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Re: [teacherartexchange] defining abstract


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri May 26 2006 - 06:07:27 PDT

Thanks for sharing. What you are doing has a lot of great creative aspects going for it. I think you are using creative ways to have a good discussion of Georgia O'Keefe's artwork.
1. Students are active participants in their learning.
2. They are learning to ask good questions.

What if this creative discussion and learning about abstract and about O'Keefe took place AFTER the students had done their painting. Yes, if I take away this motivation and clarification away from the beginning of the lesson, it leaves a huge gap in the motivation for the artwork production. Kids will be lost. I would have to use another motivation. What can I do that is appropriate and effective to prepare and motivate them for creative artwork that will help them relate to the O'Keefe artwork as a result of their own experiences, imaginations, and observations?

What were the special artistic aspects in O'Keefe's way of seeing, thinking, and feeling? What activities and questions could I use to help kids develop some aspect of an O'Keefe experience, feeling, and expression without showing them her images? What might be a few of the questions in her mind, and what special sensitivities would O'Keefe be smitten with if she could be in our 4th grade classroom in this community? What do we have in the classroom, in our community, in the lives of 4th graders, etc. that can be modified so that its essence is isolated, enlarged, emphasized, etc. while leaving out other aspects of it (abstracted for stronger effect)? How do we practice this way of seeing and expressing? What are some practice routines? How are the choices made? What criteria do I give them? What would the limitations I would place on the creative problem? How do I define the essential variables in the assignment in 4th grade language? How many practice ideas should
 each student do to get to the point of selecting, developing, enlarging, and/or refining a quality product (for a 4th grader). How do I get them to strive and to thrive rather than simply fulfill my requirements?

After they practice ways of getting ideas, produce, and assess their artwork, they would move to a creative discussion of the creativity and abstract qualities of Georgia O'Keefe's work. They could study her work and each write discussion questions to ask O'Keefe (pretending that she would visit our class). After the questions are asked, students might have a week or two to do research and to speculate on what O'Keefe would say in response. By the end of the year the students should be able to comparing the way different artists see and express their lives and their worlds. They would realize that every artist is a unique and creative individual (just like themselves). They should also know how to generate work from their own experiences.

Yes, this is a longer unit, but time can be saved if we keep only our best units and ideas. This way the pace can be less busy, but we might get better at what we do as a teachers and as a students. Time might be saved if we have students focus their out-of-class thinking on advance preparation questions and awareness thinking for several weeks or more prior to each project. Time might be saved if students keep a journal and do sketches based on our open focusing questions several weeks prior to each project. The sketches for this assignment might include both a realistic and 'abstract' versions to emphasize the essence of each subject. Artist are continually using their subconscious minds while sleeping and while doing routine daily tasks. This happens because they habitually and continually have positioned art questions and issues that they intend to work on in the studio. It happens because they have learned to expect their minds to be working on these ideas. They m
 ake sketches, they rest, they modify, they revise, etc. How can art teaching help foster more of this kind of artistic thinking?

There are many different ways to teach art. One the one hand, some methods are more apt to support consistent predictable and impressive products and testable concept knowledge about art. One the other hand, some methods are more apt to help students develop the ability to experiment, observe, imagine, invent, innovate, refine, and construct knowledge about art based on the student's own life. Can we use methods that do BOTH of the above at the same time? Our approaches should not have be limited to one or the other, but the sequence (what comes first, second, last, etc.) we use may make an essential difference in how students learn to use their minds.

Sometimes, by way of explanation, I tell my students I am always visiting galleries and museums to see what others have done so that I do NOT have to do the same thing that has already been done (said with a smile). I am more interested in figuring out WHY artists do what they do. How are they thinking? What bothers them and why? Finally, if they were me (living in my skin with my life experiences), what art would they do, and how would they do it? As an artist, I am trying to learn how to think, feel, and express better. As a teacher, I want to arrange learning so that others will learn to think, feel, and express better.


Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526
studio phone: 574-533-0171??
"You can't never know how to do it before you never did it before." ... a kindergarten boy working with clay for the first time.

> I do a lesson with my 4th graders based on the art of Georgia O'Keeffe. One of the beginning activities I do is give all the students a postcard of her work as they walk in the door. On the tables I have signs -still life, portraits, landscapes, cityscapes and abstract. I tell them they have to stand by the table that would fit for the artwork they are holding. This opens up some great discussions-most of them will be holding a big flower picture-but is it a still life? What about the bones ? Where should they go? And then they start asking, what is abstract anyway? So I ask them what should you do if you don't know the meaning of a word? And someone always says look it up! So I have someone look in the glossary of those art text books that sit on the shelf by the door and are seldom used. The definition is something like, artwork that is simplified or has parts left out (I know I'm leaving parts of the definition out but I spend 7 hours straight with the gifted and
  talented students today making a plaster kid and marbling with shaving cream,etc and then meeting with the superintendent for an hour about transition to the new school next year so.....) Anyway- O' Keeffe's art is great to lead the students into abstract. She did one painting called Abstract of Lake George (or something like that) and after the definition is read, the kids pick up on it with that painting right away--"oh, year, that round blue blob is the lake and those wavy green lines are supposed to be the trees around it,etc.." So Marvin, is that leading them into it instead of just feeding it to them? I have been reading a lot of the info on Marvin's site about creativity. It really gets you thinking about the way you teach!
> no school tomorrow!!!!! Let the summer begin!
> Jeryl
>p.s Amy, it is my week to be a mess- I went to my meeting with the Super covered in plaster!
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