Installation Art

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

Elementary art students worked together to create installation art using everyday materials and displayed them on campus.

PowerPoint: Installation Art

Art Display Sign: Installation Art Sign

Safety Pledge: Hot Glue Pledge

Supplies: Whatever extra stuff you have crowding your cabinets!

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

For our art program, I needed to do two things: 1) Fill in the weird schedule gap caused by our Field Days. 2) Use up the boxes of donated supplies that I wasn’t going to be able to move to our new school. Installation art was the perfect solution!

I started by grouping our supplies into sets that would work well together. I had pipe cleaners, foam shapes, cardboard tubes, art straws, wooden blocks, popsicle sticks and bamboo skewers. The foam shapes worked well with the pipe cleaners and skewers. For the other materials, I gave each table an adhesive, like masking tape or hot glue.

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

About a week before we started, I set up a hot glue station at the back of the room. Kiddos who finished their art project early helped glue the popsicle sticks into triangles and squares. Having those pieces ready to go really streamlined the building process.

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

I made a very big deal about the hot glue safety rules! Each students had to sign the Safety Pledge and wear gloves to protect their hands from accidents. (I was thrilled to find kid-sized gardening gloves at the Target Dollar Spot!)

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

On the first day, each table brainstormed about how they were going to use the materials and where they would want the sculpture displayed. At the end of each class, they wrote a note for the kids who would be at their table next.

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

I changed the set-up of the tables as each of the sculptures got to a new step or were completed. By the end of the week, the cardboard tube sculpture took up 3 different tables: one for taping, one for painting the outside and one for painting the inside.

We installed the sculptures in waves; as soon as one was finished, I would assign a table to take the pieces outside and secure it in the ground. Bamboo skewers and tape helped to hold up some of the more flexible artwork. The students taped laminated signs about installation art to the sides of some old magazine holders. Bamboo skewers were able to keep the sign boxes in place.

The installation art made quite a splash! The students were so excited to see the finished projects they had helped with. Teachers and parents also commented on how much they enjoyed the artwork. It was a fun way to introduce an new art concept to our school’s community.

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Bold Wax Resists

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Wax resists are a great way to end the quarter! Each student created an abstract or realistic drawing, colored a thick waxy layer with crayon, crumpled it and painted it with india ink.

Art Lesson Videos: Wax Resist, Part 1 & Wax Resist, Part 2

Supply Set-up Video: Ink Set-up

PowerPoint: Bold Wax Resists

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ or 9″ x 9″ drawing paper
  • Crayons
  • India ink, watered down (approx. 1 part ink to 3 parts water)
  • Wide bristle brushes
  • Newspaper

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Every teacher develops a toolkit of lessons that get kids through those last few weeks of school before a big vacation. With summer break inching towards us, I knew I needed to unleash one of my special projects to keep my third graders excited about their artwork. What I love about wax resist is that the process is oddly calming – coloring a thick waxy layer of crayon is a good way to work out some frustration!

Coloring a thick waxy layer of crayon is a good way to work out some frustration!

I let them know that their design needs to be big and bold because small details will be lost once you crumple and paint the paper with ink. But other than that, they are free create any idea they like! It’s a project that kids can easily choose their own subject for. The majority of my students decided to create abstract designs.

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

When we use 9″ x 12″ paper the coloring takes awhile, usually two solid days. At the end of the second day I might have a kid that is ready to ink. This year, I used 9″ x 9″ paper instead. Most kids were able to finish coloring during the first class and then ink during the second. I was excited that there was a way to make this a two day project!

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

I keep the inking at two or three tables that I call kids up to when they are finished coloring. The kids rotate in and out of inking. When they are finished inking, they go back to the coloring table to work in their sketchbook. I decided to make a quick video about how to set up the table for ink. It has streamlined that process to be able to point to the paused video and say, “When your table looks like that, I can give you the ink.”

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Crumpling the paper is so much fun for the kids! I make sure to tell them about that step before we even start sketching, so that they don’t feel surprised or sad when I ask them to crumple their artwork. I show them how to open and crumple several times to get cracks in the wax. We talk about how the ink will soak into those cracks, but the wax on the rest of the paper will resist the ink.


My demonstration for inking is a little dramatic. I make a very big deal about how india ink is permanent. I tell them that even if they aren’t inking, they need to walk around the room calmly and carefully during this project. You never know who might be behind you with artwork covered in ink! It is essential that they wipe off all the ink from their paper before they walk it to the drying rack. Cleaning up india ink trails from the floor is no fun!

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Getting a good coat of ink without over-doing it can be tricky for a lot of kids. Not enough ink means the cracks don’t show up. But too much ink can mean that their paper tears when they pick it up. I’ve started telling them to “scrub” the ink into the paper with their bristle brush. I also have to remind them to paint all the way to the edges – that’s what the newspaper is for!

I’ve started telling them to “scrub” the ink into the paper with their bristle brush.

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

The results from this project are stunning! Most quarters, we were working on this project when the Showcase was already hung up. I definitely was tempted to mat their wax resist projects and hang them up in between classes! I’ve thought about re-structuring the order of my projects, but the wax resist is such a perfect way to keep my 3rd graders engaged before a big transition that I think I’ll keep it right where it is.

Kandinsky Circles

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

A collaborative art project for 2nd graders – students painted circles inspired by Kandinsky’s artwork.

Supplies:

  • Colorful poster board, 12″ x 12″
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes

For Hanging:

  • Staple gun
  • Staple Remover (This kind of staple remover has saved me so much time and frustration!)

PowerPoint: Kandinsky Circle

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

My goal last year was to display one collaborative piece of artwork at each Showcase. For our last Showcase, I included all of the grade levels I was teaching to create a large mural-like display. We began by observing paintings by Kandinsky. My students talked about what the two paintings had in common and how they were different.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

I did a short demonstration about layering colors to mix them right onto the poster board. Then I set the kids free to paint. They had very few limitations – I asked them to create a painting inspired by the artwork they saw on the board. They got to choose what kind of shapes, colors and composition they used. Some students created realistic paintings, but most created something abstract, like Kandinsky’s artwork.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

The best organizational decision I made for this project was to have each class paint on the same color poster board. It made passing the artwork back infinitely easier! While I was hanging the artwork, I happened to do it in waves because I had three classes that were finishing their artwork just a couple days before the Showcase. I really liked the “gradient” effect that the larger piece ended up with because I hung it two or three classes at a time.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

It was liberating for the kids to create a project in one day. Many of them were the most excited about experimenting with creating new colors. At the Showcase I had a lot of kids stand in front of our mural and search for their piece. They were so excited to point it out to their families!

 

Independent Projects

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

At the end of the quarter, fourth grade art students created Independent Projects by choosing their subject and medium.

Supplies:

  • Markers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Watercolors
  • Construction paper and glue
  • Printmaking supplies
  • Yarn
  • Poster board
  • Drawing paper

PowerPoint: Independent Project

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

For whatever weird scheduling reason, the third quarter is a little longer than the others. I decided to use that time to encourage my fourth graders to express themselves creatively through Independent Projects. I’ve done this kind of assignment with high school students, so I was interested to see if my fourth graders would embrace it or feel overwhelmed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

They blew me away with how much ownership they took of their projects! I started the assignment by reviewing subject and medium. I reminded them of the difference between abstract and realistic. Then I put up a list of all the materials we had used throughout the quarter. They were able to pick just one or several materials for their project. The first step was sketching, which they did directly onto their final paper.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I was so excited by the way their ideas bubbled out of them. You could feel the creative energy in the room! The wide range of ideas was incredible and seeing the students work together to problem solve and brainstorm warmed my heart.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I had the art supply options set up at the front of the room, so the most intense part was getting each student the appropriate kind of paper. I had stacks of poster board, drawing paper, and printmaking paper ready to go. After they had written down their subject and medium, I would check in with them and give them the paper they needed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

Several students in each class decided to do mixed media. They had to plan what order they should use the art supplies. If they needed to wait for one step to dry, I had them work in their sketchbook for the rest of class.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

If a student had a hard time getting started, asking them if they’d rather do an abstract or realistic piece of art was usually enough to jump start their thought process. It was also fun to watch them be inspired by each other’s artwork. There were definitely some trends that ran through each class period.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

The timing was a little tricky; there were about 3-5 kids in each class that finished much earlier than everyone else. Luckily, the assignment lends itself to further exploration. If there was enough time left in the week, I let the student go ahead and start another Independent Project. They could decide if they wanted to stick with the same medium and subject or if they wanted to change it up.

 

 

Eagle Challenge

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

As an art teacher, sometimes I bristle when people ask me to make “decorations.” There are a few exceptions – I am always excited to do a unit on papel picado for Cinco de Mayo. When the music teacher told me about a concert the symphony would be putting on for the community at our school  and asked if the art students would like to be involved, I jumped at the chance!

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

She told me that one of the themes of the concert was going to be the eagle. I decided to create a challenge assignment for the students and leave the medium and interpretation of the eagle up to them.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

It was incredible to see how many different directions the students took their ideas. I made a list of possible media on the board and let them decide if they wanted to work alone or with a partner.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Because the art was going to be viewed from far away, I made one of the limitations of the challenge be that their artwork had to be at least 12″ X 18″ – many students went much larger than that.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

The artwork turned out incredible! Having it displayed along the walls when the symphony played made a big impact. It was a great opportunity for a lot of them to work with larger pieces of paper.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Supplies:   Watercolors, Lino-cut materials, Chalk pastels, Sharpies, Colored pencil

Paper Challenge

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

High school students design a solution to the challenge “Create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.”

Supplies:

  • Paper (Construction, card stock, origami, etc.),
  • Adhesives (Glue, tape, staples, etc.)

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

At the beginning of the second semester, I decided I wanted to try something new. With such small classes, I felt like I could open up the projects so that students had more room to explore. I came up with the idea of presenting assignments as “challenges.”

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

The first challenge they did was simple: I asked them to create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

In order to get their brains thinking of ideas, I showed them a PowerPoint filled with examples of artwork that were made out of paper. I made it very broad so that they could see how many different directions they could take their project. I didn’t leave the PowerPoint up while they sketched because I wanted to encourage them to come up with their own solution instead of copying another project exactly.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

Another way I helped them to think of ideas was to list examples of all the different kinds of paper and adhesives that we had in the room. If a student was stuck coming up with an initial idea, I would help them begin to narrow it down by asking them if they wanted to make a 3D or 2D piece of artwork.

Paper Challenge - students create art using only paper and adhesives.

Instead of requiring them to do a sketch first, I told them they could choose between sketching or experimenting with an idea. I was impressed by how many of them took their experiment seriously and came up with some very cool results.

 

 

Abstract or Realistic?

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

For the first semester this year, I took a new approach to teaching the Elements of Art. Instead of just having a project that used the element we were focusing on, I explained the concept and then gave my students a choice of two projects – one that was realistic and one that was abstract.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

On the first day of class, I showed my students examples of realistic and abstract artwork. I also demonstrated how artwork is not either/or when it comes to abstract and realistic. We talked about how any piece could fit anywhere on a “timeline” of representational to non-representational artwork.

abstract vs real 2

In the middle of the year, I had them work in groups to practice thinking about where a piece of artwork would fit on the “abstract to realistic” continuum. I printed out five pieces of artwork for each group and had them discuss and sort where they would place each one.

abstract vs real

Doing all of this work with abstract vs. realistic up front made it easier when we got into more complicated concepts like Space. Since they already understood that they could make artwork anywhere along that continuum, they could focus their energy on understanding the element of Space.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

After discussing the element of Space, I gave students the option of creating a more abstract notan or a more realistic drawing of a room. The notan used the concept of positive and negative space, while the room focused on drawing in two-point perspective. (For the room drawing I used the same lesson from last year about Surreal Spaces, but I only briefly touched on incorporating surrealism.)

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

Some students drew incredibly realistic rooms, while others created more surreal atmospheres. The notans were equally diverse. It was exciting to see my students exploring the full spectrum of abstract to realistic artwork.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

I could see that opening up the assignment helped students to feel more comfortable being adventurous with their project. Instead of ending up with a set of cookie cutter pieces of artwork, each student’s art was truly unique. Another benefit was that even though my students each picked one project, they got to learn about and see the process of doing the other assignment while they watched their classmates.

Abstract or Realistic? A student-led approach to teaching the element of Space. Students chose between creating a drawing using perspective or a notan using positive and negative space.

Abstract (Notans): Black construction paper, White construction paper, scissors, X-acto knives, glue

Realistic (Perspective drawings): Drawing paper, colored pencils, markers

Downloadable PowerPoint: Abstract vs. Realistic