Straight Ripped and Spattered



Second graders have been working awesomely hard on their first big project of the year. While it took lots of time, these students have gained excellent additions to their art vocabulary and have created genuinely passionate works of art. 

We started with abstraction. What is abstract art? My response: It doesn't look REAL but it makes you FEEL. 

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The first part of this project is to be a bit rigid. We reviewed and drew vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines in a specific way. All lines needed to extend the full space of the page and students followed a directed drawing demonstration. I wanted everyone to be following rules they would dissect later. Planting seeds that this process is reflective of the ultimate meaning behind the art--rules in art can be broken to create individualized meaning. I do indeed get philosophical, but you know, in an accessible-to-seven-year-olds kind of way. 

After our line drawings were complete, students were instructed to think of a story they'd like to tell or feeling they'd like to show in their work. But if abstract work doesn't look real, how can we show the story or feelings? For this project, we used color. My specific example featured many neutral colors alongside a few pieces of periwinkle and navy blue. I explained the story my art was telling through the colors: the browns and tans represent the crunchy fall leaves that I LOVE stepping on with my periwinkle converse sneakers. I regaled how that crispy sound is one of my favorites and how the browns are symbolic of that favorite feeling. The navy blue represented the early dark nights of fall. The students were all on the same page as we set to work on writing a few sentences on our abstract stories. 

Time to color. Students were instructed to color in each space -- but don't let the same color touch! Excellent precision and bold coloring here. 

This young artist chose to depict his love of juice. Apple, cranberry, orange, hawaiian punch -- so vibrant and refreshing!

This young artist chose to depict his love of juice. Apple, cranberry, orange, hawaiian punch -- so vibrant and refreshing!

This artist is an expert organic shape ripper!

This artist is an expert organic shape ripper!

I did tell students not to get too attached to these colorful line drawings because it was time to rip them up. Yes yes. RIP THEM UP. But we first discussed the question "Why are we ripping up something that we've worked so hard on already?" Firstly, a student response explained that maybe our stories change sometimes and that's why we switch the art around. Affirming this answer as most definitely true, I also added that it was ME who told them how to do these line drawings. I gave the direction, the rule, the geometric rigidity. Oh yeah. VOCABULARY WORD ALERT. Here is where we discussed geometric and organic shapes. Geometric: shapes with rules (squares, triangles, etc). Organic: shapes with NO rules (puddles, clouds, continents). It's just how I present the big terms and it sticks. We reviewed examples of each type of shape every class thereafter. 

Students ripped their pieces into organic shapes -- a symbolic action that strips away any direction I gave initially. I wanted these pieces to be 100% original to each artist. After ripping, we glued the piece back together in a brand new way, carefully so as not to let any piece touch. One student likened the "cracks" between pieces to "little roads between buildings seen by a bird." Amazing analogy! 

So at this juncture we have drawn straight lines, used color to represent stories and feelings, ripped our pieces to organic originality and glued them back together in a new way. Time to spatter. We discussed safety and controlled spatter patterns. This final action was to show a physical OOMPH as created by a bodily gesture. 

I've never been more proud of my second graders as they have all retained the vocabulary and concept behind this complex project. So proud to have introduced them to this contemporary mode of art making. Stay tuned as we go back in time for the next project.

Final spattered pieces 

Caitlyn Thompson