The fourth-grade students at Loesche Elementary School were engaged in a lively discussion about modes of transportation and their function and purpose. The conversation led to their exciting observations of the many visually intriguing trucks that the children have seen on the local streets and highways. They collaboratively concluded that trucks can be large, moveable backdrops for art!
The children described seeing trash trucks with art from the project “Design in Motion—The Recycling Truck Project,” sponsored by Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. This project completely wrapped an entire fleet of recycling trucks with art, turning this once dirty vehicle into something surprisingly beautiful!
There was more talk about sightings of produce trucks with colorful paintings of large fruits and vegetables, ice cream trucks with giant ice cream cones on top, and stories about trucks with everything from comical cows to flashy clothing. The ideas kept flowing, just like the flow of trucks throughout the neighborhoods, with the varied imagery on the sides and even on the tops! Students’ amazement grew as they realized that trucks are an empty canvas for art, and art can be seen everywhere, not just in a museum.
We researched trucks online and discovered many spectacular images on them—delightful donuts, crazy cupcakes, super salads, monster motorcycles, and so much more! Some we saw had gigantic cookies on them, while an exterminator truck had a giant insect sculpture riding on the top of it!
During the research, students came upon the “Truck Art Project” that took place in Spain in 2016. For this project, contemporary artists used the sides of trucks as gigantic canvases, making art that was not inside the confines of a museum or gallery, but out in the everyday world. The opportunities for creating artful trucks seemed endless, and the students could hardly wait to get started.
TO ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT thinking, the students were involved in deciding what materials to use for the artful trucks. After discussing markers, pastels and colored pencils, they decided on crayon resist, which would provide the colors and textures needed for making the “art on the go” trucks.
The waxy feature of the crayons would “resist” the watercolor, allowing for overlaying of different colors in order to create new combinations. For example, one student discovered that she could paint yellow over red crayon, and the hue took on a unique shade of orange. Another tried painting with blue on top of orange, and was amazed at the vibrancy of this combination of complementary colors!
The students first drew their trucks in pencil using simple geometric shapes to create a basic truck shape with wheels. Then, they let their imaginations loose as they made many different kinds of trucks in a variety of shapes and sizes, with varying amounts of wheels. There were trucks hauling motorcycles, and trucks selling donuts! There were several ice cream trucks, and some were for games or animals.
Creative backgrounds were added and included urban skylines with tall buildings in many architectural styles. Some students drew rolling country hills with sunny skies or snow-capped mountains.
ONCE THEIR PENCIL DRAWINGS WERE COMPLETE, the students became busy with color, using crayons. We discussed the amount of pressure needed to apply the crayon to achieve the right balance for the later application of watercolors on top of the crayon. Pressure that was too light didn’t seem to be enough color, and pressure that was too heavy would resist the watercolors too much. It was decided that medium pressure was just right, allowing the right amount of color and specks of white from the paper to show through, which the watercolor would pick up.
The drawings of the trucks were so beautifully colored with crayon that the students briefly hesitated adding the watercolors! But, they couldn’t resist painting with watercolors and experimenting with the crayons and paints, so they confidently wet their brushes and started using the paints!
STUDENTS WERE TAUGHT ABOUT warm and cool colors, and when to change their water in order to keep the colors true. If their water was green, blue, or purple, and they wanted to use yellow, they knew they had to change the water first, or the yellow would not be a bright pure yellow, and may even look gray or brown.
We also talked about experimenting with colors, using surprising combinations, because the waxy color underneath could still be seen. The color and textures were so varied and vibrant, and the trucks took on surprising new looks as the students eagerly painted.
Once the crayon-resist paintings were completed, they were placed in a drying rack to dry. The students all marveled at the results of the finished product. The truck art was hung on display in the school hallways, and everyone in the school was inspired by the children’s work.
Several of the creative and colorful trucks became part of an art exhibit at a local Barnes & Noble bookstore! The students truly loved their fanciful trucks, and the bold idea that trucks could truly be “Art on the Go”!
Fourth-grade students will …
• explore the variety of modes of transportation and their purposes.
• learn about the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s efforts to beautify life in the city, including art on trucks.
• learn that trucks can be works of art that are accessible and visible in everyday life.
• experiment with crayons and watercolors, in order to create a mixed-media product
• create a variety of color combinations with new and exciting textures.
• develop drawing skills when drawing the basic form of a truck, and a setting where the truck is travelling.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• PRESENTING: Analyzing, interpreting, and selecting artistic work for presentation. Developing and refining artistic work for presentation.
• CONNECTING: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
• 12″ x 18″ white drawing paper
• Pencils, crayons
• Watercolors, brushes, cups, water
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Megan Giampietro teaches art at Loesche Elementary School in Philadelphia.
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