The Magic of Wax Resist

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

Inspired by James Rizzi, fourth grade art students drew landscapes or cityscapes in crayon, then painted their art with watercolors to create a wax resist.

Supplies:

  • Poster board (I used light weight)
  • Crayons
  • Watercolor paints
  • Cups
  • Brushes

Downloadable PowerPoint: Wax Resist Scapes

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

I love love love the first painting project with a class! For 4th graders, I have discovered that wax resist is magical. It introduces my students to watercolor, and gives their work some structure. The crayon outlines help to define what could easily be a messy first attempt at watercolors.

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.
James Rizzi, 2011

I began the lesson by having my students observe a painting by James Rizzi and discussing what types of personalities they saw in the artwork. They shared their answers and we talked about how the artist showed those personalities. Students are inspired by James Rizzi to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.
I got the idea for this project from Deep Space Sparkle. I wanted to broaden how my students could interpret the assignment, so I let them choose if they wanted to create a seascape, landscape, or cityscape. They got to decided if they showed personality by adding cartoon faces or doing something different, like choosing their colors based on what personality they were trying to show.

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

We spent the first day sketching and tracing over the sketch with crayon. I did a demonstration to show them how important it was to push down hard with the crayon. Then I showed them two watercolor techniques: wet on dry and wet on wet. It is always so much fun to wow them with the magic of colors mixing together!

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

In one class a student asked if they could do an outer-space scene. I said “Of course!” That idea took off like wildfire, almost half the class ended up doing something related to outer-space; it was a great opportunity to teach them how to use a compass. I was so excited by the results, I’m going to add it as an option in the PowerPoint for next quarter’s classes.

Students are inspired by James Rizzi's artwork to create wax resist landscapes or cityscapes.

I felt like this project really hit the sweet spot of everything I want in an assignment. My students learned about an artist, got experience with new materials and techniques, and they were able to express themselves creatively in all kinds of different ways! This one is a keeper!

 

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Color Theory Branches

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

Students in third and fourth grade classes worked collaboratively to paint branches using analogous and complementary color schemes.

Supplies:

  • Tempera paint
  • Big and small brushes
  • 6 or more branches
  • Dental floss
  • Binder clips or small metal hook

Downloadable Sign: Color Theory

Downloadable PowerPoint: Collaborative Branches

Every quarter I get to collaborate with the Music and GT teacher to put on a Showcase for our students. I let my students choose two pieces of artwork from their portfolio, they help me mat it and we hang it in the hallways for a week.

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.
I like to have a collaborative project that changes every quarter. I use the same curriculum each quarter, so having a project that changes helps to break up the monotony of teaching the same assignments again and again. And it means there is a surprise installation that the school gets to look forward to each Showcase.

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

Last quarter, I made a center for two Fridays in a row where the students worked together to create a branch as a class. Instead of introducing an artist, we spent the beginning of class talking about color theory. The first week, we talked about analogous colors, and they painted the base layer. The second week, we talked about complementary colors and they added dots and lines to their branch. (I compared the dots and lines to sprinkles on a cake, so that the base color would still show through.)

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

I was able to find 6 branches to use by walking around the yard outside our school. The biggest prep component was mixing up the analogous colors for the first day. I mixed the whole set and then covered them with empty trays so they wouldn’t dry out. If you have more time or older students, you could have them mix the colors.

I learned from the first class to give the students separate brushes for each color. The water thinned out the tempera paint so much that it lost it’s vibrancy.

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

I displayed them two different ways. For the Showcase, I tied dental floss (that stuff is an amazing, cheap way to hang art!) to each branch and used a binder clip to hang them from an outside ledge. Then, I retired them to a blank wall by the GT teacher’s room by tying all of them dental floss together and using and looping it over a metal hook. Displaying them as group definitely made a stronger visual statement. (Spreading them out made them stand out less.)

I hung up a laminated sign that explained how the students had used color theory. I hope that as students and teachers walk by, they will get to learn something new also!

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

This was such a fun project to do, and an exciting way to introduce my 3rd and 4th graders to color theory. I love how the branches look in the outdoor spaces that we displayed them. I couldn’t have done the hanging part without help from the music teacher, so I highly recommend asking someone to assist you!

 

 

 

 

Organize Artwork using Art History

Students learn art history through a coloring center that uses artwork from an artist their table is named after.

 Elementary students learn about and connect with the artists their tables are named after.

Downloadable PowerPoints: Table Artists 2015 & Table Artists 2016

Supply Box Printables: Table Artist Images & Table Artist Names

 

I only have my students for 28 class periods, which makes me want to fit art history into every facet of our classroom routines. I discovered a great way to expose my students to important art history figures while keeping their artwork organized and easy to pass out.

Students learn art history through a coloring center that uses artwork from an artist their table is named after.

The supply box at each table has their artist’s name taped on it, along with a portrait and example of the artist’s work. The names change each year, so that over a student’s experience at our school they will become familiar with 24 different artists. I choose a diverse group of artists from different time periods and styles.

Organize student artwork by naming tables after famous artists.

On Centers Days, we spend 5-10 minutes learning about one of the artists that their tables are named after. We discuss the artist as a class first, then each table discusses their answer to a question about specific works of art. I created a Coloring Page Center so that my students would have something tangible to help them remember each artist.

Organize student artwork by naming tables after famous artists.

I publish an art newsletter that keeps our faculty and staff informed about what is going on in the Art Room. I post it in the bathrooms and leave a stack in our waiting area for parents to read. Each month, I include a section about one of our table artists.

cassat

I created folders for each class that have their artist’s name written on both sides. This is how they turn in their artwork at the end of each period. I use the folders as a way to separate their art on the drying rack. It makes passing out artwork at the beginning of class so much easier!

Keep track of student artwork by naming tables after famous artists.

These simple routines have made our classroom run smoothly. Students always know how to turn in their art and at the beginning of the period they can get right to work. They are so excited when we get to learn about the artist that their table is named after!

Figurines

Functional Clay - Students hand-built or threw on the wheel to create clay pieces they could use everyday!

I decided to try a new concept for my clay project this year.  When it was time to teach the element of Form, I started the class off with a PowerPoint of a wide variety of figurines. I showed them examples of animal and human figurines from ancient cultures. Then I showed them a wide variety of figurines that were created by current artists. (Downloadable PowerPoint: Clay Figurines)

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

I opened up the definition of “figurine” to be any small object that was around 4-6 inches tall. I told students that their project didn’t have to be realistic. Many students came up with some very interesting abstract forms.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

We started the process by talking about basic hand-building techniques, like scoring, sliping, and hollowing out clay. I was so excited to open up the kiln to see that every single student’s artwork was intact! (Another big advantage to clay figurines is that I was able to fit them all into one load.)

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

It was interesting to see what students came up with as their subject. I was impressed with the wide variety of ideas they had.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

This was their first experience using clay in my class. I wanted them to get excited about the medium without being overwhelmed. The size limitation meant that they could really take their time and put a lot of detail in their work.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

Some students were able to finish early enough that they had time to create another clay project. I let them choose if they wanted to work on another figurine or move on to making a functional clay project.

Clay Figurines - Students created small figurines inspired by artwork throughout different time periods.

Supplies: Clay, glaze, slip, clay tools

Downloadable PowerPoint: Clay Figurines

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