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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Paper Mache Monkeyshines

Each lunar new year in the city of Tacoma a wonderful band of artists come together under the stewardship of the elusive Ms. Monkey and place their artistic treasures all around the city. This article from the Tacoma News Tribune provides a lot of details about this unique community event. Ms. Monkey's work is inspirational and uplifting. The glass art brings beauty, hope, adventure, and joy to the Tacoma community. We are so lucky to have this going on in our art scene!
Glass Monkeyshines in the hands of the fortunate finders!
A monkeyshine is typically a piece of glass art such as a medallion or orb with the imprint of the year's Chinese zodiac animal stamped upon it. For the past 3 years I've searched around the city to find one but never had luck. When this year's lunar new year approached I shared my excitement about the hunt with my 5th grade students. They were impressed by Ms. Monkey's story. They really liked how she remains anonymous and is so giving to the community. They couldn't believe you could keep it if you are lucky enough to find one. The Monkeyshine endeavor is purely done on donations! I admit I am a Monkeyshine enabler, I made sure to donate money to their work so they can continue the tradition this year. I received a beautiful glass cup!

I got Monkeyshine after all!
Since I'm working on including "living artists" into my curriculum I thought it would be really fun if the 5th grade art students created their own version of a Monkeyshine in response to the work of Ms. Monkey. They told me they probably wouldn't have many chances of searching for one since they live nearly 20 miles away. So, why not make one? They loved the idea!

We began by blowing up balloon a little larger than a softball. I supplied them with pieces of colored tissue paper and art paste. They've had previous experience working in this medium with their "Slice of Cake" sculptures. They were to add as many layers of paper on their balloons as possible in the 2 classes I budgeted for this process. We also included a chenille stick ring around the balloon knot to mimic the lip of the glass Monkeyshine stamp.

Once they were dry, students cut the balloon knot and pulled out the balloon.  Some balloons didn't have enough paper on them due to absences or less production time. These were converted into a medallion shape.

I then instructed students to create a monkeyshine drawing within a traced circle. They could then color them with watercolor paint. These were then cut and attached on top of the raised lip. They then coated their entire form with Mod Podge to seal it and give it a gloss luster similar to glass.

 The artists had to be very careful in painting this on as it compromised the paper form's shape causing it to become soggy. I didn't anticipate this so if I were to teach this lesson again I could use stronger news print instead of tissue paper and have the students paint with tempera and leave the balloon in when then coat it with Mod Podge. The tissue paper gave a beautiful color but overall needed so many layers if the spherical shape were to be maintained.

All in all I think the students enjoyed the art of paper mache. I told them that when you find a Monkeyshine it is customary to take a selfie with it and post it online. They asked for snapshot so I obliged. I encouraged them to hide their Monkeyshine in their neighborhoods or even create more at home. Most of them wanted to keep theirs of course!
Some of the happy artists! Since they didn't have signed photo release forms from their parents/guardians I thought some sweet happy emojis would serve as identity protection. I suppose it'll do!
So, I'll finish this post saying, "Thanks, Ms. Monkey!"

James Rizzi inspired "Happy Houses"

A few weeks ago the 4th grade art students created 3-dimensional buildings from sheet of card stock. I demonstrated to my classes how you can fold the sheet in a way that produces a cuboid form. I was inspired by the educational blog "Her Dabbles."

We had been studying sculptural forms using paper and I wished to explore the idea of love and happiness in a sculpture lesson. The "Happy House" lesson was an appropriate transition.

We began by studying the work of New York Pop artist James Rizzi. I showed students examples of Rizzi's paintings, prints, and building designs. We talked about his personal style of work and use of motifs. A motif is a decorative design or pattern.  They identified his motifs and drew examples in their sketchbooks.
"A Life of a Block of Buildings",  2010

We then set to constructing our cuboid forms after we examined more deeply Rizzi's "Happy Houses" in Braunschweig, Germany. The students noticed how Rizzi incorporated his motifs in the buildings' exteriors and critiqued his artistic choices. Some students appreciated the style of his work while others found it didn't appeal to their aesthetics. I asked them did his work evoke "happiness"? Was he successful in his artistic aims?

The following class I asked the students to cover their buildings with their choice of Rizzi inspired motifs. I provided a handout with a variety of designs they could use or adapt. They chose from collage paper and markers to design their buildings. Their goal was to design each side in response to viewing his buildings.

As an extension, I tasked a couple of the 4th grade classes in producing a backdrop for a mural based of a James Rizzi's city painting. Since I don't have a lot of space for showcasing 3-D work I decided to install their buildings not entirely in the round, but more as a relief. I asked the students to study the painting and choose to create a building, vehicle, or people to be added to the mural's design.
I installed all of their work in the hall outside the art room. It turned out really fun an colorful. I had to be careful not to attach the buildings too far down so that they are not run into as students walk by in the hallway. So they sit just above head level.

I found that the students enjoyed the process of creating their own building. They were pleased to learn how easy it was create a 3-D form out of a flat sheet of card stock. I also learned how much my students enjoy working 3-dimensionally. Since not all students have a practiced drawing hand yet it is always good to offer lessons for students to simply build. They love it and were naturals. It seems this installation has brought much happiness to the school community. We have been complimented and thanked for bringing booming colors to our halls as our grey Pacific Northwest skies remain so dark during February.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Locks of Love inspired by Tacoma artist Diane Hansen

I had recently participated in an online art education conference through the AOE site and was really inspired by one of the presenters, Don Masse of Shine Brite Zamorano. His presentation centered around teaching students about the art of living artists. I admit, I use a TON of art history in my classroom because not only do I have an art history degree but I was trained to include it in my curriculum. However, Don's message was clear. If I included living artists in my curriculum, the students could have a real connection with that person whether it is seeing their work in person,  have a correspondence, or actually meet them. I knew I had to do it.

I had been rolling out a unit on Love at the beginning of February and chose a single 3rd grade class that I see twice a week. They are so lucky to get art twice because I go into the lessons more deeply and tend to design more labor intensive projects that take time since their schedule allows for it.

I began by introducing them to the artist Diane Hansen of Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma is just 18 miles North of our school and a lot of my students have been there. I showed them her public artwork "Lock on Tacoma". She created an installation beneath a pedestrian bridge of large metal heart shaped locks with accompanying keys.  I explained that Diane's inspiration for this work seemed to have come from the Paris 'Love Locks' movement and the natural affinity Tacomans have for their city.  Beneath her heart locks are pillars that hold the piece up. These pillars are wrapped with metal fencing that is meant to have padlocks attached to it. The public is invited to interact and add to her installation.

The students looked closely at her art as well as the Pont des Arts bridge (since been dismantled) and discussed it's meaning as well as reasons why someone would attach a lock in order to remember a time and/or place.
Pont des Arts, Paris, France

After this discussion we designed our heart shape forms out of tagboard and tape. I had pre-cut the strips used for folding a heart shape but encouraged them to solve the problem of producing the top and bottom heart pieces. They discovered that you had to carefully trace the outline of their heart shape strip and to cut and tape it.

The next day they used art paste and paper mached their forms. The following class they applied tempera paints and I hot glued a chenille stick that had been bent to form the shackle.

The result is wonderful! They are fun, colorful, and the kids loved the process of creating them. If I had the means to purchase a lot of silver puffy paint I believe it would have made these locks look more similar to Diane's. I would have asked them to apply the puffy paint in the decorative manner seen in the Tacoma Lock. Maybe next time!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Celebrations in Visual Culture: Symbols of the Heart & Lunar New Year

February brings us lots of opportunity to explore the art of celebrations and our visual culture. The celebration of Valentine's Day isn't something I directly design lesson around, however, the idea of "Love" and the heart shape is something that I find can guide our art making. Any student, kindergarten through fifth grade can relate to the notion of "love".

We began our discussions around what we thought "love" is, how do we feel it? What are the things in life we love and how do we show it? I also asked them why the heart shape is representative of love. I had a third grade student even remark that he felt that love should be represented by the brain since that is where the idea of love begins. How interesting!

In kindergarten, we explored how to draw and cut symmetrical hearts with paper, draw/paint hearts, form hearts with clay, and fold paper into sculptural hearts.

In first grade, we learned about color theory with warm and cool colors to create mixed media collages.

In 2nd grade, we created textured heart compositions inspired by the artist Jim Dine. Thank you Painted Paper for the inspiration.

In 3rd grade we composed segmented hearts that expressed all the individual things we loved and are currently constructing a "heart shaped lock" inspired by local artist Diane Hansen. A detailed post about this project is coming soon!

In 4th we studied James Rizzi's "Happy Houses", in creating 3-D buildings using motifs such as hearts. I plan to create a separate post to showcase this art project in detail.

Now....onto Lunar New Year!

The Chinese New Year began on Monday February 8th this year. It is the "Year of the Monkey".

I truly enjoyed introducing North Star students to the visual culture of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Across all grade levels, I presented basic information about the celebration and its significance to our region in the Pacific Northwest. I showed them lots of examples of visual artifacts related to the event such as calligraphy, lanterns, fans, scrolls, zodiac, and the popular dragon symbol.

Kindergarten produced a guided drawing of a dragon and practiced their brush techniques with watercolor.

1st graders produced Chinese paper lanterns inspired by the festival.

2nd grade created paper hand puppets inspired by the Dragon parade.

3rd & 4th grade studied Chinese characters with ink calligraphy in creating their scrolls.

5th graders are working on another paper mache project related to the the Lunar New Year which will also be featured in it's own detailed post. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below!