"A Faithful Attempt" is designed to showcase a variety of K-12 art lessons, the work of my art students, as well as other art-related topics. Projects shown are my take on other art teacher's lessons, lessons found in books or else designed by myself.
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LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I acknowledge, with deep respect, that I am gathered on Treaty 7 territory. I acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit whose footsteps have marked these lands for generations. I respect the histories, languages and cultures all the Indigenous peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our community.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Norval Morrisseau Style X-Ray Paintings

Norval Morrisseau, (1932 – 2007), also known as Copper Thunderbird, was an Indigenous Canadian artist from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation. Known as the "Picasso of the North", Morrisseau created works depicting the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between native Canadian and European traditions, his existential struggles, and his deep spirituality and mysticism. His style is characterized by thick black outlines and bright colors. He founded the Woodlands School of Canadian art and was a prominent member of the “Indian Group of Seven”.

Here are a couple of videos I show my students. 
I love the confident and fearless way Morrisseau worked!


Morrisseau “reveals” the souls of humans and animals through his unique “x-ray” style of imaging: Sinewy black “spirit” lines emanate, surround, and link the figures. Skeletal elements and internal organs are visible within the figures’ delineated segments.

I start off this lesson by showing Grade 6 students examples of his artwork. We discuss the subject matter, use of colour and line. We then discuss the symbolism used. 

Some examples of symbols in Morrisseau's work:
Circle - The circles in Morrisseau's work tell us about the life cycle, the sun, the moon and directions (North, South, East, West). 
Energy Lines - You can see them extending from the hand or the body of a figure. Sometimes they are connected ... sometimes they are alone or isolated.
Eyes - Large eyes that see all can be found in Morrisseau's work. These eyes are a symbol of a shaman or medicine man.
X-Ray - This is a style attributed to Morrisseau. The X-Ray technique shows the interior as well as the exterior of a figure. The various parts of a body for example are expressed with different colors and lines. 

 Have your students choose a subject for their painting - a fish, a bird, a turtle, etc. You could have them choose animals native to your local region. Students then sketch the outline of their subject on their paper. Next, students should think about the interior of their subject - the energy and emotion inside. Students can then draw lines (using ink, crayons, oil sticks, oil pastels etc), colors (using paint, oil pastels, cut up paper etc.) and shapes inside the subject ... the more the better. Let imagination take over as the paper is filled with paint. 

*You can also try this lesson using crayons, markers or pencil crayons instead of paint.

"Family of Birds", Norval Morrisseau  

Because of time constraints, we made our versions using dark brown tempera paint. Morriseau did some black and white paintings, so I showed these as well. 
Next year I will try full on colour versions. 


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