SchoolArts Magazine

March 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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22 March 2015 SchoolArts Oddly enough, this idea came to me when I saw a bunch of pinecones on the ground while I was out walk - ing my dogs. I had a plastic bag with me so I gathered enough pinecones for an entire class and began to think about the possibilities for using these natural objects in the artroom. My students were surprised when I dumped the bag of pine - cones out on the table at the front of the artroom. They looked at me suspiciously, unsure of where I was leading them when I told them they would each select a pinecone that would serve as a starting point for an original artwork. Their responses confirmed my fear; students often overlook the beauty and potential of using a common object as subject matter. I explained my reasons for asking them to study the pinecones closely, suggesting that their artwork could become more meaningful and dynamic by using the visual informa - tion from the pinecone as a starting point. A First Art Problem I asked students to each select a pine - cone that they liked and viewed as interesting and unique. I asked them to take some time to look carefully at it, to feel it within their hands, paying close attention to the textures, val - ues, and the overall form. They were instructed to lay it on the table and view it from all sides, as well as from the top and bottom, and to notice the repeating patterns as well as the shad - ows and the highlights cast by the pinecone's structure. The first part of the lesson was straightforward: Complete a realistic pencil drawing of the pinecone ren - dered as accurately as possible. The pinecone should be shown actual size and fully shaded, including a shadow underneath. A Second Art Problem Once the drawings were complete, it was time to create more original imagery. This part of the lesson was open-ended and required higher-level thinking while considering several questions I posed: Will you use the pinecone as part of something larger? Will you focus on using only certain attributes of the pinecone, such as the texture or shape? Will you reduce the form, shapes, or patterns to become an abstract composition? Is it even necessary to show the pinecone to create an image inspired by it? I asked students to each compile a writ - ten list of possibilities, stressing that every idea could be a valid solution to this prob - lem as long as the pinecone in some way inspired it. Students moved on to a series of thumbnail sketches of their favorite ideas from their lists. They discussed their ideas with their classmates and me before deciding on which one they would use for the second part of the lesson: a large-scale monochromatic tempera painting. My students were already famil- iar with how to use black-and-white draw - ing media to show value, but I had them mist the paints with water to create a value scale and familiarize themselves with the properties of tempera paint. I also gave an overview of some of the possibilities of applying ebony pencil, various types of charcoal, and conté crayon on top of dry painted areas and directly on clean paper. I Students came away from the lesson with a greater appreciation for the possibilities of finding inspiration in the everyday.

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