Category: Art History

Arabic Geometric ‘Tiles’

Arabic Geometric ‘Tiles’

Description of the Unit – Students will explore the centuries-old geometric patterns found in Islamic architecture. Students will use mathematical techniques as instructed in Eric Bourg’s marvelous book, Islamic Geometric Patterns, to re-create a variety of the patterns they have explored through their observations.

Examples of 6th grade students' Arabic geometric "tiles" made by using mathematical steps as given in Eric Bourg's book "Islamic Geometric Patterns"
Examples of my 6th grade students’ Islamic geometric ’tiles’ elaborated from steps given in Eric Bourg’s book Islamic Geometric Patterns.
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7th grade – Cbabi Bayoc and Foreshortening

7th grade – Cbabi Bayoc and Foreshortening

Description of the Unit – When I introduce students to Cbabi Bayoc they often wonder about his “cool sounding” name. Where does it come from? His beautiful name comes from the artist himself. He changed his first name from Clifford to Cbabi, an acronym for Creative Black Artist Battling Ignorance, and, together with his wife, created a new last name for themselves, Bayoc, an acronym for Blessed African Youth of Creativity. Creative he is: Bayoc has worked his way from being a caricature artist at Six Flags in St. Louis to a renowned and sought-after artist commissioned by other notable institutions and artists, including the late musician Prince who commissioned Bayoc to create an album cover for him. Bayoc has also painted school and community murals, and in 2012 he took on one of his most ambitious projects, “365 Days with Dad.” Bayoc painted one painting a day that depicted a positive image of black fatherhood (all while raising his own kids) for the entire year. These uplifting, emotional paintings—such as one of a father swimming with his son, another of a dad reading to his child—has drawn praise from all around the nation, especially within the black community. Bayoc’s work is a testament to the positive influence an artist can have on a community and on the world, and he and his work should be studied and celebrated in our nation’s schools. Please visit his website at: https://cbabibayoc.com/

The artist Cbabi Bayoc with two of his paintings
My Life Matters: Cbabi Bayoc, ©Cbabi Bayoc: https://cbabibayoc.com/
Bayoc with painting 31 of his 365 Days with Dad series
Bayoc with painting 31 of his 365 Days with Dad series, ©Cbabi Bayoc: https://cbabibayoc.com/
The album cover Cbabi Bayoc painted for Prince
The album cover Bayoc painted for Prince, ©Cbabi Bayoc: https://cbabibayoc.com/

Activity statement – (Perspective and foreshortening)

One of the techniques that Cbabi Bayoc uses to great effect is foreshortening. I like to use three of his paintings of musicians to explore the mechanism and effect of foreshortening in two-dimensional art: Blues Man, Light Touch, and Serenading the Street. Observing the paintings, one notices how the use of foreshortening works to direct the movement of our eye, and to draw us towards a focal point.

Cbabi Bayoc's painting Blues Man
Blues Man, ©Cbabi Bayoc, https://cbabibayoc.com/
Cbabi Bayoc's painting Light Touch
Light Touch, ©Cbabi Bayoc, https://cbabibayoc.com/
Cbabi Bayoc's painting Serenading the Street
Serenading the Street, ©Cbabi Bayoc, https://cbabibayoc.com/

Foreshortening places the viewer nose-to nose with the subject, especially in Bayoc’s work. The size exaggeration in foreshortening brings a sense of immediacy to the moment; we can hear the music being played, sensing the passion and concentration behind the music. Foreshortening in this case makes the action of playing music the true subject of the painting. Bayoc is inviting us to pay attention to the instruments and hands, but more abstractedly, he is asking us to pay attention to the music. In essence, foreshortening is emphasizing the music.

Students also observe the way in which two elements play a key role in how we relate to these paintings. Those elements are color and shape. The colors Bayoc uses are earthy, vibrant and alive, without being overwhelming. Some students have mused that the colors are used perhaps to emphasize warmth, energy and passion.

The features of the body and face are rendered through basic shapes, abstracting the figure somewhat to give us a more animated representation of reality. There’s an immediacy and accessibility to these paintings that seems to be the result of this slight abstract of the humans depicted.

Student work: A Foreshortened Self-portrait – I ask my students: “how can you depict yourself in a situation that requires foreshortening, and make it truly come to life?” This is a challenging project for the students, for in order to express foreshortening you have to have the correct point-of-view. It is important to spend time looking at other images that express foreshortening as well, and I like to pull up images of swimmers, basketball players and martial artists that express foreshortening and non-foreshortened postures to discuss the differences in perspective, point-of-view and distance.

Examples of foreshortening: a girl doing a karate kick up high, another stepping onto the viewer, and a boy playing violin
Examples of foreshortening

Goals – Students should…

Understand:

  • What foreshortening is, and why an artist might employ it in an artwork

Know:

  • How to express foreshortening
  • Other ways of emphasizing certain aspects of an artwork and creating a focal point

Be able to:

  • Complete one self-portrait using foreshortening, as well as thoughtful use of positive/negative space and accurate expression of light and shadow

Objectives – Students will:

  • Use vocabulary (foreshortening, emphasis, negative/positive space, background, foreground, warm/cool color, composition, geometric and organic—these latter two to denote shape) to describe Bayoc’s paintings and their own work
  • Demonstrate an understanding of ways to employ foreshortening in a self-portrait
  • Use mixed media to express light and shadow (basic three-dimensional effects) in their self-portrait
  • Express their personal aesthetic style through a self-portrait
  • Express their thinking and choice-making as they work
  • Finish one self-portrait that includes use of foreshortening, thoughtful use of positive/negative space, and accurate representation of light and shadow

Resources and materials – (Though not exactly a mixed media piece, I invite students to use any and all media below as they wish)

  • Exemplars of Cbabi Bayoc’s paintings, especially those emphasizing foreshortening
  • Tagboard or Bristol paper (or any heavyweight paper) in large format (12” x 18” is a good size)
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Oil pastels
  • Chalk pastels
  • Paper towels (for blending)
  • Watercolor paint
  • Brushes
  • Cups

Questions –

•Topic questions (while observing Bayoc’s work):

  • What do you notice first?
  • What do you think the focal point of this painting is? Why?
  • What do you notice about the size ratio between foreground and background objects?
  • What kinds of colors are used here?
  • Do the shapes used feel more organic or geometric to you? Explain.
  • In what other ways does Bayoc draw our attention to the focal point?
  • Does this painting seem realistic? Why or why not?
  • How is light and shadow expressed? Describe.
  • How does this painting make you feel? Describe.
  • How does Bayoc use the space on the canvas?

•Association questions:

  • Why might an artist employ foreshortening?
  • In what other ways can you emphasize a focal point in a painting?

•Visualization questions:

  • What kinds of images or scenes can you imagine having a foreshortening element? Describe.
  • What are some perspectives in which you would not be able to express foreshortening?
  • What strategies might you use to create a focal point?
  • What strategies might you use to express light and shadow?

•Transition questions (observing completed work by other students):

  • What do you think the focal point is here?
  • What did the student do well? What might you suggest they could do to enhance their work?

Evaluation – Did students:

  • Properly express foreshortening (including correct use of perspective)?
  • Create a visible focal point?
  • Express realistic light and shadow?
  • Create a visually interesting composition?

Informal:

  • Group discussion
  • Oral responses to questions
  • Classroom observation

The following are student examples. I apologize for some of the shadows on these photos; we did this unit during the Covid pandemic, so students were at home, and responsible for sending me photos of their work, hence some of the shadows. What I enjoy so much about these pieces is how different they all are, from subject, to media to approach. It was such fun guiding the students through this unit and seeing the resulting artwork.

First, we have work-in-progress:

7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork: girl tying her shoe.
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork: man holding out a fish.
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork: girl with hair flying all around her, tear in her eye, holding out her hand
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork

7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork: boy holding a pencil in his foreshortened hand
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork: a female superhero generating lightning
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork: Spiderman in black swinging above a city
7th grade in-progress student foreshortening artwork

Next, these are completed artworks:

7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a girl holding out an instant camera
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a boy holding out a tablet
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: girl demonstrating a karate punch
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: boy doing a karate kick in front of a red sun
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a girl stomping on the viewer below her with her boot, while flashing the peace sign with both hands
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a boy playing darts, pointing a dart toward the viewer
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a girl swimming in a pool, viewed from under the water
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a girl holding out a red dahlia
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a girl frying an egg
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a girl cupping butterflies in her hands, while butterflies and rainbows surround her
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Student Artwork: a girl lying on her stomach reading a book
7th Grade Completed Foreshortening Art Lesson
6th Grade – Yaacov Agam and Agamographs

6th Grade – Yaacov Agam and Agamographs

Description of the Unit – Students will examine and discuss the work of artist Yaacov Agam, and through his inspiration they will create their own Agamograph, a kinetic work of art that transforms from one image to another, depending on the viewers’ perspective.

The kinetic Dizengoff Square Fountain by Yaacov Agam, seen here lit up at night
The kinetic Dizengoff Square Fountain by Yaacov Agam

Activity statement – Yaacov Agam is an Israeli artist best known for his pioneering Kinetic Art. His lenticular prints, or Agamographs, made illusory images appear depending on the audience’s viewpoint. These pieces ask one to contemplate change, progress, time, and our role as observer vs. participant. Students will consider images of concepts, creatures or objects which can shift or change in some way, and incorporate their chosen concept into an Agamograph. To successfully create an Agamograph, students will need to make precise mathematical measurements throughout the entire process. Students will have the choice of coloring in their Agamographs in marker, colored pencil, oil pastel and watercolor (for backgrounds)—or a combination of any or all of these media.

The artist Yaacov Agam demonstrating the fluid changeability of one of his kinetic art pieces.
The artist Yaacov Agam demonstrating the fluid changeability of one of his kinetic art pieces.
Yaacov Agam's tribute to victims of the AMIA bombing
Yaacov Agam’s tribute to victims of the AMIA bombing
"Visual Prayer for Peace, Hope and Tolerance" by Yaacov Agam
“Visual Prayer for Peace, Hope and Tolerance” by Yaacov Agam

Goals – Students should…

Understand:

  • The meaning of kinetic art
  • What an Agamograph is and does

Know:

  • Who Yaacov Agam is, and the kinds of concepts he explores in his kinetic artwork

Be able to:

  • Use a ruler to make precise measurements
  • Think in fractions and apply fractions to paper
  • Visualize the process of change between two separate images in order to create an Agamograph

Resources and Materials

  • Examples of Yaacov Agam’s work, as well as examples of student Agamographs 
  • 9×12 white heavyweight (Bristol) paper
  • 12×18 lightweight white paper
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Sharpies (fine and thick point)
  • Rulers
  • Colored markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Oil pastels
  • Watercolor
  • Brushes
  • Jars
  • Cutting board

Questions – (first few questions pertain to observing Agam’s work)

  • What do you notice? What is happening?
  • How do you think this work is created?
  • What could the idea of kinetic art symbolize?
  • What deeper meaning might there be to kinetic art?
  • What makes kinetic art interesting?
  • How do you feel about being able to interact with the work of art?
  • How does this make it different to viewing a static work of art?
  • What kinds of things can you imagine that transform?
  • Give examples of two different beings, objects or concepts that can represent a transformation (ie, caterpillar to butterfly, egg in a nest to bird, daytime landscape to nighttime landscape, etc.)

Evaluation – Did students:

  • Come up with a concept that represents change/transformation?
  • Successfully construct an Agamograph to represent this transformation?

Informal:

  • Student questions
  • Group discussions
  • Oral responses to essential questions
  • Elaboration and risk-taking

The following are video representations of 6th grade students’ Agamographs:

6th grade student Agamograph – city to countryside
6th grade student Agamograph – otter to bones
6th grade student Agamograph – from farm to plate
6th grade student Agamograph – Shell Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’

The following are photos of 6th grade student Agamographs displaying both sides of each piece:

6th Grade Student Agamograph - Transformation from an otter to an otter skeleton
6th Grade Student Agamograph – Transformation from an otter to an otter skeleton
6th Grade Student Agamograph - Transformation from a common rat to Mickey Mouse
6th Grade Student Agamograph – Transformation from a common rat to Mickey Mouse
6th Grade Student Agamograph - Transformation from the Batman searchlight to Batman
6th Grade Student Agamograph – Transformation from the Batman searchlight to Batman
6th Grade Student Agamograph - Transformation from the little boy to the old man inspired by Shell Silverstein's "the Giving Tree"
6th Grade Student Agamograph – Transformation from the little boy to the old man inspired by Shell Silverstein’s “the Giving Tree”
1st Grade – Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square

1st Grade – Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square

Description of the Unit – Students will explore Josef Albers’ series Homage to the Square, using his artwork and our discussion as a guide to creating their own series of squares, concentrating on contrast and depth.

>Josef Albers with one of his paintings from the series Homage to the Square
Josef Albers with one of his paintings from the series Homage to the Square
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8th Grade – Photography Unit, Lesson 1: Composition and Intro to Your Camera Settings

8th Grade – Photography Unit, Lesson 1: Composition and Intro to Your Camera Settings

Description of the Unit – Students will embark on a seven-lesson photography unit, getting to know the way a camera works and how to use their settings, as well as understanding the elements and principles of design to achieve specific shots. Additionally, students will be introduced to formative photographers, both past and present, as inspiration for the subject of each lesson.

My 8th grade photography students & I (teacher Anita Sagastegui), as they learn to navigate their camera settings
My 8th grade photography students & I, as they learn to navigate their camera settings
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Kindergarten – Halloween Shadow Puppets inspired by Wayang Kulit puppets

Kindergarten – Halloween Shadow Puppets inspired by Wayang Kulit puppets

Description of the Unit – When I was about eight years old, an uncle of mine returned from working abroad in Jakarta, Indonesia, and brought back a pair of Wayang Golek rod puppets. These two-foot tall dolls both frightened and fascinated me, with their elaborately painted, expressive faces and beautifully dyed, patterned clothes. Many years later I learned that these puppets were related to another Indonesian puppetry art-form: the Wayang Kulit shadow puppets. These puppets are mostly two-dimensional and are manipulated in front of a diaphanous, backlit screen. The puppets themselves have designs and patterns cut into them making them look almost lace-like, adding to the characteristics of individual puppets.

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7th Grade – Movement, Repetition and Balance with Jean Dubuffet’s Hourloupe

7th Grade – Movement, Repetition and Balance with Jean Dubuffet’s Hourloupe

Description of the Unit – Emphasizing movement, balance and repetition with Jean Dubuffet’s Hourloupe

This unit revisits a second-grade unit which also focused on the Hourloupe to practice line and pattern; here we go further to practice the above-mentioned principles of design.

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6th Grade – Architectural Foil Repousse inspired by artist Stephen Wiltshire

6th Grade – Architectural Foil Repousse inspired by artist Stephen Wiltshire

Description of the Unit –

Students will learn about the life and work of artist Stephen Wiltshire. Using his incredibly detailed drawings of buildings and cityscapes, students will create a mini architectural drawing that they will then transfer onto foil.

Artist Stephen Wiltshire working on one of his cityscape panoramas
Artist Stephen Wiltshire working on one of his cityscape panoramas
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