Hopewell Culture copper tooling

28 Oct

The inspiration for this lesson comes from the Eastern Woodlands native Americans – who Mrs. Ware’s class has been learning about recently. Specifically the Hopewell culture. The Hopewell culture describes a group of related communities located in the Eastern Woodlands area. The most well known Hopewell site is located where the state of Ohio is today.

07_Hopewell-interaction-sphere-OAHopewellians were skilled artisans and crafters and had a trade network that spanned hundreds of miles to exchange goods they created with those of other tribes. They worked in materials such as mica (a flaky, clear mineral), human & animal bone and metals such as copper. These materials came from many different places as a result of their vast trade network.

11_dbb988a5b31258b4ec2d4f5f70161ff2Today we can see the evidence of these early people in the earthen mounds they built almost 2000 years ago. Scientists haven’t agreed on what purpose the mounds serve but some of the mounds were burial sites. They buried artifacts and treasures with the bodies in these mounds and many interesting things have been found.

This project is based on these copper artifacts.
{discuss} What is copper and how did they form it into these shapes??  (a naturally occurring reddish-orange metal found in the earth that is quite soft and can be worked by hand using tools and heat. The Hopewell people pounded the chunks they mined from the ground into flat sheets. Then they cut out shapes and carved designs into the surface.17_Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 3.50.29 AM

{discuss} how we use copper in our lives all the time – in water pipes, motors, batteries, electronics and cooking pots. And something we all carry in our pockets sometimes used to be made of copper – Pennies were 95% copper until 1983.  Why does some copper appear shiny and orange and other copper looks brownish and green? (patina – metal reacts with oxygen over time and creates a crust that protects the metal underneath) 23_hopewell-falcon-effigy-granger

Many of these Hopewell artifacts had similar motifs (recurring theme or design) ie – weeping eye, thunderbird, spider, serpent, mirrored symmetry. These motifs were things that were common or important in their lives and their culture so that’s what they chose to adorn their art.

Students will make their own copper artifacts using thin copper sheets and a stylus (like a pencil without lead). Copper is very soft so they will be able to draw on it to create a grooved design. Because this piece is flat and they aren’t adding colors to it they are creating interesting visuals with texture. Fill in areas with line patterns or motifs. Use motifs of the Hopewell culture or design you own.

photo (31)Students can “draw” on either side (or both!) to create your piece. Decide if they like the raised look or the indented look or maybe do both. Practice first in pencil in the notebook to layout design ideas. These copper sheets are expensive there is no extra if they want to start over. In order for this to work they must have a soft surface under your copper so do it on top of your notebook – NOT directly on your desk. {demo embossing technique – good video here} Press hard! Be careful of the edges of the metal – they can be sharp. When they turn them in have them indicate which side is the back and put a piece of tape with the student’s name on it.

Optional patina –  once completed students can decide if they like the look of shiny copper or if you like the old, weathered, greenish patina. Outside of class docents can treat select pieces to have the old patina look.

.004 copper tooling foil (cut into 6” squares) available at craft stores & online
wooden stylus (I used dowels, cut short and sharpened like pencils)
notebook (kids have them)
tape & marker for names
patina solution (optional) I used this one
clear coat lacquer spray

photo (33) (1)Patina process:
– I cleaned each piece with acetone and a scouring pad scrubbing in one direction only to clean the surface of any factory coating or fingerprints and to buff the surface to make the patina “stick” better.
– Rinse with water and dry thoroughly.
– Fill a flat, shallow plate with a small amount of solution and place the copper piece face down for about 5 minutes. Agitate slightly to make sure all of the front surface is touched by the solution. * note: solution becomes less potent after time and copper exposure. Use sparingly and refresh or replace solution every 5 pieces or so.
– Drain copper of excess solution drips and lay flat face up to develop. I left them for a whole day but the color starts to come up in minutes.
– Lightly brush each dry patina’d piece with a soft brush or dry soft cloth to remove any patina that is flaking off. Use a clean scouring pad to lightly scrape the surface to expose a little of the copper highlight on raised areas of the design.
– When pieces are free of dust spray them with a thin coat of clear lacquer to seal in the patina and let dry.

Note: Because the scouring of these pieces will make them flatter & smoother than any non-patina’d pieces you might want to burnish the shiny copper ones a bit. I used the side of a stylus to rub them flat just a bit.


Positive & Negative space

12 Nov

Today we are going to talk about positive & negative space in art, but first I’ll introduce you to the work of an artist named Maurits Cornelis Eschera01mc_escher003

He’s more well known by his initials:
MC Escher b. 1898 – d. 1972 Dutch Graphic Designer
as a child he actually *failed* second grade BUT he excelled at drawing but he was very interested in math and geometry in his art.

Here are a few famous examples of his work
a03drawing_hands a05_escher_reptiles
Almost looks like a photograph! He drew in a very realistic style.
RELATIVITY: Here it looks like gravity doesn’t matter! People move in all directions
REPTILES: He’s combined 2-D flat space of the drawing with 3-D life-like space all in one image
Escher’s drawings trick your eyes and you can study them for a long time trying to puzzle out how he drew it.

Other illustrations he did are called tessellations – and you can see a piece of one in this reptile drawing. Tessellations are like tiles, fitting into one another without gaps or overlap. There’s one very common form of tessellation that you are all probably familiar with – Puzzle pieces. Each piece fits together without leaving any empty space.

Let’s look at Escher’s tessellations:
a06x13 Bird Fish
What do you see?
The images changes based on what you focus on. Here you see birds in the red areas and fish in the light areas, but they fit together seamlessly.
And in this one you see dark horsemen facing to the right and light horsemen facing the left. Each one fits perfectly in the spaces around the others like puzzle pieces.

In these illustrations Escher is playing with the POSITIVE & NEGATIVE SPACE or figure-ground relationship in the images.

What does that mean?
(have students make a heart shape with their two hands – fingers curled, thumbs pointed down, two sides together)
Positive space is usually the main subject or shape in the image – the figure
in this example – your two hands
Negative space is the area around it – the backGROUND. Here we see a heart shape created in the negative space between our hands

Now, Escher’s work can be tricky… His tessellations use positive & negative space interchangeably so let’s look at some simpler examples of this.
This is a famous example of a figure-ground relationship called the Rubin Vase. What do you see?b01Rubin2 A vase… but look another way and see the outlines of the edges – the negative space – become the shape of two people facing each other. See how the contours of the vase shape look like faces?

(show vases of full figures)
Here is another example… a series of vase-like forms but look at the negative space around them and what do you see? Concentrate on the black shapes and you see 4 people standing.

Here are a few other fun examples of a figure/ground relationship with positive & negative space (show all and briefly discuss)

b05Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 11.59.10 PMb03feet

Now, positive and negative space doesn’t always look like tessellations or play tricks on your eyes like the vases. Often artists use the figure/ground relationship to:
suggest a story, contrast two different things, or as merely a design element.

c02x11ef8e4c211c59fa6207f8e4d1f6d287In our project today:
You will each create a series of images that show a figure/ground relationship with positive & negative space.
Like this: (show my example)
In a moment you will come get squares of colored paper – you may choose two colors.
With your scissors you will cut shapes from each of these squares
This creates a positive image (show cut square in two pieces) and a negative image, then we will glue them down on your black paper.
– positive on one side – negative on the other
– shapes are up to your imagination
When you’ve cut all your shapes and completed your grid it will look something like (docent example)

photo (23)imageDo one together
cut paper shape, glue two sides down facing each other – positive & negative
lined up straight – not wonky
should fit all 6 designs on black paper in grid formation
you may want to alternate colors

– black construction paper (9″x12″)
– 3″ squares of colorful construction paper
– glue sticks
– scissors
– pencils (for writing name and drawing shapes to cut)

Art Docent: Jen Clark
Room B-1, Grade 2, Mrs. Shimada
Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: positive & negative space, MC Escher

Edward Gorey – creepy stories and cross-hatching

29 Oct

With the spooky Halloween holiday coming up we are going to look at the art and stories of a man named Edward Gorey.
American artist born in Chicago in 1925 and died in 2000 at his home on Cape Cod, MA.Edward_Gorey_-_2a
Gorey wrote and illustrated more than 100 books (including some pop-ups, some very, very tiny…) all with signature drawing style of an often dark image made with the cross hatching technique.

Each of his illustrations is made with many, many pen & ink lines – he didn’t paint with a brush or fill in areas completely he only used a pen and created his art entirely out of tiny lines… a process that we will discuss more in a moment. The stories he wrote are quite different than books you might read- often a little weird or creepy or unusual – which is why we are learning about him at Halloween! But they were never super scary. In fact there are more likely to be kind of silly! He had a very dark sense of humor.

(read Doubtful Guest) – A mysterious, outdoor creature, dressed in sneakers and a scarf, appears on a winter night at a family’s Victorian home and never leaves again. End of story.

ASK: How is this book different than other stories you’ve read?

Some artists look at a person or object to draw it but Gorey drew from his imagination and that’s why his images are often so unusual – he wasn’t limited by drawing what his eyes saw… he drew whatever his mind could imagine! Not all his stories rhyme – some full of nonsense words and seem confusing to read – some books no words at all  – West Wing is one of those stories … story is all in reader/viewer’s mind and is different from person to person

images{flip thru West Wing}

We will make a book like west wing
– each student drawing a page
– Gorey’s book referred to a wing of a large house – setting & title of our book “The Suspicious School”

DEFINE: Value – the lightness or darkness of color
explain cross-hatch/demonstrate

bta_crosshatch_plane1 bta_crosshatch_plane2 bta_crosshatch_skull

Think of a scene that will leave people wondering what happened and use their imaginations to fill in the story.
Maybe a room with something curious in it… Close your eyes and use your imagination to invent a place to draw

– an open door/window
– something someone left in an empty room
– footprints or tracks in mud or snow
– something that looks out of place where it sits
– a tree or a field with something unexpected sitting in it
– open book on a table/desk
– a bicycle left someplace

** write on the back one sentence about the scene and YOUR NAME

– lightly sketch out scene in pencil before filling in with pen cross hatching
– remember to use criss crossing lines to make the values in your image
– we are NOT scribbling
– some lines will be short, some will be long
– further apart for light areas, close together for dark
 – consider where the light is coming from – a lamp? a window?
 – simple scene – not crowded
– details are in the textures of the lines
– fill whole square with your drawing – that’s why page is small!
photo (22)
Each student’s drawing became a page in our book. I copied and bound a book for each student and bound the originals for our hallway display along with a photocopied West Wing for comparison.

– white drawing paper cut to book page size
– fine-tipped permanent black pens
– newsprint for scratch paper

Art Docent: Jen Clark
Room B-1, Grade 2, Mrs. Shimada
Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: LINE, Cross-hatching, Edward Gorey

Suminagashi Monoprints – Marbling Paper

29 May

The best way to describe this lesson is to supply all the websites I used to lead this lesson.


Here they are:

I first found this website explaining the lesson in pretty simple terms and great photos:


Then I found this great video tutorial from Blick Art:

I had the kids watch this video of a marbling master in Japan:

You can download a printed lesson plan that is pretty detailed here:



The kids divided into groups of about 5-6 kids and rotated through the water tray to take their turns. A parent volunteer at each water tray. The inks were put in a round palette. You don’t need much ink at all. The kids that were waiting enjoyed watching their friends try different color combinations and tricks with moving the ink around the water surface.

I found that the paint brushes made with real natural materials worked better than synthetic bristle brushes.


Some tricks to move the ink is to blow gently on the surface or from the side to move the water. Or create “currents” in the water away from the ink. The currents move the ink in swirls.


A lot of the kids loved the project because they felt like there was no one way to do this type of art and that there was no way to “screw it up”.

: )


The kids made flat prints, cards and some made bookmarks.

Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie
Room#, Grade, Teacher: Rm. 9, 4th grade, Mrs. Choi
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: COLOR and PATTERN and MOVEMENT

Op Art – one-point perspective

14 Apr


What is Op Art?

Op art, also known as optical art, is a style of visual art that makes use of optical illusions.

“Optical art is a method of painting concerning the interaction between illusion and picture plane, between understanding and seeing.” Op art works are abstract. When the viewer looks at them, the impression is given of movement, hidden images, flashing and vibration, patterns, or alternatively, of swelling or warping.

Why do artists use perspective? 

Objects appear to get smaller as they recede into the background. To a viewer, an object actually shrinks by half in size each time the distance to it is doubled—something our eyes and brain use every day to decide where we are in relation to our surroundings.

There are three different types of perspective in art – geometric perspective, linear perspective, and aerial perspective.

Geometric perspective drawing is useful for architectural and mechanical drawings. In aerial perspective, the distant objects or spaces appear less sharp (or blurry) because of dust and water vapor in the air; as a result distant objects exhibit less contrast. Aerial perspective is particularly used in art involving landscapes. Linear perspective is common in art with buildings or other structures.


Op art, one-point perspective, concave, convex, complementary colors



  1. Draw a vanishing point in the center of your paper.
  2. Draw an even number of diagonal lines that radiate from the point to the edge of the paper.  Recommended number of lines:  14.  The lines do not have to be evenly spaced.
  3. Add 2 concave lines (curving away from the vanishing point) in one of the triangles.  In the next triangle, add two convex lines (curving toward the vanishing point).  Continue adding lines all the way around.  Add more than two in some places, to suit your design idea. Make sure space between lines (the white bands) are not too close together and not too close to the center vanishing point.
  4. The triangles have now become cones with the addition of the curved lines.  Choose two complementary markers to color the opposite cones, leaving the bands white.
  5. Choose two different complementary colored pencils to shade the bands, darker on the edges and lighter in the center.


Have the kids practice shading first with a colored pencil.
The kids should double-check that they have an even # of lines drawn. It is easy to mis-count the # of lines.
Use new or almost-new markers. They go through the color quickly.
Sometimes a child misses his/her pattern and colors the same color in the next “cone”, see below.


Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie
Room#, Grade, Teacher: Rm. 9, 4th grade, Mrs. Choi
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: LINE and COLOR and PATTERN

Symbolism – Mexican Huichol bead/yarn paintings

19 Mar
Tunuri and the Blue Deer

Tunuri and the Blue Deer

On a recent trip to Mexico we encountered the bead and yarn paintings of the Huichol. They live in the mountains of Mexico and have kept their traditional way of life for many generations. They still live the same way their great great grandparents did.

{read book: The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer: A Huichol Indian Story. Also discuss info on the “history” pages at the end}

show: photos of beaded art & yarn paintings
– briefly discuss methods, notice multi-colored patterns in the forms

The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer is a traditional Huichol story about a young child finding his path in life by connecting with the powers of nature – which are very important to the Huichol. The story tells of the experiences of young Tunuri, who becomes lost in the woods. He meets the magical Blue Deer who introduces Tunuri to who? Father Sun, Mother Earth, Brother Wind, Sister Water and Grandfather Fire while leading him back to his human family.

This story tells us about how the Huichol people relate to nature. How do we relate to nature?
Another thing we find in this story are *many* symbols. What is a symbol?

Huichol artist placing beads individually

Huichol artist placing beads individually

yarn painting

yarn painting

symbol: an image that represents something else – an idea or physical thing.

where do we encounter symbols?
– maps
– street signs (STOP, Hospital)
– uniforms – police, sports, super heroes

– stop sign (red octagon)
– tent drawing on a map means camping
– heart shape is symbol of love

What symbols did we see in Tunuri’s story? What do they mean?
– blue deer – messenger
– sun/rays – Father Sun who gives life and light
– lake – Sister Water
– cloud – Brother Wind
– garden/flowers – Mother Earth
– fire – Grandfather Fire who created everything, symbol of heat and strength

Each page is full of symbols – if there were no words would we be able to tell the basic story by looking at the symbols?

We are going to make “bead” paintings but instead of beads we are going to use stamps.  The Huichol artists individually place every bead in their creation so we are going to individually stamp each of our “beads” onto our paper.

Think of a symbol or scene you like from the book or from the images we looked at. Using the colors you have, create your own “bead” painting of a symbol.
**FILL THE WHOLE SQUARE WITH COLOR** Try not to leave any white
Place your “beads” carefully next to each other and not overlap
If you play Minecraft think of your drawing like you’re crafting it from blocks

one set per two students

one set per two students

 – pencils (preferably new and unsharpened)
– multi-colored ink stamp pads
– white paper

materials for the class

materials for the class

Write your name in pencil on the back

Using the eraser end of the pencil, *gently* tamp it into the colored ink (ONLY one color per pencil!!) and stamp it onto the paper to make your designs.

You can get 2-3 stamps on paper for each tamp on the ink pad

Start by making the main part of your image then fill in all the white with the time you have left.

if done early:
use scrap paper to make bookmarks using the same method but do any design you choose. If everyone finishes with time to spare we can share a few of our symbol “bead” paintings.IMG_6518 IMG_6524 IMG_6597

Saturated Colors – difference between light and bright colors

16 Mar

The art docent lesson today focused on further exploration of the creative possibilities of line, and we also talked about saturated or bright colors. We watched this video: https://vimeo.com/34698421

And then we did the same thing– using a piece of vellum with dots for eyes to find faces in the shapes that the children had drawn (the pictures attached are in-progress shots where you can see the dotted vellum).


After that, we looked at the color wheel and talked about the saturated tones of the rainbow that make up the basic color wheel, including some discussion about primary, secondary and tertiary colors, warm and cool tones, and the difference between “light” colors and “bright” colors.


Then the kids began to apply bright colors to their drawings.


Room 3, Kinder, Ms. Lepse
Docent: Heather Allen and Gala Bent
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: line and color