Monday, January 16, 2012

It's been too long since I last posted... not a day has gone by that I didn't think about coming back to post here on my blog. Things happen, you know? Life, and living it, sometimes... often.... most often, takes me away from doing what I love to do more than anything, and that is to write about my observations and experiences.
Facebook was another thing that happened to me, and if you are on Facebook, then you know what I mean!

In the past I've had many followers who encouraged and supported me and my efforts to do this, and without going into all the details about where I've been and what I've been doing, I'd like to just start with where I am now. My apologies to those who have come here to see what I've been doing only to find I haven't been posting.                
I continue (most gratefully) to teach art in an elementary school in North Carolina. What amazes me about teaching art is that I prefer to do new art projects from year to year, just to satisfy my own need for new experiences and new images, yet often I come upon an art project that is so satisfying and beautiful that it can be done again and again, year after year without producing any semblance of boring repetition in the classroom.
I've linked the text from where I got the following project for art teachers who may be interested in getting their own copy: Dynamic Art Projects for Children by Denise Logan. If the link does not work, here is the URL for you to paste into your address bar:

Okay, onto the pictures and narrative... my favorite part. The project book mentioned above is filled with project ideas, not lesson plans, but they can easily be rewritten into lesson plans that suit your schedule and grade level. I found the large color photographs of finished projects helpful for my own use, so I could create my own finished pieces to use as examples to show the students. I've never been disappointed when using this book for project ideas.
One project I've repeated over the past few years is the Abstract Animal Relief. The book includes several black and white masters of Reptiles for teachers to copy, which was very thoughtful of the author to provide. However, I was working with fourth graders, and they already have a good skill: copying and tracing. I gave them access to hundreds of pictures from various nature magazines (Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard, Nature, Wildlife in North Carolina, National Geographic for Kids, etc).

But even before any drawing took place, I had to introduce the project, so I created a powerpoint of animals that lived in North Carolina... they are studying North Carolina history in their regular classroom, and animal behaviors and adaptations in their science curriculum. (As the art integration teacher, I integrate grade level curriculum with art.). 

After viewing the powerpoint and selecting a North Carolina animal (that was one session alone), they had to find a picture to copy. It took a couple of sessions just for them to find the animal picture they wanted, or felt comfortable trying to copy it. If the picture was a large two-page spread, they could easily trace the outline of the animal using tracing paper (9x12"). But if it was a smaller picture, they had to trace it, then enlarge  the outline using their own copying skills. If a student had trouble copying/enlarging (as some are inclined not to copy well), I let them ask another student who had finished their drawing to help them. This prevented anyone from asking ME to copy it for them. Besides, every class has 3 or 4 students who are highly respected by their peers for their drawing skills... I like to give them the opportunity to help each other as much as possible.

After the drawing was made (the final drawing had to be done on white bond paper, at least on a 9"x12" and up to a 12"x18" paper because I wanted the animals to be large), the next step was to transfer the outline from the white paper to the black construction paper. I don't have pictures of that step. The student places the white paper outline on top of the black paper and traces over their pencil outline with a ballpoint pen. Pressing a bit hard, but not too hard as to tear the paper, they trace the entire outline, which leaves an easily visible track/outline of the animal on the black paper. Then, I gave them each a white watercolor pencil to draw over that track just so they could see it better for the painting step. It took them only a few brief minutes to complete the white pencil tracing.

In the photo below, students are working on the next step: painting the outline with white tempera using a flat brush (I forget the number of the brush, but it made about 1/4" wide line).
Each student has their own cup of white tempera paint and a flat brush. They have already drawn the animal on white paper, transferred it to the black paper in white watercolor pencil.

This student is painting the outline of a wolf. From what I saw, they enjoyed this part the most, especially if they had a good tracing. They were impressed with the realistic shape of the animal, although in the next step, they would be abstracting it with inside lines, shapes, and color.

Outlining continues here in white tempera. Tip: don't dilute the tempera with water... you want a solid, thick white line against the black paper. Most had to repaint the lines at least twice to get that bright white outline.
Students are working on the background piece... it's non-objective, oil pastel. They had to create an abstract by painting white tempera lines directly on the blank black construction paper. They painted this step directly, with no guidelines... using what they knew about line types, they included straight, curvy, zig-zag, diagonal, horizontal, vertical, etc... but I told them to make the lines a single thickness, which is why they used a flat 1/4" brush.

Prior to teaching this step, I briefly taught them about abstract (expressing a quality or idea of the subject, in this case, the animal) and non-objective art (easily identified by not having any recognizable objects: no person, place, or thing) by showing examples. The emphasis is on line, shape, and color in this project. The background is the non-objective piece, the animal is the abstract piece.

After they drew the animal, and colored in with oil pastels, they cut out the animal shape, leaving a black construction paper outline around it. Then they glued cardboard squares onto the back... this gives the relief effect as the animal piece lays just above the background.

Students are at various stages as we work... some are working on the backgrounds, others are working on the animals, and still others are putting it all together. Early finishers are working on another activity (weather picture for newspaper publication).

Here are two more finished examples. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I do!



  1. Hi Bea- how good tp hear from you again! Your artpieces are lovely I am wondering already about using this technique for some stained glass 'saints'. I agree how the same project is made new again and again by the students themselves and how we have changed ourselves.
    have fun!

    1. I love it... stained glass saints. Why didn't I think of that? I hope you'll post about it and let me know so I can come see them.

  2. Oh Bea, you've still got the ability to make me want to be in your art class. I love this project, the results are exquisite. It makes me think of stained glass windows.

    I also love how you integrate art with the grade level curriculum.

    1. Thanks, Sheria... I would love to teach art making to adults, or at least if not teach, facilitate. Most of what happens in class is I show how I do it, and students do what they think I said or understood me to say, and it is from those various interpretations (and prior experiences, and comfort/anxiety levels)that we get such beautiful and different productions from the same model/demonstration. I am probably the most pleased when I'm walking around the room, monitoring their work, and seeing something wonderful take place at each student's desk.

  3. I love the nature pictures that your students drew. I also noticed that the art looked very much liked stained glass pieces. Quite the accomplishments for the grade levels, and I am sure that they learned a lot, as I did. Welcome back, Dearest Bea!

    1. Thanks, Rose... yes, they do look like stained glass pieces. They are brilliant on the walls of the school halls. I want to leave them up for as long as we can. Thanks for visiting today!

  4. I always knew you'd be back one day, Bea. TWO years? Wow, don't be so long next time ;-)

    1. I know, I can't believe it has been two years. I'm in the process of adopting some new habits to replace former bad habits. :-)