Description of the Unit – Students will create yarn paintings in the style of the Huichol of México.
Activity statement – The Huichol are a culture native to western México (mostly in Jalisco and Nayarit) who have preserved many of their ancient arts and crafts practices. So esteemed are they to Mexico’s heritage that the Mexican government and UNESCO have made great effort to preserve the culture and its environment. While the Huichol first used materials found in nature to produce their art, they now Huichol use modern materials and dyes in their crafts. Among the many incredible crafts the Huichol produce is the yarn painting, an intricate, highly colorful tableau of symbols and images “painted” with bright yarn arranged in bold patterns.
Students will reinforce their understanding of patterns in art by creating collage patterns both individually and then in trios for a triptych of patterns.
Activity statement –
Pattern is one of the elements of the visual arts. It is represented as repetition, be it of a color, line, shape, symbol or combination of some or all of these. The repetition can serve to communicate a sense of balance, rhythm, harmony, movement and contrast in the artwork.
Integrated with a science unit on ecosystems, students will create an Eric Carle-inspired collage of an ecosystem.
Activity statement –
In kindergarten science students explore an entire unit devoted to ecosystems. They learn about earth’s many ecosystems: climate, flora, fauna and so forth. Each student is assigned a specific ecosystem to research and present to the class. This collage will be one of the visual elements used in their reports.
To inspire the collage-making process, we will look at different Eric Carle books and notice his painted paper collages. Using his techniques as a guide, we will focus on color and texture as students first paint large pieces of paper in single colors and then add texture with the brushes, combs, forks, rollers and other tools provided. These pieces of paper will be used communally among the students for their collages, therefore no one piece belongs to one student.
Students will learn about a variety of mixed media collage artists and create their own mixed media collage from thoughtfully compiled items.
(FYI: I have a little video tutorial that I made for my students during the Covid-19 shelter-in-place period that takes this assignment one step further by making it a “secret” collage. Check it out to see what I mean:)
Activity statement –
The term “collage” comes from the French word coller, or “to glue.” Originated by the Cubists, the collages were mixed media assemblages of newsprint, photographs, magazines and books, as well as wood, painted paper and sometimes even three-dimensional objects. For this lesson students will observe and discuss the work of three well-known collage artists, Hannah Hoch, Eileen Agar & Kurt Schwitters, and use their collages as inspiration for their own mixed media collage. However, students will be considering very personal objects and text to include in his or her own collage as each collage will also feature a stylized self-portrait photo.
Students will carefully choose imagery that symbolizes or represents aspects of themselves to arrange in collage form within a silhouette of their own profile.
Activity statement –
If images and symbols from the everyday world could be used to represent who you are, what images and symbols would you choose? Students will explore this idea, in the process discussing the ways in which we sometimes consciously and unconsciously choose to align ourselves with certain images and symbols through the clothes we wear, the way we might decorate our rooms, how we select products to consume, etc.
This unit was one my students already explored in second grade, when I first introduce them to the concept of symbolism. https://anitasagastegui.com/2020/04/29/2nd-grade-symbolism-through-a-personal-collage/. I like to re-introduce this unit in seventh grade now that they are adolescents and perhaps would choose completely different kinds of images to represent them in their collage. If possible, I like to have them compare their two collages, so I try to keep the second grade pieces to share with them in seventh grade. Students will carefully look through and choose images and symbols that in some way represent them. They will then consider size and placement of these images in order to create a compelling composition within a real-life silhouette of their profiles, making sure to leave no empty spaces between images. They will share and discuss their choices with the rest of the class.
The concept of symbolism
Ways in which to use imagery to communicate aspects of one’s self
How the arrangement of the images affects composition and focal point
The terms: symbolism, composition, focal point
Be able to:
Articulate their choices to their peers
Create a collage with images of personal importance
Make deliberate choices about the arrangement of these images within the collage
Describe their choices and process to their peers
Resources and materials –
Exemplars of previous silhouette collages demonstrating strong and weak compositions
As many, and varied sources for collage material including books and magazines for students to select images and text from
White Bristol paper, about 14 x 26
Black Bristol paper, also about 14 x 26
A lamp that can be used to project a student’s silhouette (as a shadow) onto a blank wall that a classmate can then trace onto the white Bristol paper
Tape to affix the white paper to a wall while a classmate traces one’s silhouette
What is a symbol?
What does it mean for one thing to symbolize another?
What kinds of images would you choose to represent you? Why?
What is the focal point of your collage?
How will you arrange the remaining images around the focal point?
Tell us about the choices you made in selecting these images.
Tell us about why you decided to arrange these images this way.
Understand how to choose appropriate symbols to represent themselves?
Did students use their understanding of composition and focal point to create a compelling arrangement of images?
Students discovered the work of Joan Miró (1893-1983), a modern artist who blended thoughtful, “high art” concepts with spontaneous, playful designs that captured the imagination and challenged then-current notions of what constituted “good” art. A Miró tableau employed a muted, sparsely colored background with childlike doodles, geometric shapes and blocks of mostly primary color as foreground.
Guided by a similar sense of play, whimsy and surprise, students reproduced similarly styled, playful designs of their own.
Students create a basic nighttime one-point perspective drawing that includes a vanishing point and a horizon line.
Problem/Activity statement –
As objects recede in space, they become smaller to our eye, and eventually meet at a point. A horizon line meets at a vanishing point to separate sky and ground. Students will observe different examples of cities one-point perspective to begin to get a sense for how we perceive things up close and at a distance, as well as to learn to identify whether the perspective is high (“bird’s eye view”) at eye-level, or low (Cat’s eye view”). Additionally, students are challenged with expressing the qualities of color and light at night.
In this unit students will explore the relationship between positive and negative space via the elaboration of a Notan design using both geometric and organic shapes.
Activity statement –
Notan is a design concept of Japanese origin that plays with the relationship (what I like to call “the dance”*) between dark and light, or rather positive and negative space, and how the existence of one naturally engenders the other. Using both organic and geometric shapes cut out of a rectangle and then flipped over, students will experiment with the way shapes contribute to a dynamic relationship between positive and negative space. This unit also satisfies requirements within the California Visual Arts Standards for fourth grade, including 1.2 under Artistic Perception, “describe how negative shapes/forms and positive shapes/forms are used in a chosen work of art”; and 2.6 under Creative Expression “use the interaction between positive and negative space expressively in a work of art.”
Activity statement – If “sad” had a color, what color would that be? If “confused” were expressed in lines, what kind of lines would those be? By exploring the associations of color and lines to certain feelings, students will imagine little creatures that personify those feelings, much in the style of Mies Van Hout’s book “Happy”.
Description of the Unit – Together in class we explored and discussed Mies Van Hout’s picture book “Happy”. In this book Van Hout has colorfully illustrated a number of different fish, each with clearly gestural lines personifying a different emotion (also helped by the expression on each fish’s face). In this book, each emotion is represented in the fish through use of color and line. The students discussed why they thought a particular fish was represented by certain colors or lines to describe a particular feeling. Students shared their own synesthesia around feelings, conveying what colors and types of lines they associate with a certain feeling.
Description of the Unit – Emphasizing line and pattern with Jean Dubuffet’s Hourloupe style
According to one of my favorite modern art history sites, the Art Story, “Dubuffet’s L’Hourloupe series began in 1962 and would preoccupy the artist for many decades. The inspiration came from a doodle he created while on the telephone, in which the fluid movement of line combines with limited fields of color to create movement. He believed the style evoked the manner in which objects appear in the mind,” (https://www.theartstory.org/artist/dubuffet-jean/artworks/#pnt_5).
Students love to learn about the origin of the Hourloupe series, being surprised at how much can be done with a seemingly simple doodle. They like the notion of trying to find hidden images within the doodle as well.
As students are shown ways to embellish a doodle with a variety of lines and patterns, we are given the opportunity to reinforce their understanding of repetition and pattern (having been introduced in kindergarten and practiced in 1st grade). To be able to identify and practice repetition and pattern is prescribed in most states’ standards for second grade visual arts.
As we observe Dubuffet’s Hourloupes, I call students’ attention to his minimal use of color, and have them comment on whether the colors are primary or secondary, and whether they are complementary. Later when making their own designs I have them also choose only a few colors, and have them think about whether they want the colors to be mostly warm or cool.