The class will observe and discuss the work of contemporary American painter Wayne Thiebaud, focusing especially on his dessert paintings. Using similar characteristics as seen on Thiebaud’s paintings, students will create their own dessert composition in oil and chalk pastels.
Activity statement –
According to the Jim Kempner Fine Art website, “Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) is an American painter best known for his still life paintings of edible treats and everyday objects in his singular illustrative style” (https://jimkempnerfineart.com/wayne-thiebaud.php ). His most popular subject matter includes cakes in colorful pastel hues, slices of pie, candies such as lollipops, cupcakes, and interestingly, the streets of San Francisco. His paintings generally include thick, bold applications of stylized color, highly defined shadows, and cartoon-like line. His approach to painting gives his desserts a tactile, textured feel. Students will consider using these same characteristics to create the composition of one sweet treat (or treats) of their own, while also considering the placement of the light source in their design, so as to properly express a form and cast shadow.
Students will first practice a variety of line drawing, or mark-making, techniques, and then use those techniques to render a landscape or still life in pen.
Activity statement –
Using photographs as a starting point, the objective of this lesson was for students to express changes in perspective, texture and value (light and dark) in a realistic drawing using a variety of lines, such as stippling, hatching, and cross-hatching, as well as varying the lines’ density. In this way they can transform a pen drawing into a realistic representation of a scene in nature. To help in this objective, students first created a mark-making chart expressing different types of lines, and discussed how the different types of lines could be used to represent texture, perspective and value.
Students practiced aspects of traditional figure study, learning to draw facial features, hands and feet. Students then built on their experience to explore the Cubist approach to the figure, and used what they learned about Cubism to create a cubist-inspired portrait or figure collage their earlier drawings.
Students explored the work of contemporary New York artist Keith Haring. A crafty, resourceful and thoughtful artist, Haring created artwork with powerful messages using deceptively simple, cartoon-like designs in a variety of spaces, both private and public. His work was accessible to a diverse public in ways few artists had achieved.
Students observed and discussed his use of bold, primary and secondary colors, but more importantly they focused on Haring’s use of straightforward line to suggest movement, gesture and feeling. Students attempted their own designs inspired by the characteristics of Haring’s work. The first lesson had students create designs in 2-D, the second in 3-D.
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.
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.
Description of the Unit – Frida Kahlo-inspired self-portraits
Students will explore Frida Kahlo’s iconic self-portraits and, using their observations of her work, create their own, including at least one “spirit” animal in the portrait with them.
Relationship to life –
Frida Kahlo was a prolific painter whose most painted subject was herself. She often painted herself with various animals by her side, such as monkeys, parrots, hummingbirds and deer. Some of these were her real life pets, others were animals she identified with. If students had to choose animals that they personally identify with, what animals would they be, and why?
“Our Eyes” – Students take turns observing each other’s eyes and drawing them.
Activity statement –
This lesson invites students to truly gaze. Students will feel silly at first, sitting face-to-face just staring at one another, and there will be embarrassed giggles all around, but the idea is to prompt students to notice two elements in particular: the shapes they see within the features of the eyes, and the texture of the eyebrows.