Printer Friendly

Student success with abstract art.

As a high-school art teacher who creates lessons to appeal to all skill levels and to all types of students, I have found that most students feel comfortable and confident producing abstract art.

An abstract art project can be challenging or not, depending on the objectives the teacher sets up. Most of my classes are an introductory high-school course for three-dimensional art, which is a required elective to graduate. Therefore, I teach gifted and talented students, regular education students, special-education students and severely handicapped or behavior-challenged students. An abstract sculpture is the perfect opportunity for all students to succeed.

As an introduction, I define abstract art and explain to students that many artists begin with a very complex subject and then break it down into shapes, colors, lines, etc. I give students some examples of famous artists who have created abstract sculpture to give them a reference point. Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is an artist the students enjoy learning about since he produced very playful sculptures, especially early in his career. Obus (1972), one of Calder's stabiles, is one I routinely show students because pieces of the sculpture intersect with one another. This is a primary component of the students' abstract sculpture assignment.

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) also sculpted abstract forms, often organic. I point out to students that Noguchi often copied forms from or was inspired by nature. This, in turn, serves as a resource for those students who have trouble coming up with ideas for their own abstract sculpture. Other artists ! mention include Henry Moore (1898-1986), especially Recumbent Figure, Jean Arp (1886-1996) and Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973).

After students have some background and resources to pull from, we start discussing the objectives and steps of the assignment. The abstract sculpture is made using papier-mache. Before the students begin, I set a size requirement of 10 inches and a minimum number of three pieces to the sculpture.

The students first draw out a plan. Then they construct a cardboard armature using pieces of reinforced cardboard (I use the boxes our clay is shipped to us in). Students attach the pieces of cardboard together by cutting slits in some pieces so they easily slide onto other pieces. Using a hot-glue gun, students glue these seams to secure the connection.

In addition, narrow strips of cardboard that support heavier pieces will probably need extra support themselves, otherwise they will collapse from the added weight of wet newspaper. I suggest using wooden craft sticks. Later, students can papier-mache over them.


Next, we papier-mache the cardboard armature using three layers of torn newspaper and glue paste. It is wise to apply only one layer of papier-mache during a class period or it won't dry flat and evenly. A blow dryer may also be used to expedite the process. Afterwards, students use gesso to cover the newsprint.

Following a lesson on color theory, I ask the students to paint each piece of their sculpture in an analogous color scheme. From experience, I have noticed that students create magnificent sculptures, but turn them into something much less with mismatching colors. Instead, I ask the students to choose neighboring colors on the color wheel and a pattern painted with other colors used in the sculpture for added interest. This allows the sculpture to have unity and harmony.

Some students have a hard time understanding why an analogous color scheme is better than a bunch of colors thrown together. I use the analogy of wearing an outfit with too many colors or patterns. This definitely helps the students to understand.


For students who have disabilities, the teacher can decrease the number of pieces required for the sculpture. For gifted and talented students, the teacher can increase the number of pieces for the project and ask the students to paint different values of each color they use.

Most of my beginning high-school students have experience using papier-mache in elementary or middle school, so they already feel comfortable and confident with this medium. This student comfort level allows the teacher to introduce new concepts such as abstract art, color theory, harmony and pattern. In all, the abstract papier-mache project is a success for all students, and is a versatile project easily manipulated to suit the classroom of any art teacher.



High-school students will ...

* understand abstract art.

* study the color wheel.

* mix and blend colors of paint.

* identify artists who have created abstract sculptures.

* understand the media and method of papier-mache.

* apply understanding of analogous colors to create unity.

* generate patterns and use them as points of interest.

* Paper and pencil
* Cardboard
* Craft knives
* Scissors
* Gesso
* Hot-glue gun
 and sticks
* Paintbrushes
* Acrylic paints

Kristine Hamidou is a high-school art teacher teaching sculpture and ceramics in Rowlett, Texas.
COPYRIGHT 2009 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:art education
Author:Hamidou, Kristine
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
Previous Article:Chihuly-inspired balloon sculptures.
Next Article:Out of the box.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2015 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters