March 5, 2017

Heroic Portraits: Kehinde Wiley and Mickalene Thomas

Inspired by the large scale portraits by Mickalene Thomas and Kehinde Wiley, our pre-Kindergarten students created their own heroic portraits, blending digital and hands-on artmaking techniques.
We began our project by viewing Wiley's paintings featuring street cast black New Yorkers, in familiar Renaissance poses. Turns out, the juxtaposition of contemporary subjects in grandiose postures is intriguing, even to our littlest friends who don't have years of Art History classes on their resume!

 

Later in the week, we compared his paintings to some (school safe) work of Mickalene Thomas, whose paintings celebrate race and femininity.  
I love to show work that kids might see someday in Philly, and happily these artists both have work in the collection at PAFA. 
Look into either of their work if you want to get inspired to make some impactful portraits!

The first week of our project was photography and digital manipulation. I run a choice based studio, so about six kids at a time were working on this, and it took a week for all the kids to finish each each phase of their portrait (two weeks total).

Wiley's work features complicated patterned backgrounds, so our first task (of many) was to create hand drawn patterns. For this step, kids got to use my special smelly markers, which elevates any basic drawing project into a Special Event. These drawings were photographed and archived into folders (one folder per class). 


Next up was photography. I bought a (cheap, but effective) green screen on Amazon for about $10, and tacked it to a bulletin board wall. The kids used some scarves and minimal props to make heroic poses, and snapped photos using iPads. The portraits were also archived into class folders.


After that, we had to combine the portrait with the background. For this I used the app "Green Screen" by DoInk, which is so simple and a thumbs-up recommendation. Import the background and the portrait, and the kids can resize either image, spin the orientation, and adjust the green screen sensitivity. Finished pictures were saved into their folders as well.


When everyone's pictures were complete, I sent them off to Snapfish. Two weeks (and two projects) later when the printed photos arrived, we started Phase 2.  Working from the heavily bejeweled images by Mickalene Thomas, we created embellished frames to contain our photos.


Students painted the backs of sushi take out containers (I got FIVE HUNDRED for $3.50 from NAEIR. If you're not a member, get a teacher membership today.) The photos were glued on, and then students choose pom-poms, sparkles, glitter, doilies, beads, and more to add to their portrait! They also used fluorescent window markers to decorate the lids of the sushi containers before gluing them on and completing their masterpieces!
To see our process in process check us on YouTube.


February 12, 2017

Visiting Artist: AMBERELLA

Our school-wide theme for February is "measurement" and we had a special guest come in to the studio to explore the concept of scale with us!


Amberella is a Philadelphia street artist who makes the itty bitty messages on candy hearts into large scale public art pieces. Many of her wheatpaste hearts contain thoughtfully selected texts that convey messages of love, solidarity and empowerment to passerby.

In preparation for this collaboration, my students "studied" candy sweet hearts, and came up with some favorite love notes, which were sent Amber's way. 
Along with a bunch of Amber's messages, the kids picked "NO MATTER WHAT" from B.J. Novak's "The Book With No Pictures", which I looove (both the phrase and the book).


In the days before her visit, we prepped canvases by painting them in monochromatic color schemes. Some kids just have a ball attacking a blank canvas, nah'mean?


We ended up with a whole rainbow of canvases ready to be upgraded with Amber's messages!


During her visit, students saw slides of Amberella's "goth hearts", saw some of her latest products (this collab with UO and this one with Pizzeria Vetri) and had q&a with the artist. I love when they get to meet practicing artists, and learn that being an artist could be their job!


After this introduction, we mixed batches of wheat paste, and used the tools of the trade to paste hearts onto canvases. 


We were all verrrry gooey from smoothing the glue covered papers onto the canvases.


At the end of the day, we had a slew of candy colored posi vibes that we'll hang around the school.







February 4, 2017

Haas and Hahn Favela Playhouse

Inspired once again by the artist duo Haas and Hahn, we took a cue from their Favela project, and focused on intentional design.



Questions I asked students as we examined the neighborhoods revitalized by Haas and Hahn centered around the purpose and practicality of their projects:

  • who do you think lives there?
  • why would someone paint a whole neighborhood, instead of just their own house?
  • how did the artists plan for this project?
  • why do you think they chose these designs?
  • what tools did the artists use, and who do you think helped?


I assembled this small cardboard playhouse and had our students examine the interior and exterior. Using our conversations about Haas and Hahn as a a starting point, interested designers created design submissions with marker. 


One design was chosen and students worked to carefully replicate the color schemes from the drawing in tempera paint.



At the end of our week, things got a little crazy and the house got a very special, very silly, pre-Kindergarten wrap job.


While some students were working on the design end of things, others were using our hand painted blocks to create mini neighborhoods of their own. Use "Haas and Hahn" in my search bar to see a post about creating those blocks. We've painted over them and continue embellishing them since - they're beautiful!


January 27, 2017

Stuffed Animal Monoprints


Inspired by the ridiculously intriguing prints of Geoffrey Ricardo, my pre-K students helped me simultaneously ruin and immortalize some formerly precious stuffed animals.


Our (messy, but simple) process involves a few printmaking supplies, and (as you'll see) a very improvised press.


First, rolling out block print ink. I prefer BLICK water soluble (bc: cleanup), but in a pinch an acrylic paint or heavy bodied tempera works too. Each day (for a week) we had a different color ink, and 
had about five animals to choose from.


We tried black and white (this girl's favorites for this project), turquoise and metallic gold and silver. For little kids, I doled out the ink, they pulled it with the brayer and loaded it into the animal of their choosing.


The animal was laid face down on their paper (on the floor) and the pre-K printing press* was engaged. (*The "press" means we put paper on the ground, then the animal, than an old shelf over it, and my tiny friends stood on top of it with their STRONGEST LEGS. Lots of teamwork here, and as you'll see in the video, hugging.)

Picture this (top to bottom):
kids
board (old shelf)
inked up animal
paper
floor


After the "press", the artist got to pull their animal off the paper to see the resulting monoprint.


It was an excellent exploration of texture, and an awesome way to introduce printmaking in a pretty concrete way (and in a medium that really resonated with my tiny people!)


On the practical end:
  • we started by looking at Geoffrey Ricardo's process, and discussing some of his work - Teddy Bear Roll Out is a good place to start
  • stuffed animals were donated by friends and internet strangers (thanks FB, thanks CL, thanks sister)
  • they were half heartedly washed, and hung to dry each day, to hopefully be used again
  • cardstock or scrapbook paper worked best (provided the best contrast and surface for the ink), but then you're limited by size, so some of our big ones were on construction paper, which will fade, but c'est la vie.






January 8, 2017

Pezzetinos: little pieces



Our first week back from break, and we got deep into painted paper collages.  We started our week by reading Leo Lionni's "Pezzettino".


 In Pezzettino, the "little piece" goes on a journey to find his whole, and learns that "he too, like the others, was made out of many little pieces." The kids thought of ways they were made of many pieces, and that their classes were similarly made of lots of pieces!

On the practical side of things, we spend one day prepping paper to be used in our collages. We mainly worked with acrylics and a variety of brushes, and used shaving cream to marble paper.


On subsequent days, the paper was cut up into strips and then (hopeful) squares - lots of good gliding and snipping practice - and all these crazy creatures were created.


"A Royal Unicorn: the one who helps people get gold from jaguars, and she's really strong"


"Tutu Monster: the one who rolls"


"Cat: the one who scratches"

December 12, 2016

De Stijl: LEGO Block Prints


For our final week of the semester, my small friends and I ventured into the Modern Art collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  In the galleries, we read Coppernickle Goes Mondrian*, and as we followed the painter Mr. Quickstep's journey to "find the new", the kids began connecting the increasingly minimal and simplified illustrations in the book with the simple, graphic style of the Mondrian paintings hanging around us.


Piet Mondrian, "Oppositions of Line, Red and Yellow" 1937

Cool, they got neoplasticism: the purest colors, the straightest lines, the most basic forms.

Back in the studio: demo. We would use everybody's favorite bricks to create compositions, one color at a time. 


I had pre-assembled a printing plate with Legos, then showed the kids how to roll out ink with a brayer and ink their plate.  Paper was aligned on top of the plate, then (another new vocab word) the "baren" was used to transfer the ink to the paper.


After each color (yellow then red then blue then black), the kids got a wipe to wipe down their Legos, their plate, and their hands before starting the next layer. With 20-some kids making four blocks each, we went through some wiiiipes. But worth it.


For teachers anxious to try this out, I gotta tell you: preparation was crucial. It took a lot of legwork to get everything together. I've had this project in my mind for a while, and enlisted some help along the way assembling the Lego blocks, AND had my super great assistant Tara on board all day.



For interested parties, here's what we used:
  • 20 6.5x6.5" Lego plates (these were mounted on MDF, for ease of handling, and to help them stay nice and flat during assembly and printing)
  • millions of Legos (we used regular "bricks" for printing dots, and "tiles" which have flat tops for printing solid areas. I bought these anywhere I could find them, including Lego trading sites in Eastern Europe, really.) These Legos are now very dirty, and are designated printmaking Legos.
  • Blick block print ink
  • Speedball brayers and barens
  • plexiglass to roll ink
  • block print paper cut to 8.5x8.5" (allowing a 1" border on all sides, making for easy alignment)
  • a wooden guide - you can see this in the photo above- it was a 8x8" square, with a 1" frame on two sides. Students would square up their inked Lego plate in it and align their paper with the edges of the guide, ensuring a 1" border all around.
  • one billion hand wipes for cleaning Legos, plates, and hands. You might be able to skip this if you've got a good sink set up. We didn't.


Overall, much success. Each print turned out differently, and the kids looooved touching Legos (seriously, their eyes LIT when they walked into the room), and I think they made the connection with the art we saw in the collection, which is super.


*and now a disclaimer about this book:


I don't really care for the story.
I find the phrasing and dialog strange, and the story (of looking for the future) too abstract, but kids still seem to like it and the illustrations are ON POINT. So it's an okay companion for this project.

November 20, 2016

Horsing Around: BARDING

This week at the Art Museum, my 5 and 6 year old friends and I spend some time in that favorite spot of museum going children everywhere: ARMS and ARMOR. With this visit, we gave some special attention to the 500 year old Horse Armor of Duke Ulrich of W├╝rttemberg



We took in all the details of the barding (that's horse armor!), including decorative and functional elements. The kids picked out toy horses and took them to meet all knights in the gallery, looking for the bravest candidates with the best designed armor.


Back in the studio, each horse got named and developed special skill sets. Kids used Model Magic, foil, pipe cleaners, chain, pom-poms, feathers and jewels to create custom barding for each toy horse.


Upon completion, horses participated in a fashion shoot and then were recruited for a horse army march before heading home. See pictures: they were ALL. SO. GOOD.

(Wearing a medal for bravery.)

(Very ready for winter, "almost like wearing lots of blankets".)

Muy misterioso.

 This horse needed a pal (and now has one!)

So safe. So protected.

This one has very beautiful rainbow hair. Lots and lots of rainbow hair.

Teachers and museum educators out there: A+, strong recommend, high engagement and interest from all kinds of learners. Horses!

Philly friends: take a kid to the Arms and Armor gallery at the Philadelphia Museum of Art