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paint to the Maxx.

For the past couple years, my fifth-graders have created unique symmetrical paintings as part of their exploration of painting and color value. Last year, we focused on the work of Australian artist Brad Eastman as inspiration for this experience.

Brad draws much of his inspiration from the patterns that are found within the natural world. I really love his play of geometric and natural shapes, his use of contour line, and his wonderful sense of composition as he pulls everything together in his images.

This year, I am making a concerted effort to connect more with our community of San Diego-based artists, so we looked at a number of paintings by Maxx Moses as inspiration.

Maxx is a prolific painter whose work ranges from immense wall works to intimately small paintings on canvas. He often plays with symmetry in works that combine figurative and abstract elements.

Unlike Brad, he incorporates light and dark colors to bring more implied three-dimensional effects to many of his pieces. Maxx's play of light and dark creates striking metallic-looking forms that give a large number of his pieces an otherworldly and futuristic feel, which highly engages my upper elementary students.

I BEGIN THIS LESSON BY SHARING work that Maxx or Brad has done. Both artists' work is similar in subject, symmetry, and use of color value gradations. We spend a few minutes identifying these elements and talking about what these works remind us of and what the students see in them. While I have shared the work of the two artists separately, you can totally use this as an opportunity to compare and contrast the work of multiple artists with your students. (As I type this, I realize that this is exactly what I will do next year!)

To start the hands-on activity, the students and I create a small sketch loosely inspired by the selected focus images. I want them to see how they can break up the picture plane to create a design that emphasizes symmetry and repetition.

We begin with a central form and then add lines that echo that shape on a larger scale to break up the picture plane. The point of this is for students to see how they can start with simple large shapes to set up the compositional framework.

Then, I encourage them to add more lines to give their sketch more detail. Maxx often uses curved teardrop shapes in his work and I demonstrate how these can be used to create facial details or abstract decoration.

Once that sketch is complete, students create a second sketch that starts with a shape of their choosing. They break up the picture plane in a similar fashion to the first one.

WITH BOTH SKETCHES DONE, students choose one and explain why they would like to move forward with that concept.

They then enlarge it very softly in pencil onto a large (12" x 15") sheet of watercolor paper. They hold off putting their name on the paper until the drawing is complete. They do this, so that they can use the back of the paper to restart their drawing if the need arises.

To create the bold contour lines, students may trace their pencil lines with a crayon, chisel-tip Sharpie[R] marker, or a Crayola[R] Color Stick--or a combo, depending on the detail present in their drawing.

When students move on to the painting step, I demo creating light and dark values by adjusting the amount of water used with the tempera cakes we are using. Each student gets a scrap of watercolor paper to test out colors while they are working.

Students choose a brush to start with: large, medium, or small. If they need to change brush size, they are responsible for cleaning the brush in the sink, putting it back if the right bin, and getting a different size brush. They are also responsible for changing the water in the cups that they are sharing with their paint-tray team.

Most students have needed about two hours to complete this activity. Some more, some less. I meet with my fifth-graders for 90 minutes, so this activity has been completed over two sessions.

WHEN THEY COMPLETE THEIR PAINTINGS, students reflect on their process by answering three questions on an exit slip:

1. How is your work different than the artist's? Explain.

2. What was the hardest part of the activity? How did you solve that problem?

3. What is the most successful part of your work? Explain.

I really emphasize question two: What was the hardest part of this activity? How did you deal with it? I want them to really think about that. How did they solve that problem? I want to see how they are developing perseverance strategies and critical-thinking skills throughout their elementary school experiences here at Zamorano.

While students are restricted by incorporating symmetry, there is still a wonderful range of variety in the visual outcomes of the design challenge. Each year, my students have been thoroughly engaged during the painting experience. I always encourage them to relax and enjoy the painting process.

This year, as an added incentive to do bring their best to this experience, I am selecting a small group of students from each class to assist Maxx in creating a new mural on their side of our school campus. There has been much excitement about this opportunity and it has definitely had an impact on the effort and behavior of a large number of my students.

Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Don Masse, is a K-5 visual arts teacher at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy in San Diego, California. At the 2018 NAEA national convention, Don was named the 2018 Pacific Region Elementary Art Educator of the Year.


Upper-elementary students will ...

* create a unique symmetrical composition based on multiple sketches that draw inspiration from the work of focus artists and their own imagination.

* create a range of color values by adjusting the amount of water used with tempera paint.

* develop responsibility with paint, water and brushes while sharing supplies with other students.


* CREATING: Combine ideas to generate an innovative idea for art making.

* Demonstrate quality craftsmanship through care for and use of materials, tools, and equipment.


* Sketch paper

* Tempera cakes, paintbrushes

* Pencils, erasers

* Watercolor paper

* Sharpie[R] markers, black crayons, black color sticks

Caption: Students were somewhat restricted by the requirement to incorporate symmetry in their designs. There was a wonderful range of variety in the visual outcomes of the challenge, nonetheless.

Caption: Students selected one of their sketches and moved forward with that concept by enlarging it on watercolor paper.

Caption: Inside bold contour lines, students applied light and dark values of tempera paint.

Caption: Light and dark values were created by students adjusting the amount of water used with the tempera cakes.

Caption: When they completed their paintings, students reflected on their process by answering questions on an exit slip.
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Title Annotation:ALIVE and kicking; Maxx Moses
Author:Masse, Don
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2019
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