Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Something As Simple and Complex As A Line - Updated

I took these two photographs to use as examples of a student using the small, roll of thin rope or yarn to create a shape after receiving the lesson below on the line. Prior to creating an outline with the material representing a line, the student carefully copied the artwork on the postcard. She is an excellent artist. She is 5 1/2 and is the only student in my current classroom that expresses an interest in abstract art.

After observing the student above's work for a few minutes, a "drawing" on the chalkboard caught my eye. A second later, an animated version of the drawing was running through my mind, as was the children's book, "Harold and the Purple Crayon." During our afternoon work, I invited the students to sit with me and look at the "drawing" on the chalkboard. I then asked the student above to show her work.

Next, I asked my students if they could see a relationship between her work and the image on the chalkboard. I then asked everyone if they could imagine the "drawing" on the chalkboard as a single, unbroken line. Too, instead of viewing the image as scribbling, to acknowledge it as art. The same above student looked at the chalkboard soberly, smiled the slightest smile and said, "It's moving."

The image below is by the internationally famous and recently deceased artist Cy Twombly. He is one of my favorite artists. I have asked myself why many times. I know my answer as one of my other favorite artists is Francis Bacon. I can see in my mind's eye, as if it was yesterday, where I first saw these two artists. I was on a 4th grade field trip with my class and teacher to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. I was blown away and fell in love with art that very day.


Over the past several weeks I have shifted back and forth between lessons on geometry and on art (as well as many, many other lessons on a variety of subjects). The bridge I have been using between these two areas was initially the geometry cabinet as it may be used in a variety of ways to assist in art work.

The oval is used to draw the initial, basic outline of a face:

A trapezoid is used to make a volcano:

I then moved my students towards a more abstract concept. I asked them what all of the geometric shapes had in common. They had some great answers: triangles, circles, etc. I thanked them for their responses and explained that while all of their answers were correct that I was looking for a different commonality. I was asking about what is called the line. I next placed a single length of white narrow rope on the table besides a few of the geometry insets. This would serve as my model for a line.

I demonstrated how a single line had both linear and non-linear qualities. I moved the line so as to create several shapes. Some were linear and others abstract or non-linear. My next step was to have the children manipulate a length of rope so as to create their own shapes:

They were invited to glue down the shapes that they decided they wanted to preserve.

I let all of that information seep in for a few days and while that seeping was occurring I returned to the shape of a triangle. I handed out black and white scenes of mountain peaks and asked that my elders and afternooners take rulers and isolate as many triangles as they could. It took them a long time as when they thought they had found them all, I turned the paper upside down and asked them to look again. They found dozens more.

Then one night as I was preparing for sleep, an image of a snake came to my mind. I saw it slide across a desert landscape with mountain peaks in the background. I saw, too, the the geometry of its skin and I saw the flexible line that formed the outline of its long body. I knew that this one image would manifest itself into a presentation that would provide work for the children which would in fact solidify, in a single project, all of the previous lessons I had given over the past couple of weeks. Too, I knew that it would serve future extensions on those lessons.

I placed several color copies of an illustration of a rattlesnake on one of the classroom tables the next morning. I again invited the afternooners and the elders to locate and isolate triangles and other geometric shapes using a ruler and a pencil. They pulled one material after another from the shelves to assist them in their work.

I then reminded them of our discussion on the line a week or so ago. Following this discussion, I handed each of them a length of line, a small pile of construction paper triangles, glue and card stock to be used for background. I asked them to think about all that we had talked about regarding geometry, math, linear, non-linear, polygons, irregular polygons and art. I then asked them to make a snake using details based on those lessons. They worked with such an intensity that it was hard at times to not abandon the rest of the classroom and students so as to simply sit back and watch them. It was mesmerizing. They used their rope lines to create the body of the snake:

They filled in the body with triangles:

Two days later, I placed bowls of white buttons, of gold glitter, of this and that for them to use as collage materials for the landscape beneath and above their snakes.

It was interesting to see that they did not copy each other, but selected materials that met their design criteria.

After a week of continuous afternoon work, they brought their projects to a conclusion:

As a follow up to this work, I presented an all class lesson on making one stroke with a paint brush - moving from dark to light colors. I placed in a small box a roll of paper for this art work; an aesthetic metaphor and off shoot of a line and a ball of thin, white rope.

These two objects are now always available for children of all ages to explore with infinite results.

Next week - construction of a snake polygon with the constructive triangles:

And, hmmm...doesn't this look like familiar cutting work - those polygon snakes are everywhere.

There too, along with those polygons and other elements of geometry, is something both simple and complex - the line.

Reading this once more, I much confess there were many other presentations that went into all of this. I hope to write about some of those after next week's Parent Conferences. Which makes me think about the upcoming AMI Conference - I will be there! Say hi if you see me!

1 comment:

Subha said...

You are simply brilliant!!! I am always awe struck by how you take one thing and it just blossoms into so many things. Presentations like this show a true gift in art, geometry and love for nature. Please keep it coming.