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A Drive-by Daffodilling

So many colors - so little time...So many colors - so little time...Take one moist (this is the Pacific Northwest, after all) spring, add fragile spring bulbs, a generous friend or two, and you have a drive by daffodilling. How does that work, you ask? Simply place a vase with bright flowers in the center of the painting center and turn the kids loose. Sometimes I like to sit with them, scribbling my own ideas onto rough paper and playing with endlessly fascinating layers of transparent color. Sometimes not. If kids are allowed to explore their own ideas of how to bring flowers to life, it's a cleaner, purer process.

This group was fairly quiet during their daffodil encounter. I heard soft voices as they discussed a bit of color and a bit of technique, but voices never rose above comfortable friendship. The different results were interesting. Two artists chose the splashy heaviness of undiluted tempera for their flowers and, as friends often do, shared more than a few strokes in common. The third chose quieter Watercolorist at workWatercolorist at workwatercolor from the Crayola pans/Prang refilles trays that are available in the center. I heard her thinking aloud about the differences between her painting and those of her friends and she was a little unsure whether she liked the result. My students are wise to my, "Tell me what you think about your piece." kinds of noises, and I sensed a desire from all three for a little more recognition of what they were doing. I'm a stubborn teacherperson, though, and I stuck to my guns (paint pots?) pointing out the specifics I saw: "You chose bright colors and wiggling lines here; I see the curve of the stem of the flower here; You decided to stress the outline with ink; You enlarged the flowers to give your picture strength." In that way I show that what they're doing impacts me but don't lay my values on top of their work before its finished. I also model the way we talk our way through the creative process sometimes.A flower capture in progressA flower capture in progress

The period is always too short. Without exception, there are howls of protest when I ring the cleanup bell, but their artwork is just like a snapshot of time. When these kiddos look at their pictures in coming years they'll remember this day, the friends who sat and painted beside them, and a little about the flowers that inspired them.

I'm certain the daffodils approve.

Here There Be Pirates

Arrrrgh!: Flag picture courtesy of Tim EschatonArrrrgh!:
Flag picture courtesy of Tim Eschaton

An artist's inspiration is an interesting thing. Fragile sometimes, it flits in and out of our thoughts and we struggle to shut out competing interests so that we can focus on its creation. Other times it's as subtle as a sledge hammer, taking over all thought until we get something splashed onto paper. Alejandro came into class today in the throes of the second type of event. We had barely chosen centers when he came to me to tell me he needed pirates - fast. His hands flew around his face as he described, mostly in Spanish, the battle he could see between sailing ships. One hand swooped in the waves as the pirate ship while the second hand fluttered up on the mast in the form of the Jolly Rodger. His third hand (first graders have those, you know...) was the wind and the action, and, probably, the musical score only he heard in his head. He pointed to the computer on my desk and politely asked for a picture, please. I smiled at his faith in Google images and his art teacher and reminded him that we'd found a great picture of a sailing ship that we added to the Idea Book in the drawing center the last time his class was with me. His eyes changed a little, and I watched him remember that ship and compare it to his mental image. His serious face was deep in thought and he nodded and headed off to find the binder with the picture of the ship.

Sure enough, a full fleet of pirate ships sailed across the drawing table by the end of the class period. My first graders aren't into delayed gratification, so most drawings have to go home TODAY, but Alejandro's sketches hit his folder. They'll sit there, percolating quietly, until he comes back to me again. In the meantime, who knows where his interests will fly - sharks and monkeys came up in conversation before pirates captured his imagination.

Arrrghh!

Studio Art is a Contact Sport

Painting with sponges is squishy, messy, and fun.Painting with sponges is squishy, messy, and fun.Watching kids explore (rub out/beat on/taste/pummel/argue about/share/celebrate) art is an amazing thing. So much of their world is tight and controlled or precise and orderly that their art studio time feels like air being let out of a too-full balloon. Neat and tidy have their place, of course, and we work hard to make sure that we've put tools and essential art "stuff" back where it goes, but the inherent freedom in art is simply delicious.Did I mention that my new invention works better with a partner?Did I mention that my new invention works better with a partner?






A case in point: kindergartners were ready for some additional responsibility this week. (Read: MOST of the inside the room road races have slowed to a trot and we've all adjusted to a single session time of 35 minutes. Sitting (vibrating?) on the rug for "art talk" is working better all the time. TAB lore recommends slow, sequential addition of new things, bu,t invigorated by spring break, I decided to add three things at once. Most everyone is tall enough to reach the printmaking table, it was just "time" to start some paper weaving, and several of the ducklings have been begging for access to the melted crayon counter.

Sometimes it's a loooooooong stretch for a second grade printer.Sometimes it's a loooooooong stretch for a second grade printer.If you haven't been close to kinderpeople who are getting to try something new lately, rent or borrow some quickly. It's glorious. We had to put hands in pockets to curtail 274 different colored fingers (do the math - 26 kids circled around a table with four different colors of paint and rolling brayers!) but the demo of how to spread ink (tempera, but who's picky at this age) and use stamps and combs resulted in a giddy chorus of "Ooh! and Aaaaah!"

To demonstrate the safety cautions of the melted crayon warming trays I held one in front of my chest, showed the kids where the cool and the hot spots were, did some bright colored swirls to show how slidy melted wax can be, and then we all practiced licking on too-warm fingers and blowing to cool them down. ("This is what the big kids do when they get their fingers a little too warm.")

Paper weaving is a great prerequisite for weaving on our big loom, so we practiced saying "over, under" to my paper strips so they'd know where to go. Our kindergarten teachers do a fabulous job with early math activities so there was immediate crowing of, "I see a pattern!" and lots of descriptive language: "It's a checkerboard!" and "Mira! Una bandera de los carros!" There's such a range with little guys so some kids can "get" weaving immediately, but with a little help from an adult, it's a successful activity. After sides are glued, feathers or foamies or other fun stuff can be added from the collage area so the kids can see the possibilities for combining centers.

Purple hearts were just what she needed today.Purple hearts were just what she needed today.I smile every time a seriously precise, super neat child approaches something inherently messy like printing. With the first smudge on a finger, permission is requested to go wash hands. Most kids, though, will agree to waiting until all the printing is done before washing off the top layer or two. We don't just need permission to create, but to make messes on the way to good art.

I got lots of kudos for my "HowOnEarthAmIGoingToMakeAPrintHanger
WithinReachOfEveryoneWithoutKillingSomeone
OrSpendingMoney?" invention. Little fingers master big clips quickly and independent smiles abound as they take care of their own creations.The print hanger thingy lives!The print hanger thingy lives!

Cool stuff, great fun, and MOST of the paint went onto paper rather than children. Woo hoo!

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