Tree Mania

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I decided to do a tree project because I was sick of seeing a typical trees being drawn with a poof on top. I think winter trees are really beautiful especially when there is a good sunset behind them. I did this with 2nd grade.

We did a lot of sketching, looking at paintings and photograph of trees and concentrating on the branches. They tried to make their trees as close to the images they were copying from as possible. They previously prepared their rainbow background paper, and only painted their black silhouetted trees when absolutely ready after practicing on white paper first. We added snow last.

Since we did this towards the end of the winter I continued right into spring trees. We made tints of colors by adding white; they chose any color they wanted. We used brown instead of black, and replaced the snow with different colored flowers or leaves. They loved their spring versus winter trees.

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While on the subject of trees I went into the most famous tree of all, Klimt’s Tree of Life. We discussed how we were trying to paint our spring and winter trees to be realistic. Looking at Klimt’s tree how was it different? They were even able to come up with some interesting meanings for why the branches were spiraled and what the black bird represented (death).

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I taught them how to draw and paint spirals too. I was observed for this, my formal actually, and I wish I could say it went well but it was not an easy period. It was with one of my more challenging classes that I never, ever had a problem with. I’m not saying I let them do whatever they wanted, but I didn’t make them do the typical lets sit down and have a rigorous discussion for an eternity, because they would fight if they weren’t happy. This class did the best work, because they had so much time to actually paint and draw (you know art class stuff, kids are now WRITING in gym class, GYM class, whatever other blog) … needless to say they wanted to get into painting and not sit there and have a conceptual discussion on why we are painting spirals.

In the end their own trees of life were amazing. Since it was their imaginary tree they were allowed to use any color they wanted, not the typical lets me a Klimt tree out of gold paint because it is such a good excuse to use gold paint. Gold paint is expensive.

We added a collage element to the trees using colored construction paper to add in all the fun shapes like Klimt’s tree and a ominous black bird.

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Kandinsky Color Theory

We all see Kandinsky inspired art in like every single art teaching book. I decided to use Kandinsky as a way to finalize our color theory unit. Students learned how to paint a color wheel, how to mix primary into secondary, what the complementary colors are, what the warm and cool colors are the order of the rainbow. These were all mini lessons leading up to this.

After all the mini lessons we reviewed by playing the color game, where I give them stripes of all 6 colors and you ask questions like what is the opposite of blue and they quietly raise the orange strip. Students can lead this game at their tables or with the whole class. Put the strips in rainbow order, wave the warm colors, wave the secondary colors. You can see who remembers and who will need extra attention.

I show them the Kandinsky circles and we talk about color feelings and choices. They know a lot about color and they know about what feelings a color can portray from the warm/cool lesson.

This whole painting is planned on a worksheet. I give them a handout with 6 boxes and on top it reminds them all the color combinations. They have to color in with markers/crayons/colored pencils their entire project before they get to paint on big paper. 4 out of the 6 boxes have to be a pattern of one of these: primary colors, secondary colors, complementary colors, rainbow order, warm or cool colors. The 5th and 6th box are free color order, and students usually just pick from the list.

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Once their planning sheet is filled we practice painting in rings on a smaller paper to gain confidence before they head over to the big paper. I tape their planning paper to the back so they can refer to it and follow their plan.

If they mess up explain the beauty of painting that we can always wait for it to dry and paint over it! To keep my sanity I previously pour out paint into cups and keep 1 brush per cup and a water cup with extra brushes. They know not to mess with the colors and always make sure their brush is super clean before switching colors. Tickle the bottom of the water bucket, wipe the excess water on the edge of the bucket, dab it on paper. Tickle, tickle, tickle, wipe wipe wipe, dab, dab dab. They like that.