Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Giant Exquisite Corpses

The exquisite corpse is a collaborative drawing method first advocated by the surrealists; many of us will remember it from childhood as 'the drawing game' or 'fold over drawings.' My students worked in groups to make some gigantic exquisite corpses that now loom large around the corridors of our centre.

A few of my Art teacher friends were really interested to see these giant exquisite corpses, so here they are! I find that the large scale works really well for this activity; bigger surfaces seem to allow for greater freedom of expression.

If you're planning a unit on surrealism, this activity can easily be combined with or followed up by my lessons on Dali and Max Ernst.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Wire Mesh Heads

Some students really enjoyed the drawing with wire lesson and asked for an extension project using the same materials and techniques. Students worked in wire mesh, tinfoil. pipe cleaners and coloured paper to produce these great results!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Summer Day and Winter Night

As the year rolls on, we see the seasons change around us. Each one has its own trademark visual elements; the brown, fallen leaves of autumn, the dark nights and snow flakes of winter, the budding blossoms of spring, and the clear blue skies of summer. With this in mind, I set about planning a lesson that would highlight the visual drama of different seasons by contrasting two against each other.

Students were given the instruction to draw and paint a landscape half in summer and half in winter. They divided their landscape page with a diagonal line, keeping the summer elements on one side and the winter elements on the other. Once drawn, these landscapes were painted with tempera paint and then a few extra details were added with wax crayon.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Action Cartooning

This lesson is about exploring the visual language of cartooning. Students will learn about simplification in drawing and distilling their chosen subject down to its most essential visual elements. They will also learn about visual dynamism and bringing a level of implied movement to their work. Finally, they will work in a bold and bright colour scheme to give their work impact.

The lesson is easily adaptable to any age group, but I tend to use it for 11-13 year olds. My students always use pencil, sharpie and acrylic paint, but this is also adaptable to your resources.

You can introduce the lesson with some Youtube clips of any cartoon. It's generally best to use one that's already familiar to them, so I tend to show a clip or two from Adventure Time. When the action gets to a particularly dynamic point, pause the video and have the kids focus on the pose and position of the figures in the frame. If your students are kinaesthetic learners you could even get them to assume the poses of the characters.

Students can then start their practical work. They should take a pencil and produce a quick sketch of a character (of any sort) in motion. I always ask them to imagine that what they're drawing is one frame from an animation, just to get them thinking about movement. If students are unsure of what to draw, you could make suggestions about sports activities or the movements of particular animals.

When they're happy with their drawings, they can go over the pencil lines with sharpie and then paint their work in a bright, vibrant colour scheme.

Here's some examples of work from this lesson!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Drawing with Wire

This is a lesson I've never ran before, so it was something of an experiment, both for me and my students. I've had a coil of modelling wire lying around in my room for about three years now and I've never really made much use of it. Rather than use it to make armatures for clay projects (which is what I originally bought it for), I thought I'd have my students  create some three dimensional drawings by cutting, twisting, bending and clipping the wire together. I didn't give the students any particular prompt of what they should make, I just gave them a demo with the wire cutters and pliers and let them get about creating!

Because I didn't give a specific prompt I couldn't really design an assessment rubric for the lesson, but the work could be graded on safe use of tools and creativity with materials. It also proved to be quite a challenge for some students' fine motor skills.

Here's a selection of what they came up with.

One example was this crazy haired, toothy portrait.

Someone else created a more abstract portrait in semi-profile.

Then there was a stick figure with an impressive side parting.

There were also a couple of really interesting minimalist animal forms.

And a really cool flower!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Leaf Prints

Yesterday I posted a lesson plan giving some ideas about how we can get our students outside and searching fpr art making materials in the natural world. People really seemed to respond well to this idea, so I decided to create something of a follow up lesson plan also using natural materials.

To start, students should take their paper and some wax crayons and make rubbings from any nearby trees. It's good to use a variety of colours and to pay some thought to pattern-making when doing this. Whilst they're outside, students should look around and collect some leaves too. Just like the last lesson, ensure they've got permission before they pick leaves from any plants or trees!

Next students will need some black acrylic paint and a soft foam brush to dab the paint on to their leaves.

They can then place their leaves paint-side down on to their tree rubbings, before going over the unpainted side with a soft foam roller.

You can be sure they'll get some fantastic results!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Foraging and Fibres

Now that summer's here we can start teaching art lessons outdoors again. I tried this lesson for the first time last summer and it was a big hit with the students. I'll definitely be repeating it this year and I thought I'd share it online too.

The natural world provides an abundance of art materials for us to use. This lesson is a simple and easy way to get students foraging around their gardens and local parks for materials to make art from. You can sense their excitement when they realise how much stuff is just lying around for them to use!

They should start by hunting around and finding four sturdy broken branches of approximately the same length.

Next they should arrange their sticks in to a square and then take some string and tie them together, fixing the branches into place.

Once they've secured their branches they can tie pieces of yarn horizontally and vertically across their frame.

Then students can take different coloured yarn and begin to weave pieces in and out through the net that they've made.


Finally, they can hunt around the area again and find whatever urban flowers (like dandelions or daisies) they like to decorate their work. Please make sure they don't take flowers from anywhere they shouldn't!

Grading: Be Kind but Be Real

We're in the summer term now and, for many of us, that means it's time to knuckle down, start assessing work and giving out grades. This is a notoriously thorny subject amongst art teachers; most of us just want to teach art and enjoy seeing the students create, without having the additional worry of grading work to an externally set criteria.

At Red Balloon, I have the additional concern of how emotionally vulnerable children might react to the grading process. The young people I work with have often had a bad experience of the assessment process and this is something I need to be mindful of when giving out grades and feedback. In an earlier post I wrote extensively about strategies I use with newer students in order to give them a degree of autonomy over their assessment work. The work of my Year 10 and 11 GCSE students, however, needs to be assessed to the examination boards standards. And its my job to carry out and feedback this grading without causing the students undue distress.

The essence of my approach is contained in this post's title; 'be kind but be real.' When giving out grades to my GCSE students, I have a lengthy conversation with them about why they've gotten the grade they've got and what they can do if they want to get a better grade next time. I usually start with the positives, saying what it is that I especially liked about their work and then connecting that to the examination board's assessment rubric. I then point out how that specific element could be improved in the next project. To take a hypothetical example. let's say a student carried out particularly exhaustive research into Andy Warhol and illustrated their pages with well executed copies of Warhol's work. I'd praise this and then suggest that next time they go beyond simple copies of another artist's work and produce some work inspired by the artist but not just copying them. Another example could be if  student produced a beautiful and well executed personal response, but there was little evidence in the sketchbook of the development that led to the creation of the final piece. In this instance, I'd  gently ensure the student understood that the journey towards creation was as important as the final outcome. This could be achieved through continual written reflection on work in the sketchbook, stating what has been learned through research and experimentation.

Clarity is paramount when giving student's feedback; they need to understand why they have achieved their grade. This can often mean translating from the examination board's (often obscure) language into that which is meaningful to a teenager.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Salvador Dali Dream Landscape

Salvador Dali is perhaps the most famous of the surrealists. His dream-like landscapes such as 'Persistence of Memory' and 'Landscape with Butterflies' are some of his most famous works. There's something strange yet oddly familiar about these works - they seem to resonate inside of us without quite letting us grasp their meaning.

If you're planning to do a longer unit on surrealism, this lesson can easily follow up my Max Ernst collage lesson.

To start their piece, students should create a mood board of source material. I ask that students choose one sea creature, one land animal, one musical instrument and one fruit or vegetable. They can then search the internet or any handy magazines for relevant pictures. They should also select an environment that will form the backdrop of their dream landscape.

Once they've created their mood board, students can think about mixing the different visual elements of the animals and objects they've chosen. When they have some firm ideas, they can make pencil sketches of their unusual figures.

When students are happy with their sketches, they should think about how they might draw their surreal figures into the environment they've selected.

Finally, students can use coloured pencil to complete their Dali-influenced dreamscape.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Klimt on Tinfoil

This lesson on Gustav Klimt would make a great follow up to my previous lesson on Hundertwasser. Both artists make heavy use of decorative pattern in their work and the influence of Klimt can certainly be seen in Hundertwasser's visual language.

In this lesson, students will learn how to make a decorative portrait of the sort Klimt is famous for. They should start by mixing yellow and brown tempera paint to get a woody, burnt sienna tone. This will be the background colour for their portrait, so they can paint their whole sheet of paper with it.

Students can then take a piece of tinfoil and cut it out into an elongated, irregular shape. This piece of tinfoil will form the body of the figure in the portrait, so students should be aware of this when preparing their piece. The tinfoil can then be glued on to the painted background.

For the next step, young people should take a pencil and lightly sketch the head and hair of their figure just above the top of the tinfoil piece.

The head, hair and facial features can then be coloured with oil pastel.

Finally, the students can paint some Klimt influenced patterns (a wealth of them can be found here) onto their tinfoil. The tinfoil will catch light through the tempera paint giving a pleasing iridescence.

A couple of other completed examples can be seen below.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Hundertwasser Decorative Landscapes

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian artist and architect know for his vibrant, fantastical and highly decorative painting style. In this lesson, students will acquaint themselves with Hundertwasser's work - paying particular attention to his landscapes such as 'Irinaland over the Balkans.' A great range of Hundertwasser's work can be viewed at his official website here.

After familiarising themselves with his style, students should lightly sketch out an imaginative landscape. In order to really make the Hundertwasser influence apparent, it's great to include a simple portrait somewhere amidst the lines.

When they're happy with their light pencil sketch, students can go over their lines with marker pen.

Then it's time to load up the paintbrushes and palette and fill in the large planes with colour.

When this initial paint layer has dried, take a fine brush and add some decorative strokes.

For a final touch, get some wax crayons and add decorative patterns all over the work!

Here's some other Hundertwasser-inspired landscapes, created in a variety of media.