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All that jazz.

Colorful, rhythmic, bright, jumpy and bold were some of the words that my sixth grade students expressed after listening to jazz music and viewing Miriam Schapiro's painting, Master of Ceremonies (see SchoolArts, Looking/Learning, February, 1987).

Music and art became the motivation for a mixed media lesson that combined the elements of jazz music into a visual statement. Objectives included creating a rhythmic composition using both stylized figures in motion and decorative patterns. Complementary colors were used next to each other to create after-images that enlivened the jazz mood.

Jazz music was played for motivation at this point, as well as other times during the course of the project. The students began by taking various action poses which suggested figures dancing, playing a musical instrument or listening to jazz. A simple figure was drawn by each student on 6" x 9" (15 cm x 23 cm) oaktag and cut out to use as a pattern for the figures in the collage. The figure was traced onto three different types of paper: construction, high-gloss flint and wallpaper. Color choice was left to the individual but emphasis was placed on bright, bold, contrasting colors. These colors would determine the harmony in the finished composition. After cutting the figures from the different papers, both the positive and negative shapes were saved.

Setting the Stage

By drawing a margin on three sides of 12" x 18" (30 cm x 46 cm) oaktag the students created a stage. The paper figures and negative shapes were arranged inside the margins. Students were encouraged to make the figures dance across the paper by placing them at angles, cutting the figures in half and separating slightly. Some of the students exchanged one of their figures with a classmate's to show a variety of figures. To create balance and rhythm, the colors were to be repeated at least three times throughout the background in different places with forms of different sizes.

Once the forms were glued on, the tempera painting began. My sixth graders already had color theory lessons, so a quick review was all that was necessary to identify complementary colors. Using the colors of the various papers as a starting point, the students painted some of the areas of the background with the same colors or tints and shades of these colors. This process helped to unify the papers with the paint. As the lesson continued, other colors, particularly complementary ones, were mixed and added. All of the colors were repeated throughout the composition until the oaktag was completely painted.

Making the Figures Dance

At this point, the activity was put on pause and we discussed the Schapiro painting again. We looked at how the use of decorative patterns and costume details reinforced the theatrical quality of her work. We listed some ideas for our jazz figures on the blackboard. Methods on achieving decorative patterns through repetition, alternation and progression were presented formally.

Painting began again. The margins of the stage were enhanced with the use of decorative patterns. Faces, costumes and details appeared on the figures. The students became very excited as they saw their painting take on a new look. The music that they had been listening to suddenly began to take shape in their painting.

Once the paintings were finished and displayed in the artroom, the students' interest level remained high as they viewed each other's work. I decided to utilize this enthusiasm and continue the jazz theme. The students sculpted clay figures and painted them in bright colors. These entertainers added to the musical mood, especially when displayed in front of the paintings, creating a three-dimensional stage quality. The total effect was bright, bold, rhythmic and all that jazz!

Thais Wright teaches art at Agawam Middle School, Agawam, Massachusetts.
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Title Annotation:mixed-media art lesson
Author:Wright, Thais
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:626
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