My four elementary studio classes have spent the last 3 weeks completing a beautiful horse project, and learning a lot of art techniques along the way. We began by learning about contemporary horse sculpture artist Deborah Butterfield and practicing horse sketches in our sketchbooks. Then we created clay horse reliefs, which are sculptures that are flat on the backside. We learned "scratch and attach" techniques to make the clay stronger and painted the clay after it dried. We looked up a horse color chart so students could pick anything from Appaloosa to Buckskin to Dapple Gray, and a few students even painted their horses "fantasy" colors!
The second stage of this project was painting a background on canvas with acrylic paints. We looked at the beautiful landscape art of 20th century Iowa artist Grant Wood, studied how to give a landscape a sense of space by winding a road through hills and valleys and fading the colors in the distance. Some students added pumpkin patches, corn fields, barns, and other rural items. We limited the color palette to create a cohesive painting and practiced using different paint brush sizes to create the strokes we needed. Students decided if they wanted to outline their piece in sharpie when finished, and then we glued on the horses.
Built into every lesson naturally are opportunities to problem solve. What if the paint drips, what if the clay breaks, how do you mix the color you want, what do you do if you finish early, how do you clean up, what if another student accidentally knocks your horse off the table and it break into a million pieces (thank goodness I had a spare!) I love this aspect of teaching...of letting the kids try first to figure things out on their own or ask a neighbor.
I see strong community beginning to form in each class, which is something we desperately need in these trying times. My online students created this same project and did a spectacular job, but I have to say I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach in person, with masks, distancing (mostly) and sanitizer, of course!