SchoolArts Magazine

MAR 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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FuN With FrankenthaLer Nik P. Shank O ne of the best things about based on the supplies laid out. The teaching art is watching tables were covered, so they knew we students become comwere painting, but they had no idea pletely engrossed in a leswhat the large empty buckets and son and full of enthusiasm (and, in small cups of paint were for. They this case, covered in paint). The secsoon burst with excitement at the ond best thing is hearing the excitethought of finger painting. Again, I ment in their voices as they tell you shattered their excitement with "No, how much fun they're having, then not today." I asked them if they could hearing them ask, "How many can we think of another way an artist might make?" paint using just these supplies and I am not saying that this is an with no applicators whatsoever. everyday occurrence, but it did happen to me just the other day while I Meeting Helen was teaching a class about modern art I showed students a picture of Helen to a group of first and second graders. Frankenthaler making one of her drip Our focus over the last paintings. There they few weeks had been The process, not the were—the beaming on process over prodfaces I was hoping for. product, was the main We briefly discussed uct and the method focus in this lesson. some artists use to Frankenthaler's work create their work. and her role in the On this particular day, we abstract art movement, then I showed were learning about Helen them some samples of her work. The Frankenthaler, who is best discussion focused around her process, known for her drip method and how, through this process, she of painting. was able to achieve the brilliant color schemes and forms for which her work The Mood was known. As students walked in, there was already a buzz in the air. Things to Consider Everyone wanted to paint in I handed students each a piece of 12 the style of Jackson Pollock x 18" (30 x 46 cm) watercolor paper. (who we had just studied), I had them look for the textured side so there were a few boos and and we talked about the role textured hisses when I told them that paper plays in absorbing paint. We it was not on the day's agenda. then looked at the colors they would However, the mood soon lifted be using. Each table had different colwhen I told them that we ors so that everyone's painting could would be learning about a simihave its own unique color scheme. I lar artist. limited students to four colors each, including one or two metallic paints, The Hook explaining that a muddy brown is Their next job was to guess often the result when too many colors how this artist created her work get blended together. Bright Eyes, Big Plans Lifting a paper and tilting it downward, I began dripping my first color of slightly watered-down tempera paint. I continued this a few more times, saving the metallic gold for last. Students oohed and ahhed, eager to try it themselves. Before allowing students to begin, I reminded them not to use too much paint. The process, not the product, was the main focus in this lesson. However, the use of color, and the forms created were part of that process. I provided a large bucket to catch the leftover drippings, but the amount of paint used needed to be somewhat controlled. Reflection The activity itself only took about twenty minutes and clean-up was easy. Students were thrilled with their results. One student made a sign for our display expressing her delight. Another student put the lesson into perspective as we reflected on our experiences of painting like Helen Frankenthaler when he said, "School is fun, and let's face it: We spend most of our lives in school. It should be fun, right?" "Yes," I told him, "I could not agree more." Nik P. Shank is an art teacher at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury, Massachusetts. NAtioNAl StANdArd Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories. Web liNK www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/frankenthaler_helen.html schoolartsonline.com 35

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