The final results of our "Material Self Portrait" are brightening the hallways around the school. Students worked hard to express their identity and think metaphorically through non-traditional materials and enjoyed learning different collage and painting techniques. Students are now challenged to write a great artist statement to help their viewers understand some of their processes and ideas.
Middle school artists were challenged to think about contemporary artists who use non-traditional materials today. We started our lesson with a visual thinking routine prompted by Harvard's Project Zero that encourages active thinking and helps to guide their thought processes. Students used the sentence stems, "I think, I See, I Wonder" to prompt their thinking about this sculpture by Marc Quinn, an artist who uses very non-traditional materials to create powerful personal meaning. Students were more prepared to consider the context and meaning of the work when they had already shared ideas about what they were looking at and the questions they had about it.
After we discussed what we thought traditional sculpture materials might be, we viewed some artworks by artists who use unusual materials and thought about how the medium of an artwork affects meaning. Students were surprised to find impressive artworks made of cassette tapes, computer parts, pills, Lego pieces , blood and chewing gum. Students got busy brainstorming different materials with lists: things you find on the moon, things you find in the fridge, things you find in your pants pocket, etc. to start generating ideas for their own portraits. Tomorrow they will research the materials they will use by sketching and culling images from the library. I'm excited to see their ideas!
I just love these "big head" portraits middle school artists created of each other; they all show so much character on the part of the artist and of the sitter. We were inspired by the gorgeous sketchbook portraits of French illustrator Lapin who infuses ordinary people and everyday things with great character by drawing with direct observation and an exquisite line quality.These portraits were done in 20 minute sessions while students posed for each other, after we had practiced some blind contour drawing exercises and studied facial proportions. Students were challenged to draw directly on to the paper with a permanent marker pen while closely observing the contour lines of their model. The figure was permitted to be included after the portraits were complete allowing for some quirky proportion in the figure and the "big heads."