SchoolArts Magazine

January 2015

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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Beginner/Intermediate Write or project the word "observe" on the board. Ask, "What does it mean to observe something?" After some discussion, reveal the definition and ask, "Why do you think it is important for artists to observe?" Next, display a variety of artworks, includ- ing Katsushika Hokusai's Mishima Pass in Kai Province and Josephine Halvorson's Woodshed Vine. Ask students to identify what each artist might have observed before creating each work of art. After some discussion, ask students to look carefully around the artroom. Ask, "What things do you see that an artist might want to observe? What things in this room might make a good subject for an artwork?" Record each student's response on the board or a large piece of paper. Offer suggestions as needed to cre- ate a diverse list of items that includes objects, people, and places. Advanced Ask students to answer the following questions in their journals, or in an online discussion forum before class: • How is the act of observation important to the artistic process? • What kinds of things do ar tists observe other than landscapes? • How does the idea of obser vation work with nontraditional artwork, such as digital or video-based work? W hen class begins, ask students to share some of their responses, writing examples, and ideas on the board during the discussion. Next, share Hokusai's Mishima Pass in Kai Province and Halvorson's Woodshed Vine. Ask, "Which of these paintings is a contemporary work of art? How can you tell?" After some discus- sion, share information about both Hokusai and Halvorson. Ask, "What might the artists have been observing besides the image that was reproduced in each painting?" (time, age, a way of life, their emotional response to the scene or object, color, etc.) Explore Create Beginner/Intermediate Ask each student to choose an item from the list created during the "Explore" segment that they find interesting or inspiring. Explain that they may also choose items that are not on the list. Allow stu- dents to bring their objects to the table or move their seats to be closer to the objects, if appropriate. Alternatively, you might assemble a variety of objects for students to choose from and place them at the front of the room. Explain that they are going to observe the item carefully while drawing it several times using different media. Depending on availability of materials, they might complete one drawing in pencil, one in oil pastels, and another in chalk pastels, markers, or colored pencil. When the drawings are complete, have students compare their drawings. Ask, "How did using different materials affect your draw- ings?" "Which of the materials you used best fits with the object you drew?" You might use this exercise as the introduction to a lengthier observation-based drawing, painting, or sculpture. Advanced Ask students to conduct a series of four to eight observations, depend- ing on length and format. For example, a student might conduct four in-depth observations, while another might do eight relatively short observations. Explain that these can be observations of places, people, objects, events, performances, discussions, routines, or games that have been directly observed, meaning that students must be physi- cally present at the site of their observations; observing a prerecorded event on television or online does not count. You might wish to make exceptions for live, real-time observations through an online video chat service, especially if the student wants to observe a friend or family member in another state or country. These observations can take the form of sketches, drawings, paintings, videos, photos, detailed written descriptions, or even sculpture. The observations can happen inside or outside of class, so be sure to assign them so that they overlap or coincide with another project to ensure that studio time is used wisely. O nce the observations have been completed, students should hold group discussions about their work while choosing one of their obser- vations as inspiration for a work of art. Meet individually with each student to discuss his or her choices and possible approaches. The final artwork should be a fully realized painting, drawing, sculpture, or digital video that captures not only the subject they observed, but also communicates with the viewer, revealing clues about the art- ist's reactions to and thoughts about his or her subject. Provide ample studio time to complete the projects, followed by individual presenta- tions and class discussions for each work. Written by Karl Cole, curator of images at Davis Publications and Robb Sandagata, digital product manager at Davis Publications. Looking & Learning Observe Resources Josephine Halvorson: www.art21.org/newyorkcloseup/films/josephine-halvorson-is-on-the-clock www.josephinehalvorson.com Katsushika Hokusai: www.katsushikahokusai.org 24 SchoolArts

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