The "Value-Able" Possibilities of Brown Paper Bags

By Brew, Charl Anne | Arts & Activities, September 2006 | Go to article overview

The "Value-Able" Possibilities of Brown Paper Bags


Brew, Charl Anne, Arts & Activities


Sitting on the couch one late-summer afternoon, I was repeating to myself" ... the value scale ... the value scale ... the value scale.... " I was trying to come up with new and challenging ways for my Art I and Art II students to test their value skills after they completed their practice eight-and 12-step value scales.

It just so happened that, while I was ruminating, a Warner Bros. cartoon with Sylvester the cat was playing on TV. Suddenly, Junior--Sylvester's kitten/son--said, "Oh, the shame of it all!" as he put a brown paper bag over his head. That's it" paper bags!

At school, sometime later into the fall semester, the students had been practicing line control, contour line and now, value scale. The Art I students practiced making eight-step value scales and then shading simple geometric forms from an imaginary fight source.

Art II had been practicing a similar rigor, only they're required to do two 12-step value scales, one in color and one in black and white. They then create two simple geometric forms and shade them, using an imaginary light source, again, one in color and one in black and white.

Once this is completed by both groups with success, the young artists are ready for the test!

I hand out medium- to large-sized pieces of scrap matboard and three different-sized brown paper bags to each group in my classes. I explain to them that these are going to be their still-fife subjects for the next few weeks.

The students love these tests at the end of practices because it gives them a chance to create. They are instructed to take the bags, crumple them up, and expand them again. They arrange them in a pleasing still life, turning it around many times to accomplish a compositionally satisfying view on all sides.

The bags are then glued to the matboard for stability. Tape is placed at the edges of the board to mark the position of the still life for each class period. I found using still-life objects that can be glued are best, because the still life then doesn't have to be reset every class. When the still life is finished, ! hand out the instruction sheet and read the objectives and outcomes together with my students.

The students understand they will use their drawing skills in line control, contour line and value, shading and blending to create a still life from the objects in front of them.

The students are supplied with good drawing paper and a direct light source. Extendable lamps with clamps work well for this. The students are instructed to crop their composition, getting as close as possible to the subject. They also know they must create a horizon line or implied horizon line to indicate a spatial element to the drawing.

After viewing and analyzing some still-life artworks by artists such as Paul Gauguin, Giorgio Morandi and Jean S. Chardin, the students are able to recognize different kinds of light and shadows. They also become aware of how images are cropped and how they overlap. It is by viewing these images that the students gain a basic strategy for approaching their own still-life project.

Back in their work groups, the students begin planning their compositions by drawing sketches in their sketchbooks. This preliminary step allows them to become visually familiar with the objects, therefore gaining a certain corn fort about their subject. …

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