Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Walking Amidst It

Maya Lin, the woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, thought that "public spaces should be filled with art...so that we can walk amidst it..." (as found in Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters by Barack Obama). Lin was right - public spaces - and private ones, too, should be filled with art.

My walls are bare and my wallet is empty, but I have two very creative and crafty children who were desperate for a really good, authentic, engaging art project. Taking our inspiration from Picasso's drawing of the hand holding the bouquet (which Aidan had studied in school) along with a favorite book called The Imaginary Garden, this was the end result. In sum, the project took 1.5 hours and cost less than $10:

You will need the following:
Large canvas (ours is about 11 x 14)
Acrylic paint (optional - for the background on the canvas)
Paintbrush/ paint sponge
A variety of colors of tissue paper
Elmer's glue that has been watered down a bit

First, a caveat: I have this thing about kid art. Usually, I'm all about the "process" and not as focused on the final "product;" in schools and classrooms, I look for evidence of individual expression and encouragement to think outside the box. Sometimes, though, seeing yet another solid brown finger painting makes me wonder if there might be a compromise between process and product. This project is one such example, where I actively guided them through a technique and a process, which helped keep it authentic yet also yielded a lovely product.

I was also deliberate in making this a collaborative project. Another time, I will give each of the kids their own canvas and let them do their own thing, but this was essentially a "brotherhood-building" activity in addition to being an art project.

And so -
Paint the canvas and allow to dry. Decide on your design for the canvas. We had three initial ideas for the project, but opted to use a vase (which Leo first drew on a piece of paper, then I traced and cut out from the tissue paper; in retrospect, I should have had Aidan do the cutting). Hands would also work, or you could "root" the flowers in some shaggy grass at the bottom. Another idea is to create a large tree, a heart, or a huge sun. Be creative!

For the vase:
Design the vase and cut 2 layers out of tissue paper. Cut a variety of lengths and colors of green stems, then glue the vase and stems down to the canvas. Using two layers for the vase allows you to add some texture and dimension to the vase, because inevitably one or both of the layers will wrinkle as you glue it down - wrinkles are good!

Experiment a bit with how to create the flowers. Initially, I showed Aidan and Leo how to cut out petals from the tissue. This was fairly hard for Aidan, and way too challenging for Leo, so instead, I suggested tearing the tissue into small-ish pieces - an excellent choice. On a scrap piece of paper, I demonstrated how to spread a thin layer of glue, then begin layering the tissue scraps in a circle, creating the flower. I showed them how to fold or layer small bits of paper for the center of the flower, and then I sat back and let them work, offering guidance here and there - Aidan tended to use too much glue, and Leo, too little. Other than pointing out some empty "holes" that needed to be filled, the work was done completely by the young artists, which is an important piece in the process and the product.

Make sure to have your artists sign the canvas with their initials (or names) and the date or year.

Once the design is complete, allow the glue to dry, then apply a thin layer of Mod-Podge to the canvas, completely covering the tissue design. Allow that to dry, then add a second coat of Mod-Podge to the entire canvas, which will effectively seal and finish the work of art.

Finally - hang your masterpiece prominently. It will bring you much joy - remembering how fun it was to create - as well as reminding you that the children who are driving you to the point of insanity are the same ones who created such a beautiful work of art.

1 comment:

Susan said...

have I mentioned that my birthday is coming and I would love an original creation from the boys??????