Yayoi Kusama is one of my favorite contemporary artists. Her irreverence, originality, rebelliousness and whimsy have won my heart, as have her personal struggles with mental illness. An artist whose work always surprises and delights, I love to bring her life story and work to my students.
Together we explore and discuss the work of this seminal Japanese artist, whose pioneering installations have enthralled visitors to her work over the last several decades. Using her iconic polka-dotted pumpkins as inspiration, students will emphasize the elements of line, color and shape, and well as principles of pattern, repetition and movement, in their own brightly colored pumpkins.
This is a two-part unit that will be guided by both technique and style, starting with practicing four basic watercolor techniques: 1) dry paint on dry paper; 2) dry paint on wet paper; 3) wet paint on dry paper, and 4) wet paint on wet paper. (For some students this will be review as we practice this in earlier grades as well.) In the second part of this unit students will explore Impressionist painting, particularly the work of Suzanne Valadon (to be posted next week).
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 explore Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral land art, then venture outside to come up with their own environmental sculptures.
Activity statement –
Andy Goldsworthy is known as an environmental or land artist. What this means is that he uses natural artifacts—branches, leaves, rocks, ice, etc.—to create his sculptures and installations. Goldsworthy’s art is also temporary. He never creates anything that won’t eventually be destroyed by waves, wind and natural processes. Goldsworthy invites the viewer to contemplate the ephemeral, transitory beauty of the natural world. His works involve the use of pattern, color and balance. Interestingly, all of the color in his work comes from the objects themselves, never from him painting any of it. So for example, if you look at the image that looks like a tree trunk ringed with glowing light or fire, he simply used fallen gold and orange leaves to give it that effect.
Students will practice a variety of painting techniques (including color mixing and brush effects) for acrylic painting, practicing these for various effects. Students will then choose a nature postcard to use as a reference for their own painting. Students will eventually create at least two different paintings in acrylic of two different nature scenes, trying to use the techniques learned to recreate specific textures and effects.
Students will practice simple loom weaving and create one small tapestry.
Activity statement –
In the California Visual Arts Standards, fourth grade students should experience using “fibers…to create a simple weaving,” (2.4, Creative Expression). Further, as students will be working on sewing samplers in fifth grade, they will benefit from this opportunity to develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Finally, while practicing this simple weaving technique on a cardboard loom, students will reinforce their understanding of color and pattern via the design they choose to weave.