In Fall of 2018, I was working at a very large suburban school. I was asked by their District Office if I thought my students could create 100 placemats with student art for their State of the District Luncheon. Because of the large size of the school, this was only about 10% of our students so I knew I could do it.
I organized six after school workshops for all grade levels Kindergarten through Fifth grade. I even had a couple of preschool and TK students who came with an adult or older sibling.
The workshops were all done by me with occasional help from a parent. I had small groups of about 20 students. For the workshops, I had some idea lists for different careers that I thought they might want but I also told the students to come up with two to three career choices of their own so that we could have a lot of diversity. Because they knew these would not be returned, I allowed students to make two if they wanted to.
Each student sketched their work on a small paper then did a larger drawing in pencil then went over that in black marker. We then painted with watercolor paint. I was so impressed with all the different jobs they came up with from gardening to scientists to dancers to race car drivers and everything in between. It was really one of the most rewarding projects we did that year.
After they were dry, I labeled each artwork on the back with the student’s name, grade and their career title. It was a huge job and when they were delivered to the district office, the staff decided they were too pretty to use as placemats and instead put them up all around the meeting room. After the luncheon, they were returned to the school and went on display on the gallery wall in the lobby.
The San Diego Museum of art and the Timken had a fabulous exhibition of kimonos created by artist Itchiku Kubota in 2008-2009. You can see the Kubota kimono collection at https://thekubotacollection.com
For this lesson, I first taught in 2015. I taught my students how to make a basic kimono shape and they added different elements such as flowers and patterns in black permanent marker and/or oil pastel. When they were finished, they could add watercolor on top.
I went to the educator’s open house at San Diego Museum of Art and loved the exhibition so much that I went back multiple times to see the kimonos. The museum had a collage lesson that had been created by artist Jane LaFazio. It was beautiful but far too complex with too many steps for our 45 minute lessons.
Ever since my trek to the NAEA conference, I have been thinking a lot about how we have students create art. In a couple of the workshops I went to, there was a lot of discussion about how most students create teacher directed art lessons. When every child makes the exact same thing as their peers, many people considered that a successful art project. I have always enjoyed allowing my students freedom to create while having their projects be cohesive enough that they can be hung together in a grouping.
When one of the third grade teachers came to me and asked me for art that she could take over to our local Trader Joe’s for display., I again was thinking about my time at NAEA.
For this lesson, I gave my students the direction that we needed to create pieces that looked like they were part of a collection. We talked about what types of things Trader Joe’s sells and what would look nice on display and landed on plants and flowers.
They all drew a plant in sharpie, put it in a container, painted it with watercolor, leaving white space around it. They were free to draw any type of plant that they wanted to and put it in a container of their choosing. I pulled up reference pictures and projected them onto our screen for them to look at.
Rob Dunlavy is a children’s book artist. Have you seen his Crystal Cities Rob Dunlavy just makes lines look magical! Some of his images remind me of the exterior of It’s a Small World at Disneyland.
Here is what he says about them: “Crystal Cities are whimsical explorations of the act of drawing and painting, line and color, atmosphere and narrative possibilities. At the moment, these are my “fine art”.
I had my second graders look at these amazing architecture images for our Archtober celebrations.
We just used marker. Some students really understood that we were “coloring in” with just lines.