Monday, May 21, 2012

Three Recycled Art Projects in Progress

I haven't posted in a few days, but I have been busy. My students have three recycled art projects in the works! All three I've seen floating around on the web, but they are super-cool and my students seem very excited about them (as am I):

Abstract Sculptures (wire and pantyhose)
These are seriously awesome! You can't make just one! I've seen the idea in a couple of spots, but most recently on A Faithful Attempt. The basic idea is to insert a metal coat hanger into a wooden block. Twist and turn it & cover it with a knee-high pantyhose. Twist and turn some more & coat in gesso, then paint. Seriously cool. I'm doing this with one of my private art student (she's thirteen). Right now her sculpture is sitting in gesso. Next class, she'll paint it and we'll sketch it with charcoal from a variety of angles.

The abstract sculpture in gesso
(we used tempera paint mixed with Elmer's glue).

Sole Pendants
Also cool! I saw this on and thought my boys would love to make them. Now I'm making them with my Recycled Art class after school. My goal with this class is to get the children looking around and being inspired to create art from everyday object. These pendants get their funky texture from the soles of the students' shoes. How great is that? These were molded last week and this week we'll paint them and string them on a cord to make necklaces.

Some of the pendants in the drying phase.
The texture is made from the soles of our shoes.
Magazine Bowls
Ah...the humble magazine! Great for collage and now used as the structural component for a funky bowl! Once the after school students were done molding their Sole Pendants, I had them start prepping their magazine strips as suggested on the blog Mini Matisse. This week, we'll start coiling the strips into the form that will magically transform turn into the magazine bowl.

My magazine bowl demo with some of the strips cut from
National Geographic Magazines.

WHEW! Lot's going on here! I'm loving the energy and creativity of my students! So what are YOU working on?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rainbow Valley: Inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas

I had never heard of Alma Woodsey Thomas until I received an art catalog in the mail and saw a tiny reproduction of her "Eclipse" painting being sold as a poster. WOW. Where has she been all my life?! Thomas began her art career as an art educator (for 38 years!) and after retiring, was able to devote more time to painting. Her first solo show was at the Whitney Museum when she was 80 years old! Her lovely paintings are colorful and abstract and my students really enjoyed looking at them and we had quite a discussion about many of her paintings. I enjoyed hearing their opinions of the pieces as well as hearing them using art terms easily in our discussion. It was wonderful being able to share the work of a contemporary female African American artist with them (Thomas passed away in 1978).

"The Eclipse," by Alma Woodsey Thomas

I left the project somewhat open-ended for my after school Modern Art class: they could create a radial, linear, or all-over, random composition based on Thomas' work BUT they had to use ripped paper pieces to create it. I showed the students how to create ripped pieces of construction paper (tear the sheet lengthwise into a strip and then into little squares/rectangles). I then passed out white card stock for them to use as a base.

Some of the students went with a radial composition and started with a circle. Others decided to do straight columns of paper pieces and many chose to just have random patches of color all over. It was all good. I didn't want to have a bunch of cookie cutter pieces of artwork all looking the same, so I'm glad I left it open-ended. Each piece has elements of different styles of Thomas' paintings.

The supplies for this project were few: card stock, construction paper and glue sticks. When they were done, they could work on a group piece that was larger: 20" x 30." The finished piece was a collaborative effort of the entire class and the title, "Rainbow Valley," was voted on by all. Enjoy these lovely, colorful pieces of Abstract Expressionist art!

"Rainbow Valley" made by my Modern Art class
This student was inspired by Thomas' paintings that had
multicolored backgrounds. This background was done
with crayon and then she glued the pieces over it.

This student also wanted a colored background, but chose
to use a solid piece of construction paper. This piece uses
a more radial composition, but it goes off the page.

And here are some pieces that have more of a scattered composition.
Lovely colors!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

15 Minute Jackson Pollock Painting

I'm wrapping up my Modern Art after school class, and let me tell wasn't easy trying to decide on just SIX modern art projects--I found out that I love Modern Art way too much to narrow it down to six artists! One artist I knew the students would like was Jackson Pollock. His work just embodies the movement and spirit of children! But I didn't think that the teacher whose room I borrow would love us throwing paint around, so I decided to do a less messy technique, letting marbles do the work for us!

I started class by showing the children a few of Pollock's paintings. I then showed them one of my favorite books: "Action Jackson," by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. I like how this book shows the everyday life of Jackson Pollock and the process he went through to make a painting. His type of painting is called "Action Painting" since the movement and activity used to create the piece is just as important as the finished piece.

We then moved on to our project. These Marble Paintings are simple and addicting! Have a few sheets of paper on hand for each child if this is the only project you are doing that day. We did our Handy Andy's as well that day, so I only had the students do one Marble Painting each, which took about 15 minutes.

Marble Paintings

Supplies Needed:

  • Cardboard tray (ours were from the grocery store and were roughly 9" x 12")
  • Poster board cut to fit the bottom of the tray (I've used construction paper, but it gets wrinkly because of the paint).
  • Marker to write name on tray
  • Various colors of tempera paint
  • Little disposable paint cups or bowls
  • Plastic spoons
  • Marbles

1. Have each child write his/her name on the outside of the tray. I have my students create the work and then take the entire tray home at the end of class. If you'll be reusing the trays, the names can be written on the back of the poster board.

2. Put some tempera paint into a disposable bowl. Add a couple of marbles and a couple plastic spoons. I had six colors available this time.

3. Have the children use the spoon to remove a marble from the bowl and place it on the paper in the tray. Move the tray around to make the marble leave a paint trail all over the paper. When done, put the marble back into the bowl it came from.

4. Repeat with whatever colors you desire. 

*I've also done this project as an exercise in warm and cool colors. I set up one table with red, orange and yellow on it and another with green, blue and purple. I then had the children create three pieces: one with only warm colors, one with only cool colors and the third with whatever colors they chose.

A Quick Modern Art Project: Warhol

This past week's after school art class was great! We were able to get two art projects done in the allotted time and some children had a few minutes to sketch. Both of these projects are fun and colorful and easy to do. I've done them with preschoolers up through fourth graders and everyone seems to enjoy it! This time, I was able to show the children artwork from each artist and link the lessons to children's books about the artists. If you haven't checked out these books, please do! The first project is: Handy Andy's inspired by the blog Artolazzi.

For this project, I shared the book: "Uncle Andy's," by James Warhola. What a lovely book! This is written by a nephew of Andy Warhol and is told from the child's perspective. James Warhola talks about visiting his Uncle Andy at his studio and all of the interesting projects and people he sees there. I really like this book. It is interesting to look at the illustrations and see all of the fun details. The book also reminds me that children are like little sponges, soaking up info and inspiration from their environments. Warhola speaks about how inspiring it was to be surrounded by all of the art objects and artwork in his Uncle Andy's studio and being able to see the process his Uncle went through to create his art (note: I brought in one of the Marilyn Monroe series of paintings for the children to view--it had repetition and color that I wanted to highlight with the project below).

Handy Andys

I saw this project on the blog: Artolazzi and loved it. I changed it a bit to use bright papers instead of paint for the backgrounds to speed things up a bit. I used a bright pad of paper I bought at the local copy store (Staples) which was 50 sheets of 11" x 14" paper (5 bright colors) for about $5.

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 sheet of bright paper 11" x 14" for the background
  • 2 5.5"x 7" rectangles of bright paper (different colors than your background)
  • 4 5.5"x 7" rectangles of bright paper (assorted brights so that the hands cut from these papers are different than the backgrounds)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Black tempera paint
  • Paper plate for palette


1. I had the students select one 11" x 14" piece of bright paper for their background. In the above image, my background piece is yellow.

2. I then had them select two rectangles (5.5" x 7" each) these needed to be different than their background paper. These were glued down to the background so that it appeared the background is divided into four sections. Use the photo as a guide. In my example, I used a blue and a green rectangle.

3. I then handed out stacks of four rectangles (each 5.5" x 7") of assorted colors that had been stapled together. I had the students trace their hands onto the stack and cut through all four at once with their scissors to create four identical hand shapes. Remove the staples, arrange onto the background and glue down using the glue stick. Glue the fingers down well so they don't curl off of the page.

4. Once everything was glued down well, I had the students come over to the printing station where they could dip their hands into the black tempera I had placed in foam plates and then print onto their backgrounds over each of the hand prints.

They came out great! The children had lots of fun with these and the bright colors really created an eye-popping display! These would be so nice for Mother's Day or Father's Day and they didn't take any time at all (maybe 30 minutes from start to finish).

Coming soon: Part two of this post...15 minute Jackson Pollock paintings!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Inspiring Art Books: "Only One You," by Linda Kranz

I'm an avid reader and I'm always looking for ways to create a multi-layered experience in the art classroom: music, movement, looking at a real piece of artwork, performing a play, etc. I also like to bring in books to share. This is kind of tricky since I have a short period of time to teach and I don't want to spend the whole class reading a book AND some children want to get creating when they get to my classroom (and won't sit still for me to read an entire book)....BUT, nonetheless, I keep trying!

Sometimes I show them the pictures (illustrations) from the book and comment about the images and then while the children are working I actually READ the book to them. This seems to be what works right now with my students.

Anyway...I heard about this great little book and it is perfect for an art project! "Only One You," by Linda Kranz, is a wonderfully colorful book full of great litle nuggets of wisdom. The story itself is of a mother and father fish imparting words to live by to their son, Adri. The illustrations are simple and combine underwater photo backgrounds with rocks painted to look like fish. But these aren't the fish you are used to--they are painted with tons of bright colors and patterns--the artwork is truly inspiring! And don't miss the endpapers (the paper on the inside of the front and back covers), they are filled with little sayings that are great and are good reminders to us all.

Of course, you could paint rocks to link to this book, but I thought a project I saw on Art Moments could be tweaked a bit and work nicely.

Only One ME Paper Plate Fish

Supplies Needed:

  • Paper plate
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick and Elmer's glue
  • Sharpie or other black permanent marker
  • Colored markers (we used Crayola washable markers)
  • Large sheet of blue construction paper (12" x 18")
  • Green and brown construction paper
  • The book, "Only One You," for inspiration!

1. Cut away a triangle shape from one side of the paper plate to create the fish's mouth. Glue the triangular piece you removed onto the side of the fish opposite the mouth to represent the fish's tail (see photo).

2. Use the pencil and draw an eye, lips, and a fin on your fish.

3. Look at the book for inspiration and discuss line, pattern, color, etc. With younger children, you may want to have them practice drawing lines and patterns to get their creative juices flowing. Use the pencil  to divide the areas of the fish into different patterns. The sky's the limit!

4. Once the fish is all patterned-up, have the child draw over the pencil lines with a permanent black marker (if you use a washable marker for this, it will bleed later on). Erase the pencils lines after you've inked the entire fish.

5. Fill in the areas of the fish with color using the markers. Everyone's fish will be different, and that's the point! Make sure the fish is nice and colorful!

6. Have the child rip green and brown paper for the seaweed and ground and adhere them to the blue construction paper background using a glue stick. I used Elmer's glue to adhere the fish to the background.

7. You could add another layer to this project by having the child either write his/her name in a speech bubble coming from the fish's mouth OR have the fish be imparting a bit of wisdom. The children can make up their own bit of advice or use one of the quotes from inside the end pages of the "Only One You" book such as: "Enjoy Every Day."

Another great idea for this project would be to create a bulletin board with all the fish from one class. Decorate the bulletin board with blue paper and add seaweed and a ground from ripped construction paper. Then add a special quote from the book or one that has particular meaning to your class and arrange all of the fish around the quote.

No matter how you do this project, it is a great way to learn some of the basic elements of art while allowing children to express their individuality. The words of wisdom will also spark quite a bit of discussion, no matter what age group you try this project with. Enjoy!
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