Friday, January 18, 2013

Have You Made Your Mark?

Friday Art Beat

I am beginning a new Friday series called, "Friday Art Beat." Every Friday I will post an art lesson based on concrete art pedagogy which will engage children to think creatively and critically.  The goal of these lessons is not to create a masterpiece, but to teach your child how to question and think deeply about art concepts.  Since, I have pre-school/toddler age children at home, I am tailoring the lessons towards this age level. Yet, I will also offer means to adapt these concepts towards older children. 

The Dot, by Peter Reynolds

As a child, I remember not feeling confident about my own artistic abilities.  In fact, in 4th grade I created a watercolor painting of a rose.  I thought it was awful, it did not resemble a rose and I felt insecure. What would my classmates would think if they saw it?  I quickly discarded the product into the trash can.  Minutes later, the teacher dipped his hand into the garbage can and retrieved the painting.  "Who painted this?" he exclaimed.  No one raised their hand.  I was too embarrassed to claim responsibility for this horrible painting.  The teacher shook his head and said, "This is beautiful!"  He then proceeded to hang the painting on the wall.  For the rest of the school year, I knew this was my painting, secretly proud of the recognition. 
In the same way, "The Dot" tells a similar story of a very insecure little girl named Vashti. It begins when she tells her art teacher that she, "just can't draw."  Her art teacher brilliantly tells her to "just make a mark and see where it takes you." Vashti takes a marker and stabs the paper with a dot. The teacher studies the dot and proceeds to tell Vashti, "now sign it."   The next week Vashti enters the classroom to find her dot and signature framed above the teacher's desk.  Her fear dissipates and her confidence grows.  She spends the next few days creating dots of all shapes and sizes.  Before she knows it, she has enough artwork to be presented in an art show at school.  All of her friends are amazed at her work.  In the end, Vashti friend, lacking in confidence, asks her how to draw, she tells her friend to, "make a squiggle" and "sign it."  

This sweet story reminds us that we are all vulnerable and get stuck in what we think art should be.  Our fears dictate our thoughts where we are not free to create.  I read this story to my 4 year old and two year old.  My four year old was mostly impressed with the art show part.  My two year old was indifferent (as with most books). 

Before we started the lesson, we discussed circles and dots.  I asked them to go around the house to find objects that were circles. Simon zeroed in on the donuts we made the previous day and Vivi found some circle puzzle shapes.  

We used our objects as inspiration for our artwork.  I gathered some watercolor paper, tempera paint, contact paper, and scissors.  The easiest way for me to show Vivi how to make dots, was to create a paint resist on her paper.  I cut out various circles shapes out of contact paper, and had her stick them wherever she wished on the page.  

I let her choose her paint palette, which consisted of blue, yellow, brown, red, and white.  I stepped back to let her make her own creative choices.  If she wanted to mix colors, I let her.  If she wanted to change brushes I let her.  I gave no input or instruction, except cutting out the circles.  
Simon was more interested in creating his own dots with his paint brush.  The dots turned into huge splashes, which wound up on my walls.  Yikes!!  Yet, it was tempera and completely washable.  
In the end, Simon became interested in creating a dot resist with the stickers.  He of course chose only blue and brown.  Once the paintings dried, I removed the stickers and framed them.  

Enrichment Activities: 

Ages 2-5

  •  Cut out circle sandpaper circle shapes in various sized and have child trace circle with their   finger.
  • Make dots out of play dough.
  • Have child trace circles using circle templates
  • Go on a circle treasure hunt around the house.  

Ages 6-9

  • Offer students a variety of materials to create their masterpiece. 
    • Colored paper in various sizes.
    • The end of an eraser they can dip in paint.
    • Create a crayon dot resist.
  • Students can write a poem after they complete their artwork.  (Click on the link for ideas).
  • Students can have an art show and discuss and critique their work. 
I hope this lesson has inspired you, your child, or a student to "make your mark!"
Have you ever felt insecure about your artistic abilities?  I would love to hear your story.

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