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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

Chinese Brush Painting: Bamboo

10 Mar


The study of specialized brush stroke techniques.

The students learned a few traditional Chinese brush strokes. They first practiced how to hold the bamboo brush, then how to keep their fingers light on the brush, with the brush at times vertical to the paper, their elbows off the desks. Many kids stood to make it easier to stay light on the brush.

The kids practiced and practiced a simple up/down/up brush stroke to create what was the leaves on the bamboo stalk. They first used newsprint, then practiced more on rice paper. The students observed that different pressure of the brush on the paper created different results. The black paint on the rice paper created another element of observation, as the paint spread much easier on this paper.


The second stroke they practiced was the broad “stalk” stroke. They laid their brushes on the side and gently and lightly, moved the brush upwards towards the top of the paper creating segments of bamboo stalks. Too much pressure made the stalks too thick, and too little paint made the strokes too faint. The students continued to practice their strokes until they got the concept and brush movement.



After much practice, the kids created their painting following steps to create bamboo stalks and leaves on rice paper.


  • Brush Stroke
  • Density


  • Black Watercolor
  • Rice Paper
  • Bamboo brush

2nd grade, Ms. Schroder, Room B3
Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie

Wayne Thiebaud – color & multimedia art

16 Jan

cupcake1 cupcake2

(born November 15, 1920) Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter whose most famous works are of cakes, pastries, boots, toilets, toys and lipsticks.

While he was with the Navy, Thiebaud spent time in New York (on leave) and began painting the pastries and other “American” food that he would become known for. He was very interested in creating realistic paintings and he did this by using thick paint in exaggerated colors. When he painted cakes, for example, he applied the paint like a baker would spread frosting. The food in his paintings looks real enough to eat.



Multimedia artists are contemporary artists who use a wide range of media to communicate their art. Multimedia art includes, by definition, more than one medium, therefore multimedia artists use visual art in combination with sound art, moving images and other media. Multimedia artwork also frequently engages senses other than sight, such as hearing, touch, or smell.


What dessert would you draw? And why?

How would your frosting look? Any bright colors?

Beginning of lesson…

(names on front of paper in pencil) Students will arrange the tissue paper scraps on their paper, then brush the vinegar/water mixture over the scraps until they are wet and transferring the color to the paper. Volunteers will remove the tissue paper and let the pieces dry. Make compound/paint mixture at this point. Discussion time, then continue with the lesson.

cupcake4 cupcake3


12” x 8” watercolor paper

Tissue Paper scraps

Mixture of distilled vinegar and water

Paint brushes to brush vinegar/water mixture

Colored paper for cupcake “liners”

Wall compound (powdered form #90) mixed with tempra paint (4 colors) and water

Micro beads and sequins for on top cupcake

Black oil pastels for texture on cupcake liner

Popsicle sticks

Scissors & Glue sticks

Paper plates to mix wall compound

Paper to cover desks


  • Choose colored paper and cut two cupcake liner shapes, rounding edges. And glue to paper leaving space for “frosting”.
  • Draw black lines on the cupcake liners
  • Choose “frosting” color and spread with popsicle stick.
  • Embellish with beads and sequins.
  • Let dry overnight.

2nd grade, Ms. Schroder, Room B3
Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: Texture/Color/Wayne Thiebaud
Print used: various paintings of his desserts

Pattern, Texture and Storytelling – Faith Ringgold

17 Nov


Pattern, Texture and Storytelling
Faith Ringgold (1930- )
Print used: Tar Beach

Faith Ringgold was born and raised in Harlem,New York. She was greatly influenced by the fabric she worked with at home with her mother, who was a fashion designer, and has used fabric in many of her artworks. She is especially well known for her painted “story quilts” which blur the line between “art” and “craft” by combining painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling. Her finished pieces are actual quilts. No paper. No painting. And are displayed in many museums across the country.

“Tar Beach” is one of her many “story quilts”. Read “Tar Beach” book.

Ask students to think about the sentence, “I would like to fly over… because…”

Pattern and Texture


When answering the question above, what is it about that place or image that makes you want to be there or explore it from above?

What would it look like? Does it have vibrant colors, sparkling lights? Is it bigger than you imagined?


Explain lesson and show example.

Like Faith, use fabric scraps to create a patterned border around your paper.

Use fabrics that inspire and enhance your drawing.

Write your sentence at the bottom, then your drawing above with YOU flying in the air!


14” x 14” square white paper with border lightly drawn
Fabric scraps, cut in 2″ strips
Pencil and fine-point Sharpie for writing sentence
Colored pencils & Glue sticks


  • Write name NICELY in pencil on back.
  • Choose fabric scraps and cut them into squares about 2” x 2”.
  • Glue your border of fabric scraps with glue stick
  • Draw with pencil your drawing AND sentence.
  • Make sure your sentence is complete and written nicely and not TOO BIG.
  • Double-check to make sure it is written correctly, then trace over with a Sharpie, write your name near the sentence
  • Make sure to include YOU in the picture flying.
  • Color in with colored pencil


2nd grade, Ms. Schroder, Room B3
Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: Faith Ringgold


Book Art

6 Nov




this BOOK ART video:

In this lesson we talked about BOOK ART and looked at some examples by artist RYAN COLEMAN. We used cotton balls instead of paint brushes for our background. We used an old book found at the Thrift store. We focused on Line and Space.

Art Docent: Debi Boyette
Lesson Title: Book Art
Room#, Grade, Teacher: B4, Mrs. Vaagsland
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: LINE and SPACE

Warm and Cool Colors

26 Oct


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This lesson was about warm colors and cool colors. Identifying them. Creating a pattern with them. Looking at artists that use both warm and cool colors in the same painting (Klee, Kandinsky, Jacob Lawrence). And what effect that has on the painting. We talked about primary colors and a simple addition problem (1 + 1= 2). One primary color + one primary color = a secondary color.

We used watercolor pencils for this lesson. Color with pencil…apply water… and presto! It becomes like watercolors! The kids liked watching the transformation.

Here’s the lesson:

Review color theory and the color wheel. Talk about primary and secondary colors. Discuss complimentary colors or color opposites and how those combinations are always the result of a pairing of one primary color with a secondary color.

Complimentary colors are made up of a warm color and a cool color and how they sit across from each other on the color wheel.

Red (a warm primary color) is the compliment (opposite) of Green (a cool secondary color)
Blue (a cool primary color) is the compliment (opposite) of Orange (a warm secondary color)
Yellow (a warm primary color) is the compliment (opposite) of Purple (a cool secondary color)

A primary color + a primary color equals a secondary color.  1+1=2


Fold cardstock in half one direction and then in half again in the other direction so that you end up with four boxes.

Draw diagonal lines in one box, starting in the middle and radiating outward. Lines should not be any closer than a finger width apart.

Repeat on the remaining three boxes so that all the lines would match up at the folds.

Add colors in an alternating pattern of warm and cool. Starting with the center box (4 triangles). Make sure each triangle alternates warm/cool.

Color is added in such a way as that the warm cool pattern continues both from the center to the sides of each color.

Once all the color was added we use Q-tips to add water and blend.

Art Docents:

Marcie Guthrie and Gala Bent
2nd grade, Room B3, Ms. Schroder
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: color