The Impressionist painters attempted to capture a moment in time by painting quickly with large brush strokes and dabs of color. While the Impressionists were making an impression in France, another French artist, George Seurat, took the painting style to a new level. In his early career, he became interested in the science of color; how the eye saw color and the brain processed it. Instead of mixing colors on his paint pallet, Seurat put tiny dots of pure color next to one another on the white canvas. His technique allowed the human eye to blend the colors. Seurat used his pointillist style to create 6 large paintings. His most famous work “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.
This pointillism pin art project will give your students an idea of how time consuming it is to “paint” with dots. You can tell them that Seurat’s painting, “Sunday Afternoon…” is about 7 X 10 feet in size. It took him over 2 years to paint it. They will also observe how the dots they use to color their pin will blend to make new colors. It’s a lot like newspaper comics. Take a closer look and you’ll see that they are printed using tiny dots of pure color.
*If you don’t want to attach a safety pin to the back, for safety reasons, you can make a pointillist magnet by gluing a magnet to the back of each student’s pin.
The movable printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1456. The printing press made it possible to print thousands of pages per day. The old way of printing could only produce 40 or 50 pages per day. Books became available to much of the population. Many people learned to read.
Wealthy people supported the arts. They had their portraits painted.
This activity combines the concept of the printing press with portrait painting. You’ll create a body template (or a few different body templates). Your students will “ink” the template. Lay paper over the template. And “press” with a rolling pin to make a copy of the template. We used tempera paint, which dries quickly, to make our prints. After students have created a print, give each one a paper plate “palate” with a blob of red, yellow, blue, black, and white tempera paint, a paint brush, and a cup of water, and a napkin. Show them how to mix paints on their palate to make more colors. Show them how to rinse and wipe their brush before using a new color.
Click the photo below to view or print the basket pattern and instructions.
THE NEW STONE AGE
When I think of the New Stone Age, I think of a lovely Disney-style movie with people and animals living in tidy little communities. They work the soil to plant their crops while singing songs like Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World.” The Neolithic period covers about ten thousand years of human development. These ancient ancestors discovered and invented many of the technologies we still use today. Archeologists have uncovered the remains of some of their settlements. They have theories about what life must have been like for the people who lived way back then, but with no written records we can never really know.
Some research indicates that this was a time when women were highly regarded and held some of the highest positions in their communities. We see the evidence in goddess statues that were carved to honor the Mother Earth. Women were the gatherers of the Stone Age. They knew about the healing properties of plants, so it would be logical to think women were the first pharmacists and doctors. Some researchers think that women began to lose their power in the Neolithic period. They point to heavy farming tools as one reason that bigger, stronger men would take over. They argue that settled life produced more babies, therefore women would spend most of their time with mothering duties.
There is also a debate as to whether the people of the Neolithic period were warring or peaceful. In most of the settlements that have been excavated, humans appear to have died peacefully. There are no wounds or cracks in the bones to indicate a violent death.
I like to think of this as the time of peaceful farming communities; people who had a deep understanding of the Earth and respect for all of its creations. “I see skies of blue, clouds of white, bright sunny days, dark sacred nights. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!”
TOP 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW STONE AGE
#10 NEOLITHIC AGE – A term that means New Stone Age. People still made and used stone tools, hunted, and gathered, but their lifestyle changed from nomadic to settled.
#9 SETTLEMENTS – People lived in communities like: Çatal Hüyük, Skara Brae, and Jericho
#8 GODDESS STATUES – Little goddess statues were buried in the fields to help the crops grow.
#7 CANOES – Hollowed out logs were crafted to make canoes
#6 FISHING – People settled by fresh water because we need water to survive. They caught fish and other edible seafood.
#5 BASKET WEAVING – Grasses were woven to make containers to hold and transport items.
#4 POTTERY – Clay from the earth was molded into pots that were kiln-fired, and used to hold liquids and solids.
#3 CLOTH – Fibers from plants and animals were used to make string that was woven into cloth.
#2 TAMED ANIMALS – Learning to keep animals nearby meant milk and meat were always on hand.
#1 FIRST FARMERS – AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION – Learning to plant seeds changed the way people lived. The more people you can feed, the bigger your population grows.
NEOLITHIC PERIOD ACTIVITIES
Little Pinch Pot—Purchase pottery clay at your local craft store or make the Coffee Clay recipe from the Stone Age blog entry. Give each child a 5”X5” piece of aluminum foil and a golf ball sized ball of clay. (The Coffee Clay recipe makes 4 pots.)
To make a pinch pot:
Set the ball of clay on the piece of aluminum foil.
Press your finger into the center of the clay; don’t press through the bottom.
Gently pinch the center and outside of the clay, turn and pinch, turn and pinch, all the way around to form your pot.
Press a design into the pot before baking, if you’d like.
Paint a design on the pot after baking, if you’d like.
Card Cloth Weaving
You’ll need a 5”X 8” piece of poster board, pencil, ruler, scissors, and 70” piece of twine or yarn. You’ll also need 7” long fibers to weave through your card loom: long grasses, ribbon, strips of fabric, yarn…
Turn the poster board so the short side is on top. Use the ruler and a pencil to draw a line, 1” from the top. Do the same to the bottom.
Now mark every half inch on the top and the bottom of the poster board.
Cut a slit from each half inch mark to the line you drew. (You’ll make 9—1” slits across the top and 9—1” slits across the bottom of the poster board.)
Tie a knot on one end of the long piece of twine. Slide the twine in the top left slit. Pull the twine through the slit until the knot is right behind the slit. Run the twine to the bottom left slit. Put it in the slit. Then behind the next slit. Then up through the next slit. Then back to the top, through the next slit, behind the card, through the next slit, and back down. Keep working the twine in this manner until you have looped the twine through every slit.
Now you have a card loom. You can weave a fiber over and under the vertical twine lines. Slide it to the bottom. Weave the next fiber under and over the vertical twine lines. Slide it to the bottom. Continue in this manner until you have woven a solid piece of cloth.
It was two weeks until the school year would begin. I was just out of college. In just two weeks, I would have a classroom filled with first graders. I carried a large box of homemade decorations from the main school building to the smaller elementary school building. Chickens were on either side of the sidewalk, pecking at grassy grains. I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder at my “Little House on the Prairie” school. But this was no prairie in the 1880s. It was a little town near the beach in the 1980s. The school was a family owned business. Most of the family members lived on the school grounds. Some of their children were students at the school. This was my first teaching job.
My empty classroom had 16 student desks, one teacher desk, a mostly empty bookshelf, and a giant chalkboard. As I taped, stapled, and strung decorations to the walls of the classroom, a friendly woman poked her head in the door. She introduced herself as the upper-elementary grades teacher, activities coordinator, and bus driver. She’d been at the school for ten years; since she got out of college. She liked my classroom decorations.
On the first day of school, I met my students in the main school building. Together, we walked to our new classroom. I had planned several “getting to know you” activities. But the kids didn’t need to get to know one another, all but one had been students at the school’s kindergarten. The first day went well. The kids were adorable!
In the first week, I realized that this group of first graders was very different from the kids in my student teaching internship. I was planning to teach them how to read. They already knew how. I had put together a math activity center for beginning math skills. They were beyond most of the activities. I had created a cool handwriting program. They gladly played along, but most already had good penmanship. The kindergarten teacher had taught them well. I had to adjust my game plan. It took some time to figure out activities to accompany their level of learning. Even the textbooks and workbooks were easy for most of these kids. But they were hard workers and good students.
There was no arts program at the school. I was the music teacher, art teacher, and P.E. coach. In my classroom, music was mostly singing and dancing. P.E. included exercise and competitive games. I knew a lot about art and artists. I often told an art related story before we did an art project. These kids, like most kids, loved information.
I still remember some of the wild conversations that transpired in that classroom. One of the most memorable was a discussion about a Weekly Reader story in which a young boy had been severely injured and needed a prosthetic device to replace his leg. It sparked a lot of imaginative dialog. One student posed a question, “If I accidentally lost my head while riding on my dad’s motorcycle and was only able to say hello with my hands and not my missing mouth, could I get a prosthetic head?” This prompted one of the girls to share a long winded tale about riding on a rollercoaster that derailed. In the story, several people in her family lost limbs as the rollercoaster took a wild journey through town. The next time her family went on a rollercoaster, they made sure it was correctly attached to the tracks. I smiled and said, “Wow, what an unbelievable adventure.” She frowned and replied, “It’s not unbelievable. It’s actually, totally, really true.”
I thought about my first year students as I was working on this V-POP card. The card was inspired by my love of Henri Matisse. I remember telling my students about his “Portrait of Madame Matisse,” also known as “Green Stripe.” I explained that the artist painted with bold, unusual colors. He used two different skin tones and painted a green stripe down the middle of his wife’s face. Back then, the art critics called the painting a monstrosity, and said it looked like it had been painted by a wild beast. That story inspired some pretty creative portraits which hung on the walls of my first first grade classroom.
Click here to get the template and instructions for the “V-POP CARD.” I hope you have fun making it with your creative crew.
The first time my artwork was on display was in first grade. The homework assignment was to make a collage of pictures that started with the letter h. The teacher stapled all of the collages to the bulletin board. Mine stood out like a giant pimple. All the other kids had cut pictures from magazines and glued them to the paper. I drew all of the pictures on my sheet of paper. The kids commented on it immediately, “That one is weird!” But the teacher said it was “unique.” Then a mean kid said that the pictures were supposed to start with h, but he could see a dinosaur and a spaceship on the weird collage. I quietly mumbled, “Horse and hamburger.” The mean kid went into fits of laughter, “No way!”
The second time my art was critiqued was on New Year’s Eve. I was maybe nine and my sister was about seven. I decided we would each draw a happy New Year poster with a Snoopy theme. The best one would win a prize. I hadn’t even considered what the prize would be. I was the older sister and I drew Snoopy all the time, mine would win. We worked on the posters for hours. Finally I hung them on the wall and asked my mom to judge them. She looked at the posters and said they were both fantastic. “No, you don’t understand. You have to say which one is the best.” “They’re both great!” “PICK ONE! YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE!!!” “Okay, Heather’s is the best.” It actually was.
I never considered myself an artist. Heather was definitely the one with that talent. But I always drew. I wrote comic strips and doodled on everything. Whenever a teacher would ask if there was an artist in the class who would design a poster or book cover there would always be a kid who’d say, “Ask Tracey. She’s an artist.” “No, I’m not.”
The first time I took an art class was in college. It was an introduction to sculpture. Because I had no art training, my projects were abstract and childlike. I hated evaluation days. The teacher would place a blank sheet of paper in front of each student’s artwork. He instructed the students to critique each project by writing a score from one to five followed by a few words. Man, they hated my work! “Is it a dinosaur or a spaceship?” After all the sculptures were scored by the students, the teacher stood in front of each one, looked at the student evaluations, then gave his personal evaluation. He held up my sculpture and said, “Why did this one get such a low score? I look around the room and see the same thing over and over. This one is creative, unique, interesting. Five!”
I decided to make art my minor. I signed up for every art class offered: glass blowing, painting, drawing, fibers, and pottery. I started to feel like maybe I could be an artist.
By my second year of college, I was really involved in the art scene. During spring break, my roommates went to New York. I stayed on campus and made art. I also went to an art museum with my sister, Heather. It was the first time I’d ever been to an art museum. When I saw the Gauguin painting with all of its oil paint texture, I instinctively reached out and touched it. Then a security guard reached out and touched me. “Don’t touch the paintings!!!” I could tell by the horrified look on my sister’s face that everyone knew this rule, but me. I made it through the rest of the museum without incident. And I was super excited to go back to college and make more art.
When my roommates returned from their trip, they blabbed on and on about all the great stuff they did in New York. I was having trouble listening because my ears were so jealous. Then they started talking about their trip to the Guggenheim. My ears wanted to know everything! They were telling about the Picasso exhibit. But they didn’t talk about color or composition. In fact, they were laughing so hard they could hardly talk at all. The adjectives they used to describe the cubist master’s work; ridiculous, stupid, hilarious. My ears began to steam! I’m pretty sure I yelled, “YOU GUYS ARE RIDICULOUS, STUPID, AND HILARIOUS!” Then I stormed out of the room. They were too busy laughing to notice.
The story I wrote for the Readerville Art Museum is based on my college experience as an artist-want-to-be. I am the box who loves art and pretends to understand it. My college roommates are the goofy horse and jack-in-the-box. I laugh and feel embarrassed every time I read it.
I wish I could take credit for inventing this art project, but I found the idea in a magazine when I was teaching first grade. I made it with my students every year. The kids loved working on this paper sculpture project. Click ABSTRACT ANT PLAYGROUND to get the instructions for this craftivity.