Emily Carr’s work has garnered a lot of interest over the last decade, and her work continues its upward trajectory with a London, England, showing in 2015. It is her unique style that I used to inspire my eighth-grade art class as we examined line, shape and movement.
I chose oil pastels for this project, with an open offer to students who really wanted to work in acrylics to do so. All chose pastels, however, after experimenting with paints in their art journals. (They had just completed a different painting task, so that might have added a desire to use a different medium.) I encourage you to consider acrylics, oils, or watercolors, depending on availability and interests.
We reviewed Emily Carr’s works on our smart board, and students perused websites with her work on their tablets. I encouraged them to take ideas from two or three different paintings, then put them together in their own versions of the artist’s works. They sketched these in their journals, adding color notations with colored- pencil or oil-pastel samples.
Once this step was done, there was one more thing to try and test in their journals: I wanted them to experiment with layering oil pastels, as well as smudging and blending them to achieve desired effects.
Students did light pencil sketches on 11″ x 17″ paper, with only the most basic lines (no details or shading, as pastels do not always hide pencil lines). They layered and blended the pastels, working carefully to avoid smudges where crisp edges were desired.
I encouraged them to rest their hands on scrap paper, rather than on their pastel drawings’ colored parts, and advised them to be careful not to drag these scrap pieces across finished areas or place dark-colored scraps on top of lighter ones. Oil pastels are great and easy to control, but they never dry like paints, so smudges were a concern.
The students’ final artworks were signed and framed. When they were displayed in our school hallway, there were only positive comments and praise from those who viewed the student work inspired by one of Canada’s best artists—Emily Carr.
Middle-school students will …
• demonstrate line and form.
• ensure final work demonstrates movement and flow.
• demonstrate control of oil pastels.
• manipulate pastels to include both lines and blends.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
• 11″ x 17″ art paper (or butcher paper, which Emily Carr sometimes used)
• Oil pastels
• Pencils, colored pencils
• Optional: acrylic paints, watercolor paints, or oil paints
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Gary Kohl teaches sixth- through eighth-grade art, as well as eighth-grade drama, English and media, at Unionville Montessori School in Ontario, Canada.
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