october’s artist: edvard munch

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Edvard Munch was a forerunner of Expressionism and a pioneer in Modern art. He was born on December 12, 1863 on a farm in Loten, Norway. When he was only 5 years old, his mother died of Tuberculosis, which also claimed the life of one of his sisters a few years later. (There were 5 siblings, total.) Edvard was a sickly child and was homeschooled, by his pious father who was strict and often cold with the children. His family was tight-knit, staying close to home. He loved to draw from an early age and also loved the vivid ghost stories told by his father and the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. These things combined with a young exposure to mortality, gave him a preoccupation with death that can be seen in his artwork.

He studied art as a young adult, but his chronic illness kept him from finding much success in school. His father felt art was an “unholy pursuit” but Edvard was driven to express himself. In his journal, he wrote “…in my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself.” He experimented with many different styles of art art as a student, and was often subject to harsh criticism from family, neighbors, and critics alike. His media is widely varied, he painted, used oil pastels, and drew and later added photography and printmaking to his skill set. As he grew more mature, he aimed to show the tension and emotions felt within rather than the external reality that can be seen by others. He did this by simplifying forms, using heavy lines and sharp contrast and colors and symbols to convey specific emotions.

The Scream is his most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in art. Munch made a handful of variations on the picture in pastel and paint. He recounted a night when he was walking with 2 friends and was suddenly filled with anxiety. Too tired to continue, he stopped and leaned against a nearby fence. As he did, the sky seamed to turn red and he felt nature scream around him. He later said that he felt himself “going mad” and knew he would never love again. Much of his art was biographical, as The Scream is. Mental illness was common in Edvard’s family and that turmoil is evident in his work.

Happily, in later life, Edvard sought treatment for depression and alcohol abuse. He greatly improved in spirit and his work took on a much more optimistic quality. At this point, he was also widely winning critics approval and was even given the title of Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olav “for services in art”. He died in his house at Ekely near Oslo on 23 January 1944, about a month after his 80th birthday.

*As you show the students Munch’s work, here are some conversation starters you can use to help them explore:

~Munch’s work is the perfect style for Halloween! Notice how even though the scenes are depicted with bright colors and happy subjects, there is a slightly eerie quality?

~What do you think about the faces? Edvard Munch said that he was more interested in depicting what was happening inside a person than showing a beautiful, flattering exterior. What do you think he was trying to show us?

~What do you think about the scream? Have you felt that way? (Generally one of the best questions to ask students about a picture is “How does this make you feel?”)

Today we are going to make our own pastel inspired by Edvard Munch’s style. You can do a landscape like Starry Night or a Portrait; but include some details to give the viewer an idea of your emotions like Munch did.

  • Pastels look a lot like crayons, but they are actually paint that is rolled into sticks. They are soft and have a rich color. They are easy to break, so hold them gently. It is fine to press firmly, but don’t press too hard.
  • Use your pencil to very lightly sketch where you want things, but try not to press to hard. The graphite can smear into the pastel and look muddy. Keep it simple, it’s best not to get too detailed.
  • Pastels blend a little bit differently than other media (Media is the art term for what you are using: paint, pencil, crayons, etc.) You can blend several colors together to create a more interesting texture. Layer blues and greens or purples together will look very nice, but you can even combine opposing colors, like red and purple or blue and yellow.
  • Generally you don’t want to blend with your fingers. Color with small strokes with your darker color, then layer the lighter color over the top and it will blend together. You can also color over the top with white to blend.

 

april’s artist: miquel barcelo

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Miquel Barceló, was born in Felanitx on the island of Majorca, Spain on January 8, 1957. He studied art there briefly in the Arts and Crafts School of Palma de Majorca before enrolling at the Fine Arts School of Barcelona in 1974. After a year in Barcelona he would return to Majorca to protest with “Taller Lunátic”, a conceptual vanguardist group that fought against (in the arts, not actual fighting) the notion that “painting is dead” and the move to more contemporary practices like art installations and performance art.

In the 1980’s he traveled extensively throughout Europe, United States and West Africa and would eventually set up studios in both Paris and Segou, Mali. These cultural influences can be seen in his work. After a series of exhibitions in the early and mid 1980s, Barceló’s popularity grew to the point that his work was shown in the most prestigious galleries and museums including the National Gallery of Modern Art Pompidou Center in Paris.

As homage to his homeland, Miquel Barceló crafted a mural of approximately 300m² for Majorca´s San Pedro Cathedral Chapel in 2004. He covered the walls of the chapel with terra-cotta and painted them with images related to the miracle of the loaves and fish from John in the Bible. Also in 2004 a series of watercolors, illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy, were shown at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Barcelo was 47 years old and the youngest living artist ever to have their work shown in the Louvre.

His biggest commission was the domed ceiling of the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Chamber in the UN’s Palace of Nations in Geneva. It features multicolored stalactite forms figuratively dripping from the ceiling. Barceló explained that the dome represented “a sea and a cave, in absolute and apposing union” He said the idea came to him “on a day of immense heat in the middle of the Sahel desert” in Africa in where “the mirage of an image of the world was dripping towards the sky…. flowing drop by drop”

Now in his sixties, Miquel Barceló continues to split his time working in Paris, Spain, and Mali today. His work includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and cast iron.

Today we will try some sculptural painting of our own. Show the students the different materials we have to add texture to their paintings. Tell them to lightly sketch out the design you want to make on your canvas board. You will want to keep your design somewhat simple and add one or two of the materials to give it a different texture. You may want to do something representational (a picture of something, made to look realistic) or abstract (a picture that is not of anything recognizable). You may want to paint the background first or you may want to add the joint compound to build up ridges or shapes and then carefully paint on top of that.

Some hints to help make these paintings more successful:
-Give the joint compound some time to dry by working on other areas before painting it.
-Paint very lightly over the compound. If you press into it, it will make marks. I often tell my students to just lightly tickle it with the brush.
-Lightly press the yarn or fabric into the compound or wet paint to help it adhere to the board.

*When setting up, I recommend getting there a few minutes early to fill water cups. (I usually do a cup per pair of students–it is less to clean up.) After I have given the discussion part of the lesson, I pass out the boards and while students are sketching their design, I pass out the water, brushes napkins and plates. Then I go around with the paint and give them small (dime sized) dabs of paint. I tell them they can always have more, but often this is all they need so we start with this much. Give the students that want it a spoonful of joint compound (they can have more if they need it, but it’s best to start small) and let them come get the other items off the cart as needed.

*Please wash the brushes very thoroughly with a small amount of dish soap and put them in the container with the brush tip up. (If you put the brushes down, it bends the bristles and they loose their shape and don’t work well.)

march’s artist: gustav klimt

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Gustav Klimt was born on July 14, 1862 near Vienna, Austria. He was the second of seven children in an artistic family. His mother loved music and his father was a gold engraver. His brothers were also artistic and they were encouraged to develop their skill as children. In his teens, Gustav went to art school with his brothers and formed a group called the “Company of Artists” with another friend and the 4 teens had great success doing murals in public buildings and aiding better known artists in their work.
In 1892, Gustav’s father and brother both died, which had a great effect on his work. He became the chief support for his family. His turned to the much more stylized look that he would become famous for. This is also the time that he met Emilie Louise Flöge, who was his life-long love and companion. (The painting “The Kiss” is of them.) Emilie was a fashion designer and they would work closely together, influencing each other’s art for the rest of their lives. He would help design her costumes. If you look at his paintings with this in mind, you can see the influence of fashion, as well as the textural quality—almost like fabric on the clothing. Gustav had 14 children.
Gustav Klimt enjoyed mush success and notoriety in his life. The government in Vienna was nurturing to the arts and he was appointed the as the president of a government supported group that encouraged the arts and sought to bring new artists to Vienna. Interestingly, there was no manifesto—this wasn’t an art movement, per se. They encouraged all of the different styles and everyone worked and exhibited together. While Klimt’s work was often in limelight, he himself was a quiet and reclusive figure. He painted deliberately with great attention to detail and worked hard. While he collaborated with many other artists on projects, he did not like to socialize with many people. He worked day and night and rarely spent time with people outside of his family.
Just like his personality, Gustav Klimt’s work can seem contradictory. His figure paintings are boldly geometrical and patterned contrasted with ethereal highly detailed brushwork on the people themselves. His landscapes have a similar, very refined quality and did not include the use of gold leaf like his figure paintings did.

Today we are going to try our hand at incorporating metallic elements into a painting. Since this project could get a little complicated, there will be a simple example and a more detailed example. For grades kindergarten-second, just show the simple example.

1. Very lightly, sketch out your design.
2. Decide where to put the foil and cut out the basic shape, then lay it down on the paper and trim as needed.
3. Carefully, glue the back of the foil with the glue stick. Hold the top with your finger and move in one direction. Press lightly, it is easy to tear the foil.
4. Put the foil on the paper and smooth down. Glue any edges that need it.
5. Water color the rest of the picture.

january’s artist: anna mary moses

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Anna Mary Moses was born on September 7, 1860 on a farm in Greenwich, NY. She was one of 10 children and she left home to work on a nearby farm at age 12. She showed an interest in art at an early age and was even given a set of chalk and crayons by one of the families she worked for who noticed her interest. During her limited time at school she relished art classes. However, she never spent much time with art. One can imagine that earlier American farming life was a lot of difficult work and didn’t leave much time for pursuing hobbies.

At age 27, she married Thomas Moses and began a farm and family of her own, having 5 children that survived infancy (10 pregnancies total). Anna Mary was known for adding an artist touch to everyday life. She painted items in their home and embroidered and quilted. After Thomas died of a heart attack, she passed the farm onto one of her sons and began to paint with her spare time. A local grocery store hung her paintings. An art collector noticed them one day and bought them, leading to her first solo showing when she was 80 years old. People loved the vibrant depictions of “old time” country life. She was called Grandma or Mother Moses by those who knew her and soon the press also picked up this name. Over the next three decades, she would produce over 1500 canvases and her work would be reproduced and printed on tiles, fabrics, ceramic and used to advertise various household products. Grandma Moses painted crowded and busy panoramas in vivd colors that gave a happy view of a simpler time. She never received any formal education and is a great example of how anyone can become an artist, no matter your education or age. Anna Mary Moses died at the age of 101.

Look over the prints with the students (there are explanations of what each scene is showing printed on the back of the pictures to help with this). Point out the busy and detailed scenes. It is these details that make her paintings so interesting. They draw the viewer into a scene that they might have no experience with, but make them feel at home like they belong there. Notice perspective isn’t super important here. The lack of training gave her paintings a stylized look. Today we are going to make our scenes like Grandma Moses. Think of something your family likes to do, a time of year or holiday and all of the things that go on during that time or maybe a vacation you have taken and enjoyed. Now map out all of the activities in your picture. Use the colored pencils to make it vibrant and interesting and don’t forget to add the details that will make your viewer feel like they are there!

peter paul reubens

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Peter Paul Reubens was born on June 28, 1577 in a city near Antwerp, Belgium. His father was a leader in the Calvinist (Protestant) faith and his mother was strongly Catholic in a time of great religious upheaval in Europe. Growing up in such a religious environment led Reubens to be a deeply religious man. He became a voice in the Catholic church and many of his paintings depict religious subjects. Reubens entered an apprenticeship at age 14, where he learned primarily by copying works of the masters. He graduated and gained master status, then moved to Italy to continue his studies. After eight years, he returned to Antwerp and set up a thriving studio with several artists working under him. Reubens became a leading Flemish painter for altar-pieces and religious scenes as well as portraits done for noble families.

His work was quite stylized and illustrates a lot of the popular opinions of the day. He favored using robust and curvy women (usually nudes) for scenes to show his views of women as lesser to men in social standing, as well as virtuous, fertile and beautiful. Men on the other hand, were shown as extremely muscular and usually in athletic, aggressive poses, showing his views of men as capable, forceful and powerful. He included a lot of symbolism in his paintings as well as religious references, even in his portraits. (This style preference has lead to the term Reubenesque to describe someone who is chubby.) Reubens is also known for his luminous style to painting. The faces almost seem to shine, he did this show the spiritual light coming from within.

Today we will try creating a portrait in a style like Reubens. By using chalk on a darker background, we can get a similar luminescence (or the look of light shining) from the face you will draw.  Have the students pair up to draw portraits of each other. Teach these tips to get a realistic portrait.

  1. Make a large oval and draw a light line down the center or slightly to the left or right with your pencil. (From forehead to chin.) You can do it however your partner is sitting, but it will look more natural if the person is looking a bit to the side rather than straight on.
  2. Now lightly draw another line across (ear to ear) about halfway down the face. It is best to give it a little bit of curve as well.
  3. Now draw the eyes with the base on the line.
  4. Divide the lower half evenly into thirds (it doesn’t have to be perfect!) make the bottom of the nose on the first line. You can do this by making a shallow “u” and then upside down “u”s on each side.
  5. Finally sketch in the lips on the bottom line.
  6. Now take the chalk and shade and fill in the face and the features, including hair.
  7. When the portrait is complete, let the students bring them to you or the teacher and spray them very lightly with a bit of hairspray from about 6 inches away. This will help set the chalk so it doesn’t smear.

november’s artist: katsushika hokusai

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Katsushika Hokusai was believed to be born on October 30, 1760 in Edo Japan (which is now Tokyo, Japan). The records from this period are scarce and not very clear, but he is thought to be the son of an artisan that made mirrors for the Shogun, who is a local military leader. At age 12, Hokusai was sent to apprentice with a bookmaker and he became very skilled at the woodblock carvings which were used to make illustrated books for the upper classes. His master, Shunshō was an artist of ukiyo-e, one of many different styles of woodblock prints that were used at this time. Often the prints were of Kabuki actors or Courtesan and generally used for entertainment. Hokusai eagerly searched for new techniques from other schools in the area and even studied works from as far away as France and Denmark. He was expelled from Shunsho’s school after the master died and it was taken over by a rival student. He said later that this was the cataylist for his artistic growth. “What really motivated the development of my artistic style was the embarrassment I suffered at Shunkō’s hands.” Hokusai went on to take his skill above the general artisan level to that of a true master, developing new techniques and creating images that are still reproduced and popular today. He moved away from the popular subject matter of courtesans and Kabuki actors to landscapes and images of daily life for people of different classes. Throughout this time, Hokusai changed his name several times, which was a common practice for artisans in Japan in the 1700-1800s.
By the time Hokusai was in his early 50s, he enjoyed fame and success. He took this time to write a serious of art instruction books. As well as cartoon-like books which he called Manga. These would heavily influence comic books as they are today. (Anime is also known as Manga today.) After this period, he changed his name to “Gakyō Rōjin Manji” (The Old Man Mad About Art) and did many of the works that are famous today, including “One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji”. Hokusai was constantly seeking to produce better work, it is said that on his deathbed he exclaimed: “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years… Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.” He died on May 10, 1849 at the age of 89.

Today we will make our own carvings. It takes so many hours and a lot of skill and practice to carve wood. We will try out cork which is a lot softer, but still a bit tricky. Please really emphasize the need to be careful with the nails to the students. I have done this in an after-school program and the kids loved it, but we will need to keep a close eye to make sure everyone is safe. We will be using nails, please emphasize how sharp they are and how important it is to be very careful with them.

1. Lightly draw your initial or a very basic design with pencil on the top of the cork. Keep it simple! Remember straight lines are easier than curved ones.

2. Next you will carefully use the nail to press into the area and indent the initial or design. I find it easiest to use the nail to make dots along the line, then scrape to connect them.

3. Finally, press your stamp onto the stamp pads to load them with ink and press onto the paper.

october’s artist: joan miro

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Biography:

Joan Miro was born in Barcelona on April 20, 1893. His dad was a goldsmith and was very strict. He didn’t want Joan to become an artist; but his mother evened out his father’s harsh manner and encouraged him in his art. He started drawing lessons at age 7 and continued to art school as a young adult. This greatly dismayed his father and he enrolled in business as well. He worked as a clerk for a little while, but was so unhappy that he had a nervous breakdown. Afterwards he pursued his art full time, joining the Surrealist movement. The Surrealists use symbolism and imagery to create a dream-like work. He also pioneered the grattage technique (where you scrape through a layer of paint to create the image.)

Along with paintings, he created tapestries, sculptures and even did some work in architecture. Miro believed in departing from the usual methods of painting. He despised the typical stiff approach and rigid formulas of much of the art world. He believed in experimenting and trying everything he could think of. He painted with brooms, walked on canvases and even set them on fire! He said “I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.” Miro wanted his art to pinch and prod people. He wanted to create a strong reaction whether that it was good or bad didn’t really matter to him. Miro died of hear failure at home in Spain on December 25, 1983.

Take a look through Miro’s paintings together. Ask the students how the paintings make them feel. Do you think this is happy or sad? What do you think Miro was painting about? Explain that these are abstract paintings. Meaning they aren’t meant to look exactly like something in real life. Usually artists do have a real life object or scene they are drawing inspiration from though. What do you think inspired Miro for any of these paintings?

Project:

Today we will try out a mixed-media painting in Miro’s style. Mixed media means that we are using more than one type of material to make our piece of art.

1. First take a few a seconds to draw a squiggle on your paper. You could close your eyes if you want or just make a quick set of loops and swoops.

2. Now take a look at it and see if you can find a picture in there. Use the markers to go over the lines and add details to make the picture come to life. Remember with abstract art, it doesn’t have to “Look like anything”!

3. Use the water colors to fill in large background blobs of color if you’d like.