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At the heart of abstraction.

I wrote the words "Warp! Mutate! Morph!" large on the chalkboard. The seventh graders began enthusiastically describing the terms. "Morphing is what a caterpillar does when it changes form into a butterfly." "Like when things melt or change shape." "Starting as one thing and mutating into another." I had them! Then I wrote one more word large on the chalkboard--"Abstract!"

Again, the students began describing the word. "Strange. Unreal. Weird." We discussed the term in relation to the visual arts and looked at examples of nonrepresentational images. Students began to describe the colors, shapes, lines, and textures they saw and the mood those elements evoked. We discussed if art should always "look pretty" and why it is acceptable to not like a painting or sculpture but learn to appreciate the process and artist.

Abstraction has long been a concept difficult to define for students. Students often feel the pressure of making their artwork "look real" and frustration can often lead to burnout in the classroom. This lesson alleviated much of that pressure as students created an abstract acrylic painting using the heart shape as our jumping-off point.

Challlenging a Stereotype

When the theme of hearts was first presented, students immediately had stereotypical visions of lacy Valentine's Day hearts of pink and red. The girls moaned. The boys cringed. I cut out a typical heart shape from paper and began cutting away pieces, tearing sections, and gluing added paper shapes to the once pretty heart. Students began to see beyond the original image into how the heart could mutate. I then did a similar heart abstraction drawing on paper, adding elements, textures, and color. I steered away from typical reds and pinks. The rounded edges blurred and changed form, the hearts barely resembling their original form at all.

Preliminary Drawings

Students drew six to eight heart abstraction drawings, and then chose the three or four they liked best. These drawings were then redrawn on 9 x 12" (23 x 30.5 cm) drawing paper. Students added color with colored pencil, considering the color scheme that would best evoke their mood. They now had plans for their finished painting.

Painting with Acrylic

I provided mat board for the students to work on. I also allowed students the option to purchase a canvas and bring it to school if they preferred. I was amazed at the level of excitement this opportunity provided and the canvases began rolling in.

We used acrylic paint (though tempera would also work well on mat board). I provided only the primary colors and white and black, which required that students learn to mix colors and consider value. I demonstrated how to use washes as well as opaque layers of paint and emphasized brush technique. Many students chose to apply thick impasto layers then use a sgraffito technique to draw into the wet paint, revealing the colors below.

The results were vibrant and stunning! Though many of the hearts are unrecognizable, the paintings are alive with color, movement, and texture. Students were able to grasp the concept of abstraction and have a successful painting experience with new media. The moans and groans of having to do a heart painting were replaced with "oohs" and "aahs" over our abstract masterpieces.

NATIONAL STANDARD

Students use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

WEB LINK

www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/ dine_jim.html

Nancy Berdit is an art teacher at Bernard C. Campbell Middle School in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Nancy.berdit@leesummitt. k12.mo.us
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Title Annotation:Middle School Studio Lesson
Author:Berdit, Nancy
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Words:594
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