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Mastering the masters with markers on acetate.

Helping students appreciate masters of art and remember different important works of art can be a daunting task. To help my students remember, I had them work with important works of art, drawing them on acetate.

Acetate is an exciting surface to draw and colorize on. The medium is a slight variation from paper or canvas, and gives fourth- through sixth-graders incentive to learn more art history. And, I know this process works because my students truly have remembered facts about those we have studied.

WE BEGAN BY STUDYING a number of great artists and their colorful, exciting artwork: Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Grant Wood, Jackson Pollock, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Georgia O'Keeffe were some of those we enjoyed.

We hit the highlights of their lives and the styles in which they worked. We looked at examples of their work and the way in which they applied the art elements--especially how they used color and how it had an effect on the viewer.

Students had questions about why certain artists used different styles, and we became involved in interesting discussions about the art elements in relationship to the artists' works.

WHEN LOOKING AT GRANT WOOD'S WORKS, the kids were interested to learn he hailed from our very own state of Iowa. He was known as a regional painter who chose to paint the people and places in his own part of the country. Although Wood traveled outside of Iowa and studied in Paris, he thought there was plenty to paint in his own area--small towns, farmland and Midwestern people.

In American Gothic, Wood painted a couple posed in front of a house in Eldon, Iowa. The pattern in the woman's dress is repeated in the curtains in the house's windows. The shape of pitchfork is repeated in the man's overalls. The two people that posed for the painting were Grant's dentist and his sister, Nan. They are supposed to be a farmer and his unmarried daughter, but many people mistake them for a husband and wife. The students liked learning about the story behind the painting and thought the hidden repetitions in the work were fascinating.

The painting, American Gothic was first exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, and received a prize of $300, and it remains one of the more famous paintings in American art history. Many students chose Grant Wood as the artist they wanted to study further and drew his works on acetate.

Grant Wood's Farm is a great example of regionalism, with its portrayal of the Iowa countryside. He used a unique way of shaping trees like lollipops, and made the rolling hills soft and flowing.

One of the artist's self-portraits, which the students used to study on acetate was done in 1932. It is a "tame-looking" self-portrait which the students "jazzed up" with brighter colors when they reproduced it.

PICASSO IS ANOTHER recognized and well-remembered artist. One of the founders of Cubism, students enjoyed learning about that particular art movement. The figure in his painting, Bust of a Woman, is fractured into shapes and colors, hallmarks of Cubism.

His self-portrait from 1907 is mask-like and appears to have been influenced by African art, with which Picasso had a fascination. Students had fun with this work when producing it on acetate. They particularly enjoyed focusing on the facial features and coloring them so they stood out and away from the skin color.

Many artists can be studied in this way. We looked at each and the style in which he or she worked. Then, the students sought out information about their backgrounds on the Internet, in textbooks and in art resource books.

STUDENTS CONCENTRATED on a particular artist and artwork that fascinated them. Each obtained a copy of the artist's work to use as a reference when drawing it on a piece of white paper.

When the work was sufficiently drawn, a piece of acetate was laid over it and then traced onto the acetate with permanent black marker. With the drawing traced, the acetate was then flipped over and, using permanent markers, colored in the artwork on the back side. (The work is colored on the opposite side than the black because permanent marker erases itself on acetate.)

As the students worked they could be heard discussing the different works of art they have chosen, and the color choices they are using. I do not ask the students to completely replicate the work, as far as color choices and exactness. My goal was for students to recognize and know some facts about as many master artists as possible--their lives, their work, and their styles.

After using a rubric to assess the learning that took place, I found that, without doubt, this way of studying the masters of art really worked!


Middle school students will ...

* develop a knowledge of the history of art, its origin and contribution to the culture of man as one form of expression and communication.

* utilize artistic theory, language and techniques in their own creative works and trace these elements in the works of previous artists.

* make reasoned aesthetic judgments about the significance and quality of works of art.

* develop a positive self-image enabling him to evaluate objectively and respect his own and the art work of others.

* acquire an awareness of good design and craftsmanship.

* expand his knowledge of the contribution art makes to all facets of his life.

* develop an openness to the variety of art forms and styles.


* CREATING: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.

* PRESENTING: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.

* CONNECTING: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.


* Same-sized drawing paper and acetate

* Pencils, permanent markers

* Access to Internet, textbooks and art books

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Retired after 31 years of teaching, Karen Skophammer was an art instructor for the Manson Northwest Webster Schools in Barnum and Manson, Iowa.
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Author:Skophammer, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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