SchoolArts Magazine

September 2016

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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SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 23 have to try." How do you convince a student otherwise? This is a question I have worked hard to answer. Using Abstraction This year, I used abstraction to teach the elements of art. I showed a video that included representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational examples of the elements. "The ele- ments of art," I synopsized, "are like the ingredients in a recipe. You can use the same ingredients in different ways to make wildly different meals." Using Wassily Kandinsky as our example, I walked students through the first four elements. Could they find a variety of lines in a Kandinsky? Easily. A variety of shapes, sizes, and colors? Of course. Could they create abstract paintings that included those elements? They were eager to try! Inking the Elements of Art This assignment was our first big les- son of the year. I adapted it slightly for grades two through five. Younger students simply had to include the four elements. Older students had to include a variety of different lines (hor - izontal, vertical, diagonal, and wavy), shapes (geometric and organic), sizes, and colors (primary and secondary). Students' compositions were approached one element at a time. Students were given India ink to cre- ate their lines. This was risky; I rec- ommend that you inform parents in advance if you want to try it. Students should wear smocks, paint clothes, or both. The nice thing about ink, though, is that it creates rich, black lines that dry very quickly. I gave students about three minutes to draw a variety of lines, then I showed the video, which gave me time to redis- tribute supplies while the ink dried. Painting We used liquid watercolors for the remainder of the project. I tried tem- pera paint once, but liquid watercolor dries faster and keeps its vibrancy lon- ger. Students had three or four min- utes to create a variety of shapes, then three or four more minutes to create shapes in different sizes. They used the rest of class to mix secondary col- ors and to complete their paintings as they saw fit. A couple of students went color crazy at this point, turning their col- ors to mud. The majority of students, though, were so invested that they completed their paintings thought- fully and deliberately. Throughout the class, I was able to circle the room, assess students' work, and coach them towards an even deeper under- standing of each element. Abstract Art With this structure, my students were able to create abstract art that excited and educated them. One boy beamed, "This painting isn't the mishkabobble that I usually do!" At the end of class, students worked in groups to name each of the four elements of art that they used. "What is abstract art?" I asked them before they left. Written answers confirmed their improved apprecia - tion, "Abstract art doesn't try to look real." It's a subtle but important dif - ference. Rama Hughes is an art teacher at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, Cali- fornia, and is a contributing editor for SchoolArts Magazine. rama@ ramahughes. 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 kandinsky Top-left: Shalom Elyaszadeh. This row: Yael Abesera, Yehuda Gutovich, Eitan Ackerman. With this structure, m students were able to create abstract art that excited and educated them.

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