Children love the challenge and process of creating “something” from “nothing.” Therefore, at a recent class, I set the art tables with just newspapers, small pieces of scrap cardboard, and black acrylic paint. These simple materials grabbed the attention of my groups of 5- through 11-year-olds.
When I explained to the kids that we would be making mixed-media collages of cityscapes, with fireworks, they became even more enthused. “But Miss Mary, it’s not the Fourth of July!” chimed in one of my informed students. So, I reminded the children that New Year’s Eve was coming up soon, and Disneyland has a fireworks show every night—which they can hear, by the way, even though “The Magic Kingdom” is over 15 miles away.
My students excitedly began creating their basic building outlines by dipping the edges of their cardboard pieces, into black paint and making prints on their halved sheets of newspaper. We looked at a few examples of cityscape silhouettes and talked about different building shapes, to inspire our creations.
I encouraged them to use as much of the width of their paper as possible, to fit the width of our 18-inch collages. Once finished, their work was put up to dry, and we moved to creating our painted fireworks shows on black construction paper.
I demonstrated simple ways of making exploding fireworks, using a small brush and acrylic paint. I encouraged the children to use the majority of their paper and make a colorful show. A final flicking of paint, using a paintbrush and index finger, created a dramatic finish. One student really went to town, during this phase, creating a very “Jackson Pollock–style” fireworks show. We put our finished pieces up to dry and went back to our now-dry newspaper cities. The children painted their buildings with watercolors, which allowed the printed words and pictures to be visible, which created another layer of visual interest.
The young artists continued to build upon their work. To add windows to their skyscrapers, the children dipped the backs of old pencils into brightly colored acrylics. Since the theme of this class was “Unique Materials Art Fun,” I also offered square stamps that I created by hot-gluing square foam pieces to the ends of dried-up markers.
Further personalizing their cities, the children glued company logos, cut from magazines, to several of their buildings. Their cityscape collages came together on large sheets of poster board, which I had pre-cut to fit the width of their 12″ x 18″ black construction paper. Fireworks shows were glued on first, followed by their cut-out cityscapes.
Since this art project certainly didn’t fall into the “less is more category,” several inches of board remained at the bottom. It was just enough room to locate our cities on the water. The children created reflections of the light from their windows or fireworks using oil pastels. They accomplished this by making strokes of horizontal lines, or by using the same technique they used while creating the fireworks they painted earlier. A final wash of blue watercolor would reveal their resist work.
The children thoroughly enjoyed putting their own creative spin on their individual pieces. Some had very definite ideas about color schemes for their cities and fireworks, while others opted to use every color in the rainbow.
I like to inject an extra sense of play into some of my art lessons, keeping things loose and lively. So, I explained that the objective of this lesson was not to create a realistic city, but rather, an expressive one, using their own creativity and imagination.
This mixed-media project certainly involves a variety of fun and tactile art techniques. Additionally, these fantasy cityscapes allow each artist to work at their own level, perfect for my multi-age classes. Variables, such as project size, could be changed to make this lesson even more conducive to larger groups. Also, since this project is broken down into stages, it would work very well as a multi-week art lesson.
Elementary students will …
• learn, understand and implement the term “collage.”
• learn and understand and implement the process of printing
• make use of mixed media and different drawing and painting techniques to enhance artwork.
• arrange all artistic elements to create a balanced composition.
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.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Scraps of cardboard, old pencils or materials for creating circle or square stamps
• Sheets of newspaper, cut or ripped in half
• Cardboard, black construction paper
• Company logos cut from magazines
• Scissors and glue
• Oil pastels, watercolors, acrylic paints
Mary Bosley has a background in fine arts and graphic design, and teaches private children’s art classes in Orange County, Calif.
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