SchoolArts Magazine

February 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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schoolartsonline.com 31 browns and blacks to narrate African- American history, as well as the life and energy that he saw around him in Harlem. We began studying Lawrence by talking about how he took "small moments" (everyday things that he saw around him) and included them in his images. I led students to notice that these small moments added a sense of specificity to his images. Stu - dents closed their eyes and took an imaginary walk around their neigh - borhoods, noticing the things that they saw every day on their commute home. With imagina - tions prepped, students folded simple books in which they would record all their neighborhood observations over the next week. Starting with Drawing Next, students faced the challenge of creating a pleasing composition out of all the small moments they noticed in their neighborhoods. I showed students my own example, which purposely showed clumsy compositional ele - ments (a woman with a scarf blowing in her face, etc.). I had students picture their neigh - borhoods, taking mental snapshots in the process. I explained to students that, since they were drawing, they didn't need to keep things the way that they would be in a photograph; they could move things around. I then chal - lenged individual students to come up and "make my drawing better" by add - ing or subtracting elements. They rose admirably to the challenge, adding bus stops, people, cars, taxis, and even a rat (What would New York City be without its rats?), and erasing or alter - ing every last one of my compositional elements. As students began to work on their own drawings, I became con- cerned that they would try to copy my example, so I walked around the classroom and "guessed" what streets they were drawing, encouraging them to add details specific to that street so that I would guess correctly. Introducing Color Once their drawings were complete, students began to slowly make their way towards painting. I displayed large reproductions of Lawrence's work and asked students to close their eyes, open them, then talk about the first thing they noticed in each work. We talked about how Lawrence's colors made their eyes "dance" a different type of dance with each work, and how they should consider what "eye dance" they wanted to create in their own paintings. Knowing the gooey allure of paint and how easy it is for students to mix all the colors into a nice brownish- purple, I encouraged them to proceed slowly. They each made a "color plan" by outlining their drawings with col - ored pencils, planning which parts were the most important, and figuring out what colors they would use and where. To begin, I gave them red paint. Only red. In the next class, they got blue. Just blue. Finally, I gave them yellow. With warm and cool areas now established, students could use two colors at once; then, at long last, they could use all three. Finalizing Details The paintings were amazing, ener - getic, and had a real sense of space and color. But they had lost their details! I made an impromptu decision to pro - vide oil pastels to students who had painted all the negative space so they could add them back in. What resulted were joyfully textured, colorful art - works of each student's neighborhood. The best part was hanging them in the hallway and being able to see a mosaic of so many styles and interpretations of the city. Tempest Neucollins is an elementary art teacher at Exceed Charter School in Brooklyn, New York. tempestneucollins@ gmail.com N A T I O N A L S T A N D A R D Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context. W E B L I N K www.jacobandgwenlawrence.org Students filled their little handmade books with their observations of the world around them. Chelsea, grade three. Xyliah, grade four.

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