Sunday, November 27, 2016

Funky Fun with Chalk Pastels

A week before Thanksgiving was my annual NY state art teachers' association (NYSATA) convention, and I presented two workshops there!  This post is about the first of these workshops, "Funky Fun with Chalk Pastels"
There were, in my estimation, between 60 and 70 people there - a little crazy for a 50-minute hands-on workshop, but everyone was smiling so I think it was successful!  Thank goodness for helpful attendees who helped with materials distribution when way more people showed up than seats in the room!  The purpose of the workshop was to explore alternative techniques using chalk pastel, in particular for those who don't care for the dustiness of working in chalk.  I shared two techniques, with some extra variations, and I'll explain them all in this blog post.
The first technique is one I've blogged about before, HERE, in a post called "Abstract Fun with Chalk Pastels", and HERE, in a post titled "Everything's Fine when you've got Jim Dine!"  Let me share the details!  All the images thus far are from using this technique.
To begin, soak grayish colored bogus paper in a sink or tub full of water for a few minutes. You can see the tub of water behind me on the left side of the pic above.  (Note: The image I'm holding is something from a different process; my green apron is courtesy of Blick!)  Bogus paper, if you've never heard of it, is made from recycled paper, is inexpensive, and is very absorbent, kind of like a blotter paper, so it holds up fairly well when wet.  You can see the wet color of the paper in the photo below, in the uncolored right-hand corner.  Not very pretty.  I like to make sure the entire paper is covered with color.
Place the wet paper either directly on a table, or on a plastic table-covering, as pictured above.  You do NOT want to put the paper on an absorbent surface, or the paper will dry out too fast!  (Note: it's a good idea to have student names on the paper with Sharpie before soaking.  Do that in a prior art class to get the paper ready to use.)  Use soft chalk pastels to color on the wet paper.  The chalk will turn paint-like on the wet paper, creating bold rich color.  Black outlines or details work great on top of the color.
I often use Kandinsky's improvisation paintings as a motivation for this project, playing music and having students respond to the music with non-representational designs and colors,  filling the paper.  But there's many other options for thematic ideas for the process, besides abstraction. 
For example, this lovely winter scene below is something I hadn't ever thought of doing on the wet paper!!  But it sure gives me ideas. 
Here are more images of work done using this process, by participants in my workshop.  There are so many possibilities!  Perhaps cakes a la Wayne Thiebaud?  Or, as I did once with my students, expressive hearts a la Jim Dine? Or maybe you'd like to emulate the work of Peter Max?  Or...?
 I should note that when the paper is dry, the chalk will again be chalk-like and need to be "fixed".  Instead of spraying with fixative, we gently paint the surface with Mod Podge (any other acrylic gloss medium will work, too).  I suggest painting black lines first to seal, and then cleaning the brush to remove any black chalk dust before sealing the other colors.  Don't scrub or rub as you paint the medium on; just gently lay it on to keep the colors in place.  The artwork will dry shiny and gorgeous, and chalk will no longer rub off on your hands when you touch it!  It's a great alternative to smelly sprays that sometimes leave spots, and are a problem to use indoors!
The Mod Podge can be painted on the artwork when dry, or when still wet.  It will work successfully either way!
By the way, if you don't want to soak the paper, there's another alternative.  You can paint black outlines on the paper with acrylic paint, and when the paint is dry, make sections wet with a paintbrush and water, and color the wet sections with the chalk pastels (or soak the paper, with the dry acrylic black lines on it, as previously described).  You can even try dipping the chalk pastel into the water rather than wetting the paper!  I didn't have time for the participants to try the black acrylic lines in the workshop, but you can see my DragonWing Arts students doing this process in the image below, and you can see what their work looked like when done, at THIS FORMER BLOG POST.  Make sure you scroll down through the post to see the completed student work.
 I think this black outline technique has a lot of possibilities.  Look for artists that use strong black outlines, like Keith Haring, or Britto, perhaps, or a many others!
Now, on to the second technique I shared at the workshop for participants to explore.  Workshop attendees tried out the really fun technique that I call the "chalk dip".  In this technique, the pastel chalk is dipped into tempera paint (we used white during the workshop; any color will work) and then used to draw on construction paper with short firm strokes, dipping again after each stroke.  We used a lot of old faded blue paper during the workshop, but any color or black will work.  Or, try white with a different paint color!  The chalk color will be outlined by the paint color, as seen in the drawings below by workshop participants. 
A couple of  hints: you'll want to keep some water and paper towels nearby to wipe off the tips of the chalk afterward, to keep them in tiptop shape!  I was asked if this technique would work with acrylic paint.  Indeed it does, BUT the acrylic paint will ruin the chalk by sealing the tip if it is not completely cleaned off. 
Some participants also tried the method successfully on the wet bogus paper (below),
 or on black paper (below) with terrific results.
So manly possibilites!  A van Gogh lesson, perhaps?  Or impressionism?  Below is an example of a piece on wet bogus paper by a participant, that incorporates both the soaked paper and chalk dip techniques beautifully!  By the way, the chalk dip artwork can/should also be sealed to a gloss with Mod Podge.
 This smiling participant below is the teacher who has been teaching in my former job/classroom since I retired!  I love that she is still willing to get new ideas from me.  It looks like she was rather prolific in the workshop!
Did you know you can also draw with chalk into wet acrylic paint (white works nicely)?  Just remember to clean off your chalks thoroughly before the acrylic dries on them!  I'm sure there's lots of other crazy techniques you may discover, too!
Perhaps you have tried to draw on black construction paper with white glue, and when the glue was dry, you colored it in with chalk pastels, rubbing to blend as in the swirly artwork in the photo below. The glue lines will dry clear, so you will be left with black outlines.
This can even be done on roofing felt. (Some workshop participants tried this, but unfortunately I have no photos.)  Conversely, you can draw with black glue on white paper, and color/rub in chalk.  These can also be sealed with Mod Podge!  Below, the artwork I am holding up is an example I made years ago, using a burgundy-brownish glue, created by mixing some dye with Elmer's Glue-All.  It was too long ago to tell you exactly how I did this, but you can purchase commercially made black glue for a similar effect, which was used in pic resting on my other hand.  They were both sealed with Mod Podge.  You can also see a smidgen of a piece of black paper with white glue on the bottom of the pile in my hand. 
 Do you have any other fun techniques using chalk pastels that you'd like to share?  If so, I'm sure we'd all love to hear about them! 

By the way, if you'd like the rather simple handout from my workshop, you can find a link to it under the "Document Weblinks" tab on the upper right corner of the blog.  Or, you can grab the document from the link right here: Link to 'Funky Fun with Chalk Pastels' handout.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Giant papier-mache masks and much more, complete!

My three DragonWing Art Students just completed their 8-week session "Masks and Crazy Faces".  Here they are, modeling the masks that they made.  If you'd like to know how we  made these masks, they were made with paper bag armatures.  You will find the specifics about building the armatures and adding the papier-mache, in a previous blog post, HERE.  And then, you can read how we hollowed out the armature and prpared them for painting, in another blog post, HERE.
We painted the masks with school acrylics.  I like the permanence of the paint surface.  Finally, the kids were given a choice of crafty materials to use for embellishment, including wiggle eyes, yarn, colored craft foam, painted fiberfill, jewels, pipe cleaners, and pompoms.  Because I only had three students for this session, much of the embellishing was done with low temperature hot glue.  Since the kids are 3rd and 4th graders, I asked them to direct me where/what to glue, and I was the only one to use the glue gun.  If I had more students, they would have used tacky glue more often.
A hole was punched on the top of each mask, and wire was added so that they can easily be hung over a nail on the wall.

My students also made giant crazy faces out of cardboard, with the facial features (eyes, nose, mouth) made out of scraps of lightweight tooling foil, that was gently tooled and colored with Sharpies.
 Here they are below, still in progress.  They were painted with school acrylics, and then the features were glued on.  Embellishment was added with oil pastels, feathers, pipe cleaners, jewels, etc.
 All done!  In case you can't tell, this young lady above made her crazy face REALLY BIG!!
My students also made these fun little monster heads when we were through making messes with papier-mache and paint!  They are very easy to create.
For each monster, two squares of paper were required.  The squares were each folded diagonally in both directions, and then one diagonal was cut from a corner to the center.  Then, the triangles on either side of the cut were overlapped and glued. The two resulting open pyramids were then glued together with a hinge of paper on the back, and tongues, teeth, eyes, ears, etc were added.  Students could use the same cut and fold process for eyes and/or ears if desired.  I think they are kind of fun!  

 And in case those three projects weren't enough, we also did a quickie project painting dragon eyeballs based on a project discovered on Instagram.

 And we painted wacky faces on roofing felt with the leftover acrylics.  They were cut out and glued onto a paper that had been "painted" by placing bleeding tissue paper on the wet paper, and then removing the tissue after the color bled out.  Here's a couple of them.

 DragonWing Arts is now on break until January, when we will be focusing on pop and op art projects to bring cheerful color into the gloom of winter! 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fall Favorite Art Projects

So here's the thing.  It seems a lot of art teachers right now have been immersed in seasonal projects involving pumpkins or owls.  But while I love the autumn, and I like seasonal artwork, my favorite seasonal lessons involve neither owls or pumpkins.  So today I'm going to share a couple of my fall faves with you.  I am retired, but these are projects I did while I was still teaching full time.  I never photographed the student work, but I still have my own samples, so I'll share them with you here.  I usually prefer to share student work, but today, this will have to do!
The two scarecrows above, and the one below, are all collages, and were made by me as samples for 3rd grade classes.  For the backgrounds (negative space) on the two above, students tore tissue paper into chunks. (The kids selected three colors to use, so if they wanted blue, turquoise and green, for example, that would have been fine; I chose autumn leaf colors for my samples.) Mod Podge or watered down Elmer's Glue-All was used to adhere it to heavyweight white paper.  Both work just fine. Students first painted the Mod Podge or glue mix onto the white paper, and then put colored tissue on the wet paper.  They then painted over the tissue to seal it. 
The collage directly above has a painted background; big brushes were used and tempera paint was applied loosely and expressively.  We may have been learning about Van Gogh, but since the sample is a few years old, I can't guarantee it! You'll notice on both the tissue paper backgrounds and the painted background, there is a small white frame on the paper.  This is one of my favorite "tricks".   Students draw a frame (or or you can draw it for younger kids) of about 1/2" inside the edge of the paper.  All painting/gluing is done inside the frame.  This way, you will have clean paper edges for carrying, you can lay them on the floor for drying if you don't have a drying rack, the tables will stay cleaner since no painting is done at the edges, and the paper won't curl as much as when it is painted to the edge!  Plus, when you hang them up to display, the artwork has built in picture frames!

Anyhow - when the negative space is dry, it's time for collage.  I put out, all around the room, boxes and bins and trays of all kinds of goodies: fabric scraps, wood scraps, toothpicks, wooden sticks, drinking straws, coffee stir sticks, cotton swabs, buttons, rickrack, ribbon, yarn, hunks of burlap, bags of straw, raffia, feathers, pompoms, and so on.  (I'm not afraid of a mess.)  We discussed the meaning of the word POROUS.  I would explain that Elmer's Glue-All holds best for porous items, but non-porous items might fall off, so for non-porous items like plastic buttons, we'd use a stronger tacky glue.  Kids were free to get what they need, taking just two or three items at a time, so that they could be sure to get them glued down before class ended.  Everyone started with some sort of stick or straw to hold up their scarecrow!  I love the independent decision-making necessary, and letting the kids figure out how to put together the clothes and such.  Nothing could stick up off the paper (they had to fit in the drying rack); otherwise it was really up to them.  Everyone pitched in at cleanup time to get the materials back in their boxes and bins, and shoved them into the storage closet or on the counter for next time, and sponged off any glue that dripped on the tables.   

 I loved to have my 4th graders draw "naked" trees this time of year, and have done a wide variety of approaches.  One approach, charcoal trees, has been featured a few times on the blog, with student samples.  You can find a good post about this project HERE, with student samples.  But today, I'm sharing trees painted with tempera.

I am NOT a fan of the "Y" shaped trees that many art teachers favor.  Why not?  Because none of the trees outside my classroom window were shaped that way!  So instead, I taught students how to make trees branch off a central trunk that may or may not split.  But it didn't have to!  But anyhow, I want to talk about the tempera trees. 
In both of the two painted trees above (the one with the orange sky, and the one with the green and purple sky), students started with a land line. It could be straight or curving or angled.  Then a trunk was added that extended to the top of the paper; all branches added on extended to the edges as well, filling the space.

Students were give a choice of using warm colors for their tree or sky; cool colors for whichever wasn't painted warm.  Then students selected whatever color(s) they wanted for the ground.  The photo isn't great, but in the orange sky painting, the tree is blue.  White and black were used to shade as desired. 
One year, I gave students a different color challenge.  Instead of warms and cools; we made neutral paintings, but without using any black.  So the challenge was for students to mix browns and grays by using various combos of yellow and violet, green and red, orange and blue.  They also were given turquoise and magenta.  They were encouraged to also explore combinations of three or even four colors together in varying proportions.  I wish I had their work to show you! It's wonderful to watch kids discover that you don't need black to make gray, and that you don't need a bottle of brown paint at all!  Below is a closeup of the color of the tree above, painted in this manner. 

I have blogged about one other autumn tree project, that uses sand and glue for swirly texture a la Van Gogh.  I think the student work was pretty awesome, so I hope you'll hop over to the old post and see their creations!  You can find the post HERE

That's it for today.  Do you have favorite fall projects that do NOT involve pumpkins or owls?  That involve a lot of student choice in the process?  If you do, I'd love to hear about them!