Friday, October 21, 2011

Lesson idea: Gratitudes in Color [Color Study and Silhouette painting]

This project comes from the curriculum of my 2D Design classes. It's one I've done every year and I'm hesitant to abandon as it allows for so many things even with the course being of the foundational level. It addresses/examines/encourages all of the following:
  • Color study
  • Value study
  • Brushwork practice and perfecting
  • Space and composition
  • Creating visual balance
  • Watercolor painting - both pencil and paste/liquid
  • Using the amazing surface that is the Aquabord
  • Proper care and clean up of art supplies and tools
  • Long term project planning
  • Visual communication of a specific idea
  • Process of originating and developing one idea in multiple ways
  • Using the foreground to emphasize the background and vice versa
  • Creating correct proportions when drawing living being (animals, people)
As you might be able to guess, I could easily go on and on with this project. Thus, I keep it in every year despite my general rule to either skip a year with projects OR scrap it after doing it multiple times.

Because I work in faith-based education, my curriculum encourages expressions or examinations of faith. This project is one I called "Gratitude in Color" because all subject matter was selected in order to illustrate and provide a visual expression of gratitude for something that brings the artist of the piece great joy. (I defined joy to the students as something that makes them so happy that they return to it as often as possible and the happiness that is inspired because of long outlasts the moment of which the happiness originated.) They were encouraged to do a lot of brainstorming and then really dissect their ideas for as many elements as they could come up with that could be depicted effectively and correctly in silhouette fashion. This was challenging for them since many of their ideas were scrapped based solely on the fact that the would create an unrecognizable silhouette.

Color study was another huge element of the project and I took them through an intensive powerpoint with class discussion about different color groupings in addition to visual effects/impacts of certain colors, the physiological effects they can have, and also what they can mean symbolically. They were tasked with picking a color palette that would help to enhance their silhouetted subject matter and communicate a message as much as the silhouette itself would.

For inspiration, I showed them images of early 19th century art as well as Apple ads for iPod so they could see that however antiquated silhouette art might seem, a contemporary twist on an old idea can always revitalize it and so past forms of art should never be completely written off.

I required them to do a minimum of (3) thumbnails and also color studies with watercolor pencil on watercolor paper and also have a 1:1 conversation with me where they fully explained their visual prayer of gratitude. Once they jumped through all of the "hoops," I gave each them a 6x6 square of Aquabord and opened up the Reeves brand classpack of Watercolor tube paints.  They had a solid week and a half of class time to do their color background first and then lay in their silhouettes with black paint and/or ink (for touch-ups). Here is a sample of a completed background.

Here are some fully finished projects...

All in all? I'd say they did a great job with their limited experience coming into this. Many of them had struggles in creating correctly proportioned silhouettes. All of them were intimidated by the new medium and serious nature of the Aquabord itself. The major investment of time combined with the definite challenges presented really encouraged them to be as invested as possible though. Here are some of their pieces.

Their grade/evaluation will be based on two areas - Brushwork and Color usage/application. I purposefully pulled back on my feedback a third of the way through the portion of time when they were all at the Aquabord stage because I wanted them to learn to evaluate their own work and determine what needs to be done, what is well done and should be left alone, and what should be reconsidered. It was frustrating for them at times for me to answer their questions with questions but they ended up having much more confidence in their own incredible skills that they had already build up. I don't have evidence to show you how far these have come compared to last years go 'round with them but this round is a great improvement mostly because I re-evaluated what and how I was teaching this lesson.

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