Imaginative Trees

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Trees (Purpose, Structure)

Social Studies – Countries Around the World (Canada), Language Arts – Literature, Journaling

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Jay Dart, Dr. Seuss, Gustav Klimt

Medium (Drawing, Illustrating, Murals, Mosaics), Color (Tints), Art Careers (Fine Artists, Illustrators, Painters)

While listening to a podcast from my latest blog obsession, The Jealous Curator , I discovered Canadian self proclaimed drawist,  Jay Dart.  Dart has created a series of drawings about an imaginary world called Yawnder. In these drawings, a woodsman named Jiggs and his trusty dog, Floyd, venture through this fantasy world.  Yawnder has many trees, but not quite the trees you’d see walking down the street. One tree might have many different pastel (tints) colored blossoms or trunks. Other trees could have a rainbow of different colored saps and their cross sectioned rings are also colorful.

In my last post, I talked about the purpose of trees. Jay Dart’s trees make a perfect addition to said post. He illustrates a logger here, a tree related job. Also, in the top drawing here, he shows Jiggs gathering colorful sap from trees. Students could guess the flavors of these colorful saps. In his Field Guide to Yawnder, Jay also shows the structure of his imaginative trees. Some of them actually grow from planting colorful beards. As a review of a tree unit, students could compare and contrast the characteristics of real trees and Yawnder trees.

His work would also be a welcome addition to a Canadian past times unit. (logging, fishing)

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Gustav Klimt’s “Tree of Life”

Jay’s fanciful trees remind me of some other imaginative tree’s in literature and art.   How about Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’s colorful truffula trees. I’m also reminded of Gustav Klimt’s stylized Tree of Life. Writers like J K Rowling have made up entire imaginary worlds like Jay Dart has done. Who can forget her whomping tree. Younger students might identify with Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Wouldn’t it be great fun to brainstorm with students where they might wander if given the opportunity? Students could construct their own guidebook or journal like this, this, or this. In this journal, students could draw their world and add written descriptions. What would the trees in their imaginary world look like? How are they the same and different from trees in the real world?

So, what do you think? Could you use Jay Dart’s work somewhere in your curriculum? I wish that I were still teaching. I would so love to make an imaginary world with a group of kids. I’d love to hear what you think. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

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The Giving Tree

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Tree Purposes, Ecology (Recycling, Repurposing), Decomposition

Language Arts – Literature, Social Studies –  Careers/Community Helpers

Possible Art Concepts: Art History -Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses, Eastman Johnson, Tinker Hatfield, Chakaia Booker, Irving Penn, Jacob Lawrence, John Grade

Medium (Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking, Other), Art Careers (Painter, Sculptor, Commercial Artist [Shoe Designer, illustrator, Photographer])

I was hoping to get this post completed by Earth Day. That didn’t happen! I didn’t want to wait another entire year to create the post, so here it is.

I’m sure, when you think “The Giving Tree”, you probably think Shel Silverstein. So do I. However, in the last couple of weeks it’s come to mean so much more. I was helping my friend and kindergarten teacher, Betsy, find some art exemplars for a tree unit. She wasn’t just looking for examples showing a tree’s structure. She was teaching a unit on “Why trees are important to humans?” That started me thinking. We all know the most important thing trees provide for humans is good ole H2O. We can’t live without that, but just as the tree in Silverstein’s book kept giving and giving, so do all trees. Trees provide fruits, syrups, drinks, and rubber, but check out how many ways the remainder of the tree can be used here. AMAZING!!!!

Artists also appreciate trees and have been inspired by them to create art works for many years. This post will provide some art works that you can use with your children to help discover tree uses or as a review for tree uses.

Artists have created paintings illustrating fruit picking.hb_19.164_av4

Can you spy the boy hanging upside down in the tree and throwing pears to the boys on the ground in this close up from Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Harvesters” painting?

Camille Pissarro depicts apple harvesting in the above three paintings: “The Apple Pickers”, “Apple Picking”  and  “Apple Harvest”.

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Just last week, I had the opportunity to see Winslow Homer’s “Apple Picking, 1878” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent” exhibit. 

I’ve also talked about fruit bearing trees and an art project here.

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Artist, Grandma Moses illustrates something we might do with the apples collected from a tree in this painting entitled, “Apple Butter Making”. Find the apple butter making process described by Moses here. Look closely at the painting. Can you spy the different steps in the apple butter making process?

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Grandma Moses illustrates another product from trees, maple syrup, in “Sugaring Off”.  Another artist, Eastman Johnson has created oil sketches illustrating the sugaring off process.

We also get rubber from trees. I have talked about rubber used in sneakers (plimsolls) here.  Speaking of sneakers, has anyone seen the new Netflix series, Abstract, The Art of Design. There is a wonderful episode on Tinker Hatfield, shoe designer for Nike. This is a must see. Sculptor, Chakaia Booker recycles tires, which are made of rubber, to create sculptures.

Trees can be chopped down and their wood can be used to build things. First the trees must be taken down. Famous photographer, Irving Penn, took a photo entitled “Tree Climber and Pruner” . You can find the image here . Penn did a whole series of worker portraits which can be found here . Jacob Lawrence’s Carpenters”  shows people building with wood. Sculptor,  John Grade built a tree sculpture from reclaimed cedar for the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. At the end of the exhibit, he placed the tree back in the forest where it will decay and ultimately become soil to grow more trees.

So, these have been a few ways artists have shown the importance of trees. I’m sure there are many more.

Thanks Betsy for the post idea!

Hope this post made you want to plant a tree. Humans really need them.

I’d love to hear what you think and/or how you might have taught trees in your classroom. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

Here a Dot! There a Dot! Everywhere a Dot, Dot!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Vision, Spectrum, Mixtures/Solutions

Language Arts: Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – George Seurat, Yayoi Kusama, Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Roy Lichtenstein, Kelly Goeller, Ashley Anderson

Color Wheel (Primary, Seconday, Intermediate, Complimentary), Pointillism, Pop Art

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”         “Circus Sideshow”

Not too long ago, I learned a new expression: Frequency Illusion. It is defined by Arnold Zwicky as “once you’ve noticed a phenomenon, you think it happens a whole lot, even ‘all the time’. ” This has happened to me in the last couple of weeks in regards to dots. Recently my daughter and I attended the Broadway musical, Sunday in the Park with George. The musical is about the creation of George Seurat’s painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” . For those of you not familiar with Seurat’s work, he created whole paintings in nothing but dots. The next day, as we passed the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we saw a large banner advertising  Seurat’s “Circus Sideshow”, more dots. Of course, we had to check out the exhibit. Just this past week en route to the National Gallery in Washington, DC, I spied a very long line outside the Hirshhorn Museum and the barricades were all decorated with, what else, dots. Upon closer examination, I discovered that dot artist, Yayoi Kusama was exhibiting there. Frequency illusion, wouldn’t you say? So,I decided that I needed to do a post about the DOT.

Actually, I have already done a post on dots as they apply to mathematics (points/shapes). It can be found here.  I even mentioned George Seurat and Yayoi Kusama. However, at Seurat’s “Circus Sideshow” exhibit, I discovered that Seurat’s dot paintings have more to do with science than math. He was inspired by three nineteenth century scientists/writers, Eugene Chevreul, Ogden Rood and David Sutter. Chemist, Michel Eugène Chevreul, devised the first color wheel and the theory that all the other colors of the spectrum can be made from the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). In art, we study the color wheel. In Science, you study the spectrum or rainbow. Chevreul also figured out that complimentary colors (Colors across from one another on the color wheel), when placed next to one another, appear brighter in intensity. He also discovered that if you stare at a primary color, let’s say red, for a while and then look away, you will see it’s compliment, green. There is a fun picture book that covers all these color theories called  It’s Me, Marva!. A Story About Color and Optical Illusion, by Marjorie Priceman.  It would be a great addition to a literature or science unit. Also Fifty’s Op Artists,  Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely created optical illusions with dots. I digress. The Impressionists had used larger brush strokes and studied the way light shone on objects. Seurat wanted to get away from that. He reduced the brushstrokes to small dots and employed the color scientists’ theory of placing pure colors next to one another. This way, when viewed from a distance, a third color was perceived. For example, red and yellow  dots would appear to be orange from a distance. One of the fifth grade teachers at my school used Pointallism to teach the difference between mixtures and solutions. She had the students simulate a mixture by creating a Seurat-style dot painting, using primary colors to create secondary colors, with q-tips. If need be, the students could cut the dots apart and still have the primary colors. Then she had them physically mix the primary colors into secondary colors to make solutions and create a second painting. There was no way of getting the primary colors back here. This was a logical way to see the difference between the two concepts. Find some Pointallism color wheel lessons here and here. Find a primary dot song here.

In dot history, science seems to have inspired art two more times. Simultaneous to Seurat’s work, the printing world was devising a method to cheaply reproduce images for newspapers. Up until this point, newspapers used a printing method called letterpress, where wooden/metal letters and wood carved images were inked and printed. Fine art images and photographs were more time consuming and thus more expensive to produce. They were still only used in expensive books and periodicals. Then came halftone printing. It is a method of reproducing the gray tones in a black and white photograph using varying sized black and white dots. With this process, realistic images came to newspapers. See a halftone example here. American, Benjamin Day, invented a method, called Ben-Day, to use like sized repeated dots to create color images. These were used in Sunday comic strips and comic books. Both these methods repeated dots, that seen from a distance, blend just like Pointallism. Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstien, was inspired by comic strips and created enlarged comic strip images that even included Ben-Day-like dots.

Then came the tv and computer. Repeated dots changed to repeated squares or pixels.As anyone who has tried to enlarge a low resolution picture has seen. Well, yes, now there are artists and filmmakers inspired by pixels. Has anyone seen the Pixels movie? Loved It!!! Check out some pixel artists here. The thing that is so amazing about the art inspired by pixels is all the different medium used (computer screen, sculpture, painting, cartoon). I am particularly enamored by Kelly Goeller’s and Ashley Anderson’s work.

Have you noticed how the above mentioned technology and art advancements echo how the eye (with it’s cones and rods) and brain work? I find it fascinating how life imitates nature. In a science unit on how human vision works, your students also may. What do you think? Could any of these artists help reinforce your science units? I’d love to hear how you might use them in your classroom. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Hope to see you again real soon.

Maryland’s Limners

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Colonial History (Trades, Slavery), Black History

Science –  Plant/Animal Classification

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charles Wilson Peale, Joshua Johnson, Gustavus Hesselius, John Singleton Copley,  Benjamin West, John Hesselius

Portraits, Portrait Painters (Limners), Proportion

It’s so exciting, Mrs. Hahn, the art teacher and creator of the wonderful Mini Matisse Blog has decided to create an interactive U.S. artist map. The goal is to be able to click on a state and find information or a lesson for one or more artists who hail from that state. What a great resource it will be. I looked on Hahn’s site today and there are already twenty submissions for the map. Check it out here. She is asking fellow art teachers for some help. As retired art teacher, I would love to contribute.

I hail from Maryland, so I thought I would begin there. In my teaching days, fifth grade students studied Colonial America. Some of the concepts they investigated were Colonial trades. Portrait painting was one of those trades. These portrait painters were called limners. It just so happens that two accomplished portrait painters, Charles Willson Peale and Joshua Johnson, were born in Maryland.

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Charles Willson Peale’s “The Artist In His Museum

Charles Willson Peale was born in Chester, Maryland. Many portrait painters of his time were self taught. However, Peale studied a bit under Gustavus HesseliusJohn Singleton Copley and Benjamin West. Peale painted portraits of many prominent people of his time, including more than a dozen George Washington portraits. He painted over 771 portraits in his career. He loved art so much that he named many of his 17 children after famous artists.  The Ninja Turtles are not the only ones named after famous artists. Peale also knew a bit about the following trades: saddle making, engraving, and clock repair. On top of this, he was also interested in science.

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Charles Willson Peale’s “The Exhumation of the Mastodon

After Charles Willson Peale created a history painting depicting the unearthing of mastodon bones, he began collecting many scientific artifacts and eventually opened the first natural history museum, that changed locations several times.  It was once even located on the second floor of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA. (So, Peale could also be included on Pennsylvania’s map.)  His museum was different from the others of his time. Artifacts were not exhibited like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, but organized the way Carl Linnaeus, a scientist of the time, classified plants and animals. So, if you are studying animal classification in science, you could give Peale a mention. To learn more about this amazing artist/scholar and see more examples of his paintings look here.

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“Joshua Johnson”s The Westwood Children”

Joshua Johnson/Johnston was the first recorded professional African American portrait painter. He was born in Maryland a slave and was emancipated in 1782. Johnson was self taught. You can find some excellent Colonial portrait lessons highlighting Joshua Johnson and John Hesselius (Son of Gustavus Hesselius who taught Charles Willson Peale) here. Through observing portraits by these two artists, students can observe how slaves and girls were treated differently than a male heir. The props included in these portraits are also intriguing. I love the idea for students to create a self portrait, including props and a background to show the way they would like to be remembered in the future. Menlo Park’s Art Studio has an awesome chart to help your student’s create proportional faces for their portraits and can be found here. Or you could leave a cut out where the face goes and let students stand behind them for photo ops like this teacher did.

I hope you agree that Charles Willson Peale and Joshua Johnson would be valuable additions to your classroom or art room lessons. Have you taught these artists in your classroom? I’d love to hear how. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Hope to see you again real soon!

Puppets, Puppets Everywhere!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts –  Reading For Information

Social Studies – Countries Around the World (Culture/History – Puppetry), People Who Make A Difference, Inventors

Science – Animals, Recycling, Repurposing, Earth Day, Light And Shadow

Possible Art Concepts: Art History –  Jim Henson, Julie Taymor

Art Media – Puppetry

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March 21st was International Puppetry Day. Puppets are the best. There are so many ways to use puppets in the classroom:

  • The teacher can teach a concept through a puppet.
  • Students can make and perform puppets to demonstrate knowledge of subject matter or to perform an original written piece (possibly a book report) . Simply glue a stick onto the reverse side of an animal or person cutout and, voila, a puppet.
  • Speaking through a puppet may help a shy student come out of his/her shell.
  • Puppets have existed for over 2,000 years and are a part of the culture of many countries.  Find excellent puppetry overviews herehere and here. Puppetry can be added to a social studies unit for one particular country or a unit on countries around the world.
  • Jim Henson  was part of a “People Who Made a Difference” second grade social studies unit in my day. He made puppetry popular and innovated two new kinds of puppets. First he created a muppet which is a combination of a hand puppet and a marionette.  His Muppet Workshop also innovated  radio remote control puppets. (So, he could also be called an inventor.) The website, Wonderopolis, seems to agree. Find their excellent Henson reading for information post  here. He also made full body people puppets, a puppet concept which originated in Africa. Another contemporary puppet innovator is Julie Taymor.  The Lion King on Broadway is a giant puppet/mask show using variations of six different kinds of puppets and contains 232 puppets. She innovated the corporate puppet, where one puppeteer controls a flock of animals/birds. Watch this video of the circle of life to see the variety of puppets Taymor created. (Great to use in an animal unit. How many animals can the students identify?) The Broadway show, War Horse also contains some wonderful puppets.
  • Puppets can be made from recycled items as part of Earth Day activities or as an inexpensive way to make puppets. In this video, see Jim Henson, himself, demonstrate how to make simple puppets from things found around the house. His daughter, Cheryl Henson, has also written an excellent book entitled,The Muppets Make Puppets: How to Create and Operate Over 35 Great Puppets Using Stuff from Around Your House.  You can also find more puppet ideas on my Pinterest page. Love these puppets made by NYC lunch ladies to bring attention to all the trash created by lunches served on styrofoam trays.
  • Shadow puppets could be incorporated into a science unit on light and shadow. I’ve talked a bit about shadow puppets here.

Oh so many ways to use those puppets! I’m sure you could think of even more. I’d love to hear what you think. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

Hope to see you again real soon!

A Fashion Of Our Own

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – America (Going West, Clothing, Trades, The Fifty States), Countries Around The World (Ukraine, Mexico) [Traditional Dress]

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Nudie Cohn, Manuel Cuevas, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Alex MacAskill, Dave Wheeler

Pattern, Commercial Art (Fashion Design), Fiber Art (embroidery, applique)

A recent trip to Nashville, TN has been inspiring my blog topics lately. I’ve already posted about it three times. I talked about the Samurai: The Way of the Warrior Exhibit here and here. I also talked about The Hatch Show Prints here. I promise you this will be my last post about that trip.

My husband and I were on our way to the samurai exhibit when a very interesting storefront caught our eye. The windows were filled with fancy western clothing and accessaries. We decided to check it out. Upon entering, we discovered that this was the storefront and workshop of  Manuel Cuevas, country western clothes designer to the stars. I recalled from last year’s trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame that Nudie Cohn was the first country western clothes designer to the stars in the 1950s and that Manual apprenticed under him. Both men were immigrants. Nudie was from the Ukraine and Manuel is from Mexico. Both their native countries have a rich background in patterned embellished traditional clothing as can be seen here and here. These designer’s inspiration is clear, but what they created was new and unique. We are a nation of immigrants and, therefore, have no traditional national costume. The closest thing we have to American traditional clothing is the plain functional cowboy outfit which has evolved into what we call country western wear today. Nudie and Manuel elevated these outfits with embroidery, applique and rhinestones. Nudie and Manuel’s customers were TV cowboys (Gene Autry and Roy Rogers), country music stars (Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton) and even Rock n roll stars (Elvis and The Beatles). The list goes on and on, as can be seen on the page of Manuel’s client photos found here.

They even influenced the fine art world. Nudie and Manuel designed outfits for famous artists, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Contemporary printmaker, Alex MacAskill, was influenced by Nudie and Manuel’s outfits and made a large country western suit print. This work was recently exhibited at the Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery. You can see a photo of the print and a video of Alex talking about it here.

So, you’re thinking how can I use this in my curriculum?  Let’s begin with social studies ideas. In a study of cultures around the world, students could look at traditional clothing from the Ukraine, Mexico and other countries. They could locate these countries on a map. Next, broach the subject of our country not having traditional garments. Introduce country western ware. What do they think of this as our traditional costumes? If they could design a national costume, what would it include and why? Would it be patriotic like Uncle Sam wears or Kellyanne Conway wore to Trump’s inauguration? Or might it be sports related?

In a career unit, students could study the work of Nudie and Manuel. You could also introduce Dave Wheeler, a boot maker,  who creates one of a kind cowboy boots. The students could make some designs of their own. I love how Mini Matisse blogger, Mrs. Hahn, provides choices in her art career fashion design unit. The students end up exploring even more careers (Fashion Show Organizer, Models, Fashion photographer). You can find that post  here. I talked about fashion design here. Find a boot designing lesson here.

Tailoring and boot making are also trades which are quickly disappearing in our modern age. Thankfully, some artisans are carrying on the tradition. Manuel is doing his part to perpetuate his craft by teaching apprentices from fashion design programs. Texas artist, Kathie Sever, creates embroidered country western wear a piece at a time. See some examples of her work here. Hatch Show Prints is carrying on the printmaking trade. Please help to keep these processes alive by including them in a colonial America  or industrial revolution unit in your classroom.

Manuel also did a ten year project where he created a jacket to represent each of the fifty states, to honor his adopted homeland. He has them on display in the storefront  portion of his workshop. They are amazing. Being Maryland natives, we were amazed at how many images Manuel manages to place on our state’s jacket. So many!!!!! Check out some of the state jackets here. Wouldn’t it be a great alternative, to design a state jacket, in lieu of a written state report? Or students could design a jacket and then write a short explanation about the images the student included and why.

Students won’t soon forget any of the projects mentioned above (I daresay including your classroom content.). So, why not give one a try? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.

I hope to see you again real soon!

International Women’s Day

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Women’s History, Jobs/Careers

Science – (Insect Life Cycle, Spiders)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Frida Kahlo, Lina Bo Bardi, Adelaide Labille Guiard, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rosa Bonhheur, Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Sibylla Merian, Louise Bourgeois

Painters, Art Careers (Architect, Commercial Artist, Portrait Painter, Teacher, Scientific Illustrator, Animator)

Sibylla Merian          Louise Bourgeois          Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun

Yesterday for International Women’s Day Google Doodle  artist, Olivia Huynh, highlighted thirteen international women who’ve made a difference in the world. I was delighted to see two artists featured among the thirteen. The doodle highlighted Mexican painter,  Frida Kahlo and Italian/ Brazilian architect, Lina Bo Bard. It was also Huynh’s wish that people might become curious about these women and possibly share women who have influenced them.

I’d like to talk about some international women artists who have influenced and inspired me. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s family guide entitled, “Six Women, Six Stories”, three international artists are highlighted. Adelaide Labille Guiard was a French portrait painter. Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian painter who even created paintings for the king of Spain. French artist, Rosa Bonhheur, is one of the best animal painters of all time.  This National Gallery of Art Inside Scoop article talks about Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun. She was France’s most famous portrait painter of her time who also painted Marie Antionette. Maria Sibylla Merian was a German naturalist and scientific illustrator who discovered the life cycle of butterflies and other insects. Another famous German artist is Lotte Reiniger, an early animator who used silhouettes. She created the very first feature length animated film. Yes, it was not Walt Disney. I talk about her in more depth in this post. Last but not least, French/ American sculptor, Louise Bourgeois who is famous for her spider sculptures of all sizes. I talk about her in this post.

In the spirit of sharing, I hope during March, Women’s History Month, you’ll share one or more of these amazing women with your class.

Who are your women inspirations and how have you shared them with your classes? I would love to hear. Simply click on the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section. Also, if you like what you’ve seen here, please consider following me.

Hope to see you again soon!