Camp was such a special learning and teaching experience for students and teachers. For us as educators, we had to prepare and design a short but intense lesson unit for students and make sure that they could pick up some meaningful ideas and techniques from it. For students, they had the chance to spend 72 hours together with their friends and teachers. Learning wasn’t limited to just lesson either but the whole the whole!
This special art experience was about community building and to let my students understand the relationship between their emotions and visual elements. I prepared a gigantic canvas (25M X 1.7M LONG) for them to work on because we were not going to waste this spacious outdoor learning area!
We had 9 classes, 300 students and parents together to create this artwork! Every class had an hour to create and I divided students into three color groups and assigned them to be seated in the assigned colored area. To begin the lesson I did a little mediation breathing exercise with them to calm and center them.
After that I asked students what communal art is and what the definition of community actually is. Students were able to tell me that a community is formed by a group of people and that the bonding glue among this group of people is friendship, love, respect, and caring for one another. I made them lay down on the big canvas and they traced each other’s silhouette and they discovered that “lines’ and “Shapes” from the overlapping of their silhouettes were in a way a representation of that communal bonding.
The project was then divided into two main parts. Day 1, half of the 4th graders are responsible for building the foundation color layer by using primary colors. Before they applied their assigned color on the canvas, they studied the keywords from “Emotion & Color Poster”. I asked them to transfer those feelings through their paint brush onto the canvas. When they are painting they tried to create a flat and smooth painted surface by color-blocking. This foundation layer was essential because it was to support another half of the grade 4 students’ creation later on in process.
Day 2, another half of the 4th graders responded to the colors of the foundation layer with line, pattern, and mark. Before they started, I told them from looking at different types of line we could find the emotions from the artist when they were painting. For example, “Zig-Zag” line shows unstable and angry feeling; where “Curved” line shows calmness and peacefulness. After that they used their assigned color to communicate with each other through applying different patterns. Students walked freely and find which shapes they would like to add marks on. By walking around and leaving marks on the canvas, students observed and received visual information from others’ marks and they also left their marks in a coherent way with others.
As students and parents were engaged in this visual communication process, I limited their oral communication. In which they were not allowed to use English nor mandarin. The only way to communicate with each other was using sign language and body language. For examples, they tapped on each other’s shoulders and gave people a thumb up to show encouragement. The whole idea behind this was to encourage them to focus on using visual language and to be encouraging to everyone throughout the creative process.
Within around 2 days this communal art project was completed. I am now adding varnish on top of it and it will be displayed in the grade 4 corridor after Christmas!
Lets get started!
It is time for me to change, to improve and to explore another set of standard and international teaching methodology! This year I am working in Hong Kong International School and I am going to learn a lot! One thing that is really highlighted in the American Visual Art teaching standard is the concept of “Teaching For Artistic Behaviour (TAB)”. For starters, each level was given a “warm up” topic for which students worked on their sketch book cover, the aim was to allow students to understand the setting of the Visual Art Room, artistic behaviour as a young artist, and prepare for the coming up exciting art projects!!!
To start with Students worked as a team to complete the “Dots and Circles” painting. First of all they painted a dot on their sketchbook and then they rotated with their other teammates' painting and drew circles around their dots. Every time when they rotated they sang aloud “The dot is me and the circle is we!”. Students enjoyed it a lot and they noticed that the important of collaboration and how to care for the community. Other than that it was to build their art room learning behaviours!
Students began their art journey through studying the map of where our school campus is located. They studied the line and shapes that can be found on the map and mapped out an artistic representation of our location. We also emphasised building our muscle memory by using fingers as an indicator to outline the draft of the artwork before we jumped into tempera paint.
Self-identity was the main learning objective for the fifth graders. Students studied the abstract representation of Picasso’s Portraits and tried to create an abstract form of their faces. With the aid of the “Roll a Picasso” game, students easily picked up the topic and explored the possibilities of abstract painting.
The design of the Art room
I write this as an art teacher, designer, and studio-art artist. Each hour there are 25 young creative energies in the process of art making and a carefully considered design of the space is certainly more efficient to facilitate teaching and learning. That is the reason why studio art classrooms have unique learning needs and safety considerations.
Students are divided into groups so they have a big and flat surface to work on. In addition, sitting in a group also facilitates collaboration, management, communication and supports group learning.
Young artists’ working tables
The height of the artist table is also designed for students to decide whether they want to sit or stand and so that their arms will be just above the table no matter which option they choose. If ink splashing and loose painting styles were their goal, it is often easier to accomplish this when standing. However, when control and delicately detailed work is required, a seated position is more conducive for students. They sit on the artist bench in an opposite direction so the spine of the bench can act as a support for their easel.
There is a storage space under every artist table. One end of the storage is perfect for storing easel boards and the other end is perfect for the table bin and material trays.
Art materials are easy to access thus facilitate experimentation, exploration, and creativity. It also provides options for students to choose when they are working on their sketches or documentation. I place a table bin on the table for art supplies such as color-pencils, drawing pencils, pencil sharpener, rulers, glue sticks, scissors, markers, and most importantly a small color wheel.
The lesson area
A well equipped lesson area should have an overhead projector and a visual presenter. They are essential as images play an important role in observation training and they can have a closer look at my demonstration of art techniques.
The big white board is not only for me to put on notes and learning targets. It is a very important self-learning area that students will go to when they face a problem because there they can find the “to do options” and artists’ references as their inspirations. This training is for them to be a self-learner, problem-solver and most importantly they will not interrupt the flow of others!
Cabins and drawers
30 classes per cycle, 750 students, 750 sketchbooks, unlimited artworks. Organization is the key to success in the art room! Each group has its own bin for nametags and sketchbooks. The bins are placed in the related cabin sorted by class code. Students take care of their materials and they are used to collecting and returning their sketchbooks before and after class.
Alrighty boys and girls! We're ready to Rock n Roll!
The Native American Totem
This year our learning target is to be familiar with different cultures around the world. Here in the visual art room I brought students to America and studied the Native American Totem Pole. This is the best way to appreciate another culture and thus understand varying perspectives throughout the world! Each grade level worked as a team to create a totem pole depending on their developmental level.
Grade 4 students began with studying the features of the animal designs on the totem pole. They did research on the signified meaning of those spiritual animals such as black bear, thunderbird, frog, and tiger. After that they picked their own spiritual animal and studied the shapes that shown on the animal’s facial structure. They converted those complicated features to simple geometric shapes and used paper clay to build on a rounded can. Students had to do multiple sketches and review their animal totem designs, as well as choosing and identifying the best option. During the clay making process they experienced using different clay making tools to create special textures on the clay.
For Grade 5 students, I introduced the totem making process by showing them a video. After that I gave them some pre-cut wood panels and they got to experience the hand-on wood works like gluing, polishing, and cutting. The students then combined the wood panels to form a rectangular box, which was the medium, that they were used to paint on in later process. After they constructed the wooden box, they transfered the geometrical characteristics of the patterns to it and used acrylic and markers to complete their totems.
For Grade 6 students, they got a chance to experience a higher level of idea development process. At first they learnt the theory of “Signifier and Signified”, followed by a research on their personal cultural background and identities. Then they combined their own research on identities with the traditional totem symbols and formed their own unique designs. After some idea development they got to self-critique and make notes on their own designs. At the end they formed groups and worked together as a team to transfer their finalised design on a shared-paper box. The challenging part was to paint vertically and to set up their workspace so all the teammates had space to work.
At the Grade 6 graduation ceremony, all of their finished totem poles acted as the welcoming totem to welcome guests in the entrance of the school hall. It was a wonderful time to celebrate their graduation and also the totem pole symbolised their next big moment in life. Goodbye and all the best in your future!
The Mondrian’s Hong Kong
Students had a lot to learn in this unit! Cutting skill, space relationship, composition of lines and colours, colouring skill and learning how to transform realistic images to an abstract representation! The lesson began with understanding how Piet Mondrian transformed the street of New York City to an abstract painting. After that, each of them picked their favourite famous building from around the world and had to observe and identify the characteristic of their choice.
After that they will use markers to draw vertical and horizontal straight lines to from different sized squares and rectangles based on the images of their chosen building. Students focused on the structure of the building and tried to represent it's character by simple lines and shapes. To finish the draft, they applied red, blue, yellow, white, and black on it in a balanced composition.
The second step was constructing the outline of the building with long and short wooden sticks. Students got a chance to measure the proportion of the building directly using the wooden sticks and to decide which size they would like to work on. Next, students constructed the inner space by reviewing their draft and made adjustments based on the space relationship among the shapes. After they defined the composition of their model, they applied a layer of black acrylic paint on it. Throughout the construction process, students experienced the importance of problem solving and decision making in art making.
On the last lesson, Students added coloured platforms to the main structure of their model. They created a variation for their artwork by using different sizes and colours of the wooden sticks to compose the structure; they created a balanced composition by avoiding the same colour platform to be situated next to each other.
The Experimental Ink
It was Chinese New Year and the visual art room focused on using Chinese ink as the medium to create our art. This was an experimental lesson about tool making and mark making. The lesson began with introducing Henri Matisse's special painting moment. Students were so amazed by this great artist as he used a super-duper long paintbrush to paint in his elderly life.
After that Students were exposed to a wide range of recycle materials and natural materials such as plastic utensils, masking tapes, corrugated paper, tin foil, feathers, strings, cardboards, leafs, wooden sticks, toothpicks, etc… They made use of these materials to create their own drawing tools. All of which had different directions in terms of mark making; while they also documented and drew out the possible use of the tools they made.
The next lesson students got a piece of Chinese rice paper and tried to create different marks with their tools. The studied every single part of the tools and made as many marks as they could possibly do. The experimental result was so inspiring and creative! Here are some of their creations!
Art with our Nature
The lesson began with introducing an installation artist- Andy Goldsworthy to my lovely students. They were all amazed by how the artist makes use of natural elements in creating his art installation. I told them the artist studies and investigate the colors and shapes of the natural elements.
After that I prepared a wide range of natural materials that I found near the school campus and my students tried their best to sort the materials out based on the colours and shapes of it.
Bamboo poles Bark wedges Straw bales Small stones Log stumps Tree cookies
Trimmed branches Pine cones Leaves Seeds Nuts Flowers Wood chips and many more
By sorting the natural materials, students got a chance to touch and smell it, in which it is a very good exercise for them to stimulate their sensory centre. I have later asked them to make use of the materials to create some patterns individually and as a group.
At the end, I explained the installation arts from Andy actually will not be permanent because the natural materials will wilt or be blown away naturally. So they have come up with an idea on documented it by drawing a sketch on their art journey. Well well well… In fact I did print a photo copy for each of them after they did their documentation .
I Dream a Miro
This project was about dreams and for real I asked my students to lay down and pretend that they were sleeping. I guided them to focus on their subconscious mind by ringing by favourite meditation bell and asked them to recall and to dream of something real that happened in their mind. Right after this self-discovering exercise they immediately documented their dream by a quick-sketch exercise on papers.
They got a chance to share their imaginary dreams to their friends and at the end I introduced Joan Miro, a surrealism painting and sculptor, who love sharing his dreams via his artworks. I showed them an animation of Miro’s painting and it helped my students to understand what exactly happened in Miro’s dreams and what symbolic symbols mean in his works.
Students then picked three major elements in their dream and tried to transform their original drawings to Miro’s style. They experienced the difficulties such as minimizing the extra lines in their sketches but with the help of “Roll a Miro” game, they solved their problems and managed to simplify and symbolise their elements by identifying the simple shapes in it. Also by studying the paintings of Miro, they even discovered that simple colour blocking technique could bring different moods to their characters.
In the last lesson, they transferred their finalised elements on a piece on watercolour paper by using oil pastel with a simple water-resist method as the final touch of their artwork.
Gaudi’s Mosaic: Lizard from Parque Guell
Hola Chicos! Que pasa? Spanish Culture week was near and our visual art room brought everyone to a digital Barcelona, Spain. This lesson carves out learning regarding collage, overlapping layers, and to practice students’ motor skills by using scissors. First students got to “walked thought” the street of Barcelona and “visited” some famous buildings built by Antonio Gaudi. They identified the Mosaic patterns and the colors on the buildings were not paint but tiles! In which it is very long lasting compare to paint.
After that they had a handout with a lizard on it. Instead of using broken ceramic to build to mosaics we used cut out paper pieces to add color layers on top. Students practice free-hand cutting and created different sizes and shapes of paper mosaics. Then they glued down the paper mosaics on the related color areas and put a layer of latex glue on top of their collage which gave it a glossy seal.
On the last lesson, they cut out the finished lizards and folded it into half along the spine, created a three dimension form which brought life to the art pieces. After students continued practicing their cutting and problem solving skill, the visual art room finally turned into a home for lizard…