Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers is a monthly roundup of advice and wisdom
from fellow art teachers, put together by the intrepid Glenda Lubiner.
Painting and Composition
“The painter will produce pictures of little merit if he takes the works of others as his standard.” — Leonardo da Vinci
Many of us have already had spring break and now it is time to refocus and regenerate for the last few months of the school year. This month the focus is on painting and composition—so let’s get started!
No Mess, No Stress While painting, Fred Mintert from Carthage (Mo.) Junior High, always has one of his sinks filled with soapy water and a dish rack. The water is just above the bottom of the dish rack. Students drag paint-filled brushes across the metal grill and 90 percent of the paint is gone! This is a quick and easy cleanup for his students. Bob Ross used this technique and inspired my classroom solution.
We go Together like PB&J Painting and composition really do go together. When there is poor composition, the painting most likely will not be as successful as it could be. One thing that Tinteretto did was to make a maquette before painting. He would construct a miniature version of his painting that allowed him to rearrange the elements until there was balance and harmony within. If you do not want to actually construct the maquette, you can draw sketches, cut them out and rearrange them on a two-dimensional surface.
Composition Connection It is so important to start teaching your students in elementary school what the elements of art are, and how they are to be used to create a good composition. I am fortunate to have a handful of students that I’ve taught from kindergarten until eighth grade, even though I have worked in two different schools during this time.
My middle-school students truly understand the meaning of good composition in a drawing and a painting. They know that positioning of elements is essential and they can quote the rule of thirds. Knowing that a painting should have a focal point has also helped them to learn not to put the elements in a row or to stack them. They finally understand that it is okay to use an odd number of elements in their work. I have seen tremendous growth in their work over the past few years.
The Viewfinder: It’s a Wonderful Thing Viewfinders really help students learn to isolate elements and see more clearly. They can also help students with placement of their elements. I use old plastic slide holders, but if you do not have access to these, they can be made with mat board, tag board, or even paper.
Got Value? Value is as important as any other element of art. One thing that has worked for me is to explain to my students what value is and show them how they can use it in a more productive way.
A few months ago, after discussing value, I demonstrated high and low value, and showed students different examples. But, it doesn’t always sink in! One student created a beautiful painting but, as the hour progressed, kept adding more light values, then more dark. There were no mid-values in his painting.
Before class the next day, I photocopied his and a few of his classmate’s paintings, and hung them on my board. The plan was to have a class critique. Before class started, however, several students had gathered at the board and started critiquing on their own. They loved the idea that I photocopied the paintings because, after looking at them in black and white, a wonderful “Aha” moment occurred.
United We Stand Try to teach your students that all the elements in the painting need to feel and look like they belong together. There are several ways to create unity in a painting. Have your students look at the balance and movement in their painting. They might want to change a painting from symmetrical to asymmetrical, or vice versa. Color can also add unity to a painting. Adding a glaze of a color over the entire painting can pull it all together. Areas can be touched up to add highlights or shadows.
Happy Birthday Maurice de Vlaminck (Apr. 4, 1876), Raphael (Apr. 6, 1483), Robert Delaunay (Apr. 12, 1885), Leonardo da Vinci (Apr. 15, 1452), and Elizabeth Catlett (Apr. 15, 1915). Be sure to check out this month’s Study Print, Robert Delaunay’s Rythme n°1, on the flip-side of this page.
A big thank you to Fred for his wonderful tip.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.
If you would like to share some of your teaching tips, email them to: [email protected]