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Art Immersion Month, by Neil Waldman

Art can serve as a launching pad for exploration, discovery, personal development and fun. Through drawing, kids are given the opportunity to express themselves in non-verbal, non-academic venues. These lessons will give creative, right-brained kids a chance to shine. Even for the less artistically gifted person, art can supply a productive and satisfying outlet for self-expression. During this month, projects will focus on two areas: Studio Art and Art Appreciation.


Studio Art
Project One: Drawing (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – 10 minutes)
Goal: This project will develop hand and eye coordination, increase observation of our environment and ourselves and is one of the first steps in learning how to draw. The entire lesson takes about 10 minutes.

Using pencil, students are instructed to spend two minutes drawing their left hands (lefties should draw their right hands). After two minutes, ask your students to move their left hands into a new position and spend two minutes drawing them again. Emphasize that the drawing should take the full two minutes. Have the children repeat the process five times in total.

When five drawings are completed, the students place them in an envelope which is then sealed, signed, dated and passed to you.

Project Two: Designing (Tuesdays and Thursdays – 10 – 15 minutes)
Goal: Each person has a special and unique sense of design. This is apparent in the clothing we choose and the ways in which we decorate our homes. This project will enhance the development of students' sense of design by repeatedly placing choices of color, shape and position before them. With each choice, the student gradually develops his or her sense of what appears pleasing, discordant or even beautiful.

Abstract art

Ask students to bring empty shoe boxes to school on the first Tuesday of the month. Provide them with sheets of colored construction paper and then ask the students to shred the sheets to fill the shoebox.

Next, you should distribute sheets of black paper (8" x 10") and have your students remove shreds of colored paper, one at a time and place them on the black paper in the most aesthetically pleasing design he or she can think of. After about five minutes, the children can then return the shredded paper to the box and repeat the process for another five minutes.

On Thursday, after the second five minutes, students should glue the shreds to the black paper, sign them and hand in their unique creation to you.

Hold up each design one by one or display in front of the class and ask the author to explain their project.

The final step is to display the designs on your bulletin board.

Artist sketch

Art Appreciation
Project One: Studying the Work of the Masters (Tuesdays and Thursdays – 30 minutes)

Goal: To introduce and deepen an understanding of the work of the great painters.

On the first Tuesday you begin this project, explain that centuries ago, painter's lives were spent rendering realistic portraits, historical events and biblical scenes. Library books, photos of the works of Rembrandt, DaVinci, Rafael and Michelangelo are helpful.

Be sure to also check out www.artcyclopedia.com. The books are preferable because of size of image and clarity.

Discussion should last 30 minutes. On Thursday, lead a discussion of the skills that were necessary to render things so realistically. Explain that in the middle of the 19th century, things changed dramatically. The camera was invented and painters were no longer needed to provide a visual record of history. The result was that painters became free to create personal and subjective images of the world and their feelings about it.

Start with showing your students paintings of the impressionists, particularly Claude Monet, then works of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

Explain that Kandinsky was the first artist ever to create an abstract painting. Discuss what abstract art entails.

Project Two: Copying a Master's Work (Tuesdays and Thursdays – 30 minutes)
Goal: Let's try to better understand the great paintings.

On the second Tuesday, begin your lesson by explaining that for centuries, art students were required to visit museums and reproduce paintings found there. This was done because in copying a master's work, the student would be forced to go through the same physical process that the masters did, and thus learn many lessons about composition, design, color and so on.

Vincent Van Gogh The Starry Night

Neil Waldman's painting of Vincent Van Gogh, as pictured on the cover of his book, The Starry Night (Boyds Mills Press, 1999).

Using books or www.artcyclopedia.com, each student chooses a particular painting. If the Internet is used, images can be downloaded. "The Starry Night" by Vincent van Gogh is a usual favorite.

On the following Thursday, the students begin rendering their copies. Let them spend half an hour, twice a week, until the paintings are finished.

If you'd like to take this further, lead a discussion of the different painter's styles. Students can then create a painting of their own design in the style of the master they've chosen.

Neil Waldman is an artist and children's author/illustrator living in White Plains, NY. His most recent work for children is The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story (Millbrook Press, 2003).