Posts Tagged ‘elementary school art’

Paul Cezanne, The Basket of Apples c. 1893 25 7/16 x 31 1/2 in. (65 x 80 cm) Art Institute of Chicago

The same Fifth graders who got into Abstract Expressionism tried their hands at Post-Impressionism. And, it was a sunny day just a week before school let out. So they weren’t exactly calm, and yet did fabulous work. The image above is the inspiration, which the kids each talked about. We went around and each kid said something they noticed or liked (or didn’t) about the picture – things like the color juxtapositions, how he made the fruit look round, the strange perspective that makes the table look tipped. We also looked at images of paintings by Henri Matisse.

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gotham news 1957
Gotham News, 1955 by Willem de Kooning ( 69 x 79” Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo)

We looked at images of paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning, including pictures of the paintings in galleries, and Helen Frankenthaler and Jackson Pollock working in their studios, to show the very large scale of pictures in this school. I also told them where some of these pictures are, and had a snapshot of one (Small’s Paradise, by Helen Frankenthaler) I took in Washington D. C. in March.

I told them how Abstract Expressionism was painting that was not of something, but was the thing, in the words of Jackson Pollock. And how painting is a language, in which you can express things you can’t put into words.

The paintings they liked were both by de Kooning: Excavation and Gotham News, which is the one we talked about. The kids each noted something about the picture, and brought out the bright colors, and how it references people, dogs, layers, cities, noise, excitement, heavy equipment, Batman, buildings and other structures, without being pictures of those things.

It could be too that they were drawn to this picture because it holds up better on the rather dim “interactive white board” projectors the school has. You don’t get the benefit of the brilliant colors of Helen Frankenthaler’s work. We held up the laptop so they could get an idea of the brilliance of the actual paintings.

Inspired by the picture, they made paintings in the manner of Abstract Expressionism. I think some of them felt like they were being naughty, by using a finger or their hands, in making layer on layer, in using gobs of paint, and even in scraping back to get to layers below. But they were not naughty, they were all fully involved in the paint and what it was doing. This was the most energetic and focused group I’ve had, as far as everyone diving in.

We asked them to mix at least 3 colors, and this time not to make a picture of a thing but to paint with colors and shapes and lines, and to try different brush sizes.

As in other classes, each kid got a paper plate palette with primary colors and white, a yogurt container of water, paper towels, a plate to mix colors on, and they had had a short reminder of how you rinse your brush between dipping into the color.

We even had time to clean up and to spend a few minutes looking at our work.


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This is going back to Fine Arts Camp, the Elementary Camp in 2012. The first day is under Color inspired by Kandinsky for 3rd through 6th graders.

We had 60 children, coming in for about an hour in a group of 15 at a time.

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This day, we drew – using good old exercises that might be familiar to you if you took a drawing class in college. I brought in a chair from home, and had the kids do various exercises, like rapid timed drawings – a minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds. You use newsprint and vine charcoal.
Another great exercise is called blind contour: first you hold your pencil or charcoal out, and trace the contour of the thing you are drawing, in the air. You visualize your pencil as a tiny bug, crawling along the contour of the object. Then you draw, not looking at the paper, just looking at what you are drawing, going slowly, and not picking up your charcoal.The results are a big squiggle, but with remarkable truth in the lines.It helps to tell the kids that this is a college exercise. It is hard, or challenging as we say. You have to be sensitive to when the kids are done – depending on the group of kids some went further, some did less, you play it by ear – but that’s any art class. It’s like – there’s nothing like it. But such a great feeling to be guiding a group of people, feeding off their energy and ideas, to direct them to something greater than they thought they could do.

Then do some quick drawings, and then further develop them. Amazing pictures.


Chair FACIMG_3723  FACIMG_3690  FACIMG_3676 FACIMG_3675 FACIMG_3674

chair drawn by an elementary school child

chair drawn by an elementary school child

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