The Kimbell Stretch

 

I spent four days in late June at a workshop for teachers hosted by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. If you are an art teacher reading this, you probably are already mentally recoiling from the mention of in-service workshops. But in my summer The Kimbell Summer Teacher’s Institute is an oasis of art-focused learning and fun. Open to educators of all subjects, it is held in the beautiful Renzo Piano Pavilion museum studio.

Piano Pavilion
Renzo Piano Pavilion , Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

See these folks? They are happy public school teachers and just people who like art in this beautiful studio space.

Happy Art Teachers

Idea Exchange

I believe this is my fifth time to attend a summer workshop at the Kimbell, which says a lot. You don’t repeat a bad experience. Each year the activities are based on the special exhibition at the museum. This summer it was the Phillips Collection, a rich and varied group of paintings and sculptures from artists like Bonnard, Van Gogh, Degas, Marc, Klee and Picasso. The well-defined structure of the days, access to the special exhibition and incredible museum educators are what makes this workshop so valuable. Each artist and style is first outlined in a lecture by Connie Hatchette Barganier, Education Manager for the Kimbell. Somehow Connie managed to evade my camera this year. While these lectures are necessarily compact, they enrich and inform each gallery experience. Great docents led our little herd of teachers through the galleries. Did you ever try to get teachers to be quiet and focused? Hats off to the Kimbell docents for being friendly and professional while herding twenty teachers (like herding cats) through the exhibitions. Unfortunately photography in the special exhibitions is not allowed, but if you follow this link http://phillips.kimbellart.org/ you can get a glimpse of some of the pieces in the exhibit.

Back in the studio the talented Studio and Family programs Coordinator Marilyn Ivy leads us through exhibit-based art projects. My photos show Marilyn demonstrating a lino plate printmaking project; one of my favorite lessons this year.

Marilyn
Marilyn Ivy

 

Printmaking is not my strong suit, so it was nice to have Marilyn demonstrate. I think I may finally have enough of a handle on the process that I can use it with my students this school year.

The Kimbell provides top notch art materials and we get to try our hand at the painting, sculpture and printmaking activities. Again, happy teachers shown with time to  create.

Beautiful Work

As an added benefit this year the museum had Carol Ivey, a Fort Worth based artist, present a still life from observation clinic and offer a critique of our finished acrylic paintings. She arranged a still life in the studio and we got a canvas and acrylics and got to work. No pressure there, right?  Here’s a link to information on Carol.  My painting is still a work in progress, but in three hours at the workshop and a few more at home, I’m feeling good about it.

work in progress

We also did a mixed media interior drawing with a wonderful black multi-media board I had not used before. Here is a beautiful example by Carolyn. Jessica Montes this Great Dane made me think of your sweet dog. Carolyn, thank you for offering to give this drawing. I hope your family loves it as much as I do.

beautiful multimedia work

The last day of the clinic is invaluable as each teacher presents a lesson plan to the group inspired by the exhibit. I chose to relate to the Degas painting Dancers at the Barre.

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Dancers at the Barre, Edgar Degas

 

Image courtesy of Google Art project. Public domain.

I chose to break my lesson down into three steps. First, draw the painting upside down to so that my students focus on the shapes only rather than what it is they are drawing. The human figure is very daunting for elementary students. Second, concentrate on the arrangement of positive and negative shapes in the composition. I was really fascinated by the way this Degas painting is composed, the legs of the two dancers are almost at unbelievable angles, but it works. Using tracing paper on my contour line drawing  I concentrated simply on isolating the positive and negative shapes of the composition and how they fit into the format. Finally, the third step is using another tracing of my contour line drawing  to make a paper collage of the piece, using basic tones of paper and adding chalk to simulate the textures of the painting. So you explore three of the basic elements of art in this lesson, line, shape and color.

I’ve included some shots of the other teachers presenting their ideas. That is one of the best things about these days, hearing ideas from other teachers about how they would present a concept. It is always eye-opening and fun to see what everyone comes up with.

You walk away with a catalogue for the special exhibition A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection, a copy of all those lesson plans (40 pages in all this year), a flash drive with all the lecture notes and images plus a binder with the written version of all of the resource materials.

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What a treat and a stretch for the right side of the brain at the same time. Next year is Asian art. I can’t wait.

 

Giant Crayons

 

There are few things in this world as appealing as a new box of crayons. They are just splendid in their neat little paper jackets all lined up and sharp. That waxy smell, color points, perfect like a sharpened set of rainbow teeth. ( ok, that’s sounding strange….) I saw this great project on a fabulous teacher website: http://minimatisse.blogspot.com/2012/02/unity-crayons.html.

IMG_0237I could not help myself. We just had to try it.

I worked this project with my fifth and 6th grade classes. The focus of the project is a discussion of the principle of unity in artwork. “What elements unify an artwork? Is it color, shape, size…what things bring the artwork together as a cohesive unit?” We looked at the American flag hanging in my classroom. ” What elements draw this design together?” As a side product of this discussion, a debate about what elements unify the people of this country developed. The very phrase ” United States” was discussed. Good stuff.

We moved to discussing everyday objects that we use but don’t really look at. Like crayons. “The packaging and function unify the crayons in the box, but what about scale? Does scale unify the crayons? What if we change the scale?” Hooked.

I created a stencil earlier this month and had students who were finished early duplicate thirty stencils. I used large sheets of black bulletin board paper for my work surface. Not as expensive as using 12 x 18 sheets of black construction paper and it works just as well. Here was my set up:

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Then it was a matter of going step by step teaching the method on the first crayon. We used pastel for these for the richness of color. We discussed highlights and how to position them.

I challenged my students to do at least two crayons and that the second one should overlap the first in some way. They loved the idea and I can’t wait to get these up on the wall.

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Front and Center

group 2Every 4th grade child wants to draw whatever it is we are drawing (excuse the Texan phrase here) smack dab in the middle of the paper. So, in this simple 4th grade exercise, the goal was to place half our main subject, in this case a snowman, off the plane of the picture. Asymmetry vs. Symmetry.

We watched a clip of Olaf, from Frozen, (Please don’t stop reading, I know, I know…that song!) and talked about how he MOVED around in the frame. We talked about the phrase “dead center” and how that placement for your main subject can be kind of…well…can be…..frozen. Sorry.

duoWe talked about the mystery of what is off the edge of the page, but is implied to be there. The undiscovered country. An invisible world that is just around the corner, out of sight. That implied part of the image can be so intriguing and make your composition much more interesting to look at.

big group

Another highlight for my 4th graders was to use oil pastel on this artwork on a blue background. Lovely, messy pastels used on their side for the black border and large areas. Pastel on point for the outline and fine details of the snowman. Swirling snowflakes and a snowbank finished our composition. More fun than a snowball fight on the playground…well ok maybe not. But fun was had by all.

Banyan Tree

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A lesson on color schemes took on a vibrant life for my 5th graders this fall. Warm colors (reds, oranges and yellows), cool colors (blues greens and purples) and neutrals, (browns, blacks and greys). A great lesson I found on Artipelago offered a wonderful opportunity to play with color schemes.

The Banyan Tree lesson was presented in three steps.

  1. Observe and draw the Banyan Tree in pencil. The branches go up, the roots (if you draw them), go down. Your choice as to whether or not to draw the root system to the ground. Caution should be used here as to not make the branch system too small or delicate.
  2. Paint the pencil lines with thick lines of black tempera paint.
  3. Color the negative spaces in between the branches and the background with oil pastel. Choose a color scheme for your artwork and write it on the back of your artwork. Some students chose to do a warm color scheme on the tree branches and a cool color scheme on the background and roots.

My students really enjoyed working with the oil pastels and used a 12 x 18 sheet of paper for maximum effect. Here’s some of our results: