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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 Paper Lanterns

26 Jan

January Lesson for Room 10 & 8

Happy New Year!  This month in Room 10 & 8 we talked about the Chinese New Year;  The year of the Dragon.  We discussed one of the traditional ways of celebrating – Chinese Lanterns!- and celebrated by  making some of our own!


  • To learn about the history of Chinese Lanterns and how their symbolism relates to the Chinese New Year.
  • To study and learn Chinese Characters, their meanings, and how to write them using different line types.
  • To create a Paper Chinese lantern with original student artwork including at least two Chinese characters.

We started the lesson by discussing the history of the Chinese lantern.  The Chinese have been using lanterns since 250 BC to celebrate special events.  Each year, on the Lunar New Year, Chinese celebrate with a lantern festival, hanging hundreds of lanterns in the streets in hopes of seeing the spirits of loved ones.

Students then studied the Top 10 Lucky Chinese Symbols, looked at pictures of dragons and thought about other images that were important to them.  After sketching their designs out in pencil,  students painted their designs on red construction paper using diluted speedball ink and bamboo brushes.  After the ink dried, students crafted the lanterns and embellished them with glitter and yarn.

Here is a link for the Top 10 lucky symbols:

Here is a link for folding, cutting & pasting the lanterns into shape:

While students were waiting for the ink to dry, we filled the time with Chinese new year mazes, puzzles and coloring pages.  I found them at:

Art docents then hung the lanterns from the ceiling outside Room 10 and Room 8  just in time for Loyal Heights own New Year Parade!


12 x 18 red construction paper

bamboo brushes (but any brush will work)

speedball ink diluted with water (you could also use watercolor)

water cups

yellow/gold yarn


hole puncher

Comments: Bamboo brushes paint thick lines.  Encourage students to sketch their Chinese characters and other images large so that they are easy to paint.

Art Docent: Kimberly Albert, Britt Sutherland

October Line Lesson and Printmaking – 2nd Grade

11 Oct

ROOM 8                 ART LESSON 1       Tues, Oct 11th, 2011




  • To review the Elements of Art.
  • To discuss and practice drawing the 5 line types
  • To apply the knowledge of line (using all 5 line types), to create a design for print.

This year we will occasionally be using the Art Connections Books.  These books are an excellent resource for learning the Art Elements and Principles and are full of a rich variety of artist profiles and illustrations from all Art Mediums.

We started with an Art Review from Art Connections of “What is Art” and had the students name the Art Elements from what they could read in the book.  We also covered the Element of Line and the 5 line types (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curved, zigzag)

 After practicing line types on paper, the student’s created a “pumpkin” design using what they had learned, and pressed it into a Styrofoam plate.  We then applied ink to the Styrofoam with a brayer and transferred the design to paper. Voila!  The pumpkins came to life!  Everyone was thrilled with the results, and other than a few inky fingertips, the lesson was a success!  Great Job Room 8!


Styrofoam plates


speedball ink



Art Docents:

Kimberly Albert

Brit Sutherland