Michelangelo's ceiling painting is also a good idea. What will be the
subject of the student's ceiling painting? The proper stimulus will be
crucial in this case, as first and second graders will have a hard time
relating a ceiling painting with over a hundred figures from bible stories
to their own lives - how about taking a favorite children's book and
telling its story on their own ceiling painting.
The ArtsEdNet teacher who suggested doing finger painting for Seurat may
have an idea. Chuck Close in the 80s did a series of paintings in which he
applied his pigment to the paper or canvas with his fingerprints.
What about women artists... Morisot or Cassatt would certainly be good
ones, especially considering that we just celebrated Mother's Day. A
post-Mother's Day picture about their feelings toward their mother might be
I am hoping that with every artist, you will be able to show them one good
reproduction which they can talk about. Talking is the best way to
stimulate ideas in the minds of very young children. Their imaginations
take them everywhere - relating their ideas back to a reproduction helps
them to focus on the ideas at hand. If I had this assignment, I would
strive for representation from as many different (male, female, minority,
majority,etc.) artists as possible and for assignments that relate closely
to the children's lives.
Bearden would be another very good example. Better than Matisse in that he
is an African-American artist, and I think that the American part of the
combination is as good as the African part. HIs work is collage - and his
late collages use bright, bold, simplified shapes in a manner suggestive of
Matisse's influence. He also was very much influenced by Jazz and listened
to Earl Hines a lot. If you could have Earl Hines playing in the
background, that would add a bit of atmosphere.
For Asian art, how about animals? I am thinking of those Chinese and
Japanese paintings of cats, monkeys, tigers, bulls, etc. Some of these
prints are very expressive - in my mind's eye at the moment is an image of
a tiger with very big eyes staring out of the picture. You could talk
about expression and how the artist expressed the idea of that particular
animal by showing such large round eyes. They could then relate that idea
to a pet of their own and try to visualize their pet by its special
characteristics and see if their classmates could tell that "specialness"
by the way the student presented it. (Does that make sense?)
You have a great opportunity to integrate art into other subjects - make
the most of it. It may not be perfect this first year, but what you learn
in the process may spell even greater success the next year. Whatever
artists you choose, try to have one good reproduction for reference - what
they learn by looking closely will enlarge not only their vocabulary but
their visual memory as well. Have fun with the project - it has certainly
stimulated my thoughts and I would love to be there with you.
California Consortium for Arts Education