Organized Chaos

By Arthur, Lisa | Arts & Activities, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Organized Chaos


Arthur, Lisa, Arts & Activities


As shocking as this may be, our art department just doesn't have enough supplies for every student We average about 22 students in our high-school introductory-level classes and often Mark Kucharski, my teaching partner, and I are teaching the same class at the same time. That means 44 sets of watercolors or oil pastels, or, even more unrealistically, 44 computers.

We have been working to integrate graphic design into our curriculum and we are committed to using computers to do it. Mark and I each have five computers in our classrooms and we just weren't sure how we were going to achieve our goal. Also, we have both been teaching art for a few years and were looking for a way to make our classes and projects more exciting both for the students and for ourselves.

After a lot of thought and many different ideas we decided to run our classes more like a studio, and the "Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Project" was born. This is a project that includes three artworks each created with different media and subject matter. The main difference between this project and ones we had done in the past was students would be working on the different projects all at the same time. It sounded a little chaotic to us at first, but we became convinced that with careful planning it would work.

Mark is a British teacher and I am an American. While we developed the project, we wanted to bring the best aspects of both of our educational systems to our students. I tend to link art production with art history and Mark tends to focus on extensive sketchbook preparation. Since we teach at an international school, we didn't want to favor any one educational system.

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MINERAL The animal artwork is an extreme close-up of an animal done with watercolors. The focus of this project is texture and composition. We cut up small strips of watercolor paper and demonstrated several different watercolor techniques: sponge, dry brush, wet on wet, wet on dry, plastic wrap, etc. We then asked the students to practice each technique and paste it into their sketchbooks.

The "Vegetable" artwork was inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's flowers and is done in oil pastel. The focus of this project is O'Keeffe, color and abstraction. We demonstrated some blending exercises and asked the students to draw three-dimensional shapes with three to four colors in their sketchbooks, and first blend them with their fingers, then with turpentine.

[ILLUSTRATIONs OMITTED]

The "Mineral" artwork is graphic design done using Adobe[R] Photoshop[R]. The students create two magazine advertisements involving the minerals glass or metal; the way they use the mineral is up to them. …

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