Friday, August 31, 2012

WiPs: Creation from the Abstract | Watercolor on paper

This week was very fun for the 2D Design class because we jumped right into our first project which was watercolor painting!!!

In the past the first 2D project has always been scratch-art of some sort but after doing it like that for the last three years, I finally came to terms with the fact that while it had a good run? It was time to give it a rest for at least a little while. The only problem with giving it a rest was the fact that I needed something new to step into its place!

Thank the good Lord above for the AMAZING book that is that book I got on kindle a week or so ago - Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists. The book is AMAZING and I am so glad I got it and on kindle at that! Perhaps I am not a physical book kind of person as much as I am a type that is more comfortable with digital media but I don't know. Having it in ebook form on Kindle allows me to have it with me whether I have my laptop, phone, or tablet via the app for each! And if I have it on my laptop? I can actually project some of the pages up on the screen for the students to see!!! I might just try and get all of my art instruction books on kindle from here on out for that reason alone. All of this raving aside, I bring the book up to begin with just to say that this project/lesson idea is not my original idea and it originated from the book called "Imaginary Creatures."

The objective of the project/lesson is basically this: Take something abstract and then translate it into something that is a lot more easy to decipher/make sense of when you look at it so that it looks like a creature of some sort. The creature can be something that is imaginary or something that already exists but ultimately, the goal is to look at the abstract forms and coming together of the colors and see something there amidst the "mess" that might appear to be there at first glance. Another way to understand this lesson? it's kind of like an artistic take on the Rorschach test except you aren't given an inkblot/painted form of an abstract type to make sense of and rather, you make it yourself and you also make sense of it. (Although having the kids make the shapes and then trade could be a really good idea and I might try that tomorrow as we round out the exploration and experimentation portion of this project.)

Anyway, the students are LOVING the fact that we are jumping right into painting. I bet I could even safely say that they are way more excited to do this than scratch art. Perhaps this is the key to what should be done for every first project of the semester for 2D Design? I started off the work today but doing a demo by way of the document camera but I also allowed them to have materials so that they could follow along with me while I showed them what to do.

Do you "demo" things? How do you do it? I really like using the document camera to do mine. 

A view from where the students sit so you can see them working as informed by what they see in the demo up front.

I am super happy to report that today's "follow me" while I was doing the demo was very successful. In the past I have done demos without them having materials in front of them so they couldn't follow and now I realize how misdirected I was. I am very blessed to work with really REALLY talented student artists who have both the heart to listen when you would hope they would as well as the minds and hands to stay in control when they ought to be. For these reasons I am convinced that that is why they really handled the "follow me" demo instead of the "look at me" demo. Point taken, lesson learned. I will be doing more "follow me" demos from here on out.

Overall I am pretty pleased with what the two classes today did. The objective was that they let the paints/color drop and bleed and blend as they would without manipulating the paintbrushes to paint something specific. They used drawing paper but they will eventually be using watercolor paper and finally  small aquabord panels. I intentionally gave each individual student feedback by stopping by to see them at their tables and also to point out (to the whole class) when certain pieces were successful or not so that they had ongoing dialogue to inform their brushwork and paint application. Here are some examples that I used specifically:

I called this SUCCESSFUL because it used big marks and application of color which ultimately created abstract shapes that could more easily be translatable to any number of things. I helped them to "read" what was here by telling them that I saw a fish jumping out of the water (like what you might see in a fishing magazine) and then I asked them to try and find it as well. Some didn't see it right off but then I gave them more explicit direction by giving them clues like: Find just the orange and try and see where that is specifically in the overall image. 

I called this UNSUCCESSFUL because while it is interesting to look at with the way the brush strokes were applied to show a defined pattern and rhythm, it didn't adhere to the specific directions given in order to achieve the learning objective. Oh well. That's why we spend a few classes on experimentation and exploration alone! They'll learn.

This was called SUCCESSFUL because despite the fact that it looks very specifically like a giraffe or a llama, the student didn't intentionally mark the paper to make it that. They made their marks, let the colors go, and then ended up with this exactly. Serendipitous? Perhaps. It works though for what we set forth to do. I mean it's a little bit limiting in the end but it just happened like this so I don't hold that against it. 

My preference with any of the art classes I do is almost always to start in the abstract and non-objective realms because it immediately puts the students outside of their comfort zone and requires them to start doing things that they have not previously had experience dealing with. I really really like this project and so far it has worked so well with a first project I definitely am thinking I want to keep it around for next year (at least but I always get tired of things so I will probably end up ditching it for a while after one rerun). *shrug*

We have two weeks that I expect we will spend on this project and I will certainly share it in the stages it in each stage it passes through. In the meanwhile, here's something fun that ended up occurring during today's exploration and experimentation painting process!! Look what one of my brilliant freshman artists did...

While he did not intend for this result and he was just "messing around" and being silly with his friends at a table by making a quick and otherwise unintended portrait, this portrait actually looks very much like him!!! It might as well be a self-portrait!!! (I would show you a picture but I don't like to show pictures of my students so directly - sorry!) Anyway, I really like this piece of student work. I feel like the marks have great integrity and the speed of the lines are beautifully apparent.

And that's it for me for now! Like I said, I will be checking back in with progress and if you keep an eye on my instagram feed? You might get some previews of what might end up here on the blog.

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