Saturday, December 8, 2012

chagall-inspired drawings

Here is a fun and easy drawing activity that requires practically no prep and which encourages students to get outside the box and unleash some fanciful creativity. The drawing part is done with a Sharpie or a black crayon on white drawing or construction paper.

I usually do this lesson with third or fourth grade students, and occasionally with second grade. It begins with a "looking at art" discussion of work by Marc Chagall. I always use I and the Village and another painting for this part. I have students tell me what they notice; I chart the responses that are "objective" ("I see the Eiffel Tower") and talk about the responses that are "subjective" ("It's weird.") I also ask for words that describe Chagall's work, and here again there is the objective vs. subjective issue. "Fanciful" works, while "weird" does not. "Creative" works while "pretty" does not. At some point, I introduce the words surreal and surrealist with a rudimentary definition: not realistic, but with real things.

The "art-making" part requires some listening, as students draw what they are asked to draw, one item at a time, while also occasionally reorienting their paper. For example, I usually start with directions to draw the profile of a face at the edge of the paper. I reference the green face in Chagall's I and the Village so they know what a profile is. When that's done, I ask them to turn their paper in a different direction and draw any kind of animal, but make part of the animal go "off the paper"... and again, I reference "I and the Village" and show how the horse's head is the only part of the horse that shows.

I continue to give directions for drawing, one item at a time, always turning the paper after each drawing. They are asked to draw things like a person, another person a different size, three buildings, some trees, a house, a road, mountains, a bird, another animal inside one of the drawings, a shape (circle, triangle, etc) "behind" the other drawings, etc. I generally make this up as I go along, using Chagall's work as my own reference for ideas. As I observe their drawing process, I will make suggestions to overlap drawings, watch how they use their space, to draw in the largest empty area, etc., to help them learn to use positive and negative space.

When the drawings are complex and dense, I stop (there will always be a few students whose drawings are very small no matter what I say, so their papers will have a lot of white space. Oh well) and ask them to color in most of the picture however they want, and to leave some parts white. I suggest that they do some shading, and insist that they use bright colors. Over time, I have learned to ban black, brown, and gray for this assignment. Just because. I do have them look at the colors that Chagall used, and see how bright they are.

When their compositions are complete, they are mounted on black construction paper and students write about their work using the title "My Surreal Art" .... because thinking about their own art work is just as important as talking about someone else's!

This Marc Chagall lesson is one of three art lessons included in Abstract Art For Kids, available for purchase at my TeacherPayTeachers store. The lesson bundle also includes a math-connected drawing activity inspired by Wasily Kandinsky, and a collage activity inspired by Henri Matisse.



Olinda Paul said...

I love Marc Chagall, this is pretty much how much I paint. I want to be in your art classes.

Renee said...

hahaha Olinda. Come on up!