Welcome back to school everyone! We are all excited to be back in the art room! Our theme this year as we develop our artistic thinking is that we can all build on our mistakes as we are all Works in Progress. Student artists and I are shocked that we are already in the 5th week of school. I send out a warm “hello” to my 3rd, 4th and 5th grade artists who I will not be able to work with until 3rd and 4th quarter. The art room misses you!
The first week of school, students read and discussed author/illustrator, Kathryn Otoshi’s meaningful childrens’ book: One. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Otoshi at a Facing History and Ourselves event last spring. During Otoshi’s presentation, she discussed the importance of using simple yet meaningful terms to help children develop social and emotional skills to navigate life as kind, empathetic humans. Her primary concern is the assumption that all kids at recess are doing just fine but that often, the open end play at recess can be the toughest part of the day emotionally for some students and to remind children of their agency as friends to all peers, that every 1 counts!
She explained a residency she participated in at a school district in California where she presented the One story. Next, her students created projects based on One and as whole schools took vows to be the “One” who is inclusive, stands up against inequality and is kind. She then created school wide hand prints which were added to a “One/Kind” bird which would hang in the schools as a permanent reminder.
With Otoshi’s permission, I lovingly borrowed her bird idea. Each Bell student with art 1st quarter contributed a hand that will be added to the “One/Kind” bird that will hang at Bell. I currently have some 6th graders helping me build the bird with 100s of beautiful hands! The work will also be inspired by the new public art, Phoenix Rising by Lucy Slivinski, a recycled metal phoenix sculpture standing at the corner of Broadway and Montrose. Students discussed how the phoenix is a powerful symbol for all of us as we enter a new year, a clean slate, ready to transform.
Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grader artists are digging into their own work, trusting their expression, applying visual art skills and developing perseverance when they meet struggles. Here they are caught in the flow!
Pre-Kindergarten Deaf students are practicing American Sign Language (ASL) colors matched with the actual colors they are using as well as learning how to mix primary to secondary colors. Later, they will begin mixing their own primary and secondary color landscapes.
Kindergarten students in all departments are also practicing ASL colors. I support the use of ASL in the art room as much as possible. For the past 3 weeks, students have reviewed and shared their ASL color knowledge with a lot of excitement. Currently, Kindergarten artists are honing in on their shape drawings and learning how to distinguish between abstract and realistic portraits in preparation for our upcoming abstract and realistic self portrait projects. Also, during the last 7-10 minutes of each class, I allow students to “free” draw. This allows them to explore their own ideas, expressing what is on their mind in that moment.
First Grade artists in all departments are practicing colors using ASL.
They are also reviewing color mixing by creating their own color wheel which they will refer to during first quarter. We have read Ellen Stoll’s Mouse Paint to help reinforce this color mixing in a silly way by watching the mice dance as artists to make their own secondary colors. We refer to the popular OK Go color mixing video: “There Are Three Primary Colors” and students love to get up and dance out the color mixing to help them remember. Students will then design a random, overlapping line drawing therefore making multiple unique shapes they then can color in with primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Students love mixing their own custom colors, counting out the shapes they made themselves and exploring all the textural ways to use oil pastels in each shape! They came up with some awesome new color names: Will called his yellow—golden nugget, Townes called his red—lava, Avery called her purple–blushed purple, Rory called her pink–piggie, Maxine called her blue–blueberry, Thalia called her red–lipstick, Forrest called his blue–coolblue, Eli called his pink–coconut, Flynn called his pink–bubblegum and Trevor called his green/orange–Brazil.
Second Grade artists are finishing up an Exquisite Corpse project inspired by Surrealist art, comic books and the Chicago Imagists /Harry Who. The name Exquisite Corpse was coined by Surrealist artists to describe a form of art made by multiple artists, like a drawing filled with details that are unexpected, many parts pieced together like Frankenstein. Incidentally, The Hyde Park Art Center, The Elmhurst Art Museum and the Northwestern University’s Block Museum ALL have Chicago Imagist/Harry Who shows up now! Hope you can get out to catch their amazingly wacky, unexpected artwork at these three shows. Random repetitive mark making, use of onomatopoeias, collaborative drawings and color blending bring these quirky, whimsical 2nd grade Exquisite Corpses alive!
Sixth grade artists are busy sharpening color pencils, smudging graphite sticks, designing balance in compositions, playing with foreground/background and buddy checking each other’s Sketchbook drawings for creativity, carefulness to detail, vibrant color and/or blended value scale and thorough consistency and completeness. Each student has two assigned and two choice sketches they are planning. We have studied Wassily Kandinsky’s, Improvisation 30 (Cannons) and students use viewfinders to hone in on the section of Cannons they choose to draw 3X the scale. The second assigned drawing is a highly detailed drawing of a shoe. Students are at first apprehensive about setting their shoe on the table but later love being able to draw in their socks! While working on the shoe drawings we consider thoughts like…who made our shoes? How did they get to the store? Where will they go when I am done with them? Where do they take us? How are our shoes connected to our identity?
Seventh grade artists have headed back in time and are taking us down their path of converging lines into their world with linear, one point perspective. Students discovered how to interpret the depiction of space in a Medieval era painting made before the wide use of linear perspective during the Renaissance. Some art historians believe the Egyptians and Romans had already discovered this illustration technique to draw depth in space but during the Renaissance, the use of these devices changed art forever across Europe. Students are just starting their drawings now and are encouraged to create unusual, expressive environments around their linear perspective landscapes. To inspire imagination students have critiqued work by painter, Alexis Rockman (who recently had an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center) and graphic designer, Vinicus Costa who are known for Sureal, high detail features that suggest other worlds, sometimes sweet, sometimes spooky.
8th Grade artists are applying their budding knowledge of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and are applying these rights as they view and critique the documentary film called Wasteland, which documents contemporary artist and UNESCO Human Rights Ambassador, Vik Muniz as he travels back to his home country of Brazil and collaborates with garbage pickers (Catadores) in Jardim Gramacho, which was the largest garbage dump in the world at the time. It has since closed to make room for the Olympics and the World Cup. Students have just begun their artist response pieces showing the hardships, highlights of transformation and joy Vik and the Catadores share while making art and selling these highly valuable “trash portraits” at the high art dealer market, then taking the money back to their community to help their colleagues with education, safety and security in their Rio favella. Students question what the role of “helper” and “choosing to participate” means when helping a less privileged group. How long and how much is enough? How do we make contact? I have contacted the film maker, Lucy Walker and we plan on sending notes/questions and pictures of our art projects to the Catadores we can find online!