"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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Modigliani Style Portraits

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) was an Jewish/Italian figurative painter and sculptor who worked primarily in Paris, then the center of the avante garde at the beginning of the 20th century. Modigliani is almost the epitome of the 'tragic artist', in a way similar to Vincent Van Gogh. He lived a life of poverty which also involved alcoholism, drug abuse and tragic love affairs. His life of excess was ended by his death, at only 35, from tuberculosis. Modigliani died penniless and destitute—managing only one solo exhibition in his life and giving his work away in exchange for meals in restaurants or to ex-girlfriends. 
Today his paintings and sculptures sell for millions.

Here's a Modigliani I took a photo of at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris.

Amedeo Modigliani

"Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne", 1918

Modigliani's portraits are characterized by elongated forms and simple, almost mask-like faces.
For this project, Grade 8 students created tempera paintings in the style of Modigliani. I started off by showing them a slide show of Modigliani's portraits and we discussed the main characteristics, colours and style of his works. They started by drawing a stylized portrait lightly in pencil. They had to include an elongated face, stretched neck, and large, almond shaped eyes. The rest was up to them.
Students seem to quite enjoy this type of portrait drawing as it's not super realistic
so it allows for a looser interpretation of the facial proportions.

Then they painted these using tempera paint. I chose tempera (as opposed to acrylic) because it dries to such a nice matte, flat finish. I felt this would lend well to the somewhat sombre feel typical of Modigliani's work. As well, Modigliani's portraits often include a sketchy, soft black outline and I knew charcoal would be perfect for this step. Charcoal works on top of tempera brilliantly. The tempera has the perfect rough texture to 'hold' the dry, dusty charcoal.

charcoal pencils for the last step
While painting, students were encouraged to loosely mix and blend colours on the painting itself. They also needed to include some type of simple background. Once dry, students used a charcoal pencil to add outlines and definition, then gently blended these lines with their finger.

Here are some of the results:

Set Design: "Grimm's Tales"

Here are some backstage production photos from my Set Design Club. This was for the school play "Grimm's Tales". I collaborated with the Drama teacher and made some initial sketches of what she was looking for in terms of backdrops. Once the sketches were finalized, students projected them onto large, hinged wooden backdrops using an opaque projector. An old-skool projector is ideal as you can really, really enlarge a drawing.
So below you can see students are tracing the initial drawing.

Then they start painting. Here they are painting a large, open book. We used house paints.

Here's the finished 'book' backdrop.

Here's the dark forest scene for the Hansel & Gretel story. It looked much more effective with the lights out and spot-light on it...

Set Design: "Annie"

These are some set design photos from a school play for "Annie" we did a few years ago. My Set Design Club painted the backdrops and made some of the props. At this school, we had two sets of backdrops. They were essentially two huge 1/4" boards hinged together and placed on large caster wheels. They were definitely not the most stable of backdrops I have worked with! 
Very top-heavy and tippy....
We painted the board with house paint. Once dry, we stapled large pieces of burgandy fabric to the top.  These could be flipped over the boards to hide the painted scene when not in use.

Below, you can see students tracing the initial drawing onto the backdrop. We use the trusty old opaque projector to project the drawing. A digital projector will also work.

Once the drawing is complete, students start the painting process. 
We use cheap-o house paint- it's messy. Very messy. No matter how many drop cloths or newspapers you put down, paint drips seem to get everywhere!
Below is supposed to be a 1930's skyline of New York City.

Here's a scene from inside Daddy Warbuck's mansion.

And here's some scenes from the play itself.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shiny Ornament Drawing

This was a Grade 10 sketchbook assignment for the month of December. Students were asked to either draw a Christmas ornament or, alternatively (for those that don't celebrate Xmas), any shiny object. Students had to draw from life and try to capture the 3-D quality of the form as well as show
the shiny surface through accurate shading.

Essential tools, in my opinion, for realistic drawings are a 3B or 4B pencil, a blending stump (tortillon) and kneadable eraser. At the beginning of the year I demonstrate how to use all these tools and students are generally surprised and impressed by the results they can achieve.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kindergarten Gingerbread Men

This is a Christmas display I made using the gingerbread men painted by my Junior (4 years old) and Senior (5 years old) Kindergarten students. Beforehand, my teaching assistant (a wonderful Grade 12 student who gets volunteer hours helping me) pre-traced all the gingerbread men onto heavy brown 9x12" construction paper.

I started off by reading the cute story "The Gingerbread Man". Then, the Kinders were given a small paint brush and white tempera paint and simply painted away. When working with the Kinders, I try to pre-distribute the paint into empty baby food jar lids and then refill as necessary during class. Then I dump them all into a bucket of water in the sink and clean them after school.

I demonstrated first how to slowly and carefully outline the gingerbread man with the white paint. Then they cut and glued on bits of paper for extra embellishments. Kindergartens can be a handful to work with at the beginning of the year, but once you get them into a routine, they are loads of fun because they are happy with any project and always fearless when trying new things! When you ask Kindergarteners how many of them are artists, they will generally all raise their hands- sadly, that number diminishes as you go up the grades.
Great work Kinders!
UPDATE: I had a question about my border mini-posters: "Christmas Around the World".
You can download them free (downloads as a Microsoft Word doc) from this website:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Candy Cane Still Life Drawings

This was a still life observational drawing assignment my Grade 9 and 10 students did a couple years ago. The goal was to try and draw a realistic, 3-D looking candy cane directly from observation using oil pastels. I bought boxes of assorted colours of candy canes, so there would be a variety of results. For some reason students always seem to fight over certain ones, though ;) Students definitely rushed through this assignment as they wanted to eat the candy cane after! That was, actually, the only question I had for this assignment: not what they would be graded on, not when it was due, but could they eat the candy cane after!
Typical teenagers!

First they drew the basic form onto smooth white paper. I demonstrated on my sample how to blend and add shading to create form on a candy cane. Stripe by stripe, they added colour to the outer edges and used a white oil pastel to blend it all together in the middle. Students practiced first in their sketchbook to get a hang of the technique and get used to blending with the somewhat messy oil pastels. We went through alot of white pastels with this project- I always order extra separate boxes of white and black oil pastels as we go through them quickly throughout the year.
For the good copy, they didn't need to worry about smudges outside of the candy cane,
as we cut them out in the end.

I found this interesting video about how candy canes are made by hand- it's quite fascinating and
appeals to the sculptor in me!

Once finished, the candy canes were cut out and glued onto another sheet of
background paper which students decorated however they wanted (collage, rubber stamps, glitter, etc.)

Here are some Grade 9,10 results:
Ta da!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rudolph at the Window Collage

This is a cute collage project that makes me laugh everytime I see the final results. These were made by Grade 1 students. It's a good project for reinforcing cutting and pasting skills as well as reviewing shapes (circle, rectangle, triangle).
I was inspired by this project here on Artsonia by R.E. Thompson Intermediate School
Instead of a drawing, we made ours using cut paper/collage.

Materials you need:
  • blue paper for the background
  • brown construction paper
  • brown construction paper cut into long strips (ours were about 1.5 inches wide or so. I pre-cut these using a paper cutter to save time)
  • circles to trace (a variety of plastic lids work well)
  • glue sticks, pencils, scissors
  • coloured paper scraps (red, black, green, white, etc)
  • red paper for mounting (optional)

So have kids trace and cut out a large circle for the head on a sheet of brown paper. I save lids from various plastic containers to use as circle tracers. They come in so handy and we use them alot. From there, they cut out a variety of lengths of brown paper from the strips to create the neck, two front legs and finally the antlers. Glue these onto the blue paper using a glue stick. To make the hoofs, take two squares of black paper and cut them in half to make two triangle shapes. Glue these on top of the legs.

Freehand draw or trace using smaller lids (some of my students used lids from baby food jars), and then cut out two white eyes and a big red nose. Students can add further paper embellishments such as holly leaves, a collar, bells, etc.
They can also draw on additional details (ie: a watch, eyebrows, nostrils, etc. lol!)
with a black marker. 
The expressions on these are priceless- with their tiny pupils they
all look insane or completely wired! ha!ha!
I mounted these on slightly larger red paper.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

This is a reposting of a Gingerbread House project Grade 7 students created last December.
They made these out of construction paper, glitter and tempera paint.
First, they looked at photo examples of gingerbread houses for inspiration and I also brought in a real one. This year I bought a fake gingerbread house made out of polymer
clay simply to have an example far less fragile.

polymer clay Gingerbread House

History of Gingerbread Houses

 The first gingerbread houses were made in Germany. Children’s story writer, the Brothers Grimm, made them famous in the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel". The story featured a gingerbread house, which was called "Hexenhäuschen"(Witch House). Gingerbread is traced to Europe back to the 11th century. Crusaders returning from the Middle East brought back, among other items, a spice -- ginger. Soon after, different varieties of gingerbread appeared throughout Western Europe. Gingerbread is known in Germany as lebkuchen and in France as pain d'épices. 

So students started off by planning their ideas in their sketchbook.

Then, on purple or blue construction paper, they painted
a snowy background with tempera paint.

Create falling snow by dipping the end of a paintbrush into paint and dotting it on.

While the background paper is drying, start the gingerbread house. Use brown construction paper, cut out the basic shape and then draw on details with a pencil.

Finished drawing.

Start painting on details with tempera paint. Once everything is dry, students can add further details/outlines with coloured pencils. They also added glitter for an extra wintery sparkle.

Ta da!!



On display with the Grade 6 snowglobe project which you can see here.

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