December 10, 2011

Phyl's Fauves

First thank you for everyone who responded to my last neighbor post all two of you he he he. I am excited to share their sites. But first I am REALLY excited about some of the work going on in the art room.

A little while back Phyl from There's A Dragon In My Art Room posted a wonderful lessons about LES FAUVES. As soon as I saw it, I knew I would be referring to it later.

So my, 5th graders kept wanting to "learn to draw." "Mrs. Stinz teach me to draw." So we've been learning to draw in a variety of ways. I am hoping one of the techniques will appeal to each of them. This is our final drawing project before we turn to 3D art. We took two dimensional pictures and learned to find the shapes and their relationship to create a drawing (the easiest way to create an image by far!) 

For this project a group of 5th graders researched endangered species. We decided to use Big Cats as our theme. The 5th grade girls came at the end of the day and printed out tons of pictures of Big Cats that appealed to them and shared them with the class. They also shared what they learned about endangered species. Each student in their class picked a picture that they like best. Now, the hard part, DRAWING our Big Cat. I showed the students how to find the largest shape (most were circles or ovals.) We made a map of all the simple shapes circle for the head, triangle for the nose etc. Some even drew right on their picture. Next we sketched in the details. We transferred the drawings onto final paper. 

The next class we looked at the work of Matisse, a famous Fauvist painter. Les Fauves literally means "wild beast" and it was not meant as a compliment. We looked at the work and many students were disgusted with the color and wild brushstrokes. "He rushed. He's not a very good artist," were just some comments. Interesting! That is exactly what the critics were saying at the time. I shared with them some of the quotes of art critics from the time. Horrible, nasty things were said about Matisse and his work. How would you feel if things like this were said about you or your work? We know for a fact these comments really bothered Matisse (and I didn't tell them that he did suffer from some severe depressions.) 

Some questions relating to Matisse. 
Why did the critics despise his painting style so much? 
Think of a time that you tried to do something that you'd never done before. How did it feel to do something new? 
Were people around you supportive? Did you continue? 
Is it important to try new things why or why not? 

WARNING BLOGGING DETOUR: As an adult artist, what strikes me most was how Matisse continued his search for meaning and feeling in his subject despite the negativity. He continued to change styles in search of a learning and seeing the world in a new way. That to me is the mark of a true artist. Matisse didn't try to hold fast to any style and was a true student of life. As Ghandi states, “Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.” From what I can tell from reading about Matisse, he was not holding steadfast to any dogmas or prescriptive theories of art. All too often we get to know an artist for a certain style when in fact there are many facets that make that artist who they are. I always think of Picasso, he is famous for cubism, but he was a potter, influenced by surrealism, african art, neo classic style, the list goes on. Too often we try to fit artists in a box to better explain and sell them. 

I gave the students "free reign" to use non representational color (basically crazy color!) like the Fauves. 

This student picked out this "Lady with the Green Stripe" Matisse painting as inspiration and ran with it.
Don't you just love Snow Leopard with a Green Stripe!
 I love little surprises like this.

Beginning to put together our BIG CATS, BIG COLOR display.



Anonymous said...

My favorite one is the green one waving! Too funny! Were you an Art History major? Your depth of knowledge about Matisse is impressive and I doubt that I could pull a quote from Ghandi out of my toolbox! You go girl!

Unknown said...

:) No. . . photo major. I didn't even think I taught them anything about Matisse! Just that he went through tough times too. . . something we can all relate to.

I like to learn about famous people and things they've overcome in their life. It's kind of a hobby I guess.

The Ghandi thing is something that I'm studying in my Grad class right now and that quote is my fav. It makes me feel less schizofrenic (SP?) when I change my mind all the time!

Katie Morris said...

Sometimes I wish blogger had a "like" button. This is great, I love the discussion on Matisse and the end result.

Phyl said...

Matisse has been my favorite artist for as long as I can remember, though I don't think he was an easy person to LIKE. Just my gut feeling.

I always love when I show the kids Matisse and Picasso and make them realize that despite what looks rough or crazy, or is hard for the kids to understand, both men had absolutely MAD drawing skills to start with. Pure talent. Big difference than when I look at van Gogh (even after teaching him so many times over the years). I think van Gogh is very accessible and easy to teach, and his story is a memorable one to share, but honestly, despite all his extreme efforts and passion, I don't think he ever had that innate magical drawing ability that Picasso and Matisse both had. There's a certain crudeness, heaviness that I just don't respond to. Just my opinion, I know.

Anyhow - I love the way you presented this fauve lesson. Often other bloggers take lessons they see and just repeat them, but it's really cool to find a lesson that I blogged about given a totally different 'spin', made YOURS and no longer mine. It's obvious your kids were really into it. I like all of the work but I must say, the first one is my favorite.

Thanks for the shout-out Erica, but honestly, you made this lesson your own.

Meanwhile, I posted about borrowing YOUR Alphabet Soup lesson!

Unknown said...

Thanks guys!

Interesting Phyl. I think I should have some of the artists realistic drawing work available when I teach work like this so at the end I can maybe show the other side. They can draw but this style was their choice. It might make the kids buy in a little more to the fact that artists choose these styles not that they are not skilled are lack ability. We get it but it would help them I think respect them more.

Phyl said...

Good point. I'm still thinking about this so came back to add some thoughts about talent and skill. I think it especially helps to show kids the earlier drawings when teaching Jackson Pollock or Mondrian, or Kandinsky (as well as Matisse and Picasso). Look! These men can DRAW!!!! They didn't NEED to splat paint on a canvas or just make stripes and rectangles. It was their artistic CHOICE.

I sometimes wonder with artists that get famous nowadays with a gimmick (Rizzi - even though I'm teaching him now and he's lots of fun; Keith Haring; etc.) Do these men (why are all my examples today men?) have the skill to do a realistic drawing?

I think this is especially interesting since, at least in my area, it seems the high school art programs are focusing on technical drawing skill, rendering, over creative expression. Some high school shows that I've seen in the past couple of years really upset me - there's been a lack of lively color (or ANY color for that matter) and technical perfection with very little expressiveness.