Magazine article School Arts

Personal Shields

Magazine article School Arts

Personal Shields

Article excerpt

Our school is making a push to encourage all students to write more in every course. An introductory project relating Native-American art and symbolism with writing helped my students to improve their writing skills while stimulating their art historical imaginations.

We began our project by looking at prehistoric art and Native-American art, and discussing the origins of art forms all over the world. We discussed symbolism and how every culture has symbols, many of which are universal. We also considered the decorative symbols on personal objects, such as pots, utensils, blankets and shields. Symmetry and asymmetry in design were attended to before the students undertook the task of designing personal shields that symbolized themselves.

Describing the Design

Either below the shield or on the back of the shield, they wrote a description of their design, explaining the meaning of their symbols. They rendered their shields on 15 x 20" (38 x 51 cm.) illustration board in watercolors, acrylic paints, markers, inks or colored pencils.

Before the students started to design their shields, I showed them the charms on my old charm bracelet and told them what each represented. There was a palm tree from a trip to Miami Beach, an eagle from a visit to the Air Force Academy, a palette for my painting, and my high school graduation ring. Some of the students were wearing charms on necklaces, and they shared their significance. We talked about what symbols they could use to represent their interests, hobbies and sports.

Symbolic Uses of Color

We discussed the symbolic uses of color like we find in flags, such as red for courage and blue for loyalty. We reviewed some of the symbol," we had seen during the past week, particularly the Kiowa shields in George Keahbone's The Mud Bath Ceremonial. I pointed out the shields in the Bayeux Tapestry and the Ravenna mosaic, Emperor Justinian and Attendants. …

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