Capturing Wind

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Weather (Wind), Force

Language Arts – Poetry, Literature (The Calder Game by Blue Balliett)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charles Burchfield, Andrew Wyeth, Hokusai, Jeff Walls, David Hockney, Jean-François Millet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, John Steuart Curry, Alexander Calder, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and Theo Jansen.

Painting, Sculpture, Mobile, Kinetic Sculpture, Organic Shapes

March is famous for being the windy month. When I think of artists who depict wind, I think of Charles Burchfield. In this Burchfield lesson, the writer talks about wind’s invisible nature and ways that we know it’s there. Students can identify and list more wind sources looking at the following artworks. A blowing curtain can be seen in Andrew Wyeth’s “Wind From The Sea”. Sails filled with air can be seen in Winslow Homer’s “Breezing Up”.  Blowing paper can be seen in Hokusai’s  “Travelers Caught in a Sudden Breeze at Ejiri”,  Jeff Walls photograph entitled “A Sudden Gust of Wind” (both found here) and David Hockney’s “Wind”. Wind blowing a tree over can be seen in friends, Jean-François Millet’s “A Gust of Wind” and  Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s “A Gust of Wind” . Finally, find very forceful wind in John Steuart Curry’s“Tornado Over Kansas”. After the students have viewed these different artist’s impressions of wind, ask them to share and  illustrate some of their experiences in wind. Then as a writing prompt have students complete the following:                                                                                                                                                    “Who Has Seen The Wind? Neither I nor you, But when ____________________________________.

Artists have illustrated wind in paintings and photographs, but some artists have actually built sculptures that move in reaction to wind. The first artist who built such a sculpture was Alexander Calder. Calder was an engineer turned artist, who wanted to make moving sculptures. His first attempts were motorized. Fortunately for us, he found these motorized sculptures very boring. He thought these sculptures performed the same dance over and over again. He found that if he hung shapes from bases or the ceiling, changing air currents made the sculpture look constantly different. He called these kinetic sculptures mobiles. To see examples of Calder’s mobiles check out this video. If you are interested in more posts about the fascinating and creative Calder, check out more of my Calder posts here and here. Artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, created a kinetic sculpture of orange curtains in Central Park entitled, “The Gates”. Look here to view a video of “The Gates”. Theo Jansen built insect-like wind powered sculptures. See a video of  “The Strandbeests” here.

If you wish to do a wind powered sculpture, students can create something as simple as a whirliygig  like the ones found here. Students can also make a Calder-like mobiles like the ones found on Princess Smartypants. If you have read The Calder Game by Blue Balliett with your students, they can make coded mobiles like those found on Make Art With Me!.

If you like what you’ve read and find it helpful, please give me a Like. Simply click on the post title, scroll to the bottom and click Like. I’d appreciate it. Comments are also welcome.

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Bubble Bubble Toil And Trouble

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Transparent, Opaque, And Translucent Objects, Astronomy, Light

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Joseph Wright of Derby , Leonardo da Vinci

Painting, Drawing Forms, Color Mixing

It has been “a long and winding road” to find a subject for this post. I first wanted to do something St Patrick’s Day related. I really wasn’t familiar with any Irish artists or crafts, so I decided to start investigating rainbow paintings and figured I’d correlate with science and the light spectrum.


I found  Joseph Wright of Derby’s  “Landscape With Rainbow”, which upon first impression, seemed to fit the bill. Find a brief Wright bio here. However, upon further investigation I learned so much more. Wright did paint landscapes like the one seen above, but also small group portraits in a chiaroscuro style (paintings made with a single light source causing strong light and shadow) similar to Rembrandt and de la Tour. What set his paintings apart from all the rest was the themes he depicted. He was close friends with scientists and inventors. He began painting groups of everyday people viewing scientific experiments. Along with writers of the time, Wright helped document the Period of Enlightenment. I found the following three examples of Wright’s scientific paintings.

                        “The Alchemist”      Above: “An Experiment on a Bird in an Air                                                                                              Pump”                                                                                                                                                                    Below: “A Philosopher Lecturing on the                                                                                                    Orrery”

In the first two paintings, experiments are being performed. The thing that purely amazed me is that these paintings were created in the 1770’s around the time of the Revolutionary War. When thinking about Colonial America, I never realized such science was occurring in Europe. “The Alchemist” depicts the discovery of phosphorous some one hundred years prior. It blows my mind. I never thought about beakers and such existing so early. So if you are studying a unit on experiments in science, why not share these two paintings with your students. Find a video about “An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump” here.

I have to say that I was kind of excited when I found Wright’s science experiment correlation because my all time favorite blogger, Cassie Stephens, recently taught a science related art project found here. Upon seeing this lesson,  I so wanted to share it with you. Simply introduce Joseph Wright of Derby and his scientific experiment paintings as a motivation. If you are studying  transparent, opaque, and translucent objects, Cassie’s lesson is perfect. Observe beakers and test tubes with your students. Talk about how they are transparent. Use Cassie’s YouTube video to teach drawing beaker forms. The watercolor paint used to create the liquid in your beakers is translucent. The beaker shapes the students cut out for collaging are opaque. Love the bubble drawing and printing part of this lesson also. So, if you are studying surface tension or spheres, go for it. Bubbles are also slightly translucent.

A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery” is an astronomy painting. An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. As the title implies, the people are crowded around the model while a teacher lectures. To learn more about the painting and see a photograph of an actual orrery look here

Looking for another art related tidbit to add to your astronomy unit. Back in the later 1400s and early 1500s when people believed the earth was flat and that the sun and moon revolved around us, Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his journals “No Si Muove” which means “The sun does not move.” I’ve covered Da Vinci in some other posts here and here.

Life has the arts sprinkled in, so why not sprinkle a little into your science curriculum? I hope you have found something you can use.

‘POP’ by again real soon!

What’s A Girl Gonna Do?

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Careers, Community Helpers, Women’s History, People Who Make A Difference, Countries Around The World

Mathematics – Geometry (Shapes), Language Arts – Literature, Science – Movement

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Mary Blair

Animator, Animation, Illustrator, Portraits, Abstraction, Geometric Shapes, Organic Shapes

Today’s  young girls are growing up in a world where the sky is the limit, as far as careers go.  Look, we even have a woman running for president. In the past, it wasn’t like that.  When I was growing up, I remember thinking, women had two choices. They could become a nurse or a teacher. I became a teacher. Thankfully historically, there have been women who thought outside the box. We’re going to look at one such woman today.

Today we’re going to investigate Mary Blair. You may think that you don’t know her, but if you’ve seen the Disney movies, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan, or ridden the It’s a Small World amusement ride, you do! Blair had a hand in designing them all. She worked in the male dominated animation world for Walt Disney in the 1940s and 50s. She brought modern design and color to the Disney studios. Read a short biography about her here. See examples of Blair’s work here.

Mary Blair achieved her career goal. What are your students’ career dreams? For motivation you might read one or more of these books: Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, Rosie Revere, Engineer also by Andrea Beaty and Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva.  Using this painting , students could brainstorm props to symbolize different careers. Then, they could each draw or paint a portrait in the theme of their favorite career.

If you happen to be studying geometry and 2D shapes, have students point out the 2D shapes and patterns from Blair’s It’s a Small World building designs found in this blog. Do you think her small world buildings may have been influenced by  Paul Klee’s “Castle and Sun” and Henri Matisse’s “Cut Outs” ?  This lesson is a perfect opportunity to practice cutting 2D shapes. Simply switch out Klee for Mary Blair at the beginning of the lesson. Markers and/or  watercolors can be used if you don’t have paint markers.

It’s a Small World would also correlate well with a countries around the world unit. Try googling Mary Blair’s It’s a Small World international figures. Study the traditional dress of the animatronic figures. Find a video about the costumes here. Disney even has a set of Mary Blair style videos highlighting traditions of different countries found here. Students could create their own international figures following this lesson. You could always use wall paper scraps or wrapping paper instead of cloth to help simplify the process.

Since Mary Blair was an animator, you might also want to delve into the steps in creating the illusion of movement through animation. I think the easiest method is a flip book. Look here to find several examples of flip books and ways to incorporate them into your curriculum. Students can learn how to create a stop motion film here.

So you see, one artist can be used in many different ways across the curriculum.

 “Happy Arts Advocacy Day and International Women’s Day!” What a perfect post to incorporate both occasions, wouldn’t you say? How about sharing it with a friend?

Drop by again real soon!

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Women’s History, All About Me, Families

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Mary Cassatt, And Six Others

Portraits, Face Proportions


I am very excited to see that Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s portraits are presently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I can’t wait to trek up there and see them in person. Since March is Women’s History Month, it’s a perfect time to share her story with you. I first learned about her in an art history class a few years ago and have been obsessed with her story ever since. She was court portrait painter to Marie Antoinette and painted other aristocrats from all across Europe. What impresses me the most about this artist is that she was a success in a time when women were not even allowed to go to art school. After learning some skills from her father, she was basically self taught and went on to become the breadwinner of her family (another unusual accomplishment for this time in history). To learn more about this adventurous artist, check out this excellent post by Art History Mom here. Also check out The National Gallery of Art’s Le Brun post here.

Read about another famous woman portrait artist, Mary Cassatt, who painted about a century later, here.

So, if you are studying an All About Me unit or a Family unit, this post would be a nice motivation for a portrait project. After an introduction to portrait paintings, go over the proportions of a face with the help of this free downloadable. Then maybe try this lesson for a self portrait or something like this lesson for a watercolor family portrait.

If you are interested in more stories about women artists, check out this Metropolitan Museum of Art Family Guide.

I hope you enjoyed exploring these accomplished women as much as I enjoyed writing this post. If you did maybe you’d like to become a follower. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Simply click on the title of  this post, scroll down to the comment section and type away.

Hope you’ll stop by again real soon.