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!


  1. Wow! This project covers so many art concepts and I can see why your students really liked it. I have seen other blog posts about this artist, but I like the project you developed the best. I can see teaching this artist to kinders all the way up to my 5th grades. Thanks for a great post!

    1. Thank you! I was worried that it looked "too easy" but the children were so sophisticated when talking about Thomas' work and explaining their color and composition choices on their own pieces. I was in awe of them. For the little ones you could start with a shape (like a circle or even a triangle or square) and have them work from there if you wanted to focus on a radial composition...I may try that next year with the class I teach that has 2nd-5th graders all in one. Or, at least, have it as an option. We'll see! Take care!

  2. I love the individuality of the projects.
    Your students interpreted the work of the artist beautifully.


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