Saturday, September 26, 2015

Art Theme, Week 5 (Pattern)

I've seen Pattern on some lists of art elements but not others. I decided to include it because: (1) it also hits math standards, and (2) it seemed like a good fit for our studies of Alma W. Thomas this week.

If I'm really, really honest though, it was a rough week for our art unit. I'm not sure if the theme is wearing thin, if I'm directing things too much, or if it was just one of those random off-weeks.

Some of the challenges started with planning. As it turns out, there is no children's literature based on Alma Thomas's work. I thought about writing my own thing but could not quite sort out how to go about that in time for our lesson. So I resorted to a brief bio and a digital gallery of her work, which didn't hook the kids at all.

We also did an art project, based on this awesome post I found.

I had visions of these beautiful, colorful mosaics with all of the white spaces filled in with bright paint chips.

I gathered beautiful paint chips, cut them into random shapes, and sorted them by color.

I made glue sponges.

Paint chips and glue sponges!

And when I shared all of this with the sprouts, their reaction was "meh." They felt that the glue was too messy and the pieces were too small and this project was taking too long.

Second Sprout's paint compact chip collage.

They still made some cool artwork and experimented with a new medium, but it wasn't quite the result I had envisioned. And therein lies the problem. I went into this project with too many expectations and too much investment. The sprouts have their own ideas and their own tastes that didn't mesh with mine. Which is all perfectly normal and (usually) perfectly fine, but just so happened to bum me out this time. A lot.

Third Sprout's cool paint chip collage.

Thankfully, I don't think this particular frustration affected the kids. And in the grand scheme of things, this is a very mild thing to be frustrated about. But we had an off week in general, and the only day everyone was really happy was the day we took off to celebrate the autumn equinox. So we're going to take a break from our Art Theme next week and see if that improves everyone's perspective on things. I'm always so grateful that we have the flexibility to pause and breathe when we need it.

After our break, I think we'll try to pick back up with our theme by studying Vasily Kandinsky and the element of Texture. I'm hoping that the sprouts will enjoy the change of pace-- I know I will! Until next time,

Happy Learning!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autumnal Equinox 2015

Fall is pretty much my favorite season. I love the weather, the clothes, the food, the colors, the holidays.

Everything about fall is amazing.

So we are making it an annual tradition to take our break from our usual school routine to celebrate the first day of fall. Last year, we took a walk on a nature trail to make observations and enjoy the signs of a changing season. This year, we are sticking closer to home, but we are still marking the changes anyway.

First Sprout designed and sewed her own felt owl.

First Sprout's super sweet felt owl, named Pumpkin Pie.

Second Sprout enjoys coloring our cool art pages.

Zucchini bread was baked and devoured.

And our Halloween fall decorations are hung.

All-in-all it's been a successful day, and it's scarcely even lunch time. We have lots of time left for going outside and playing in the afternoon. I know for a fact that we have black walnuts to pick up out of the yard, and we might have just enough leaves on the ground for a moderately-sized leaf pile. It never ceases to amaze me how much still happens even on our "slow" days. I'm looking forward to tucking in and enjoying more slow days in the months ahead.

Happy Fall!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Art Theme, Week 4 (Shape)

So far, we have covered Color, Line, and Value as part of our Art Theme. Last week, we also added Shape to our repertoire of art elements, and we studied the work of Jackson Pollack. It ended up being one of the more fun (and messy) weeks so far!

I introduced the elements of Shape through a few read alouds (most notably, Tana Hoban's Shapes Shapes Shapes). We talked about regular shapes and irregular-- or organic-- shapes. We also read about the process of action painting while reading Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. Then we incorporated the element of Shape into some action paintings of our own.

Our first project for the week was to create circle prints. We used a variety of circular objects from the recycling bin and our junk pile as the media for painting. The sprouts' favorite tools were probably the cardboard rolls wrapped in bubble wrap. Using an old cd for printing was also very popular. It ended up being a great way to explore how regular shapes could still be used to make dynamic artworks. The project was extraordinarily messy-- because, well, action art-- but it was also extraordinarily fun. We ended up with a few prints that I will seriously frame!

A selections of tools that we used for creating circle prints.

Second Sprout in action. This was a challenge she ended up really getting into.

First Sprout experimented with a lot of layering and color mixing for this project. It worked out well to use primary colors.

Our second project for the week was intended to use a different form of action painting that would result in more irregular shapes. I found this neat idea for using straws to blow paint across the page, so I though we'd give it a whirl. I should have paid more attention to the author's caveat on using tempera paints because we ended up not being able to blow the paint very well at all. Instead, we ended up improvising and using the straws in a more, um, direct fashion. We still got in some fun action painting but it wasn't quite the huge success we had hoped for.

Third Sprout mixes colors with a straw during our action painting project.

Second Sprout loves painting blocks of color.
Although the straw painting didn't work out as planned, it was still an opportunity for improvisation, which is completely valuable in it's own way. I think it's good for the sprouts to see that my ideas don't always go as planned! Next up, we will be studying the work of Alma W. Thomas and the element of Pattern. I'm looking forward to trying out some different media with the sprouts for Week 5, so please stay tuned. Until then,

Happy Learning!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Art Theme, Week 3 (Value)

It's hard to believe that we've already made it through the first three weeks of school. Hopefully the time is passing so quickly because we are having fun!

Our Art Theme is still going strong. Last week, we studied the element of Value and explored the work of Georgia O'Keefe. While reading My Name is Georgia by Jeannette Winter, the sprouts studied the illustrations for examples of Value (shades of a color from light to dark). We added a new item to our "Art Smart" anchor chart.

Our "Art Smart" anchor chart for week 3 of theme.

Then, we spent the remainder of the week looking at examples of Georgia O'Keefe's work and experimenting with using value on our own. It turned out to be a really natural pairing because there example of value EVERYWHERE in her work. For example, we used colored pencils to create value in a copy of Blue and Green Music.

First Sprout discovered that adjusting pressure of your strokes with colored pencils could change the value of colors.

Our other big activity was loosely based on this art project designed to emulate Georgia O'Keefe's style. Since I wanted to incorporate value into the lesson, I switched our medium from watercolors to tempera paint ( I still used our thick watercolor paper as a base though). I had First Sprout draw a big flower using permanent marker. Then, I had her choose a color for her flower and dab it on the outer edge of the petals. Next, I had her dab white at the flower's center and blend the two colors together. First Sprout had free reign with the background,so she chose to experiment with color mixing to create the perfect shade of green for the leaves.The result was was a really great Value painting in the style of Georgia O'Keefe.

Blending purple and white to create petals with value.
First Sprout's final product.

Second Sprout chose to do a different art project on this day, which was okay by me. Even though I want to encourage experimentation with the various art elements during our theme, I want art primarily to be something fun. First Sprout is at the point where she enjoys the challenges more, whereas Second Sprout would rather go her own way (most days). I am primarily introducing these concepts as a way to learn about artists and art, without exerting pressure to perform.

I'm definitely loving this Art Theme and all of the wonderful conversations and art works that are coming out of it. For week 4, we are going to learn about the element of Shape in art and explore the works of Jackson Pollack. The sprouts already know a little bit about action art, and they are super excited! Until next time,

Happy Learning!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Art Theme, Week 2 (Line)

Last week we continued our Art Theme with an exploration of Line and the works of Vincent Van Gogh.

We looked for ways to use line by reading the book Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist. We also added some examples of Line to our growing "Art Smart" anchor chart. Then, the sprouts used a crazy hair day prompt to experiment with the different types of line we discovered. As usual, they made the project their own, and it turned out even cooler than expected.

(From left) Second Sprout's "Crazy Hair Day" and First Sprout's "Crazy Hair Day."

To learn more about our artist of the week, we looked through a compendium of Van Gogh's work. We ended up being about to draw a lot of comparisons between Van Gogh's self-portraits and Frida Kahlo's self-portraits. We also read Vincent Van Gogh's Cat which is a super cool book written and illustrated by Second Grade students from East Washington Academy in Mucie, Indiana. I picked it up years ago at a Scholastic book sale, and it turned out to be a perfect read aloud for our art theme!

To incorporate our element of Line into a Van Gogh-inspired art project we used oil pastels to fill in a blank template of "The Starry Night". I encouraged the sprouts to fill in the spaces using lines rather than blocks of color (First Sprout was much more willing to experiment with this part of the assignment). The results were some really bright and beautiful "Starry Nights."

First Sprout experiments with swirly lines in her version of "The Starry Night."

Second Sprout's bright and bold rendition of "The Starry Night."

I felt like it was another successful week for our Art Theme, since I have heard the sprouts discussing color and line outside of our theme time. I am really looking forward to exploring the element of Value and the work of Georgia O' Keefe for Week 3. Stay tuned for a post on that next week, and until then...

Happy Learning!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Art Theme, Week 1 (Color)

I managed to make it back for a post this week! Small victories, amiright?

I wanted to start-- and hopefully finish-- a series over the next few weeks describing some of the projects we are doing for our current thematic unit on Art. We got into doing a lot of art projects over the summer, and I wanted to keep that momentum going into the school year. I also wanted to find a way to introduce famous artists and bring in some exploration on the elements of art. Our art theme has the added bonus of requiring lots of the fine-motor practice Second Sprout needs for Kindergarten without miles of piles of worksheets.

We kicked off the first week of our new Art Theme by exploring color. I read a neat tutorial that recommended using old, washable markers to create homemade, liquid watercolors. I thought we'd clean out the marker bin and use the primary colors to create and mix our own set of watercolor paints.

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh was the perfect read-aloud for color mixing.
The color mixing was a huge success, but unfortunately, I accidentally thinned the watercolors out just a bit too much. They were still completely usable, but the colors were very subtle and the kids got frustrated with the muted palette. We'll know what to do differently next time!

The second component of our Art Theme for the week was learning about the work of Frida Kahlo. We read the book Frida by Jonah Winter, and we studied several of her self-portraits. While we looked at her self-portraits, we came up with a list of characteristics that made them interesting. Here are the three big ideas we came away with:

1) Frida filled the page, whether it was with her whole body, her upper body, or her face.
2) Frida used lots of detail.
3) Frida used lots of color.

Our culminating project for the week as a self-portrait incorporating the things we had noticed from Frida Kahlo's paintings.It tied in nicely with our discussion of color, and the kids really enjoyed experimenting with the vibrancy of watercolor pencils for their portraits. We loved the results so much! The sprouts are more than happy to lead their portfolios with the self-portraits, which was all part of my evil plan exactly what I was hoping for all along.

First Sprout's self-portrait (watercolor pencil and dot marker on watercolor paper).

Second Sprout's self-portrait (watercolor pencil and dot marker on watercolor paper).

This week (which will be next week's post), we are enjoying learning about the element of line and the works of artist Vincent van Gogh. Until then,

Happy Learning!