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Transition from Line to Form.

The exploration of line is a foundational art experience. It's essential for contour drawing, creating texture, or creating the illusion of depth in linear perspective. Wire can interpret line better than almost any other media. Wire is line.

Through this project I wanted to create a means for students to experience line physically, not just to install it on a page. Alexander Calder used wire to create form. I used this project with my eighth graders to create a bridge between our studies of line and form. Students were guided from using line to create shape, to using line to create mass.

We looked at the sculptures of Alexander Calder, studying his broad use of wire. Students were instructed to observe things as having depth in addition to length and width, and to change their mindset from a two-dimensional concept to a three-dimensional concept of art. For some students this transition was a natural progression in our studies, everything easily made sense; other students found this concept very difficult. Several had to start work, try to create a sculpture, assess their mistakes, and try again before they really grasped it. This project served quite well as a vehicle to teach students the differences between two- and three- dimensional art.

The supplies for this project were minimal. A roll of wire and a selection of pliers, including some pliers with a cutting edge, were essential. We used 20-gauge stovepipe wire which can be ordered from traditional school art supply catalogs. A staple gun was used to attach sculptures to a wood base when necessary. I ordered a box of wood fragments of varying lengths and widths, approximately 2 x 4" (5 x 10 cm) long and 1/9,, (1 cm) to 3/4" (2 cm) thick for use as bases. Most sculptures were self-supporting and did not require a base. After seeing the look of their classmates' sculptures on the wood base, many students mounted their work on the small platforms just for an improved presentation.

The techniques students developed to create their sculptures were very interesting. Some fluidly bent wire in a continuous strand, building mass by a technique much like gesture drawing. Others took the contour-line route by outlining their subject in contour lines using the wire. The most common problem to be solved was the addition of appendages. Students solved this in various ways. Eventually most understood that an appendage had to be a continuous part of the whole and not just applied onto the sculpture.

Students were free to choose any subject matter. Their goal was to create a three-dimensional sculpture to be viewed from all sides. It had to be recognizable as an object, animal, or human, and it had to be at least as big as your hand. I suggested that students use their life experiences to choose a subject. Our subject matter was diverse, ranging from a snowboarder to a viola.

The possibilities for this project are endless. I have used this project in grades seven through twelve. Student maturity level, rather than the age of the student, will dictate the final product. A discussion about dimension, form, and mass helped students understand their goal and the form/mass concept. Sizes of the completed sculptures ranged from hand-size to about 14" (36 cm)high. This project proved to be an excellent transition project to connect line to form and mass.


To accommodate projects such as this with a limited supply budget, I order a few tools such as pliers and wire cutters each year. At first we share, but eventually I have enough for the entire class.


Students intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.

Therese McCabe Murray is an art teacher at Willow Grove Middle School in Thiells, New York.
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Title Annotation:art instruction project
Author:Murray, Therese McCabe
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Previous Article:Exploring Mixed Color.
Next Article:Focus on Line.

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