Modern Art and Matisse Day 4

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ParakeetAndMermaid

p. 32 of My Very First Art Book.
Click to enlarge.

On Day 4 of our family summer art project we examined another cut-paper collage by Henri Matisse in Usborne’s My Very First Art Book.  In The Parakeet and the Mermaid we were delighted to recognize one of the same shapes we saw in Les Codomas yesterday, being used multiple times here.  There was a bit of an “I Spy” quality to this collage that we liked, although we agreed it was very easy to spot the parakeet and the mermaid!  This book offers the same large, colorful art examples as the other Usborne art books we’ve used, with simple corresponding projects that kids can create.  The suggested activity with this print is to fold paper in half or in quarters to cut out symmetrical shapes.

p. 39 of My Very First Art Book. Click to enlarge.

p. 39 of My Very First Art Book. Click to enlarge.

There’s also a section in this book on creating torn paper pictures that re-kindled our earlier discussion of collage vs. mosaic art.  The example of puzzle art also looked like something that would be fun to try.

In the “Blocks and Shapes” section of this book we examined the use of shapes, pattern, and spacing to create different effects on paper.  We’ve noticed that Matisse sometimes leaves a lot of white space in the backgrounds of his cut-paper collages, but other times he fills the entire page with color.  The facing print to the first page of this section was High Sky 2 by Bridget Riley.  While this is a painting and not a collage, it still intrigued us as a way to arrange color on a page and inspired the pieces at the bottom of this post.

HighSkyII

p. 36 from My Very First Art Book. High Sky 2 by Bridget Riley.  Click to enlarge.

Triangle 4

Triangle 4 (a work in progress)

stained glass

Stained Glass (a work in progress)

 

Book used today:

my-very-first-art-bookMy Very First Art Book by Rosie Dickins

 

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Modern Art and Matisse Day 3

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For Day 3 of our family summer art study, we are still focusing on the art of Henri Matisse.

TheCircus2p. 20-21 from Activities and Adventures in Abstract Art Click to enlarge.

p. 20-21 from Activities and Adventures  in Abstract Art.  Click to enlarge.

Today we used the book What’s the Big Idea?: Activities and Adventures in Abstract Art by Joyce Raimondo to examine another of Matisse’s cut-paper collages, Les Codomas.  The books in this series (Art Explorers) include great discussion questions that encourage the reader to closely examine the works shown and think about the choices the artist made.  There are no right or wrong answers to these questions; it’s the pondering that’s important.  We decided that the yellow “squiggles” are acrobats performing on the blue and white trapezes, the black squares are the safety net below them, and the shapes in the border represent circus clowns.  Of course, your interpretation may differ!  This is another collage from Matisse’s book Jazz.

p. 23 of Activities and Adventures in Abstract Art. Click to enlarge.

p. 23 of Activities and Adventures in Abstract Art.
Click to enlarge.

The next two pages in the book offer step-by-step instructions for creating cut-outs like Matisse (including a list of supplies needed), explains positive and negative space, and shows examples of collages created by kids.  The book uses color-blocking and labels to divide its pages into sections so that the large amount of information presented doesn’t overwhelm the reader.  This is the format used for each type of art in every book in the series; it’s just a happy coincidence that it echoes the elements of a Matisse collage!

 

 

We then watched a brief video clip on the Elements and Principles of Design that shows an artist laying out a collage and discussing organic shapes vs. geometric shapes.  He shows us Matisse’s Les Betes de la Mer, also from the book Jazz, and draws our attention to the way the artist used these shapes in its creation.

Here are some of the pieces we’ve created using what we’ve learned so far.  (And yes, we did listen to jazz while we worked.  We even discovered a new favorite, Topsy by Count Basie!)

 collage in progressA work in progress.

 

JCollage1

untitled

 

Capri Sea

The Sea at Capri

Book used today:

what's the big idea abstract art What’s the Big Idea?: Activities and Adventures in Abstract Art by Joyce Raimondo

 

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Modern Art and Matisse Day 2

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I wanted the first project in our family summer art study to involve creating our own paper collages, so after learning a little about modern art in general and Henri Matisse in particular, we examined some additional resources to help us get started.

lives of the artistsIn Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, we read a brief biography of Matisse and learned that he embraced his label as King of the Wild Beasts and never let the critics deter him from creating the type of art he loved.  We were also intrigued to discover that he had created a book of  collages titled Jazz that included works in colors so bright that to look at them on the walls of his studio Matisse had to wear sunglasses to look at them!

p. 88 from The Great Big Art Activity Book Click to enlarge

p. 88 from The Great Big Art Activity Book
Click to enlarge

We then turned to The Great Big Art Activity Book by Sue Nicholson and Deri Robins to take another look at Matisse’s The Snail, which we examined yesterday, and to get some tips for creating abstract art and collage art. I really like the oversize format and clear examples in this book, as well as the simple instructions with step-by-step photographs for each project. Readers are encouraged to use the suggestions to make unique artwork, rather than simply copying the samples in the book. It’s well-organized with table of contents, index, and glossary; and includes over one hundred techniques to try!

p. 230 from The Great Big Art Activity Book
Click to enlarge.

Interesting note: One of my children was surprised to learn that a collage could depict a realistic scene, as shown in these examples. All of his previous experiences with collage had involved arranging random shapes in abstract designs, so this was a new concept for him.  It led to a great discussion of the difference between collage and mosaic, and later that evening as we were cracking eggs for omelets we decided that broken up eggshells might be an interesting medium for creating a mosaic.

The_Sorrows_of_the_King

The Sorrows of the King (1952)

Next we looked at another of Matisse’s cut-paper collages, The Sorrows of the King, in The Usborne Art Treasury by Rosie Dickins.   The cheerful colors and patterns used here create the effect of music and dancing, meant to distract the king from his sorrows.  Was the King of the Beasts giving us a glimpse into his own life here?  We know that he only took up “drawing with scissors” near the end of his life, after he became too frail to paint anymore.  It seems likely that his new experiments with shape and color kept his spirits up while allowing him to continue making art in spite his illness.

p. 42-43 from The Usborne Art Treasury. Click to enlarge.

p. 42-43 from The Usborne Art Treasury.
Click to enlarge.

p. 42-43 from The Usborne Art Treasury. Click to enlarge.

The accompanying activity in the book shows the reader how to make a collage of musical instruments that celebrates Matisse’s style.  We surmised that the author chose this subject because of Matisse’s connection with jazz, and agreed that when we started creating our own artwork we would have some upbeat jazz music playing in the background as additional inspiration.

Finally, we watched a brief video clip of Matisse working on a collage.

We wondered what type of paper he was using; it looks so fluid, yet we know that he was cutting out paper that had been painted with bright colors, which we would have thought would be much stiffer than this appears to be.  We plan to experiment with several different types of paper to discover which we like best.

In just two days we’ve learned a lot about color, shape, and composition.  We’ve also made a new friend in the art world — Henri Matisse!

Books Used on Day 2

lives of the artistsLives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought)
by Kathleen Krull

great big art activity bookThe Great Big Art Activity Book
by Sue Nicholson and Deri Robins

usborne art treasuryThe Usborne Art Treasury
by Rosie Dickins

 

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Modern Art and Matisse Day 1

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snail trailI thought it would be less intimidating in terms of creating our own works to begin this summer’s family art study with modern art.  My immediate book choice to introduce the project was Snail Trail: in search of a modern masterpiece by Jo Saxton.  An art-loving snail with a colorful collage shell invites the reader to follow him in search of a special painting.  We pass several examples of modern art by Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and others before reaching Henri Matisse’s L’escargot (The Snail).  The book ends with a photo of Matisse in his studio and explains that toward the end of his life he turned to cut- and torn-paper art collages, a technique which Matisse called “drawing with scissors.”  The last page credits the other works shown in the book.  snail trail page

This is a nice open-ended way to expose kids to a variety of modern art styles.  We could discuss the works before looking up the title, artist, and date in the back of the book.  We also enjoyed the way the snail’s silvery trail changed to reflect the type of art shown on each page; a sharp jagged line for the geometric squares of 1940-42 (two forms) by Ben Nicholson, but wavy and fluid next to Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory with its melting clocks.

Looking At Modern Art

p. 8 from The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art
Click to enlarge.

Then we read a few selected pages from The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art: Internet Linked by Rosie Dickinson.  The book begins by asking the question “What is modern art?” and gives a working definition complete with examples.  The next section, titled “Looking at Modern Art” discusses Matisse’s The Snail (created in 1953) along with some other examples, and encourages the reader who is trying to understand modern art to think about how and when a piece of art was made as well as what it looks like.  Helpful tip:  “Vague titles often mean the artist wasn’t trying to show a particular scene, but to explore his or her ideas about art or life.”

p. 19 from The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art Click to enlarge.

p. 19 from The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art
Click to enlarge.

Next we flipped to page 18 to see a portrait of Matisse painted by his friend Andre’ Derain in 1905, and learned that the style of art Matisse and his associates were creating at this time was so shocking and outrageous, the men were dubbed Fauves, meaning “Wild Beasts,” by critics.  Page 19 shows Open Window, Collioure painted by Matisse in 1905, and explains some of its elements, such as why the walls on either side of the window are different colors, and the artist’s use of space.  I fell in love with the color palette used here; if you want to learn more about the painting (as I did) take a look at this National Gallery of Art page.

We marveled at the nearly 50-year gap between The Snail and Open Window, Collioure  and agreed that Matisse’s delight in vivid colors hadn’t changed in all that time.

By this point we were starting to feel as though Matisse were an old friend, and we were looking forward to learning more about him and his art, and creating something inspired by his love affair with shape and color!

Books used on Day 1

snail trail Snail Trail: in search of a modern masterpiece by Jo Saxton
usborne introduction to modern art The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art: Internet Linked by Rosie Dickinson

 

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Summer Art Institute At My House

HeadHandsHeartNow that the school year is officially over, I’m embarking on a summer learning project with my own two children that I’m really excited about.  I call it Head, Hands, Heart: Getting Smart About Art, and it involves a little bit of art history, a little bit of theory and technique, and a whole lot of making art together.  I do not have a degree in art, and I don’t consider myself particularly artistic (I’m much more likely to create on the computer than with my hands) so this is an opportunity for me to embrace the “be a life-long learner” attitude that we teachers strive to instill in our students!

I am putting together all the resources and activities myself from scratch, and this is the most excited I’ve been about developing a unit since the Genius Hour project I created back in March.  I’ll admit that I have a tendency to get far too caught up in researching new ideas — must be the librarian in me! — but it has been a real joy to steep myself in the lives and works of groundbreaking artists.  It’s also giving me an opportunity to explore some new technology resources, which I always enjoy, and find new ways to use old favorites like Blendspace, VoiceThread and ThingLink.

BookShelfFor the next several weeks my blog posts here will be primarily devoted to what we’re discovering and creating.  I’ll be sharing photos of our artistic process and completed works, as well as links to my online and printed resources.  My first approach to any project is to look for a book on the topic in question, and this art study is no exception!  Here’s what our art bookshelf looks like right now, with more books to come.  Many of these books are from my school library, so I’ll really get to know my art collection well this summer and be ready to fill in some gaps next year.

 

 

Desk

 

I found a big desk (the top measures 4 feet by 2 1/2 feet) at our local Goodwill for only $20 and stocked it with basic art supplies that we had around the house.  As you can see, the desktop extends beyond the back wall to form an overhanging counter, which means we can pull extra chairs up to it so that all three of us can work there together and leave our projects spread out for as long as needed.

I’ve also just created an account with Amazon Affiliates, which means that if you see a useful resource here and purchase it on Amazon via a link from this site, I will receive a small commission (4% of your purchase) in the form of an amazon.com credit.  If you’re purchasing books for a library, you probably buy from a vendor that provides library bindings, just as I do; but if you’re shopping for yourself, Amazon offers some very attractive discounts as well as reader and editorial reviews, and (usually) a chance to look inside the book and see for yourself whether it will meet your needs.

I hope you enjoy following our journey across the world of art, and I hope our discoveries will inspire you to create some art yourself.  If so, please share it in the comments!

 

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