April 21

GRADE 4 CLAY CELESTIAL BODIES

When we return to school after Easter my grade 4 students will be almost ready to create their celestial bodies in clay. They will have one more practice session and then in week 2 they will make their final piece.

Clay, as for most things with my students, is never a one off session. You cannot get skill development or clayworks like these without exploring the materials and tools and experimenting with ideas. Yes, it is hard work, yes, it is messy, and yes, it can be loud, especially at pack up time on my awfully thin laminated art room table tops but the students are smiling, eager and learning – what more could you want!

Whenever we are working with clay I frequently remind the students that we only have one rule for clay. I say it and the students all chant it back to me, whether they are in Preps or Grade 6. “YOU MUST BE SENSIBLE WITH THE CLAY! With the Prep students I usually take it a bit further.

“Can you stick it in your ear?’                                    “NO!”

Can you stick it in somebody else’s ear?”              “NO!”

Can you stick it in Mrs Menhennet’s ear?             “NO!”

And on it goes until they are all falling about laughing.

However, the students know this is quite serious as we then discuss the consequence of not being sensible with the clay (and the tools and the slip, etc). And the consequence is that the clay is removed from the student. They then wash their hands and sit on the floor while everyone else is working at the tables. A direct consequence like this makes sense to the students and is much more effective than a detention that would not even be on the same day!

And now back to the process………In the first session I bombard the students with images of artworks incorporating the sun, the moon, planets, stars, etc, etc.

These images include all sorts of artworks – jewellery, clayworks, paintings, drawings, sculptures, metalwork, embroideries, photography, and the list goes on.  You can find lots of images of celestial bodies on my Pinterest board.

And then I let them loose on the clay – and then we pack up and when it is pack up time NOBODY wants to, as they are all so into what they are doing.

In the second session I show them examples from grade 4 students previously. We discuss them and any interesting stuff they have looked at in their independent research and then they get stuck into their own creations/experiments again. I also put slip on the tables and remind them how to use correct joining technique – the four s words –  score, slip, stick, smooth! And they chant them after me!

Depending on the school calendar and the crazy timetable that changes constantly, the students will have one or two more sessions to practice/refine their ideas.  The students choose whether to make a flat 2D or a 3D clay piece. There are usually groans at pack up time at the end of these sessions but I do photograph any experiments the students are keen to keep in mind and then they all pack up their clay.

The students are encouraged to do their own research for inspirational images in their own time as they all have IPads and/or computer access.

By the time the final session comes around the students know that they need to complete their clay piece in one session. Most students manage this as they have been working on an idea for several sessions and get faster at creating and refining their clay piece each week.

I scratch the students initials and grade into the base of their finished piece with a sharp skewer before I put it on a rack to dry. This seems to eliminate any arguments about which piece belongs to whom which I used to have when they all did it themselves, as it is in my neat lettering. It doesn’t take long, gives me a chance for a brief chat with the artist about their work and check that it is joined together properly and perhaps send some students back to the table to fix an issue.

Once the works have been fired the students paint them. I encourage the students to think about the painting process before they start and have a plan in their head for what they want to do. Just a simple statement like this is enough to stop most rushing and slapping paint on willy nilly!

Thanks for looking. Leave a comment!

Shell

September 27

GRADE 3 SUNFLOWER PAINTINGS

These stunning sunflower paintings were created by the Grade 3 students after they looked at the sunflower paintings and drawings created by Vincent Van Gogh.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 57 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 57 2015

I found some images online from Vincent Van Gogh’s sketchbooks and I always show these to the students to reinforce how important their art journals are in the process of creating their artworks.

secretmuseum_vangogh2

secretmuseum_vangogh2

The students also looked at photos of sunflowers which grew outside our grade 5 classrooms earlier this year

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 15

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 15

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 11

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 11

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 8

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 8

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 3

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 3

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 4

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 4

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 6

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 6

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 10

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 10

and at photos inside a magnificent book by David Douglas Duncan titled ‘Sunflowers for Van Gogh’.

David Douglas Duncan war photographer

David Douglas Duncan war photographer

I was lucky to stumble across this lovely book for $3 at the Salvation

cover sunflowers for van gogh

cover sunflowers for van gogh

Army Opportunity Shop in Werribee. What a find! The author and photographer, David Douglas Duncan, fell in love with Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings and travelled to France to create a book devoted to the fields of sunflowers in France. I often find fantastic art books on the bookshelves of Op Shops and they are always really cheap! Op Shopping is one of my favourite pastimes as you just never know what you might stumble upon! The students loved looking through this book and it was out, on their work tables, throughout the creation of these wonderful artworks. They were fascinated by the variety of the sunflowers and that they were so different to the sunflowers that grew in our school garden beds.

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 14

sunflowers in cambridge primary school garden 2015 14

As you can see the grade 3 students spent many, many weeks on these art works and they are, rightfully, very pleased with them.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 60 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 60 2015

The students started by doing a 10 minute pencil draft in their journals of 4 different sunflowers – front view, side view, dying with petals dropping, not yet open.

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 72

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 72

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 70

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 70

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 68

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 68

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 67

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 67

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 75

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 75

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 83

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 83

All the students found these 4 views challenging but were willing to give it a go in their journal. They then bought their journal to me for a quick one on one chat about their drawings, full of praise, of course, and directed specifically at their ability level – differentiation!

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 94

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 94

They then drew a vase of sunflowers 10 minute pencil draft. And again bought this to me for a brief chat. Most children drew their sunflowers in the vase facing in different directions (hooray!) as the brief practice of the four views freed them up to do this. I did not make any direct references to how they were to draw their vase in their journal, or that they were to include the four views from their previous drawing. It was all learning by doing – and isn’t that the best kind of learning!

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 90

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 90

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 89

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 89

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 88

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 88

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 85

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 85

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 81

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 81

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 76

grade 3 sunflower drawing painting 2015 76

So that is 2 steps before they could even commence painting!

The students commenced by drawing a faint pencil line at about a third of the way up from the bottom of the paper. This gave them a line between the tabletop and the wall. This was suggested by a student who pointed out that Vincent had given his flower vase somewhere to sit by creating a table top rather than the vase just finishing at the bottom of the painting – hooray, hooray for improved observational skills! There was a huge variety in the colours used and some children created fancy tablecloths while others decorated the background wall. Most students painted their background with dry block paints giving it a wishy washy watercolour appearance.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 59 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 59 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 47 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 47 2015

I usually write up a basic framework to create the art work during discussion with my first class at that grade level. I then revise and add to the framework through discussion with the other grades. All students are well aware that it is only a guideline and they are free to pursue their own ideas throughout the process. This allows the students to work independently, with a reference up the front if they need it, as they work their way back and forth, stopping and starting, between parts of the complex work. I scribble in alternatives at each step, sometimes as they appear, and make sure the materials are available on the resource table, to aid the students independence.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 48 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 48 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 19 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 19 2015

The next step was the sunflower stems. Most students chose to print the stems onto the background using cardboard scraps. Again, this created a huge variety of different looking stems.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 14 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 14 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 3 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 3 2015

They then painted the sunflowers carefully, most students leaving one stem without a head. Most students chose to paint their sunflowers using basic school acrylic paint. This accentuated the difference between the wishy washy background walls and the stark, bright, solid colours of the sunflowers.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 2 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 2 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 23 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 23 2015

The 3D sunflower head was made using Model Magic

model magic

model magic

which is an air dry clay which is very light and can be painted when it is dry. You can get it from Cavalier Art Supplies in Geelong. You can also use Paper Magic Clay

paper magiclay

paper magiclay

which is created by Zart Art in Box Hill, Victoria, Australia as an alternative to Model Magic. My students have used both successfully. We found, as the weeks marched on, and some students had not created their Model Magic flowers, that it worked just as well when we started cutting corners to get finished. It was just as successful if you glued the flower on as soon as you made it, rather than wait for it to air dry, and you could paint it before it air dried as well.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 64 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 64 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 13 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 13 2015

To finish their amazing work of art the students cut and decorated a vase and made sure it was big enough to cover the stems! This was an hilarious learning adventure all on it’s own. I showed the students how to fold a kinder square in half, draw half a vase on one side, cut it out and get a whole vase. The shocked faces when their vase was way too thin or better still, in two separate pieces, as they had drawn their vase along the wrong side of the folded paper, were priceless! I am always pointing out to the students that mistakes are part of their learning so it was fantastic to watch them fiddling with the two sad, separate pieces of their vase, to figure out where they went wrong, so they wouldn’t do it again.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 45 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 45 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 46 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 46 2015

It was a very long, involved process from start to finish for this work, with many stops and starts in between, as work had to dry completely between many of the steps.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 44 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 44 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 43 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 43 2015

All the grade 3 students worked brilliantly and moved independently onto different parts of the work while waiting for other bits to dry.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 1 52015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 15 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 14 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 14 2015

I am very proud of how committed the grade 3 students are to their art and how well they used their art time!!!

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 23 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 23 2015

And I’m sure you will agree that these are stunning artworks, some of which took 8 sessions to complete. All students, regardless of the level of their ability, were proud of their achievements.

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 17 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 16 2015

And they made a gorgeous display. I can’t wait to put them all up at the art show!  The Cambridge Primary School Art Show is  on the 23rd and 24th October!!! Just 4 weeks away – aaaggghhhhh!

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 42 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 42 2015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 412015

grade 3 van gogh sunflowers painting 41 2015

Thanks for reading and please leave a comment.

Shell

 

August 20

BUT WHAT ABOUT CLAY???

grade 1 clay 29

It has come to my attention that lots of Visual Arts programs/classrooms don’t seem to be doing clay anymore!

grade 1 clay

grade 1 clay 57

I have developed this opinion after discussing it, off the cuff, at school, at network meetings, at our Outer West Visual Art Teachers Network Professional Learning Day, earlier this year, talking to colleagues at last year’s Art Education Victoria Conference, etc, etc, etc.

grade 1 clay 53

grade 1 clay 53

And, as far as I am aware, modelling is still a part of the Visual Arts Curriculum in Victoria.

grade 1 clay 54

grade 1 clay 54

I use clay for most of my modelling sessions. It’s fun. It’s messy! It’s cheap! And my students love it! And I love it!

grade 1 clay 65

grade 1 clay 65

And, let’s face it, the Visual Arts room is the last place in the school where you are not only allowed, but encouraged, to make a mess, while you express yourself!

clay man in boat

grade 1 clay 32

So what is happening out there? Are you still doing clay at your school? Have you got a kiln that is no longer being used? Why not? Do you find it too messy? Seriously? Or is all the kiln firing too time consuming? is it an OH&S matter at your school? Why? Do you use alternative materials to clay for modelling or is it just not part of your Visual Arts curriculum any more???? Do you find it a bit scary – a bit out of your comfort zone? Would it be helpful if more networks or other bodies were offering more professional learning in this area?

grade 1 clay face 22

grade 1 clay face 22

Please reply and comment on my observation as I would really like to know what you think.

Shell

PS I have mentioned this to my students and they have been as horrified as I am that there are other students out there who seem to be missing out on such a wonderful material to learn and have fun with in the art room.

grade 1 clay face 27

grade 1 clay face 27

October 3

GRADE 2 CLAY SNAKES

 

The Grade 2 children made snakes to celebrate it being the Chinese Year of the Snake!

Chinese-New-Year-Snake

IMG_1764

IMG_1765

I was surprised at how much the children whinged and moaned about how rolling the clay hurt their hands! And there were more children than I expected that really struggled to roll a sausage at all. We had a chat and it was interesting that most of them couldn’t remember the last time they had played with playdoh. Most insisted that they had never done this at school and didn’t have it at home because it was TOO MESSY! And these days the amount of children that help to roll  out pastry in the kitchen at home would fit in a thimble. So how are these little people supposed to exercise these fine motor muscles? In the Art room I suppose!

IMG_1766

IMG_1752

I was thrilled with how much effort the children put into painting their snakes once they were all finally fired. I’m sure this is directly related to the detailed work of Queensland artist Dave Behren’s that we were looking at and working on at the time!

 

September 29

GRADE 1 CLAY EXPERIMENTING WITH TOOLS

This is what happened when I gave the Grade 1 children a tub of wooden clay tools for the first time. Up until this stage they had only been using their hands and fingers as tools. I explained that this was a time to try out and experiment with the tools and see what they could do with them.

It was interesting how some of the children madly textured their work while others incorporated the tools into their finished items. Hey, I didn’t tell them that they couldn’t do that!

Quite a few of the children created a clutch of a few small items rather than make one large piece, and they all knew that none of this work was going to be kept but I would try to photograph their experiments before their session finished.

We certainly had a terrific discussion after everyone had walked aroud and looked at each other’s work.

“How did you do that?”

I wish I had thought of that!”

“I’m going to try to do mine like that next time!”

How did you make that shape?”

“Can we use the clay tools like that?”

“I made my clay flat like a picture but next time I want to make a fat shape that sits up on the table.”

And just in case you were like me who mistakenly assumed this was a nice tree – this is the Tower of Isengard from the Lord of the Rings!!!

September 29

GRADE 1 10 MINUTE CLAY FACES

I just love my Ipad.

It makes moments like these, when I have asked the Grade 1 children to make something just before we pack up, easy to keep forever.

The instruction was, “Use your clay skills to make a face in 10 minutes!”

I think they did a great job!