Continuing on with the first graders’ homeroom study of how one’s family history provides insight into one’s own personal identity, the students are continuing to move forward with their family portraits — first, by creating a large, life-size, half-body self-portrait painting.
Soon, these self-portraits will become family portraits as the students begin to add images from their memory of family events or from their knowledge of their family history (which they are discussing with Ms. Robidoux and Ms. Saito). In the meantime, the students come to realize that the seemingly simple act of drawing oneself has many complexities and challenges, as does the process of mixing the paint in one’s palette to create the desired tones for skin and hair. They continue to learn about drawing and about how to depict the human face but also about taking risks in doing things differently than before, about inquiring into oneself and one’s family, and about reflecting on one’s and one’s own family’s experiences.
The kindergarten students — having just completed their mid-year self-portrait drawing — have been working on self-portraiture in a different medium: paint. Whereas their previous encounter with paint was very experimental, using a variety of tools to manipulate the paint in terms of lines, shapes, colors, and texture, this art project had the children sit in front of mirror with a palette of paint and some brushes and attempt to create a likeness of themselves — albeit with much creative license! Before sitting down to work, the class observed, reacted to, and discussed a wide variety of portrait paintings by artists or varying styles (Alice Neel, Max Beckmann, Paul Cezanne, Frida Kahlo, Peter Paul Rubens, and Henri Matisse, to name a few).
This project allows for further experimentation with risk-taking, decision-making, color-mixing, independence, and self-evaluation, and it leads us into the next version of their self-portraits (which will incorporate both digital photography and hand-coloring with pastels).
In their homeroom classes, the first graders are examining how one’s family history provides insight into one’s own personal identity. And so in art class, we have discussed who are family members are and why they are important to us, and then the students began this unit by drawing family portraits from their memories and their knowledge of their families.
Then the students helped one another to trace their bodies onto large mural paper, the first step in creating a large-scale self-portrait, one which will eventually become a visual diary (or journal or record or landscape) of each person’s family history and also a particular view onto the students’ identities, at least as each one perceives it. Along the way, students will not only learn about drawing and about how to depict the human face but also about taking risks in doing things differently than before, about inquiring into oneself and one’s family, and about reflecting on one’s and one’s own family’s experiences.
Having completed their projects (wearable patterned garments) for their Ainu unit and performances, the 4th graders used the final weeks of Semester 1 to focus on their tessellations, the project they began at the beginning of the year. Before creating their Ainu garments, the students examined patterns and tessellations, specifically the artwork of M.C. Escher, a Dutch artist who was inspired in his cross-European travels to Southern (Moorish) Spain.
Now they are returning to this tessellation project, in which they have created individual motifs (shapes) and repeated them to create interlocking, puzzle-like patterns across the entire surface of their papers. The creative aspect of the project comes with each student having to decide how to transform these repeated shapes into something visually interesting and/or recognizable, something reflecting the interest of each student.
Each of the 5th graders has now completed — or nearly so — a personal kind of Impressionist painting by studying the work of the Impressionists (Monet, Sisley, Morisot, Pissarro), copying one of their paintings, and then altering the image to include a personal item which reflects something about each student’s own interests or passions.
After making a basic sketch of the landscape earlier in the first semester, the students started by painting variations of the dominant color (mixed by hand on each student’s own palette) and then developed the painting using the Impressionist technique, using many tints and complementary colors, and creating dark areas and shadows without using the color black and by creating their own browns. One major emphasis was for the students to become independent studio artists: to be able to manage their materials and decision-making, all while continually reflecting on their artwork, taking risks with media and techniques, and being open-minded as they attempted new processes and ideas.
After much focused, collaborative, and reflective work over the first semester, the second graders have completed their sculpture projects: the three-dimensional representation — in clay and glaze — of an important person with whom each student shares a particular cultural celebration. Now that the second (glaze) firing has been completed, their artwork is finally complete!
At long last, after much planning, discussion, learning from one another, and hard work, the second graders have reached the final stage of their sculpture project: the glazing. Having completed the modeling of the clay to resemble some important person with whom he/she shares a particular cultural celebration, each student has his/her sculpture fired. Subsequently, the students referred back to their original plan (colored drawing) in order to determine which colors of glaze to use to complete their sculptures. Now that all the glazing is complete, the projects go back into the kiln for a second and final firing. The students are very excited to see how their sculptures will turn out!
After much preparation, planning, and hard work — in all their classes — the fourth graders finally completed their study of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan. In art class, the culmination of their efforts was the completion of their Ainu-inspired garments: large fabrics displaying abstract, symmetrical designs and patterns, using motifs based on some of those used by the Ainu in their traditional clothing and others created individually by the students themselves. Though some of the designs resemble thorns and swirls (“ayus” and “morew” in Ainu) like in a plant or vine, the students learned that the images are not representational and do not symbolize anything or have a particular message. Rather, they were interested to learn that the placement of the patterns they created (near the openings of their clothes) is intended to keep evil gods or spirits from gaining access to the Ainu’s bodies.
The students worked hard in practicing, planning, and developing their projects, beginning with sketching and drawing in their sketchbooks. Some patterns were created from colored cloth (which they traced, cut, and glued); others were drawn and colored with pastels and/or fabric paint. Some students used rulers in order to achieve perfect symmetry. Once completed, the students displayed their garments to their parents and classmates during their performance and sharing in the auditorium.
A short video clip of one of the Ainu dances, in which their garments were worn:
The 5th graders have been working to develop a personal kind of Impressionist painting by studying the work of the Impressionists (Monet, Sisley, Morisot, Pissarro), copying one of their paintings, and then altering the image to include a personal item which reflects something about their own interests or passions. After making a basic sketch of the landscape, the students started by painting variations of the dominant color (mixed by hand on each student’s own palette) and then developing the painting using the Impressionist technique, using many tints, and creating dark areas and shadows without using the color black.
Along with painting and discussing the contributions of the Impressionists to the art world, the 5th graders took time to reflect on themselves as well. After considering the PYP learner profile (CARING, COMMUNICATOR, RISK-TAKER, PRINCIPLED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, THINKER, INQUIRER, REFLECTIVE, OPEN-MINDED, BALANCED), each student selected which two words best describes him/herself in art class and then wrote a brief explanation of this self-reflection.
The 2nd Graders — having completed their clay portraits, inspired by a significant person and cultural celebration in each of their lives — took a mini-field trip up to the high school art department to load their sculptures into the kiln. Walking up eight flights of stairs and carefully cradling their fragile clay constructions, the students arrived at the small metal shed atop the main building, adjacent to the MS & HS art studio. Inside, they each carefully placed his/her sculpture on the shelves inside the kiln. Once all three classes had completed the journey and the task, the kiln was turned on Friday afternoon and the firing process occurred over the weekend. This week, the students will move on to the next step of their project: using colored glazes to continue to bring their clay portraits to life!