard to push down, so I handled those, while cooper added the stars.

After we punched, added a few more stamps, and some colored pencil scribbles, I had Cooper put a sparkly heart sticker on the inside of each one.

This year I handled the name signing. We will work on his alphabet so maybe he can sign a few next year.

To finish them off we stuffed them in envelopes with a handful of sparkly, foam, Valentine themed stickers.

I love the homemade look of these valentines. I know this will probably be one of the only times I get the chance to do this. I’m sure Cooper will be seduced by the action heroes, minions, and other fun characters that cover the not as fun and unique valentines in the stores. Until then, I will soak up every minute of craft time with my little.

I hope you enjoyed this Valentine post on Valentine’s day. Help me spread the word about crafting with littles, art, visual journals, and all things crafty by sharing it with others. Thanks for stopping by!

Adventures in making homemade valentines with a two year old, and paint, and stamps, and stickers, and so much more.

Teaching Watercolor to High Schoolers (when you don’t know how)

 

Every year I teach a landscape, architecture watercolor painting to my advanced level high school art students. The first year I taught it, I had to first teach myself how to use watercolors. Read how I did it in this post and check out a link to my lesson plan and resources.

A few years ago I began teaching a painting class, after taking a a three year break to focus on ceramics and sculpture. While I loved teaching 3D art, I was excited to move back to the two dimensional world. I always loved painting. and couldn’t wait to teach a course that focused on it. However, in order to teach a well rounded painting course I knew I would have to teach watercolor. And I hated watercolor.

My mom is an amazing watercolorist. Not only was she an amazing watercolorist, she was also an amazing portrait artist. Two skills that I am not naturally gifted at. Growing up I remember a number of times when my mom attempted to teach me watercolor techniques. Despite her many tips and suggestions, I was impatient and couldn’t wrap my head around the need to plan ahead and work in layers.

At the point when I took over the painting and advanced 2D courses, and realized I would have to teach an advanced level watercolor project, I had yet to create a successful watercolor painting. It was time. I was going to have to learn to properly paint with watercolors, because I was about to have to teach it.

How to paint a path using watercolor paints.

I started with the basics. I needed to plan ahead and pace myself. I knew from experience if you went too heavy too quick you could never get back to whites and lighter colors. Watercolor is about glazing, adding thin layers on top of each other, and letting the layers dry in between, to create detail, depth, and build in shadows.

I began doing watercolor testers. First, just blobs of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding other material such as salt. I watched YouTube videos and checked out a few watercolor books. Next, I began combining the techniques to create simple landscapes. The above path started with wet watercolor, allowing the first layer to dry, then adding in dark shades. I left lighter areas untouched, and tried not to go too heavy too quick. The final layers involved adding the detail such as the grass. I didn’t shy away from incorporating other colors, such as blue and purple, into the shadows.

How to paint a floral bush with watercolor paint.

I continued to work with combining techniques, planning ahead, and building my color in layers. I had my mom once again show me her techniques, and began thinking and applying them in a different way than I had before. I realized at heart, I am an oil painter. I like to throw down color, mix it together, and cover up mistakes as a I go. You don’t have the luxury of that with watercolor. You must plan ahead. You must work slow. You must think highlights vs. shadows before you lay them down. I had to change the way I thought about painting in order to successfully complete a watercolor.

For the example above I tested wet on wet by wetting my paper first, then adding green, yellow, and blue watercolor. I allowed the first layer to dry, then added brown and more blue to push my shadows and value. I then used a mostly dry brush and painted in a floral shape.

The first steps in watercolor painting, doing a base sketch and inking.

Once I felt confident in the watercolor techniques I was testing, I decided it was time to start my project example. The assignment was for my Advanced 2D art class, the last step before AP Art. They had to select a part of our school’s campus to turn into a watercolor painting. They could go inside, outside, it was up to them, but it had to have some sort of architectural feature in it. This assignment forced them to go out and take pictures to work from, making them consider angles, framing, and composition. It required them to focus on perspective and lines, with the architectural element. And it also focused on honing their watercolor techniques to create a realistic image.

Although they were focusing on a section of the school, I encouraged them to think about what part of the school was important to them. Where was their favorite class? Where did they spend the most time? What space best reflected their view of the school? While I focused on our school for this project, it’s also a great opportunity to have students think personally, and bring in a photograph of a place that is important to them.

For my example, I did not focus on a section of the school. Instead, I opted to kill two birds with one stone, complete an example and create a wedding present for my brother-in-law and his wife. I chose an image of their wedding venue, a beautiful southern house called Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

There are two ways I like to do my examples. The first, is complete them before my class starts the assignment to make sure I like it and it will be successful. The other way is to do it along with them. I chose option B for this project, which was scary since I was not confident in my watercolor ability. The benefit of working on my painting along with my students is I can tell them what issues I come across as I work through them. It also allows me to continue demonstrating techniques throughout the project. And although I wasn’t very confident in my watercolor painting abilities, it showed them that I could do it. I kept telling them if I could do it, they absolutely could as well.

Before I introduced the watercolor project, I completed my base drawing. I used pencil, then went ahead and traced over the lines using a waterproof pen. I kept the ink lines tight in sections I knew would be in full view, and loosened up in the areas that would have foliage overlapping it. I at least wanted to base drawing to be complete, so when I introduced the project I could go ahead and demonstrate some watercolor techniques.

A partially finished watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

Next, I began painting. First of all, I apologize for the huge jump from zero paint to 75% complete. I always intend to photograph throughout the process, but I often get caught up in what I am doing. I started with the sky, using wet on wet and blotting out the clouds. Next, I went into the roof and walls of the building using a combination of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding salt for texture. I then continued adding details and blocking out color for the background.

As I continued to add detail I slowly built up the shadows and was very careful not to go too dark too quick. I constantly told my students they could always go darker, but couldn’t go lighter. They were going to paint the painting at least four times through the layering technique.

A watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

The final touches came with the trees and bushes that overlapped the front of the building and were the darkest color. I then went back in with pen and added more lines as needed.

I was very pleased with the final product and with myself for pushing out of my comfort zone by tackling a medium I had never liked before. Since this painting was completed, I have done a number of other landscape and architecture watercolor paintings. I have a new found love for it, and although it will never be my first choice, it isn’t one I will shy away from anymore.

A framed watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.I matted and framed the painting for them as a Christmas gift. I hope they cherish is for years to come.

My students’ painting also turned out beautifully. I love putting the campus painting on display in the school. It gives the faculty, administrators, and student body a chance to see their school in a different light. It’s always interesting to see what part of the school they choose to focus on.

Megan and Vince were married in gardens right next to the plantation home. It was beautiful with the Spanish moss and pond as a backdrop to the beautiful wedding party, bride, and groom. The reception took place on the porch of the house. It was an amazing day from start to finish.

A photograph at the pier in Folley Beach, SC

This was a picture of my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and myself during the wedding weekend. It was so much fun celebrating with the Panetta family and witnessing Vince and Megan’s commitment to each other. Nick and I also announced the coming of our first baby the same weekend, who is now a two year old wild man Cooper.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! You can find the lesson plan and all the resources I use to teach this watercolor project at my TPT store here. I have also created watercolor how to posters here and here. Also check out different ways I use watercolor in my visual journal here and here. Help me spread the word by sharing this post on your social media site of choice. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Every year I teach a landscape, architecture watercolor painting to my advanced level high school art students. The first year I taught it, I had to first teach myself how to use watercolors. Read how I did it in this post and check out a link to my lesson plan and resources.

Combining Drawing and Technology into GIFs

Over the summer, one of my goals for my Teachers Pay Teachers store was to add an animated element to the quote section at the top of my site. It was years before I realized other, much fancier, TPT sellers had this element, and mine was a simple gray box with a quote. When you go into the TPT edit mode, the only option is to add a quote, there are no color, font, or image change options. Despite this, somehow someone found a work around. When I finally realized I could do this, and a tutorial existed to teach me how, I tried to make it a top priority.

With the craziness that is life, it still took me months to finally get around to it. The task was a bit daunting, I had never made a GIF before, and I didn’t know where to start. When I finally got around to reading through the tutorial (check out two great resources here and here) I realized how simple it was. I began brainstorming ideas, and quickly settled on emphasizing the little bee that has become a part of my brand.

I drew out the bee, scanned it in, and uploaded it to Photoshop. Using Photoshop, I added each sequence, and saved it as a PNG file. Once I had all the PNG files ready, I uploaded them to a GIF maker and downloaded my compiled GIF. While it took me awhile to figure out the best way to save my files, and it took three times to edit, re-upload, find an error, and edit again, the process was actually fairly easy.

It was extremely satisfying to add it to my TPT store, hit that refresh button, and see my page come to life. I was so impressed with the process, I decided to make GIF headers for my class pages as well.

First, I created one for my painting class. I wanted it to reflect the main purpose of the course, so I used a pencil, paintbrush, palette, and paint to illustrate the header. Again, I used Photoshop to compile my drawings then move the individual pieces. Between each movement, a new file was saved. This GIF had over 40 files that had to be compiled to create the final GIF.

Once I completed my painting header, I created my Advanced 2D Design header. This one took the most drawing prep and the most files, 60 PNG files were compiled for this one, and it honestly could’ve used more to create smoother transitions. Because we cover so many different types of art in this class, I wanted to make sure it was properly represented in the header, and I couldn’t bring myself to save anymore PNG files. So the quick drawing pencil and painting brush are here to stay for awhile.

The process of creating a GIF was so satisfying that it inspired a project. I plan to incorporate this assignment into my drawing class. After focusing on drawing techniques and basics, this assignment gives students a week of breathing space. They get to create whatever they want and transform it into a GIF. It’s a perfect way to bring technology and art together to create something that many students are very familiar with.

This lesson plan is available on my Teachers Pay Teachers site here. It includes a PowerPoint to introduce the assignment, a detailed lesson plan with step by step teacher instructions, a supply list, big ideas, a rubric, and national standards. It also has a PowerPoint with detailed instructions on how to compile images into a GIF, with a handout for students to reference once they start. At the end of all my lessons I try to make time for a class critique of the project. This lesson plan pack also includes my critique worksheet and a fun addition to the critique process with emoji signs.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my fancy new GIFs and my GIF drawing lesson plan. Help me spread the word about art education and art in general by sharing this post with others. Thanks for stopping by!

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Visual Journal Page 22: The Fall & Visual Journal Page 23: Ouch

This visual journal page was created to represent my clumsiness. Not only am I clumsy, but I also bruise easily, which means I am in a constant state of being covered with bumps, scratches, and lovely shades of purples, yellows, and blues. I don’t think I ever quite grew into myself, my limbs still feel like they are longer than they should be.

Specifically, this page is meant to represent a particular incident of clumsiness, a tumble down the stairs. When I move from point a to point b my goal is to move as quickly as possible without breaking into a run. My fast walking combined with my long legs makes it look like I’m always in a rush. The same is applied when I am going up and down stairs. I don’t take them one at a time, carefully watching my step, I generally jog up and jog down. I blame my need for speed on my father who was the type to wait in the car, with the car running, until everyone finally piled in to leave. I always felt rushed, and that has continued into my adult life.

95% of the time my jog up, jog down stair taking is successful. However, the remaining 5% of the time means I miss a step or slip on a step either falling up, or falling down the stairs. On this particular day I hit a step heading down, my foot slipped out from under me, and down I went.

Unfortunately, the slip happened towards the top of the stairs, so I had a long way to go to reach the bottom. It felt like a cartoon, my butt hit the next step, and there was no going back. I literally slide down the stairs until something stopped by downward fall, which happened to be the side table next to my front door.

My next visual journal page represents my husband’s point of view. He was sitting on our sofa, watching TV, minding his own business, when all of the sudden I came tumbling down. All he heard was bam, bam, bam, bam, as my various body parts hit step after step, followed by a final smash as I collided with our red side table. The commotion was followed by back and forth rock of the table as it tried to rebalance after my collision.

I had to lay there for just a minute to allow my brain to catch up to the events and my body to recover. My big toe made contact with the table first, and absorbed the weight that followed behind it. It caused a bruised toe and cracked nail. My right arm made the first, and only, attempt, and fail, to break my fall and stop the ensuing events. That resulted in a big bruise on my forearm. After the tumble and a moment of recovery, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I could be so careless and I had no one to blame but myself.

Despite the sequence of events you can still find me jogging up and down stairs and falling 5% of the time.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual Journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Pencil
  • Gesso
  • Paint brush
  • Water
  • Charcoal
  • Charcoal pencil
  • Pastels
  • Red acrylic paint
  • Book Pages
  • Laser printed images of table
  • Packaging tape
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie

HOW TO

To create these two visual journal pages I wanted to create two very different looks. I wanted the actual fall to look dark and more serious. For the aftermath, I wanted it to look as silly as I felt. I started with the fall page and decided early on to shade on top of a gesso base. Since gesso is a wet material, I opted to rip two pages from my book so I could work on them without the risk of the gesso bleeding through to other pages.

I sketched out the design first using pencil. My staircase at home is simple and straight, but I wanted to create a more dramatic effect so I opted to exaggerate the style. I sketched out the twisting staircase, and centered the final set of stairs between the two pages. To the left of the stairs I drew out my right hand and right foot, to show my injuries. Once I had the base sketches ready, I added water to my gesso, to make it more transparent, and filled in the shapes.

Once the gesso dried I began pulling out details using the charcoal pencil. I added purple and brown pastels to create shadows on the stairs and the bruise on my arm and toe. I added black charcoal around the staircase to make it pop. To create a blended look with the charcoal I colored more heavily at the edge of the stairs, then used my finger and a paper towel to blend the charcoal away from the steps and into the background. I continued to build up details with the charcoal pencil and push my shadows with the pastel and black charcoal.

Once I finished shading I painted my toe nails bright red using red acrylic paint. I liked the sudden pop of color and it created a great attention grabber. I used a thin brush and gesso to add the crack in my toenail.

Once the page was finished I sprayed it with fixative, to prevent the charcoal from smudging, and glued it on top of pages still attached in my visual journal book.

For the second page I wanted a more playful look and I wanted to create a sense of movement in the table. I decided to create 5 packaging tape transfers of the same image of my side table, then overlap them to make it look like it was moving. To do this, I printed 5 copies of the table on a laser printer. I taped clear packaging tape to the front of the pictures, then cut out the table. I then ran the cut outs under water until the paper started to separate from the tape. I carefully rubbed the paper off using my fingertips until only the ink from the printed image was left on the tape. I dried it off using paper towels and set them aside.

I decided to use book pages from two different books to create a space for the table to sit in. I used the lighter, wider book pages first and glued them to the center of my visual journal page using rubber cement. I then layered two smaller, darker book pages in the center of the ones I just glued and also glued them down with rubber cement. Next, I placed my table packaging tape image transfers on the right side of the book spread. I used Elmer’s glue to glue them in place, the chemicals in rubber cement will cause the tape to ripple.

Next, I decided to add another thin bar of the light and dark book pages to the top and write “bam, bam, bam” in Sharpie across it. To balance the layout I added one small section of layered book pages to the right page below the table and wrote “ouch” in black Sharpie.

Interested in teaching visual journals to your students? Check out my visual journal lesson plan here and bundle pack here.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about an unfortunate accident.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the word about visual journals and art in general by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!