I am a big fan of using found objects in my art classes. It’s a great way to “recycle” and use up small craft supplies that have shown up in the art room. My found-object faces came about as a solution for using up donated supplies and from a desire to show students that portraits don’t always have to look realistic to be artistic!
This project requires two or three 40-minute periods, and the essential questions related to it are: What can art be made of? What makes an image a portrait? And, how can artists reduce, rese and recycle through their work?
On the first day, students used tempera to paint colorful lines and shapes on donated paperboard, which was pre-cut into 8″ x 10″ pieces. The children were told that their painted boards would serve as backgrounds for their found-object faces, and the facial features would be glued on in the next class period.
Before the students arrived for day two, I organized all the objects and set them up on a table. There were bottle caps, twigs, buttons, toothpicks, pompons, pipe cleaners, scrap paper, yarn, and numerous small, random objects. (I had previously asked teachers for donations of “junk,” explaining the difference between junk and trash.)
I began the class by showing some of artist Hanoch Piven’s artwork, examples of which can be viewed on his website, www.pivenworld.com/hanoch-piven-illustrations. Viewing his illustrations helped the children see how random objects can take on new roles to make up a face.
After viewing and discussing examples of Piven’s artworks, students went through the line “buffet style” to select their first round of
materials. Back at their tables, they moved the found-object facial features around on their painted backgrounds until they were happy with their arrangements.
I have found that regular school glue will hold most objects if allowed to sit undisturbed until dry, so we used it to attach most of the objects/facial features. Some materials such as pipe cleaners or pompons, however, required something stronger, so I ran a hot glue gun station and the children could come to me for assistance.
Some of the students finished in two class periods, while others required three. For everyone, it is nice to have a third day built in for finishing touches and to re-glue anything that has fallen off any faces.
This lesson Is a big hit with students every time, and one of my favorites to teach. I enjoy the experimental and playful attitudes that students take on with this project. I’ve taught this lesson to kindergarten and first grade, but it could easily be adapted to a number of grade levels.
Older students could be challenged to find objects that fit a theme or personality of a person they are representing. Another possibility would be to create a digital image of a new “whole,” composed from photos of objects. And, the lesson could be extended by reading one of Hanoch Piven’s books, like My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil, or by using the “Faces iMake” app on smart device.
Elementary students will …
• engage in exploration and imaginative play with materials.
• through experimentation, build skills in various media and approaches to art making.
• explore uses of materials and tools to create works of art.
• repurpose objects to make something new.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Paperboard or cardboard
• Tempera paint and brushes
• Liquid school glue, hot glue gun
• Miscellaneous small found objects, such as bottle caps, buttons, cotton swabs, fabric scraps, feathers, graphite or colored-pencil nubs, pipe cleaners, pompons, sequins, sticks, tissue paper, toothpicks, yarn, etc.)
Katie Morris is a pre-K through 12th-grade art teacher with Jackson Heights USD 335 in Holten, Kansas. Visit her blog at www.katiemorrisart.com
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