April 23, 2017

Stained Glass Stories

Started our Spring semester at the Art Museum with a walk up to European art. On our way up, the kids looked at all the galleries through these transparent color paddles, and we talked about the effects of colored light.

At our first stop, we checked out these Heraldic stained glass panels, with shields and swords and lions and knights, and discussed what they might have been for, and where they might have hung.

We ventured into the next room, A French Gothic Chapel with these big, beautiful 16th century stained glass panels.

In this quiet space, we tried to determine how these windows told a story, and what story they might be telling!
(This particular one features a lot of John the Baptist, but my 5 and 6 year olds didn't necessarily immediately get that. Some of them recognized Christ, but there's also unicorns and a castle in it, so the story suggestions were pretty...non-traditional).

Back in the studio, students either created abstract or narrative stained glass windows, cutting shapes from colored cellophane and carefully arranging their compositions. My excellent assistant Miss Alex and I encouraged the kids to experiment with their arrangements, try different arrangements, and urged them to consider how to use the allotted space.

 The 12x18" assemblages were sandwiched into laminating pouches and sent through our VERY MAGICAL laminator.
Finished pieces got hole punched and and fitted with string for hanging. Students had the option of using a Sharpie to add details or fill in space. 


We ended up with ocean scenes and gaming systems and color wheels and buildings, and kitty cats and thankfully, one unicorn:

March 27, 2017

Building the Pyramids

One last Winter Children's Art Class at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and we had a beautiful day to head outside. We hit the sculpture garden, and (after a brief detour to see Claes Oldenburg's "Giant Three-Way Plug") rolled over to see two Sol LeWitt sculptures. Like, literally rolled.

The PMA has two outdoor sculptures by Sol LeWitt - "Steps" and "Pyramid".

The kids examined the sculptures from all angles, barely restrained from climbing them, then got to work. We counted blocks, and layers, and made some guesses about construction.

In pairs (or groups of three, or four...) we used 5/8" blocks to construct towers and structures, aiming for stability and height. Kids used rulers to measure their creations and shared results.

Then, back to the studio.

They used the same wooden blocks to create their own balanced steps, pyramids, or Minecraft Ninja Turtles, permanently secured with wood glue.

This is our second(!) Sol LeWitt inspired project this year, and you can watch a quickie IG vid of the first one here.

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):
board (old shelf)
inked up animal

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"