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Rug-tail critters.

Art can be made from some of the strangest materials--Styrofoam packing bits, yogurt cups, margarine containers, stockings and old silk ties. Often donations of scrap materials from parents and fellow faculty members supply the school artroom with unusual discards that soon be come imaginative artworks.

On one occasion, our school was given a carton of rug samples from a parent who was in the upholstery and carpet business. The pieces of carpeting were used by a class of first graders to create imaginary or realistic animals with colorful rug-tails.

The students were given sheets of 18" x 24" (46 cm x 61 cm) white drawing paper and encouraged to fill the page with the outline of an animal or creature of their choosing. We discussed the postures of the animals first: sitting or standing pets, begging ones, animals hanging from trees or hiding their heads. We also talked about expressions for the faces of their creations: sad animals or sleepy ones, wild or tame, hungry or happy ones. One child composed a picture portraying a wintry polar scene with a clawed bear in the mountains. To its back she glued a stubby cream-colored tail cut from a rug sample.

The students were encouraged to use color to its full potential and design their pets with stripes, zig-zags and a combination of geometric shapes and patterns. Emily made a multi-colored dog with a pink rug tail, resting against triangular wallpaper and wearing a blue bowtie. Some chose to decorate their animals more realistically, using crayons to imitate the look of fur and matching the color of their rug tails.

With magic markers, oil pastels and crayons, the first graders used one art session to fill in the outline of their pets. A second class period was devoted to designing the backgrounds, and applying a finishing touch by adding wiggly eyes, purchased at a crafts store. A geometric monkey with a brown rug-tail banging from a branch was created by a first grade boy who thoughtfully included fingers and toes on his cheerful, playful creature.

The children enjoyed this multimedia approach to art, as well as the new exploration of a favorite subject: animals and pets. Our use of community donations was appreciated by students and administrators alike and resulted in a very successful art experience.

Darcy Mason Swope is an art teacher in the Potomac School, McLean, Virginia.
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Author:Swope, Darcy Mason
Publication:School Arts
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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