Good Vibrations!

Possible Classroom Concepts:  Science – Insects, Sound Waves And Vibrations

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charles Burchfield, Gustave Caillebotte, David Hockney, Arthur Dove

Pattern, Repetition , Realism, Abstraction

Last fall, while visiting the Brandywine River Museum of Art, I was excited to be able to view the “Exalted Nature: The Real And Fantastic World Of Charles E. Burchfield Exhibit”. I was familiar with the artist, but had never seen his work in person.  I knew Burchfield was famous for watercolor landscapes  painted “en plein air” (outdoors). I’ve talked about some of his weather landscapes  before here.  At the exhibit, I also noticed that he sometimes incorporated insects into his paintings as in “A Dream of Butterflies”,  “The Moth and the Thunderclap” and “Summer Afternoon”.  What I didn’t realize was that Burchfield also tried to incorporate the insect sounds into his paintings. He was in the habit of keeping sketchbooks containing copious notes explaining the thoughts behind his paintings. The following is what he said about “The Insect Chorus”:  “It is late Sunday afternoon in August, the child stands alone in the garden listening to the metallic sounds of insects; they are all his world, so to his mind all things become saturated with their presence – crickets lurk in the depths of the grass, the shadows of trees conceal fantastic creatures, and the boy looks with fear at the black interior of the arbor, not knowing what terrible thing might be there.” To illustrate the insect sounds, Burchfield repeats zig zag lines and dots. Learn more of his thoughts about sounds and his paintings herehere, and in this video. In art, the repetition of lines or shapes is known as pattern. What other patterns did Burchfield use to show sound in “The Insect Chorus and  “The Song of Katydids on an August Morning”?

As with wind, one cannot see sound.  I found in this video that sound creates vibrations which can be physically demonstrated by dropping something into water. Note the waves of concentric circles or vibrations that go out and out in Caillebotte’s “The Yerres, Rain” and David Hockney’s “Rain”.  Arthur Dove’s “Foghorn” shows the vibrations of the sound created by the foghorn, not the horn itself. What vibration lines does Burchfield show in “Telegraph Music”“The Woodpecker”, and “Autumnal Forest”?

If you wish to make an art project with your students to teach insects and sound vibrations, you might use this lesson as inspiration. First, have students brainstorm different insects. Next, they draw or collage an odd number (three to five) of insects. Students should include and be able to identify the major parts of an insect (head thorax, abdomen, six legs, wings, etc.) After discussing the different line patterns artists used to show sound, ask students to brainstorm patterns their insect might cause. Examples: Bees and dragonflies buzz. Crickets chirp. Using crayons or oil pastels create an all over sound pattern design on the background paper. Collage in ground and grass shapes. Lastly, arrange the insects in an interesting  way to complete the composition.

I hope you like this new riff on an insect lesson. What ways have you taught insects? I’d love to here about them . Just click on the title and scroll down to the comment section.

Hope to see you real soon!

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May Holidays!

Possible Classroom Concepts:  Social Studies – Geography, Countries Around The World (England, Japan And Mexico)

Science – Seasons (Spring), Language Arts – Writing, Literature, Mathematics – 3D Shapes

Possible Art Concepts: Art History -Maurice Prendergast, Andrew Wyeth

Painting, Illustration, Forms (Cylinders, Spheres)

It’s the first week of May and several countries will be celebrating special occasions. When I was still teaching, my colleagues often taught December holidays around the world. Why not teach May holidays around the world when introducing or reviewing different cultures? This would also be a good opportunity to locate the different countries on a world map.

2 1901 Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American artist, 1858-1924) May Day in Central Park

Maurice Brazil Prendergast’s “May Day in Central Park”

Let’s start with May first or May Day. It’s origin is thought to date back to the time of the Druids and has changed and evolved over time. A short and sweet holiday description can be found here. I discovered that there are three ways this holiday is celebrated. First, there is dancing around the maypole. Find some artists interpretations through the centuries in this post and the next five Older Posts. May Day is celebrated in numerous other countries around the world including America. Note, in that last link, several early 1900 watercolor paintings by Maurice Prendergast show May Day celebrations in Central Park, NYC. My favorite maypole painting is Andrew Wyeth’s “Snow Hill”. It is more of the artist’s life story than a maypole painting. All of Wyeth’s models are dancing around a pole and there is one ribbon left for the artist to join in. The second way to celebrate May Day is to wear a flower wreath in ones hair. People also create May baskets and anonymously place them on friend’s door knobs. Find a May basket project for your students hereThis teacher created a language arts unit around May Day.

Two countries celebrate holidays on May fifth. Probably the best known is Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over France in the Battle of Puebla. It is celebrated with parades, music and dancing. To celebrate, students could make dancing girl or mariachi boy pinatas  found  here. The second May fifth holiday is Japan’s Children’s Day . This day was once celebrated as Boys Day or Tango no Sekku. Girls had their own day called Hina Matsuri on May third. In 1948, the two holidays were combined into one. Read  more about this holiday here. Traditionally one carp kite or Koinobori is flown outside the home  for each member of the family.  Possible Koinobori art lessons can be found herehere, and here. Another Children’s Day tradition is to  display Samurai dolls in the house. See an example of Samurai armor and learn more about it here.  Students could make girl or boy versions of a Kokeshi doll (simple wood lathed dolls made for over 300 years in Japan) to display in their homes. See some examples of Kokeshi dolls and how they are made here. Students can make their dolls from a cork and styrofoam balla toilet paper roll and styrofoam ball or a toilet paper roll and a cut cardboard circle. Details for the dolls can be drawn, painted or collaged on the base form to complete the doll.  If students choose to create a Samurai doll, they may choose to make an origami Samurai helmet.

Also, the pinatas, Koinobori and Kokeshi doll projects above were all made from toilet paper rolls. These are all great recycle projects. Toilet paper rolls are also cylinders or 3D shapes (called forms in art). The Kokeshi heads are spheres. If you make any of these projects please point out their mathematics or geometry connection.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, I’m sure you are beginning to notice that visual art can be worked into almost any regular classroom subject. Whether you choose to do an international week or choose one holiday to share with your class, I hope found something you can use.

Stop by again real soon!