Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Action Painting: Weeks One And Two

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." - Pablo Picasso

Making art with children is an exciting, inventive and surprising part of my life. I work with about a dozen kids, ranging in age from two to twelve years old. Some are new to my class this year; others have been making art with me since they were toddlers. Wait. Some of my students ARE toddlers. We are a very eclectic group.

Each week when we meet, my students and I begin our time together by discussing and defining the elements and principles of design, and using those technical terms to talk about masterpieces of art. These students know their stuff, and their insights and observations about major works bring a fresh air and new perspective to my well-worn frame of reference.

After about a half-hour of guided conversation, followed by some practical instructions regarding the day's project, we go into studio mode. While our projects are often messy, I like to give the students as much freedom as possible, and they respond to that trust by working responsibly. Clean-up time is a part of the creative experience, and these young artists shoulder the task with enthusiasm and energy, creating a blur of squirt bottles and paper towels that makes my head spin.

Really, it is a joy to make art with my students, and I couldn't be more proud of them.

So please humor me as I now turn this post into a virtual refrigerator, upon which I will hang some lovely examples of their work.

We are starting off this year with a series of action painting projects. This method of making art, as practiced by Jackson Pollock among others, emphasizes the movement of applying the paint to the paper. Kids of all ages love the freedom and kinesthetic joy of dribbling, dropping, tossing and rolling paint, rather than carefully dabbing it with a small brush. 

Last week, we mixed tempera paint with dish soap and a little water, then used straws to blow the mixture up into a mound of bubbles. By pressing their papers gently down on top of the bubble, my students created delicate, colorful, layered prints, as you see above. 

Eventually, I gave them permission to blow bigger mounds of bubbles, spilling out of the cups and across the tabletops. That freedom amped up their interest and inventiveness, leading to new experiments and explorations, and only a few drops of paint on the floor. 

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On the previous week, we made marble paintings. By dipping ordinary marbles into tempera paint and then rolling them around a sheet of paper fitted inside a baking tray, the students made these dynamic and vibrant compositions.

If this art looks exciting and fun to you, congratulations. Your inner child-artist is still alive and well. Now I encourage you to take the next step and actually take on an action-painting project, preferably with a real child at your side. I promise you will have fun.

And if you're free next Thursday at 12:30 p.m., stop by my school and join my class. We'll be out in the baseball field, flinging brightly-colored blobs of paint onto over-sized sheets of paper spread out on the ground. Pablo Picasso would not want you to miss it.

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