Thursday, December 2, 2010

Elements and Principles of Art

The students have had lots of fun playing with the clay and using their new techniques! They are finishing up their final projects - the one(s) they get to take home. They each had one pound of clay with which to create. While we are waiting for the clay to dry, and during the first/second firing, the students will explore the Elements and Principles of Art. There are a wide range of projects that will give students an understanding of what these elements and principles are and how they are used in artwork.

We have already covered the elements of line (portraits and the movie - "The Dot and the Line") and shape (portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes) along with the principle of proportion (3rd grade landscapes and 4-6th grades still-lifes). Now we will explore the element of color in depth. Here is a great website on color (in English and EspaƱol ) called Color in Motion. You can explore what "personality" each color has (symbolism in color), who the color's "best friend" (complementary colors) is, and whether it is a primary (red, yellow, blue) or secondary (purple, green, orange) color. There are also some fun activities you can do wherever you have internet access!

The Color Wheel (including primary, secondary, and tertiary colors):

Lesson one: Complementary colors 
(a primary color and the secondary across from it on the color wheel which is made up by mixing the other two primary colors)
  •  Red and Green (yellow + blue) - "Flaming Squares" activity (pattern/rhythm)
  • Yellow and Purple (red + blue) - "Wacky Weaving" activity (pattern/rhythm)
  • Blue and Orange (yellow + red) - "City Scapes" activity (pattern/rhythm)

Lesson two: Analogous colors/Tertiary colors - "Flower Gardens and/or 3-D Buildings" activity

Analogous colors: are next to each other on the color wheel. They are usually in groups of threes and have a color in common. For example, blue, blue-violet, and violet all have the color blue in common. Tertiary colors: are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color.  

Tertiary colors (see color wheel above):
  • yellow-green
  • blue-green
  • blue-violet
  • red-violet
  • red-orange
  • yellow-orange
 Lesson three: Warm and cool colors - "Echo" activity (K-3)/"Walk the Dog" activity (4-6)

The element of color lessons will be combined with the principles of art lessons: pattern and rhythm.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ceramic Clay

For the next month and a half, all of the students will be exploring the possibilities of hand-building techniques with ceramic clay. The students will learn how to use molds with tiles, create pinch pots and coil pots, free-form sculptures, wedge clay to prepare it for use, scoring and slip for adding layers, and learn about where clay comes from and as a form of rock. The first day of this unit, we will be discussing ceramics/pottery from cultures around the world, namely: Japan, China, Africa, Pre-Columbian South America, and Native North America.

"Clay began being used thousands of years ago. Ceramics reached high achievement in both ancient China and Egypt. Pots were first made by pinching or coil building, before the potter's wheel was invented in Mesopotamia about 6,000 years ago. Potters were then able to produce circular and cylindrical forms with both speed and uniformity by "throwing" or shaping the clay as it spins on a wheel.

Clay has been used as both an expressive art form and for functional purposes in almost all cultures on earth. Often functional (also called applied art) clay pieces such as watering or storage pots were also carefully decorated. Many cultures also used clay for sculptures. Ancient sculptures often document both nonreligious and religious images." (ESHS Ceramic01)

The Japanese potters were greatly influenced by Korean and Chinese techniques. Individual potters names became more prominent from the 1600s onward. This was in part due to a Japanese respect for the craftsman as an artist in his own right. Many of these pieces are signed by the artist. porcelain was first found in Japan by a Korean artist. (ESHS Art History 8)

Jomon (cord pattern) Phase: It was names for the...hand-built earthenware vessels made by rolling a cord over the soft clay... the beginning periods began manipulating the mouth of the vessels for a decorative or flame-like effect. (ESHS Art History 8)

Later Japanese Bronze Age: "Haniwa, literally meaning "circle of clay," were sometimes simply clay cylinders placed around a grave mound or tumulus to strengthen the sides of the mound and prevent earth washouts." The Haniwa comes in many forms, such as this Warrior in Armor. another form is the Haniwa Horse. Both were decorative and acted as types of tomb guardians. The simplicity of the horse is meant to emphasize the clay itself, not just the artist's touch. (ESHS Art History 8)

Painted Pottery culture - "They produced many pots painted with “black-on-red designs of geometric figures, human masks, fish, and occasionally animals.” Many of these pots are burial urns. The designs on these urns commonly feature “vigorous geometricized" decoration." (ESHS Art History 7)

Black Pottery culture - "They are named after the distinctive black pottery which they produced. “Black pottery shapes, particularly the beaker vessel (gu), are distinctive, and indicate a technique totally different from that used to make Yangshao pottery. Yangshao culture's were coil built, then beaten with a paddle to shape and smooth them. For Longshan black wares, the dark clay was shaped on a slow turn table…allowed to dry leather hard, then burnished and fired to an almost shiny black.” Embellishments were limited and never contained painting." (ESHS Art History 7)

Ding, Ru, Longquan, Guan, Koryo are also important and specific types of Chinese pottery.

Most Nok heads (Central Sudan) are hollow and were once attached to a full or partial figure. The features of the face tend to be simple geometric forms. The facial features were carved out of the clay after being dryed out to a leather-hard stage.

Sao heads (Central Sudan) were found in mounds of earth. It is unclear as to who the Sao people were, although a mythical race of giants is included in the theories.Circular lumps of clay between the eyes and ears may represent raised scarification patterns.The attachment on the chin may represent a beard or may depict a lip ornament. Today only Kotoko children form figures of people and animals, asking sympathetic potters to fire their clay toys as they fire their pots.

Seven Lydenburg Heads (South Africa): These heads were created around 400 AD. "The [two] largest of these hollow terracotta sculptures could have covered a human head and neck. The white pigment which appears to have covered it once has now disappeared, while a small animal-like form on the top of the head is damaged and difficult to identify.
"The reconstructed heads pictured here are not identical to the originals but do share a number of characteristics. Modeled strips of clay form the thinly opened oval eyes, slightly projecting mouths, noses, and ears, and raised bands decorating the faces, while the backs of the heads are adorned with incised linear patterns. The columnar necks are defined by large furrowed rings. Necks ringed with fat have been and continue to be viewed as a sign of prosperity by many African peoples. However, it is currently impossible to know whether the rings on the Lydenburg heads were intended to be read in this way due to the scant information available on the ancient culture that produced them.

For a variety of reasons it has been speculated that the heads were used in initiation rites, perhaps even worn. Specularite, a variety of hematite whose crystals glisten when rotated, was placed strategically on the masks in incisions and raised areas such as the eyebrows. This has been cited as a possible indication that the heads were used in public ceremonies, as they would have shimmered impressively when moved in the light. The holes in the five smaller heads and the helmet size of the two larger ones could also indicate that these earthenware heads were masks worn for various ceremonies." (ESHS Art History 11)

"The Cuzco bottle is one of the finest examples of Inca ceramics. (Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire.) This beautiful and functional form was used to carry, store, and dispense water. Its pointed base had a function. It was placed on the ground or on a table, tilted on the base, and when someone wanted a drink, the vessel was simply tipped forward. The two handles located near the center of the piece were used in concert with the small appendage at the neck so that a strap could be slid through one handle, then up and over the small protrusion, then down through the opposite handle, and then the strap tied around the waist and shoulders and the pot could easily be carried without spilling any water. The two small lugs at the rim were for tying a skin or cloth over the top to keep out insects and debris. Inca vessels were coil built. It is similar to a Greek vase called an aryballos. The slip design is finely painted and may represent basketry patterns." (ESHS Art History 9)

Native North America:
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has the longest continuous pottery tradition on their original land of any tribe in the United States. Nearly 2000 years ago, Cherokee potters began using carved wooden paddles and sharp objects to stamp thin walled, hand-built pottery with intricate cross-hatch, spiral, and other designs. (ESHS Art History 10)

Seed pots were used to store seeds.

Cherokee Friendship pots represent how friends are tightly interwoven like the weaves of a basket.

Cherokee Wedding Vase represents two uniting. Once used in early wedding ceremonies and was broken to seal the wedding vows.

Modern North America:
"Lucy M. Lewis' year of birth is not known. She spent nearly all her life atop the high mesa of Acoma Pueblo, making pottery since the age of 7. She is largely responsible for the revival of Mimbres black-on-white pottery designs (right) which are more than 1,000 years old. She was famous, as well, for her exquisite polychrome designs and her fine-line and lightning designs.
Lucy Lewis was one of the most widely respected potters from her pueblo. She was the last of the Acoma matriarchs. She followed pueblo tradition in every step of pottery production—offering prayers of thanks to Mother Earth for the clay, taking only as much clay as she needed, working the clay with only her hands, forming the vessel from coils of clay, scraping the walls with tools fashioned from gourds, painting the vessel with slips and paints made from clay and vegetable sources and, finally, firing the finished pieces in an outdoor handmade kiln." (ESHS Art History 12)

Whitney Smith Pottery: Whitney once spent $1000 in order to correct a problem with her cupcake stands. Even professionals sometimes make mistakes. Even professionals continue to learn. Even professionals are not perfect.

Jennifer McCurdy has been working on her pottery techniques for twenty-five years. She states, "living on Martha’s Vineyard, island time, especially in the winter, seems to conform to nature’s cycles. As a potter, I strive to make my work reflect the balance of life around me. It is important that the patterns I see around me are integrated into my forms."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


For the month of October, and possibly a week or so of November, we will be concentrating on painting! Grades first through second will be concentrating on Autumn (Fall) landscapes. Third through sixth grade will be using grids to draw and then paint the Halloween/fall still-life, which is currently decorating our art room. We will be looking at a variety of still-lifes; however, we will concentrate on still-lifes from Northern Europe, especially the Netherlands and Finland. The still-lifes from these areas tend to be referred to as vanitas still-lifes.

Still-life with Candle by Picasso

The sixth grade will be learning about linear/one-point perspective. This will be accomplished by studying the architecture of China (as seen in the famous handscroll: The Spring Festival Along the River, by Zhang Zeduan of the North Song Dynasty), pre-Colombian Mexico and South America, and Modern North America. The sixth grade students will then complete the still-life project which is currently decorating the art room.*

Grades 1 - 6 will study the Elements of Art (see individual postings under September): line, shape, space, color, and value (light and dark -i.e. shadows).

Kindergarten will enjoy a range of Halloween/fall painting activities and will continue to study the Elements of Art: line, shape, space, and color. We will be concentrating on color this month and how mixing yellow and red can make many different shades of orange and almost yellow/red. HERE is a fun chart where you can use your mouse to see how the colors change when mixed.

*The still-life created will be using monochromatic coloring (or close) and will look something like this:
Still-life: Boxes and Art Room Supplies by Miss Siglin, 1992

Friday, October 1, 2010


1Our first unit this year is drawing.

On the first Art day, all of the students made an art portfolio in which to keep their artwork. Towards the end of the year, the students will decide which artwork shows their best work. We will then show these artworks in the Suncrest Art Fair!

Our drawing unit is based on portraits, in particular, self-portraits. Some of the students will be drawing their friends instead, due to not having mirrors to look in.

The artists we featured are as follows:

1. Giuseppe Arcimboldo used all sorts of organic "ingredients" in his self-portraits.

2. Sofonisba of Cremona was one of the first women artists to be widely recognized during her lifetime in the 1550s.

3. Rembrandt created more self-portraits than any other artist!

4. van Gogh - his self-portrait looks a little like his photograph, but not exactly.

5. Grandma Moses was 76 years old when she became an artist!

6. Chuck Close has dyslexia and had difficulties in school, but loved art. He had a blood clot that left him a quadriplegic at the height of his career, but it didn't stop him from living his dream!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Principles of Art - Unity

Unity: the quality of wholeness or oneness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements and principles of art.

Have you ever seen someone who is wearing striped tights, with polka dot sneekers, plaid shorts and a tie-dye t-shirt?
It doesn't look right, does it? The reason this outfit does not look good is because it lacks unity. There is not one thing that goes well with another. In art, we also try to create a sense of unity.

There are several ways that artists create unity in their works. For instance, unity is created with color.
The basic image above is a map of the United States, entitled Map, 1963 by Jasper Johns.The use of the three primary colors and gray throughout the entire picture creates a sense of unity. Along with color, the artist used similar brush strokes, which created a unifying texture. The printed words also repeat, although they are not all the same word. All of these elements work to bring a sense of unity to Map.

Principles of Art - Proportion

Proportion: the principle of art concerned with the size relationship of one part to another.

Something cannot be considered big unless it is compared to something which is considered small. Likewise, something cannot be considered small unless it is compared to something big.
If you saw only the clothespin*, you might assume that it is not very big at all. But when you see the people in the foreground, you can see that it is huge! It is 45 feet tall as a matter of fact!

*The artist is Claes Oldenburg, who created the 45-foot high Clothespin statue installed in 1976, west of City Hall on Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia. Another of his works is the Split Button, on display at the University of Pennsylvania.

Is this a real house or a dollhouse?*
What about this one?**

*Answer for the first house: It's a dollhouse!
**Answer for the second house: Canadian artist Heather Benning took an old abandoned farmhouse and turned it into this beautiful life-size dollhouse. She protected her creation with plexi-glass and left it there as an art installation.

Principles of Art - Variety

Variety: the principle of design concerned with difference or contrast.

Our lives would be very boring without variety. Imagine how our world would be if everything were exactly the same all the time. Imagine having the same cereal for breakfast every day, wearing the same clothes every day, listening to the same song every day, etc. It wouldn't be long before we'd be screaming for something different. Variety helps us keep things interesting in our lives, and it does the same for art.

In art, variety is used to create interest and draw attention to something. As a comparison, think of the last TV commercial you saw for a specific product. How long has that particular commercial been on the air? Have there been other ads for the same product? How many? The advertiser uses new ads for their products to maintain interest in their products. If they relied on the same ad for their product, people would lose interest quickly.

*Legos almost went out of business until they added in the right type of variety!

Principles of Art - Emphasis

Emphasis: the principle of art that makes one part of a work of art dominant over the other parts.

When you want to remind yourself to do something, you leave yourself a note in a very obvious place. When you want to make your point clear, you raise your voice or speak more slowly. These are examples of how people use emphasis to focus attention on something. Likewise, when you want someone to notice a specific part of an artwork first or you want one part to stand out more than another, you emphasize that part.

Artists use any device they can to give emphasis to a part of their work. They could use color, texture, size, shape, contrast -- anything to draw an observer's eye to a particular part of a work. What is the emphasis in Claude Monet's Impression Sunrise, 1876?
What did Monet do to draw your attention to a specific area of the painting?

Principles of Art - Pattern

Pattern: a two-dimensional decorative repetition.

Andy Warhol sometimes took everyday objects and created art from them. In this case, it's rows of Campbell's soup cans, which create a pattern. From a distance, this pattern could almost be a type of plaid*, but the closer you get, the easier it is to see that it really is rows of soup cans.

Here are other examples of Patterns:

Pattern print & Quilt patterns (google images)

*Plaid: horizontal stripes and vertical stripes in different colors overlapping each other.

Principles of Art - Rhythm

Rhythm: the principle of design which indicates movement by the repetition of elements.

In music, rhythm is created with sounds that are repeated at regular intervals. People dance to a consistent rhythm and different dances are identified by the different types of rhythms produced. In art, you receive rhythm through your eyes instead of through your ears. This is called visual rhythm.

There are several repetitive elements in the example below. The windows, the sidewalk, the overhang, and even the doors create a rhythm moving horizontally. Even though each window is slightly different, they are all the same size, so a consistent rhythm is produced:

Picture here

Now look at this picture:

(Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian)

The lines create a confusing sense of movement. They seem to go every which way, and there's no focal point. Your eye is drawn everywhere, kind of like a road map, and the smaller shapes balance the longer shapes to create an inconsistent rhythm.

Principles of Art - Movement

Movement: the principle used to create the look and feeling of action and to guide the viewer's eye throughout the work of art.

(Movement and Rhythm are very closely related)

Movement implies that an object is in motion. In art, we can create a work so it appears to be in motion. for instance, in a cartoon, we often see little lines that indicate a character is running, or their legs may be blurred to indicate speed. another aspect of movement in art is creating a work which invites the observer's eyes to move around the picture.

Artists are particularly aware of the importance of movement as it allows the artist to direct the observer's eye.


1. Medieval (Gothic) cathedrals use vertical movement with their pillars and high ceilings to draw the viewer's eye heavenward.

2. Horizontal movement tends to be perceived as safe and stable.

(Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, c.1932 by Charles C. Ebbets)

3. Diagonal movement gives a sense of instability and action, as evident when we see flowers bending in the wind or an athlete running.

4. Spiral movement gives us a sense of depth and space.

So, by using the correct techniques, we can create a real sense of movement in a work.

Look at the images below. Notice how the lines lead your eye to a specific point. In the first, your eye is drawn up and to the right, where the lines converge. In the second image, your eye is drawn into the concentric circles. in the last image, the curved lines as well as the straight lines all lead your eye toward the black square. these are all examples of how movement can be used in a drawing to move your eye (or draw attention to) a specific point. In a drawing or painting, artists use different techniques to draw the viewer's eye to a specific point on the picture plane. They can use any of the elements or principles of design as attention-getters:
  • color
  • line
  • value
  • shape
  • emphasis

Even Leonardo used some of these devices to get the viewer to focus on one particular part (her face). As you can see, the places where the light and dark meet create lines that point to her face. No matter where on the painting we look, the lines lead our eyes back to her face.

Principles of Art - Balance

Balance can be symmetrical, asymmetrical, or radial.

1. Symmetrical balance (formal balance) is used to express ideas such as stability, uniformity, and formality. In symmetrical balance both halves of a work are like mirror images of each other. They are exactly alike or so similar that you see them as matched. The symmetry can be either vertical or horizontal. In other words, it can be symmetrical from top to bottom (vertical), or from side to side (horizontal).

2. In asymmetrical (informal balance), the halves of the work are balanced like a see-saw. For example, a large shape on one side might be balanced by several smaller ones on the other side or, a large shape close to the fulcrum (or balancing point) may be balanced with a smaller object further away. A smaller area with bright colors can have as much visual "weight" and interest as a large area with a dull color. Asymmetrical balance is often used to express action, variety, and informality.

3. In radial balance, parts of a design seem to move toward or away from a central point. Radial balance is often symmetrical. the petals on flowers and wheels of bicycles (shown here as Marcel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel, 1951) are examples of radial balance.

Can you figure out which is which?