Magazine article Arts & Activities

Lighthouses Spotlighting Mixed Media

Magazine article Arts & Activities

Lighthouses Spotlighting Mixed Media

Article excerpt

Mixed-media collage is my absolute favorite way to approach art lessons. It allows my groups, of 5- through 10-year-olds, to not only experiment with different wet and dry media, but also to "build" their artwork in stages, helping everyone to feel successful.

The late English artist, Mary Fedden, described the collage process as "lovely to do, almost like doing a jigsaw puzzle." I concur with her observation.

Lighthouses, with nighttime seascapes, would be a unique way to introduce the concepts of foreground, middle ground, and background to my young students. I illustrated this in a basic way on the whiteboard.

We began by discussing the purpose of lighthouses as navigational aids, and their function in warning boats of dangerous areas, before the advancement of our modern maritime technology. Several of my students shared their stories of visiting lighthouses.

STARTING WITH THEIR BACKGROUNDS FIRST, a light pencil line was drawn toward the middle of their paper, creating horizon lines. When asked, several of my students were quick to chime in that "a horizon line is where the sky and earth meet." Moody, night skies were accomplished with the wet-on-wet watercolor technique, in black, blue, purple and pink.

For the sea, we switched to acrylic paint--in blues and greens--painting below the horizon line, down to the bottom of their paper. These were put up to dry, and we turned our attention to creating the lighthouses.

I shared a variety of lighthouse photographs, discussing how their heights, designs and materials were different, according to their climate and location. Before leading the children in a basic directed line drawing lesson, I encouraged them to change aspects of their lighthouse designs, to make them their own. Through a series of straight, slanted and curved lines, the children created their lighthouses in pencil, and then, permanent marker. I pointed out that making their horizontal lines slightly curved, rather than straight, helps to create a 3-D effect.

Oil pastels were then used, to add the signature red stripes. Florescent highlighters were a fun option to make their beacons of light, warning far-off ships. Last, they shaded one side of their lighthouse lightly with charcoal, to create a shadow. I instructed them to make this shadow on the opposite side of where they planned to paint the moon, illustrating this point on the white board.

Since our lighthouses were to be positioned on rocky cliffs, I handed out squares cut from brown grocery bags. The kids got a kick out of this unexpected material. Many excited voices piped, "I got Trader Joe's!" ... "I got Ralphs!" (Brown construction paper would be a natural alternative, for larger groups.) After ripping one side of their paper, to create a jagged or smoother sea cliff, they used chalk pastels and charcoal to add texture and depth, blending with their fingers.

On day two, the children added finishing touches to their backgrounds. Full moons rose above the lighthouses in white acrylic paint, with students noting which side of their lighthouses had shadows, remembering to paint the moons on the opposite side. …

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