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.
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.
The students also looked at photos of sunflowers which grew outside our grade 5 classrooms earlier this year
and at photos inside a magnificent book by David Douglas Duncan titled ‘Sunflowers for Van Gogh’.
I was lucky to stumble across this lovely book for $3 at the Salvation
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.
As you can see the grade 3 students spent many, many weeks on these art works and they are, rightfully, very pleased with them.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 3D sunflower head was made using Model Magic
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.
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.
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.
All the grade 3 students worked brilliantly and moved independently onto different parts of the work while waiting for other bits to dry.
I am very proud of how committed the grade 3 students are to their art and how well they used their art time!!!
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.
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!
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment.
It has come to my attention that lots of Visual Arts programs/classrooms don’t seem to be doing clay anymore!
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.
And, as far as I am aware, modelling is still a part of the Visual Arts Curriculum in Victoria.
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!
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!
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?
Please reply and comment on my observation as I would really like to know what you think.
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.
The Grade 2 children made snakes to celebrate it being the Chinese Year of the Snake!
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!
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!
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!!!