Monday, October 14, 2013

Tackling the figure using ink and collage

Following some practice with contour line drawing (see last year's post), I wanted the students to explore other ways of drawing and capturing form from observation. For one week, my Art 1 students approached the figure in a new way each day. 


 First, we discussed how another way to capture a form, besides lines and fine detail, is to see its very specific shape (more as a whole).  We looked at work by Matisse in his later years as he "drew with scissors" to capture descriptive shapes and forms. 

 Students used only scissors (no drawing tools) to cut shapes they were seeing as they looked at a live figure model. They had access to many colors and various textures. Some students cut the entire silhouetted shape of the figure all at once and added to it. Other students looked at each body part as a separate shape and glued them together like a puzzle. 

The next day, students tried gesture drawing with charcoal. They drew rapidly, trying to capture the essence of poses which lasted only a minute.  They looked for long lines and basic shapes to help them, and they built the limbs and head out from the torso, or center, of the person. 


The following day, students captured two 15 minute poses using ink.  They set up the ink work using a gesture drawing in pencil, in order to make the figure large enough on the page.  They then slowed down and tried to capture the inside and outside lines of the pose, just like they practiced with contour line drawing. 


Finally, at the end of the week, students had access to both collage and ink as they approached a single pose for 40 minutes. They chose to use ink, collage or a combination of both.

Monochromatic Paintings

For their first painting, students in Honors Painting approached a still life using only different hues of brown. They had access to two colors of paint plus white, and I asked them to look for all the different values in the still life, and try and capture them in this limited palette. 


For many of the students it was their first time using acrylic paint, as well as their first time trying to draw a still life from observation.  Other students have painted many times before. 
First, we talked about creating a strong composition by zooming in and making sure to create interesting negative space shapes.  Ideally, the subject matter (objects) should touch at least two edges of the composition. Students drew their composition on a gessoed toned board, using vine charcoal.

Next, students wiped away the tone of the paper with a rag, to plan out and observe where their highlights and lightest values would be.  This is a common technique used by oil painters, but I wanted the students to try it using acrylic. 

Next, students mixed colors for and painted the numerous values they were seeing.  The goal was to end up with AT LEAST 4 different values of paint on each object, and to capture a sense of the relative lights and darks within the composition- as in, this vase is darker overall than this pear.

In conjunction with this project, I shared images and videos with the students related to under paintings, and how (especially) oil painters have used under paintings for hundreds of years and beyond to set up a successful painting with contrast, and to save money on the more expensive colored pigments.

Visual Journals

Students in both Honors Painting and Honors Art 1 are engaging in bi-weekly homework assignments called Visual Journals.  Myself and other art teachers at Lane got the idea and format from the IB (International Baccalaureate) art curriculum.  The assignment asks students to use a two-page spread in their sketchbook to respond to a theme in any way they choose. 
Response to the theme "Childhood"
Before we got started on the Visual Journals at the beginning of the year, I asked students to explore some materials and techniques in their sketchbook, without a plan.  I set up the room so that each table was a different materials station. The students tried blowing ink with straws, how pastels and watercolor reacted to each other, black-out poetry with found text, using tape as a resist, altering old photos from a yearbook, and cutting out an image and then using the reverse as a "surprise" image. 

The hope was that students would use some of these techniques to address visual journal themes in their sketchbook.  I also have Visual Journal process/technique ideas posted in the classroom. 

Visual Journal responses to the theme Childhood:

 Students are given points using 4 criteria: 
1. Did the student respond to the theme in a way that is apparent to the viewer?
2.  Did the student completely use the space of both pages in the sketchbook to respond to the theme?
3. Does the student's work demonstrate an investment of time and care?
4. Did the student use at least more than one material (mixed media) in a sophisticated way?

Response to the theme "Everyday"

 Responses to the theme "Everyday"


Responses to the theme "Dreams"


Visual Journals about "Secrets/Hidden" 


I wanted to highlight this ongoing sketchbook exploration because my students seem able to express their ideas and they are so creative in their responses.  I will continue to post more sketchbook examples of Visual Journals throughout the year. 

I am learning a great deal about my students through these sketchbook entries. It is really wonderful to see how everyone interprets the theme differently, making it their own, and applying diverse materials in unique ways. 
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Students engage in a "Gallery Walk" to observe and appreciate the Visual Journals made by their peers

Visual Journals about "Obsession" 

This theme produced some really powerful journals. Students explored so many different approaches and relationships to the theme. Very different obsessions such as video games, body image and disorders, personal crushes, and even a love for chocolate were represented.

Visual Journals on theme of "Location"

Visual Journals on the theme of "Contained"

Visual Journals about "Portrait" 
I thought it might be interesting for the students to further their understanding of what a portrait can be, as they completed a traditional portrait in pencil during class time.  Many literal and non-literal solutions came to fruition including a portrait of a specific person, a portrait of a moment, a portrait of a sport, a portrait of a relationship and general explorations of identity.


Visual Journals on the theme of "Juxtaposition"

Visual Journals on the theme of "Can you Hear Me?"

Visual Journals on the theme of "Fantasy/Insanity"