Monday, April 04, 2011

How We Made Luella's Painting

We've made super-sized marble (golf ball) paintings at Woodland Park before, but for these particular kids it was something new.

We started the project on the day the big kids were playing with us, using a real canvas purchased by the families for my birthday back in February.

I use a staple gun to create the cardboard sides. We started with the cooler colors, green, blue and purple . .  .

. . . then tossed in some golf balls and started tipping and shaking the canvas . . .

. . . made more exciting by the presence of those big kids . . .

. . . but we didn't need them make this painting.

Once we got the canvas decently covered, we switched to a foreground of yellow, orange and red, the warm colors, a conscious choice on my part to make the switch just at this moment as I focused like a laser how it was going to look when we were finished. I rarely concern myself with the product of art, especially something like this which is really a science experiment, but sometimes it's fun to see if you can nudge the process toward beauty without taking it over.

Besides, these are the times in particular when I want to keep myself totally engaged as a teacher, when the project is old hat, but something new for the kids. One way I do that is to play this kind of game with myself, not important, but fun, a way to test to see if I really know what I'm doing -- not so much as a teacher, but as an artist.

When we were finished for the day, the canvas looked a little dark and muddy to me from my perspective as a silent arbiter of the finished product. I'd been continually looking in, waiting, tweaking, while trying to not act like I'm the boss of anyone (other than myself). But heck, we sold one of these canvasses last year, so why not shoot for another masterpiece, especially if I'm not putting the onus on the kids, but rather taking it upon myself as a game?

It's what every artist loves about working on canvas: you can just keep adding paint, layer upon layer. A couple days later when the first layers were finally dry, I strategically thought we'd get back into the action with orange and white only, creating a contrasting "top" layer that would make the whole thing pop.

I had a plan as we tipped and tossed the canvas again, this time outside, but everything else according to the plan of this teacher who was on top of his game, having seen it all before, dollar signs under his eyelids. Maybe this is my true calling, I thought to myself, an artist who works through the medium of children, guiding, but not bossing, to make works of art worthy of the name.

It was at about this point in my ruminations that Luella joined us at the canvas, a large, not quite empty gallon paint jug in one hand. She'd just been holding it under the cast iron pump, collecting water for her own purposes, one of which was to abruptly pour it onto the canvas, saying, "Blue water!" Arrrg! My plans! My genius! What kind of god would allow something like this to happen?!?!

One that appreciates great beauty as it turns out. Check out the product that came from this accident of process.

No photo I'm capable of taking can do justice to this work, but the extra water somehow reacted with the wet, white tempera paint, causing it to crack as it dried.

It didn't seem to affect the already dried paint, nor the orange, just the white.

It looks to us grown-ups, a parade of whom have stopped to admire it, like something ancient emerging somehow from behind those golf ball tracks. Not a single child has taken an interest in it now that the cardboard is off and the golf balls stashed away, with the exception of Kiran who found it a convenient place to hang his coat last week.

And that's how we made Luella's painting.

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Barbara Zaborowski said...

We've done this, but without Luella's wonderful addition. Please tell her that I think she's an adventurous artist and a great one, too.

Play for Life said...

Tom, Luella's painting accident is cool ... Kiran and his coat hanging is cool and that little boy in the motor bike helmet ... VERY random, but still very cool! I don't think I will ever tire of seeing peoples marble art ... ever!
Donna :) :)

Scott said...

What a terrific work of art!

I remember my own "Oh no!" moment when we did this last year - Jackson decided to smooth out the blobs with his straw. But I discovered, too, that the end result turned out so right.

Now, to buy a canvas so we can do this again.

early play said...

i love the way you can describe the stuff that goes on in your head about directing, redirecting, standing back. Thanks

Alexis said...

What kind of paint did you use for this project? I bought some canvases today to try this on my art day next week. Was it tempra?

I am so happy I found your do the most amazingly creative projects!! (Do you allow visitors to come and observe?)

Thank you for all you do for the kids and families as well as us ECE'ers!

Teacher Tom said...

Yes, it's tempera, Alexis, although we've also made these with acrylic craft paint. If the goal is something to keep for a long time, I might suggest that as the colors will be more vibrant and not fade as quickly as tempera.

Teacher Tom said...

Oh, and yes, we have visitors all the time.