SchoolArts Magazine

September 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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36 SEPTEMBER 2015 SchoolArts M I D D L E S C H O O L C ell biology can be a fascinat- ing topic . . . except when you're thirteen and in middle school. Then it's typically not the most appealing concept in the world. However, we found that com - bining mitochondria and ribosomes with watercolor techniques produces a show-stopping project that highlights the wonder of watercolor painting with the fundamentals of organelle identi - fication. (In biology, an organelle is a specialized subunit within a cell that has a specific function.) Precision vs. Fluidity On their own, cell model illustra- tions can be remarkable drawings full of rich detail and striking color, all neatly arranged in precise com- positions. The medium of watercolor tends to be the opposite. It's typically loose, incredibly fluid, and unpredict- able. Can students really combine these two very contradictory notions and create informative drawings drip- ping with artistic appeal? Absolutely! Starting with the Basics It's important that students know both the essentials of cell part iden- tification and watercolor techniques before beginning this project. Our students discovered typical plant and animal cell parts in their science course through research, color-coding diagrams, and building a model of a typical cell. In art class, we reviewed previously taught watercolor tech- niques ranging from graded wash to dry brush to wet-on-wet, and we even experimented with materials such as rubbing alcohol and plastic wrap to achieve various textures and contrast. Illustrating the Model Once students understood the basics they moved on to creating cell draw- ings on large watercolor paper. Cell photo handouts and diagrams were provided to ensure realism in each student's drawing. Because the cell wall is a vital aspect of the work in terms of visual emphasis and as a concrete identification part, students outlined it with black tempera mixed into white glue and let it dry fully overnight. Creative Watercolor Techniques Before students began painting their cell illustrations, we spent time talk- ing about what characteristics of each Wondrous Watercolor Tracy Hare and Jenn Feierabend CELL ILLUSTRATIONS Zach Halvorson, grade eight.

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