I admit to being on the fence about some media techniques we teach in elementary art. Take stitchery for example.
Is stitchery a medium and art form artists might choose to express their ideas in an artwork? Absolutely! Is stitchery a useful skill? Sure. Is it a skill all children should learn while in school? In this century, maybe knot (oops, a little mispelling there). Is stitchery a fundamental art skill that must be included in a quality art program? I’m gonna go with no.
I guess this is one of those art vs. craft arguments. I put stitchery in a class with weaving, leatherwork, sewing, basket weaving, carpentry, and pottery (I’m sure there are others). Functional objects are at the core of each of these crafts, yet in every case the skills and materials of the craft can be applied to create meaningful works of art. Where to draw the line is the subject of a long-argued aesthetic debate.
What do you think? I’d like to know.
The amazing, blanket-sized stitchery techniques display shown above was created by one of our passionate stitchery experts in the elementary art program. Thanks, Virginia, for sharing your work with everyone!
Let me get right to the punch line. Don’t waste perfectly good instruction time having your students make a color wheel!
There’s a reason there’s an uninspiring, frumpy old lady shown in this photo. Color wheels are boring! If you need to hang one in your class for reference, FINE! But there is far too much to learn to ask your students to make one.
I may be a bit biased from one of my own teaching experiences. I once had a colleague who’s Art 1 students spent nearly the full first quarter painting a perfect color wheel. The result? By Halloween they hated art and wished they never signed up!
Here are 10 ideas better than a color wheel:
Practice gesture drawing with primary paint colors.
Collaboratively sort, arrange, and rearrange hundreds of different color objects or 1 inch squares from color print (magazine) pages by color groupings or relationships.
Set up a competitive painting challenge in which students complete as many tasks as possible in a given class session. Each task combines color theory and painting skills. For example: create a gradient wash with a vibrant hue. Create a natural texture using dry brush technique and a neutral color. Create a gradient blend of complimentary colors. Etc.
Play with layering color gels and filters.
Make artwork by layering colored tissue paper with a wash of glue (creating a transparent effect).
Challenge your students to fill a hundred or more squares on a painting surface, each with a variation of the same hue. (Use this as the ground on which a meaningful artwork is created.)
Collaboratively reproduce a “pixelated” image of a famous artwork or school mascot using food coloring and water in plastic cups arranged in a grid. (Photograph from above.)
Provide precut papers with all of the necessary colors and have table groups race to arrange them into a color wheel as a warm up.
Have students use color relationships to arrange themselves in different ways according to the clothes they are wearing.
Have students photograph objects with their phones and arrange the images by color.
And if none of these suit you fancy, just have them paint! They will learn more about mixing and using color in an authentic context than they will by making a color wheel.
I am extremely lucky to work in a school system where we don’t need to worry much about whether or not student’s get art instruction or have art supplies. In fact, I am often focused on raising the level of instruction to be more conceptual and challenge students to think at higher levels — to not simply focus on media and technique, but also teach creative problem solving skills.
The video below, however, is a wonderful reminder of the power of art to bring joy to others, even when it’s just a portrait from a photograph.
Students in one of our high schools participated in the Memory Project by creating portraits of children in orphanages and refugee camps. To learn more about the Memory Project, go to www.memoryproject.org.
It was a pleasure to spend some time at the National Museum of the American Indian with these George Mason University MAT students.
This class is exploring culture through artmaking and instructional design. NMAI offers a wealth of cultural information and inspiration that these students will use to inform their artworks and cultural lesson ideas.