Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Painting Outdoors

Our theme for the Living History Day was the Early 1900s. At that time, plein air, or outdoor painting was very important. Why did this kind of painting become more prominent from 1800 on? The invention of something very important to artist -- the paint tube. What did artists use before that? The University of Houston website tell us,

By the 1700s the demand for oil paints had led to new subspecialties among
painters. The colourman now mixed paint and sold it to artists. He radically
changed the business of oil painting. Colourmen sold the first premixed paints in pig's bladders. Then they sold paint in syringes -- rather like grease-guns. By 1800 you could buy oil paint in tin tubes.

As cameras appeared, painters had to redefine their own purpose. Equipped with really portable oils, they changed the game. Instead of reporting the world objectively, they gave us their self-expressive response to a far more fluid world.

To experience plein art painting, we set up to paint outdoors. Students made watercolor sketches outdoors. We'll be finishing those paintings this week in art class.

Below is the scene we were looking at as we painted.

Below is my own color sketch of the scene. As kids finish theirs up, I'll post some of theirs too.

Mini Monets

Second grade is just wrapping up a short, two-period lesson on Impressionist artist Claude Monet. During the first class we watch the wonderful movie, Linnea in Monet's Garden. It's an animated movie, but shows the actual paintings and photographs of the artist at work.

Adapted from a bestselling book, this film tells the tale of a little girl's exploration of Claude Monet's paintings and life. When Linnea and her friend Mr. Bloom arrive at Monet's garden, the two find the actual places which inspired their favorite paintings as the film magically demonstrates how the "real life" garden was transformed into Monet's masterpieces.

After the movie we discuss his painting style and begin our own studies of his masterpieces. Students look at posters of his work while they sketch their versions. On the following week we review what we learned about this artist and how he worked, with strokes and dabs of color placed side by side. We add color to our studies with Crayola markers.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Drawing to Learn

In art class we learn about many different kinds of drawing. Sometimes we make drawings to communicate or express ourselves. Sometimes we draw something in order to learn more about it. Today's fifth grade has been learning about the respiratory system in science class.

For some people, the best way to study something is to make a drawing of it and label. That's what we did. First I demonstrated step by step on the board while the kids followed along and drew and then labeled their parts of the drawing. I had to brush up on my fifth grade science facts so I knew what I was talking about, so I think we all learned something today.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Picturing America

Picturing America, an exciting new initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities, brings masterpieces of American art into classrooms. Our school is lucky enough to be one of the schools chosen to receive these beautiful gigantic art reproductions.
Here's a few words from the NEH website:

Picturing America, an exciting new initiative from the National Endowment for
the Humanities, brings masterpieces of American art into classrooms and
libraries nationwide. Through this innovative program, students and citizens
will gain a deeper appreciation of our country’s history and character through
the study and understanding of its art. The nation’s artistic heritage—our paintings, sculpture, architecture, fine crafts, and photography—offers unique insights into the character, ideals, and aspirations of our country.

By bringing high-quality reproductions of notable American art into public and private schools, libraries, and communities, Picturing America gives participants the opportunity to learn about our nation’s history and culture in a fresh and engaging way. The program uses art as a catalyst for the study of America—the cultural, political, and historical threads woven into our nation’s fabric over time.

We're starting with this portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley:

The Pennsylvania State Standards for art say that it's important that students know how to look at a work of art intuitively, contextually, and through formal analysis. Those are big words, I know, but I reword it this way:

1. What do you think? The first way to look at a painting is to say what we think. There are no right or wrong answers. At least one student in every class things the painting above looks just like Jack Black! A lot of kids pick up on details, like it seems like Paul Revere is a very thoughtful person, and that he has tools there that he is using to make the teapot, so he must a silversmith. Some even notice that the artist has made the setting a little too pretty to be a craftsman's workbench -- and, where's his apron?

2. What do we know? To learn more about the historical context of the subject we look at this painting by Grant Wood, also from the Picturing America set:

Learning about the historical details of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere helps us understand the time period and importance of both paintings.

3. Let's talk about the design. This is when we analyze the pictures using the elements and principles of design. For instance, how does the artist really make his subject stand out in the first painting? One way is how he made the background completely dark.

We're really grateful for these beautiful posters. Click here to see the whole selection of images we'll be able to use from now on.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Postcard from Dinotopia

A whole bunch of our kids wanted to write to James Gurney and let him know how much we liked his talk. Some also wanted to send a picture or drawing. We mailed a big package full of goodies to him, including the gift of a vintage Devil Dinosaur comic from Mr. Wales. Yesterday a postcard from Mr. Gurney came to my house and I wanted to share it with everybody.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Clay Dinosaurs

Second grade clay dinosaurs have been glazed and fired and will be coming home soon!