Celebrating International Dot Day – Session 3

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Exercise with the combo class 4th and 5th grade. Approximately one hour. I gave the students very nice 6″x6″ sheet of Rives paper that I still have from an art project I was working on last year. I asked them to just draw circles with a black marker, starting with one and then growing a cluster. The difference with the previous exercise Celebrating International Dot Day and Celebrating International Dot Day – second session is that once you draw you cannot change the place of the elements. You just go and see what happens.
At the end of the session, it was interesting to put all the drawings together on the floor and to have a discussion. I asked the students if there was something which surprised them and to explain why. Something they did not think about before, something which gave them new ideas about space, composition and rhythm.

With very little means a lot of creativity and diversity can be expressed.

material: 6×6″ white paper, black marker.

Do More With less: Wonders with small means – circles (B&W)

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This exercise is about using limited material and only cutting circles. The students start cutting (without tracing) and then grow a cluster of different circles, adding by proximity. They can glue right away or wait and see what happens with the composition. Some students are more comfortable with gluing right away “and not loosing any circles”. The table becomes pretty messy so yes, the circles can disappear!

Some students, very quickly cut other shapes than circles, which is fine, although I am asking them to try to “only” use circles and to see what happens. It is about finding out that a lot of things are possible with very simple means. They can play with the size of the circles, they can cut the center and leave a thick or thin contour, they can make concentric circles. The possibilities are endless. In the process I am asking the students to pay attention to the paper, and to avoid discarding paper which is still usable.

The exercise which follows is: Wonders with small means – circles (color).

Material
12×18″ black paper, white paper, scissors, glue.

Shapes: making wonders with small means (this session with the 3rd graders)

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One session – one hour.
Material:
one fine line black marker (0.5), one fine point black Sharpie.

This is what I show them before starting, just an idea for possibilities, the combinations are endless.

I propose to the students to chose a shape: circle, triangle or square, to draw one and to start making associations. They can vary the thickness of the lines, the size of the shapes, to use empty or blackened shapes and of course make all sorts of combinations.

The idea is to start a cluster from the center, to grow it from there and to see what happens.

I show quickly an example, by drawing on the dry board and then they start.
Some students ask me if they can chose the three shapes at the same time, and I say yes. But I tell them they should try to use only one and see where it goes [In this particular class pretty much all the students decided to work with only one shape].

This exercise makes them experiment with making something surprising with small means. The results are very different from a student to another, which is something they enjoy seeing at the end of the session.

Doodling / representational (this session with the 5th graders)

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Session 4 – Doodling. Approximately one and a half hours.
Starting with one element. Adding from there by proximity and expanding the drawing.
Tool: a black fine line marker and a fine point Sharpie.

For this second session of doodling we talked about using “representational” elements and about the fact that representational doodles are often either a collection of elements or constitute a story.

To inspire the students, and because doodling is often associated with another activity (listening to music, the radio, giving a phone call), I proposed to them to listen to Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.

Steve Jobs’ death a few days earlier was the occasion for the teacher to talk with the students about his impact and his legacy.

The commencement speech at Stanford is a powerful speech, maybe not very cheerful but right to the point: “Love what you do – Follow your Heart”, through three short stories. Steve Jobs talks about connecting the dots and the circumstances of his birth, then what happened when he was fired by Apple and finally when he was diagnosed with cancer and his close encounter with death. He finished his speech with these famous words: “Stay Hungry, stay foolish”.

I thought it could be a wonderful inspiration for the students. But the doodle did not have to include elements of the speech.

They started doodling as the speech started and then we talked about it. When the speech was finished, the students continued doodling listening to the speech a second time.

Along the way, their doodling included more and more “visual” elements from the speech.

Doodling / abstract (this session with the 5th graders)

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Session 3 – Doodling. Approximately one and a half hours.
Starting with one element (preferably somewhere in the center area of the page).
Adding from there by proximity and expanding the drawing.
Tool: a black fine line marker.

At the beginning of the session, I showed the students a short Power Point presentation with a series of examples of abstract doodling. I want them to feel at ease with the idea of doodling without having to “represent” anything and to try to let go and draw whatever idea comes to their hand. For those who wanted to do otherwise, they could – of course.

In some cases, the doodles were abstract at the beginning and became representational somewhere along the way: like the ones with the women and their long decorated dresses.

I encouraged the students to do only one doodle during the session, to see where they could go, by adding more and more elements. But if they wanted, they could get another sheet of paper and start another doodle.

"Nine" based on "Trente" (this session with the 3rd graders)


Wassily Kandinsky, “Trente” [Thirty], 1937

The 3rd graders worked on a project based on “Trente” by Kandinsky [which he created when he was 71]. The material I proposed was black and white paper, a pair of scissors and glue. It was only a 2 hours session. I presented Kandinsky’s work and took some time for questions and remarks.

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I put some music on: “Contes de L’incroyable Amour” by Tunisian artist Anouar Brahem (listen to the music here) and the children started to work on their project.

Two hours is short but they enjoyed cutting directly in the paper and looking for abstract shapes. They discovered the “negative” piece of the cut and made good use of it. For some, not “representing anything in particular” was a challenge, for most of them it was the occasion to let it go and just enjoy. And play. But it takes sometime to realize the possibilities so I asked them not to glue anything till the end of the session, for they could change anything at anytime if they wanted to.

As always when I work with children, I very rarely “show them” how to do it. “Trente” was only projected on the wall when we were talking before starting working on the piece. After that the projector was turned off.

As always I enjoy watching them creating their pieces. I am taking pictures of everything they do. We’ll have a projection with a critique session soon!

The other project they just finished is based on a work by an artist living and working today near San Francisco: Tucker Nichols, who is having a solo show right now at Gallery 16.