For this months art lesson with third grade, I chose to make wire circus performers inspired by Alexander Calder’s circus. When the children were in 1st grade we made Giacometti inspired wire sculptures. The thicker wire in these sculptures was difficult to bend so I chose thinner wire this time.
The lesson began with the book Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone. This picture book tells the story of Calder’s youth, how he came to enjoy wire sculpture, become an artist and create his moving circus.
The Whitney Museum of American Art have actual video footage of Alexander Calder working his circus. I showed the children this video from 1927, but there are many others.
For our project we made trapeze artists. I thought they would look great on a display especially if we could string them across the classroom.
Bend the piece of wire in half and twist the top to create a loop for the head.
2. Fold from half way along the remaining wire towards the centre to make arms.
3. Twist the arms, leaving a loop at the end for hands. Twist part of the remaining wire together to form a body.
4. Open the bottom of the wire out to make legs (cut if too long). Add loops for feet.
5. Cover the surface with masking tape. Add extra layers for padding out specific areas.
Once the class had made their basic shapes for their trapeze artists, they were given a variety of materials to create, costumes, hair, faces and props. To join the material to their sculpture, some made holes and threaded pieces through, some used tape or glue and some used the wire to wrap around the material, joining it to their circus performer.
Making the Trapeze
Join two pieces of wire to a wooden ice cream spoon and attach to a straw. The children posed their trapeze artists in different positions and we took pictures to remind ourselves of the poses, when we put them on display.
I love the way they turned out and how each child put their individual character into their sculpture. I’d love to have the time to do a full-scale project and create a whole circus. We could investigate different ways of building and making the models move, perhaps with individual groups working on different aspects of movement. Perhaps some of the kids will be inspired to do this at home?
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I wanted to make a collaborative, three-dimensional piece for our art walk with 2nd grade. The theme for this years art walk is water.
I came across a wonderful project called Washed Ashore . The Washed Ashore project is a joint art and education initiative. Artist Angela Hazeltine Pozzi, worked with hundreds of volunteers to collect plastic washed up onto Oregon beaches, clean it up and turn it into sculptures of sea creatures. The plastic is re-used to create art that represents creatures at-risk from the pollution of ocean plastic.
This image immediately struck me as something we could use as inspiration.
I decided to call our piece “swimming through plastic“, adding origami fish swimming amongst the plastic mobiles .The class have been learning about pollution in social studies this term so this was a perfect project to extend their thinking. The art project was completed in two art sessions.
We began the first lesson with a short video about the Washed ashore project and a discussion about how this linked to their social studies work on water pollution.
As a whole class, we worked step by step to make a simple origami fish. We used this origami tutorial from We are Scout. Some children needed help with the final steps of the fish but most could complete it easily.
Once the children had made a fish some of the children cut plastic bags into strips and tied them to a decorative fishing net that would act as the base of the piece.
The rest of the class worked on making plastic mobiles.
We collected plastics from home to make the mobiles. Ideally I would have scoured the beach for debris and used real beach trash, but the weather has been so awful this spring that we didn’t make it to the coast. I was also a little worried about hygiene, as I wasn’t sure I would be able to clean the plastic well enough.
We collected small pieces such as bottle tops and small plastic toys and larger objects like bottles and containers. The children were given wire, string and tape to fasten the pieces together in any arrangement they wished.
One child chose to place bottle tops in a plastic tub and fill it with water. I explained that the water would make it too heavy so we agreed to remove most of the water but leave a small amount, enough for the bottle tops to float.
By the end of the first lesson we had part of the net assembled, one origami fish per child and ten plastic mobiles.
I wanted to involve the children as much as possible in putting the piece together. Our next art lesson was the day before the art walk so we used this time to assemble it and create more pieces.
The lesson was split into four stations.
origami fish – a small group worked to make more fish
tying the fish to line and attaching them to the net – we punched holes into the fish and tied on the thread.
cutting strips of plastic bag and tying them to the net – I found more blue plastic bags and the children cut and tied them at different lengths
making mobiles from plastic. – this time we provided smaller pieces, that they assembled to make long, lightweight mobiles.
The Art Walk
My aim was to make this a piece that could be walked under. To create this, we mounted it around the frame of a basketball hoop with wire. The fish and mobiles were then attached at the appropriate height.
The water-filled mobile takes pride of place at the front of the display
Washed Ashore Exhibit at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
When I was searching for information about the project to share with the children, I was excited to discover that the art pieces will be visiting Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium from 22nd April, so the children will have an opportunity to see them for themselves.
Each sculpture is accompanied by an interpretive sign that gives its name, information about the animal it depicts, and an “I Spy”-style list of plastic items that visitors can hunt for among the mountain of trash that Pozzi turned into an appealing sea creature or shore bird.
We’re bringing this exhibit to Point Defiance
Zoo & Aquarium to emphasize our deep
commitment to teaching our visitors that their
daily actions have consequences far beyond
what they might imagine,” said Karen Povey,
the zoo’s Curator of Conservation Engagement.
“We see Washed Ashore as an opportunity for families to learn more about the connection between our actions and the ocean – and do it in a very fun way,” says Andrea Smith , president of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium eliminated the sale of single-use plastic water, soda and juice bottles from its café and vending machines early this year, along with plastic bags in its gift shop and plastic straws and drinking cup lids.
The zoo has been a conservation leader in the Puget Sound region for 112 years, and they are proud to continue that tradition in 2017 with Washed Ashore. The exhibition runs until October 21 2017. I’m hoping to attend in a few weeks time, so watch this space for more insights into this exhibit.
A friend recently gave me a beautiful book about illustrators and the story behind their work.
The cover design of Artist to Artist was the inspiration for my art project for 2nd grade. I read the Eric Carle section of the book with interest and looked up videos of Eric Carle explaining how he creates his illustrations.
Various shades of blue tissue paper
Scrap book paper
glue and scissors
After watching the video with the children, I explained our under the sea themed collage. The children would draw and cut out sea creatures using scrap book paper and then the sea around it (or over the top if they preferred) would be made using a collage of tissue paper.
The children chose their paper , drew sea creatures of their choice, cut them out , drew features with a sharpie and stuck them onto their paper.
Following this the children added different colours of tissue by tearing it into strips or small pieces to make the Ocean. I showed them how they could put a thin layer over their creature to show it was under the sea and give it a shadowy effect or collage around the creatures.
Some children didn’t want to have sea creatures in their picture and instead chose to draw stones or shells.
I explained that we would combine the pictures to make a complete under the sea scene. Some had clear ideas as to where their picture should fit into the display. This child for example asked if the dolphins could be jumping out of the ocean and used white tissue to make the foamy waves, her picture was placed at the top.
Once the pictures were dry, I coated them with modpodge. This gave them a varnished effect and helped loose bits of tissue to lay flat.
One observation I have made with this class is that often I come away feeling that some children have been so carried away with the process that the finished product feels rushed and very messy. I wish we could have a process session before making a product as I do with Kindergarten . However, my main observation is, even when I feel some children’s projects really will not come together properly, somehow they always do. Every child has a different idea (which I encourage) and somehow they all work in different ways in the end.
And once they were all put together they looked like this.
We have an art walk later in the year. I intend to add a 3-D art project to this piece and hang it, so it looks more complete.
This month we were asked to create something for square one art using the theme of water. Square one art is an annual fundraiser to create an art project that prints onto mugs, key rings etc. Since it rains a lot here, I decided it would be apt to create a rain themed project.
For square one, I always try to make something that is unique to each child and that parents will think is cute enough to persuade them to place an order. With this is mind, I decided to ask the children to draw a picture of themselves under an umbrella. The rain would be painted on top of the picture but the area under the umbrella would remain without any rain by marking it off with masking tape.
I collected images of rain paintings to show the children different ways of painting rain. Some showed rain dripping, others had splashes or fine sprays and some just had a mix of crazy colours in streaks.
I decided to practice rain painting techniques with kindergarten before creating the finished product. When I told my daughter we were painting rain she asked, “But how can you paint rain because rain doesn’t really have a colour? ”
I started the lesson by showing the children pictures of rain paintings. We talked about some of the techniques and I demonstrated how to make paint drip down the page using a paintbrush and using a pipette/dropper. I also showed them how to flick the paintbrush to make a fine mist that looked like a rain shower.
Each child had the following materials:
a pallet with tempura paint colours
a pot of water
The children went away to practice. They tested different ways to make the paint drip. Some made their paintbrush really wet and then dipped it into the palate.
Some painted a splodge of colour at the top of their paper and then used the dropper to add water to make it drip.
Some found it worked well if they painted splodges all over the paper and then added water with the dropper.
Some used a combination of techniques.
and some did completely their own thing.
When I came to do the project with 2nd Grade, we didn’t have practice time. I decided to water down the tempura paint in advance and give each table pots to share.
The 2nd graders started by drawing a picture of themselves under an umbrella. I marked out a border so that the drawings wouldn’t be chopped off. I think with hindsight I would also have drawn a square within which the children should fit their pictures as some of them were a bit small. We then taped over the pictures with masking tape and then dripped and splattered paint to make rain. The 2nd graders loved the drippy part as much as the kindergartners and some were a little over zealous.
The next day when I came back to remove the tape from the dry paintings some of them needed to be fixed because the colours from their drawings had bled.
Some I was able to fix myself by re-colouring them but some needed to be painted over with white acrylic and the children coloured them in again or in some instances re-drew the whole picture.
The kindergartners had already drawn their pictures on a small piece of paper. When I prepared their project, I decided to measure the pictures and then place masking tape over an area of the same size. We could then create the rain picture, remove the masking tape when dry and stick on the picture, hopefully avoiding any colour bleeding.
I showed the kindergartners some of the 2nd grade pictures to show how they had chosen to paint rain and how they might be improved. We saw that the paintings needed to have paint all around the masking tape for them to clearly show them sheltering under the umbrella. We also discovered that too much paint sometimes didn’t leave a perfectly clear area; although in some cases this left an interesting effect, like rain dripping from the umbrella.
I watered down the paints and showed the children how to put the paint at the top of the paper and let it drip. It was important that they made their brushes really wet before dipping them in the paint as this helped it to drip. Having experimented with painting rain beforehand, the children had clear ideas of how they would like their rain to look. I added a yellow paint to the kindergartners colour choices, the 2nd graders had shades of red, blue and purple. Some children mixed a green shade.
The 2nd grade rain pictures were more experimental as the children explored the materials, whereas the practice session enabled the kindergartners to be more precise and have a clearer picture of the finished product. Each child found their own way to depict rain. Some used all the colours,
Some chose their own colour scheme,
Some used individual dots dripping down,
others spread paint along the top and let it drip.
Some added lots of paint splatters by flicking the brush,
Others used a lot of water to make softer colours and spread them with the brush, creating the effect of rain blowing.
One child wanted to spread paint all over the picture and made the rain by running her finger through it to make lines.
The kindergarten pictures were much brighter than the 2nd grade ones. My personal favourite is this one. I love the big splashes of colour in a heavy downpour, in contrast to the person walking in safety under his umbrella.
The colour choices, use of droppers and the volumes of paint make the 2nd grade pictures darker and more intense like that of a grey, winters day with heavy rain.
The Kindergartners are more akin to spring showers.
Perhaps a cool project would be to test out different techniques and colours to make a display of rain through the seasons.
I’m always frustrated by the infrequency of my art sessions. I can already see the progression and probing questions that might make this into an extended project.
How does the use of different colours change the way we see the rain?
What colours would you choose for winter rain, tropical rain or a spring rain shower? Test out your ideas.
Does the texture of the paint and how much water we add change the type of rain we paint?
How does the size of the brush alter the painting.
Try other ways of painting rain, use sponges, droppers/pippettes, cotton balls and what else can you suggest.
Make a giant collaborative painting of rain – what can you drop onto paper to make a splash?
How can we paint a heavy rainstorm?
What would happen if we tried a different type of paint?
Do you like rain? What colours would you use to show that you didn’t like rain? What colours would you use to show rain is fun?
Think about all the different types of rain you have in your area, are they the same or different? How would you paint each type to show the differences?
Make a list of rain adjectives or similes under the title ‘Rain is'(particularly after spending time in the rain) – choose one and paint a picture to illustrate the description.
Look in a large puddle. What do you see? Can you try to draw/paint it?
And that’s just the art – the possibilities for other areas of learning is endless. Perhaps you’d like to use my pictures as a springboard for an extended rain project? I’d love to see the results if you do.