Toss out your pencils!

Sophie Taeubson-Arp, composition of circles and semicirlces 1935

Sophie Taeubson-Arp, composition of circles and semicirlces 1935

What?! Well, don't really toss them out. How about take them off the desks and put them aside. Go ahead and put those erasers away too! Last week I had the most exciting time drawing with a group of about 20, sixth graders. We were learning about moods in nonobjective art. We looked at "Composition of Circles and Semicircles" by artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp. We then compared that work with that of Henri Matisse's cut outs, specifically "The Horse, the Rider and the Clown."

Students discussed how both paintings made them feel and how the Circles reminded them of bright lights and dancing instructions. We discussed organic shapes as compared to geometric shapes. 

Henri matisse, The horse, the rider and the clown

We also looked learned about Henri Matisse and his most recent exhibition at MOMA. We watched the CBS Sunday Morning Video "Henri Matisse and a New Art Form". 

After the video the students discussed what they thought was most interesting and as I suspected some students in the room were curious about the long pole Matisse was holding in his bed. I showed them another picture of Matisse drawing with the long stick and we decided it would be great fun to give it a try ourselves. Well, I thought it would be great fun, the class gave me look of confusion with mouths wide open. Thankfully, I have a fantastic group of students who all gave it a go!

Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence
— Henri Matisse

I purchased about 10 dowels from Home Depot on my way to school that day and we taped pieces of charcoal to the end. Students paired up. One student held the drawing board with large 12" x 18" taped to the board while the other partner held the stick and, being mindful of their space, stood as far away as the stick allowed.

I did first model for the students how slowly one must draw since we were all at the same ability level. No one, including myself, has ever tried this before! I started slowly and drew a large organic shape on the board. After about 2 minutes of instruction students were eager to get started. There was a lot of giggles and nervous energy in the room, but after about 10 minutes, each student had a few organic shapes drawn on their papers. 

I was even so thrilled to see success from students who normally dislike drawing activities. One such student admitted as he left the class that he indeed enjoyed that activity. YES!

This activity inspired Drawing Workout #1