Saturday, February 25, 2012

Original Music in the Art Room? Yes please!


A few weeks ago my second graders and I began a journey into the atomized world of French Pointillist paintings by George Seurat. What I didn't anticipate is that our journey bravely blazed a new trail that involved writing and performing an original song together! Yes, ladies and gentleman, the talented 2nd graders I get to see on a daily basis composed an original song all about George Seurat.

It all started  a few years back when I was completing a long-term sub for an amazing art teacher on maternity leave. One of the lessons she left for me to complete was titled Dot, Dot, Seurat! Since then, I have seen similar lessons labeled with the same title, I suppose because it is such an easy way to help students remember through rhyme that the paintings of George Seurat can be identified by the use of lots of dots.

I taught  this lesson at three different schools so far, and this was the first time the rhyme really took the class to a new, totally new musical place. One of the students was repeating the title of the lesson on the board while he worked on his painting, "Dot, Dot George, Seurat! and then he added "likes to paint in dots a lot!" From there, the rhyming spread like wildfire. I was so tickled by the students' interest and impressed by the students rhyme ideas I started jotting their lines down on the board. I shared this story with my other three 2nd grade classes and they helped to add on to the song as well.

On the last day of the Seurat lesson, I had the lyrics the students produced typed out neatly and we performed and recorded our song on my iPhone. I added a drum track and a piano lick using a few handy-dandy iPhone apps. The final cut of our musical track is hosted on Vimeo and posted below. Do you think George Seurat would dig this song? I do. It was so pleasant to be blown away by the serendipitous creativity of a second grader's response to a new artist. I am also infinitely tickled to have technology that helped me to propel this student's bright idea to another level.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Funky Presidential Portraits

Tomorrow morning when students enter the school they will be welcomed by a new display of Presidential Portraits greeting them. I'm hoping this will add a spark to a Monday that most school's have off for vacation. I found the lesson plan for this project in the January 2012 edition of Arts & Activities. There is a link to the article here that explains the basic material layering process that helps to achieve the end result. The art teacher responsible for this lesson is Cheryl Crumpecker is a K-3 art teacher at St. Paul's Episcopal Day School in Kansas City, Mo. She used this lesson to compare the traditional portrait style of Gilbert Stuart and pop artist, Peter Max, but I decided to just focus on Max's unique painting style, drawing on the right side of the brain, line quality, and color mixing. I used heavyweight card stock for the drawing/painting and found some acetate transparencies to use for the Sharpie line drawings. I was hesitant about following the portion of Cheryl's directions that asked the students to draw their president UPSIDE DOWN. I decided to take a risk and believe in the extraordinary abilities of my 5th graders and ended up being beyond pleasantly surprised.

On the second day of the lesson before we began painting, I showed students a brief video of a recent story the CBS Morning Show did on Peter Max and his patriotic style. I used this video. It was a good way to show students how popular and iconic  Max's work is. He has painted on a lot of important things such as jumbo jet airliners and even the White House lawn during the Reagan era. It also gives students a glimpse of how Max uses his paint, painting quickly, mixing a bunch of bright colors on one brush (usually an art room no no!), and painting a background of block colors.

I took a lot of pictures because I was so excited about the results so I will inserting them all as a slideshow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daruma Dolls

Before I landed my fabulous new job as an art teacher of some of the most amazing human beings in Pennsylvania, I was working as the Arts & Education Director with Young Audiences of Western New York. I learned about Daruma dolls from one of the extraordinary teaching artists I worked with at this job, Jen Russo. Jen was making Daruma sculptures with at an after-school program for one of the residency programs I coordinated. I had never heard of a Daruma Doll before and as soon as Jen explained the concept behind the doll to me I was instantly intrigued and inspired. In addition to Jen's guidance, I found a few other super online resources to learn more about Darumas such as this informative Daruma PDF put out by the Allen Memorial Art Museum with Oberlin University.

In short, a Daruma is a Japanese sphere-shaped papier mache doll with a red painted body and a white face without pupils!  Daruma dolls represent Bodhidharma, a Zen monk who meditated for almost 9 years while sitting in a meditative posture for so long that his legs were of no use anymore. We compared and contrasted the way we celebrate the New Year with the Japanese tradition of the Daruma doll. The students drew some very interesting parallels!

Throughout the year, but traditionally on New Year's Day, one makes a wish or sets a goal and paints one black pupil onto the Daruma doll. When the goal is reached or the wish comes true one then paints on the second pupil and dispose the doll on the following New Year's Day.

The project began with a full day of Plaster of Paris which the students loved working with. Luckily, the art teacher who was at my school before me bought several boxes of the Plaster of Paris rolls. I prepped for this sculptural building day by cutting the plaster into 2" x 4' inch strips and by blowing up nearly 100 balloons! (My boyfriend Matt was there to help for this, thank goodness!) We used a piece of 9' x 6' manilla paper folded into a bracelet-like ring at the Daruma's base. The students taped this ring to the bottom of the balloon. I also cut tiny triangle pieces of card stock that the students taped onto the balloon for the nose.

On the second day, we started talking about some of the symbols that are typically painted onto the Daruma's face and body. I provided students with variety of colors for the paints. I did not make them stick to the traditional red color as I thought it would be cool for the students to be expressive with color rather than formulaic. I showed the students how to mix a flesh tone to match the traditional Daruma.



I got out the smallest paint brushes I had for the detailed thin lines on the Daruma face and the students practiced using a light, delicate brush stroke to achieve different kinds of line quality. I printed out several copies of Japanese word symbols so students could pick words that relate to their New Year's goal to use in their Daruma decoration.

When the students were finished painting their Daruma's exterior, they were allowed to use a Sharpee to write their goal for 2012 on the bottom of their Daruma and paint one of the eyes in. I really wanted to peek and see what their goals were, but I promised them that I wouldn't look because their goal may be personal.

The hallway display of the 5th grade Daruma's has created quite a stir with students and other teachers. Many passers by are curious why the Darumas only have one eye. The display is located just outside the art room and I have heard more than one 5th grader proudly explaining the Japanese tradition to students in other grade levels. I was happy to hear this!