Balance. That’s what this project is all about. Old and new. Right and left. Choice and guidance. Speaking and listening. You get the idea.
The inspiration for this project is the work of Mexican artist Miguel Mejía (aka “Neuzz”). Miguel’s visual vocabulary of bold lines, strong contrast and pattern stands out in a variety of mediums. His influences include traditional Mexican masks and the legends that his grandfather told to him while growing up in Mexico City.
To introduce my second-graders to contour line, pattern and symmetry I share still images of Miguel’s work, as well as a short video of him creating a mural in Atlanta (youtu.be/Q3HBp0YiGe4). While sharing these images, we begin to discuss how he uses outlines to define his shapes and how he sometimes creates symmetry by matching one side of his designs with the other.
After watching the video, students try on symmetry by following along with me as we create a jaguar inspired by one of Miguel’s illustrations. Then they create one of their own next to it. This step allows them to apply their new grasp of symmetry in a design of their own creation. I ask that students include facial features of some sort, but otherwise, it is wide open.
At this point, I ask students to identify which one of their sketches they like better and to share their reasoning with a neighbor. I encourage them to use a “because” statement to support their choice. Like any other step, I model this for them, so they can use the language of art to express their thoughts.
Students move on to a larger sheet of paper and redraw their chosen designs. They trace their pencil lines with a wide Sharpie® and I ask them to use both thick and thin lines. I model how they can make both of these line types with large, chisel-tip Sharpies.
Students can add color with two colors only. I demonstrate how they can create a wider range of color variety even though they can only use two colors, by pressing hard in places and soft in others.
The final step is to draw a contour line border around their face and cut that line. This adds an element of contrast between the face and background color. They choose a colored piece of paper to frame their drawing and glue it together.
Once their drawings are finished, the second-graders complete a written exit slip about the project. I model how this works and go over the questions orally, so they understand what I’m asking them for.
To wrap this activity up, students partner present one of their responses at their table. This element gets them not only thinking and writing about their work, but encourages speaking and listening skills in the art room as well.
This project was a big hit with my students. They dug the style of Miguel’s work, getting to create their own designs, and talking about their work. They really loved the talking part.
Elementary students will …
• use contour line, pattern and symmetry in a design of their own.
• create different color intensities by pressing hard or soft with color sticks.
• choose background papers to complement and frame their drawings.
• think, write and talk about their art.
• use listening skills as classmates talk about their work.
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.
• Sketch paper, white construction paper, assorted colored construction papers
• Scissors, glue sticks
• Graphite pencils, color sticks, large chisel-tip Sharpie® markers
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Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Don Masse, is a K–5 visual arts teacher at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy in San Diego, California.
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