Saturday, July 7, 2012

Learning about shapes at Grace Place

Work in progress: a sunflower grows tall under the Florida sun.
I'm working with the summer camp arts program at Grace Place for a few weeks, and I wanted to share some of the creative things we're doing. I meet with 1st and 2nd graders one afternoon a week, exploring the art elements with an underlying nature theme.

Last week we learned about shapes, and how Matisse cut out shapes from colored paper to create collage-like artwork.  One work we looked at in particular was "The Snail,"  composed of multi-colored geometric shapes in a spiral design - not a way one would ordinarily think of depicting a snail.  We compared it to a real apple snail shell, noticing how they were alike and how they were different.

I can't wait to see what these will turn into!
Then we got out colored paper and started tearing and cutting our shapes.  There's something very satisfying about tearing paper into shapes, and the outfalls of negative shapes are often more interesting than the intentional shapes.  I love working with these age groups as they are open to experimenting and are non-judgmental about their own work.  Oh, the lessons I learn from them!

I created a slideshow of their works in progress (below), if you'd like to take  look. 

Background music from the Creative Commons by A.K.1974, Dolphins in my Bathroom.

If you'd like to do this with your class, homeschoolers or with the kids at home on a rainy afternoon, here are some resources:

  • Construction paper in assorted colors, with a white page as a base. 
    We used a 9x12 inch size of white paper, with 6x9 inch pieces of rainbow colors for each person.
  • Glue sticks  (easier than glue bottles)
  • Busy and creative hands and minds!
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Another possibility is to paint the paper first in gouache as Matisse did (letting it dry thoroughly).  We opted for construction paper to save time, but any bright, flat colored papers will do.


        Micklethwait, Lucy. "I Spy Shapes in Art." (2004) Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins).
Finding shapes in famous paintings, great for elementary ages.  Has a nice sized reproduction of The Snail by Henri Matisse.
        Mason, Anthony. "Famous Artists: Matisse."  (1995) Aladdin Books: London.
A history of the artist and his life: a smaller reproduction of The Snail is on page 28, but it shows the relative size of the piece to a person - it's huge!  Parental alert:  book contains paintings of nudes.

  1. Talk about shapes and how they are found everywhere.  We found shapes hiding around the classroom; the kids were wonderful at finding even obscure rectangles and triangles!
  2. Look at how other artists from the past used shapes.  We briefly looked at works by Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keefe, and Pablo Picasso.  
  3. Think about the artist's original inspiration.  In our case, we looked at a real snail shell.  I wanted the kids to think about how the artist decided to depict this: some parts followed reality (the spiral), where others did  not (the brightly colored rectangles).  
  4. Pick something that will be your subject or inspiration for your collage.  With your white paper in front of you, start tearing out shapes that tell the story in your mind.  You might want to move your shapes around before gluing them down.  Look at your scraps - can you use them in any way?
  5. If we had time, we would talk about our artwork: the whats, whys, and thoughts we had as we worked.  I loved hearing some of the stories as the kids worked on their pieces, but for right now, I'd like them to have the time to create!  But you can use the time during or afterwards to ask questions or make comments - most kids love to tell us about their artwork.  It helps to broaden  perspectives if you have created something alongside them, and model your own reflections.
    Consider these as starting points:
    • Why did you choose your subject?
    • Does it have a story behind it?
    • I really like how you used/tore/chose _______, tell me about that?
    • What did you like most about what you made?  Least?  Why?

    Art enables us to find ourselves
    and lose ourselves
    at the same time.

    -Thomas Merton

    Thanks for visiting!