Thursday, December 23, 2010

the "elements of art" is kindergarten material


      Design elements can be found in the most obvious visual and tactile characteristics of any given person, place or thing. I have included in this article excellent books that may be read aloud in your classroom that will aid kindergarten students in the study of these seven principles. These exercises may then be repeated with more advanced art projects in 1rst and 2nd grade.
      Reading aloud to your classroom has many benefits. Introducing topics with a story will help young students to understand the important part of a lesson. This actually works with adults as well, but for now, we're talking about little folk. I prefer to read a book aloud in a kindergarten classroom because it helps to develop social skills. If students learn how to engage themselves with teachers in institutional environments at an early age, they will be more likely to repeat the same behaviors as they mature. Reading aloud gives me an opportunity to demonstrate and discuss with my students 'how' proper conduct is practiced as well as affording an excellent visual and verbal explanation for the concept I am teaching to them.

1. The Element of Space - "Space is the area provided for a particular purpose. It may have two dimensions (length and width), such as a floor, or it may have three dimensions (length, width, and height). Space includes the background, foreground and middle ground. Space refers to the distances or areas around, between or within components of a piece. There are two type of space: positive and negative space. Positive space refers to the space of a shape representing the subject matter. Negative space refers to the space around and between the subject matter."  
       Art teachers may demonstrate the concepts of space through the sharing of Ron Van Der Meers' pop-up book, "How Many, Spectacular Paper Sculptures." Other pop-up books may work just as well but I chose this one in particular because there are many geometric concepts in it that can also be discussed when you are teaching about the element of shape as well. Discuss with the students how space is represented and move your fingers in and out of the pop-ups while you are talking. 
      Another way to refer to space when speaking to children is to say that space describes "air." There is air that is outside and air that is inside. There is air in our lungs and air that is in balloons too! Air  like space are everywhere. Space describes the place where air is at.
2. The Element of Line - "Line is the basic element that refers to the continuous movement of a point along a surface, such as by a pencil or brush. The edges of shapes and forms also create lines. It is the basic component of a shape drawn on paper. Lines and curves are the basic building blocks of two dimensional shapes like a house's plan. Every line has length, thickness, and direction. There are curve, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, zigzag, wavy, parallel, dash, and dotted lines."

      The concept of line may be introduced through the classic children's book, "Harold and The Purple Crayon," by Crockett Johnson. There is an old film made of this children''s book. Visitors can watch it at teachertube to review the book before purchasing it. Young students will enjoy making all kinds of lines on their art projects but you can also demonstrate line by stringing yarn all over the classroom while you are talking or as they are watching the video. Then return to the art project and talk about what a line can do on paper.

3. The Element of Color - "Color is seen either by the way light reflects off a surface, or in colored light sources. Color and particularly contrasting color is also used to draw the attention to a particular part of the image. There are primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. Complementary colors are colors that are opposite to each other on the color wheel. Complementary colors are used to create contrast. Analogous colors are colors that are found side by side on the color wheel. These can be used to create color harmony. Monochromatic colors are tints and shades of one color. Warm colors are a group of colors that consist of reds, yellows, and oranges. Cool colors are group of colors that consist of purples, greens, and blues."
      Ellen Stoll Walsh wrote a charming little book called, "Mouse Paint." This book introduces color through the playful antics of three frightened mice! It's a must have for every elementary school art teacher. Have some mouse stamps or footprint stamps for students to use with finger paints after you read about color in this book.

4. The Element of Shape - "A shape is defined as an area that stands out from the space next to or around it due to a defined or implied boundary, or because of differences of value, color, or texture. Shapes can also show perspective by overlapping. They can be geometric or organic. Shapes in house decor and interior design can be used to add interest, style, theme to a design like a door. Shape in interior design depends on the function of the object like a kitchen cabinet door. Natural shapes forming patterns on wood or stone may help increase visual appeal in interior design. In a landscape, natural shapes, such as trees contrast with geometric such as houses."
      "It Looked Like Spilt Milk," by Charles G. Shaw, introduces the concept of shape wonderfully to small students. It also comes as a 'big book' which is very helpful to a classroom teacher when sharing a visual aid or story with a large group of students. Teachers may view "Miss Tracy" as she reads aloud this book on the youtube. Follow up with a paper collage project using blue and white papers. Students may wish to talk about the shapes they see in the clouds outside as they tear their own shapes for this project. 
      A more structured activity can be performed by printing out shapes of animals ahead of time on white typing paper. Instruct the students to tear the shape out along the lines' edge (contour). This type of manipulation develops eye-hand coordination. 
      It is important to remember that some art activities, such as the second one I mention above, are based primarily in methods. These are less creative but as long as a teacher clearly understands that creativity should be fostered as well and doesn't penalize it, then the methods projects will be seen as an important means to an end. It is only when art teachers insist upon the regulatory skills exceeding in value over creativity, that students, parents, and scholars appose their teaching practices.

5. The Element of Texture - "Texture is perceived surface quality. In art, there are two types of texture: tactile and implied. Tactile texture (real texture) is the way the surface of an object actually feels. Examples of this include sandpaper, cotton balls, tree bark, puppy fur, etc. Implied texture is the way the surface on an object looks like it feels. The texture may look rough, fizzy, gritty, but cannot actually be felt. This type of texture is used by artist when drawing or painting."

     There are many tactile books on the market, most of these are designed for infants. If I find an age appropriate one in the future, I will include it here. Have many objects to pass around the room that demonstrate different textures to the students. Let them hold these, feel them, and describe the textures to their peers. Then talk about how texture can be 'illustrated in a picture' but not always felt.

6. The Element of Form - "Form is any three dimensional object. Form can be measured, from top to bottom (height), side to side (width), and from back to front (depth). Form is also defined by light and dark. There are two types of form, geometric (man-made) and natural (organic form). Form may be created by the combining of two or more shapes. It may be enhanced by tone, texture and color. It can be illustrated or constructed."

      Corinne Demas Bliss writes the story of a little lost doll called, "The Littlest Matryoshka," that introduces a the more complex element of form. Have on hand a few examples of 'stackable toys' to show your young students. Show and explain that form is always 3 dimensional. It is different from shape because it describes a person place or thing as though it looks like you could actually move around it, inside of it, on top of it, etc...
      Another way to reinforce this concept is to have an example of a paper toy that has not been assembled. Talk with the students about how it has shapes of things on its' surface. Then, fold it properly in front of the class and talk about how the toy is now an example of form, because it has dimensions that look as though they can move through space. With this concept in mind, teachers can introduce certain ideas about how the elements relate to one another.

7. The Element of Value - "Value is an element of art that refers to the relationship between light and dark on a surface or object and also helps with Form. It gives objects depth and perception. Value is also referred to as tone."

      My favorite children's book to read that introduces the element of value is, "The Z Was Zapped," by Chris Van Allsburg. Value can be tricky to teach if you do not have clear examples of value placed next to examples of black and white prints. However, if your show these together, a young child will clearly see the difference between the two. 
      Value is usually taught to older students through gradiation projects. Although gradiation is too difficult a technique to teach to little ones, they can clearly be taught to recognize gradiation in pictures. Sometimes a visual example can speak volumes where words can not. I've included a visual below of my story selection and what it might look like if the 'values' of the image were removed.

(Definitions "" are from, the public domain encyclopedia)