Elementary Art Appreciation: Collage Art

collage.png

”I am an artist and I never looked at picture books as a means for children to study and appreciate art technique.”

I had just presented my workshop Picture Books, Paper and Paint Brushes to a room of parents eager to learn how picture books could foster curiosity and creativity in children. After sharing engaging titles and practical ideas for art application—the activities I’ve watched children love—attendees were motivated to give art a try.

Picture books are inviting literary tapestry of word and art.

Perhaps you are wondering whether you can take on art appreciation or instruction in your home. YOU can! Yes, it may be messy. If that’s what’s holding you back, give yourself permission to take art outside. There are some days we do just that, especially if I want to cut down on the chances of paint in the grout and glue on cabinet handles. Whether art takes place indoors or out, over time I’ve observed children gain an appreciation for the art they see everyday in the books they love.

And, along the way, they learn they can be an artist, creative and able.

It’s the illustrations in the books they love which inspire them to try art or use it in a new way.

So, what is collage?

Collage is the assemblance of materials—paper, nature, fabric, ribbon, photographs—arranged on a surface. It’s a creative array.

collage6.png

Children love to explore this art technique. In fact, as they find their creative sweet spot they will discover more items to collage.

collage2.png

To begin our collage study, I pull picture books from our home library shelves or plan a trip to the local library. The goal is to find as many different examples of collage art used in illustrations as possible. If you are gathering a collection of collage-illustrated picture books, look for

Blackstone, Stella, Ship Shapes (fabric)

Carle, Eric, A House for Hermit Crab (painted tissue paper)

Ehlert, Lois, Pie in the Sky (paper)

Ehlert, Lois, Snowballs (found objects)

Flemming, Denise, Barnyard Banter (found objects)

Lionni, Leo, Swimmy (prints and paint)

Once we collect picture books, we compare illustrations. I spend some time pointing out the different items these author-illustrators utilize to create their illustrations. We talk about the differences and consider what we have around the house which might be used to create collage. We gather those supplies. Generally, I allow my children to gather what they want to use. However, when working with little learners, I may simply supply different types of paper—tissue, news, construction, wallpaper—and some glue. For children practicing cutting skills, I keep blunt-end scissors on hand to encourage their fine motor skills. For the youngest artists, I show them how to create collage with torn paper or let them watercolor on paper which I cut in squares for them to happily glue while the older learners create their masterpieces.

collage5.png

Sometimes our study of an art technique lasts several days. Other times it’s a perfect rainy afternoon activity. Later at night, I read one or two of the books aloud (great for building language arts and reading skills).

Perhaps you are wanting to dig a bit deeper into the study of collage art. Here are some suggestions:


1. Study artists who use the collage method, especially children's book illustrators. Learn about Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Lois Ehlert, and Denise Fleming. One of our favorite video lessons features Eric Carle in his studio and this trailer for Picture Writer: The Art of the Picture Book.

2. Compare the mediums used by these authors. Try using the artist's techniques with found objects from the around the house. Make a book of the collage pieces created.

collage4.png


3. Research the history of collage.

4. Visit an art museum. Look for examples of collage art.

collage3.png

If you are looking for a helpful collage art resource with ideas, check out I Love to Collage! by Jennifer Lipsey. It’s excellent; empowering (especially for kids and parents who think they were born without creativity), and written with just the right amount of encouragement needed to fuel inspiration. The author explores a multitude of mediums—tissue paper, newspaper, painted papers, torn paper, nature findings and more—detailing twenty activities with step-by-step instructions. My girls were particularly interested in the Tasty Treats project which involved painting papers and then cutting shapes to make a yummy treat. The results were an ice cream sundae and cone. Brilliant hues and impressive images (almost good enough to eat) were the end result.

Collage is not the only art technique which deserves attention. Find out more about painting, photography, digital art, clay, print making, and drawing. Your child’s curiosity and creativity might just be the guide you are looking for.

Our Eric Carle Unit Study

(An elementary level, week-long, study with Eric Carle’s beloved picture books.)

eric.png


Eric Carle, a talented author/illustrator, inspires young readers with his bold illustrations and teachable content. Our youngest children (preschool to fifth grade) enjoyed a week-long study of Eric Carle’s works. By the end of the week, each child proudly displayed her book of Eric Carle art which was bound with a strip of fabric.

On the first day we re-read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, discussed the life cycle of a butterfly and created our own tissue paper collage caterpillar. We ordered planted plants which attract butterflies and watched a biographical video entitled Eric Carle, Picture Writer. Our children loved learning about the man and story behind the stories. 

On the second day we read The Very Busy Spider and discussed the benefits of hard work. Our preschooler made the sounds of the animals in the book and our elementary children discussed the differences between spiders and insects. We all marveled at the raised web on each page of this engaging picture book. At the suggestion of one of learners, we headed outside to look for webs and spiders. While walking, I remembered I had plastic spider counters. We made and added sets. The older learners made arrays—rows and columns (enter multiplication concept). When it came time to make our own spider art, the fifth grader remembered we had silver glitter glue in the art cabinet, which in her opinion, would make the perfect web. The younger children agreed and soon four very busy spiders were created.

On the third day we read The Grouchy Ladybug. We discussed good and bad attitudes, friendship, manners and the power of the spoken word. Our first grader had a quick review of telling time to the hour, with the help of the clock on each page of Eric Carle's book. Older children found the life cycle of the ladybug fascinating. We Googled ladybugs and watched a few informative video clips. Finally, we made our own ladybugs with wings which opened (thanks to a brass fastener) to reveal the words "thank you".  Google eyes brought life to the ladybug.

On the fourth day we read Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me.  We talked about the phases of the moon and were determined to watch the moon for a whole month to observe the phases. For the young ones, we discussed the difference between fiction and non-fiction. We concluded that the book was fiction because a ladder would never reach the moon. We then compared the illustrations of the books Eric Carle created designed our own fold-out ladder page for our book. Later that evening we read Mister Seahorse, discussed the sea life featured in the book and the important role parents play in the lives of their children. We marveled at the way the male seahorse cares for his young. One learner wanted to make tissue paper seahorses like the ones in the book. A great idea! We used scraps of tissue paper from the previous days to create very colorful and unique tissue paper seahorse.

On the fifth day we wrote a title on the book cover of our art masterpieces (hello copy work, spelling and an explanation of capitalization in titles) and bound our book by weaving a scrap of fabric through three paper-punched holes. The littlest learners enjoyed making paper plate jellyfish to hang from the doorway and hearing me read A House for Hermit Crab.

eric2.png


Our week didn’t end there! Learning continued. After analyzing and comparing the art of Eric Carle to the work of other artists, we headed back to the library where our youngest ones selected more Eric Carle titles. Our four year old warmly stated, "Eric Carle is my favorite illustrator." Several weeks later, while on yet another visit to the library, I received another welcomed surprise. I mentioned I needed Mister Seahorse for a workshop I was presenting to moms in our homeschooling community. When the library volunteer asked, "Who is the author?" our six year old chimed in, "Eric Carle." YES!

Just what I had hoped...and more!  In addition to the academics we learned and retained, the curiosity and creativity of our four budding artists was fostered.

Our week had been productive, and FUN!

Math Meets Art: Watercolor Square Collage

Have a creative learner who loves color?

If so, the black and white page of the math book may not be the WIN of the day.

I learned that lesson the hard way about thirteen years ago.

I told myself if I had another creative I would be intentional about offering math experiences which would nurture the artistic tendency of his or her brain. 

Guess what? God gave me another creative! 

Lesson learned; I get a do over! 

Squares--black and white lines of equal sides on a page. Or, squares--colorful cut outs with sides of equal lengths. 

Math matters to a creative, after all math and art have some of the same elements--shape, line, space. Add a bit of color, some construction paper, glue, and scissors and math may become of the highlight of the day! 

Yesterday, math was the highlight in our house! 

After talking about rectangles--two short sides and two long sides, four in all--and squares--four sides of equal length--we did a quick look around the living room and dining room for rectangles and squares.

Windows.

Glass panels in the kitchen cabinet.

Cloth napkins.

Pages in a book. 

Checks in the tablecloth.

While hunting an older learner asked, "What do you call the distance around the window? I forgot."

Perimeter. 

Another discussion ensued; children were curious. I had their attention. 

I excused myself to the junk box (who doesn't have one of those!) in the laundry room and returned with a measuring tape and a tape measure. We talked about the differences between the tools. One was flexible, one rigid. Reviewed how the tools were used. Each had advantages and disadvantages depending on what was being measured. 

Learners asked to play with the measuring tools. 

They 

  • measured the perimeter of the math book
  • measured the height of the dining table
  • measured the length of the computer keyboard
  • measured the width of the window sill
  • measured the circumference of my coffee cup

After moving and measuring with excitement, I introduced my idea. 

Let's combine math and art! 

I gathered a watercolor tablet of paper (rectangular!), the watercolor box (it was rectangular, too!), several brushes, a napkin for blotting (square!), and a cup of water to clean brushes. 

Handing each learner a sheet of watercolor paper, I instructed them to paint, anything, anyway they desired. Once painted and dried, we cut squares. 

The squares became a mosaic.

My artist met math, and spread her enthusiasm to others in the room!

I am thankful for a second chance at teaching a creative learner. 

 

 

Living Books in High School

When we started our homeschooling high school journey in 2003, I was determined not to leave the learning power of Living Books behind in the elementary and middle school years. 

Living Books belong in high school!

While preparing a workshop I will present at the 2017 FPEA Convention, May 25-27, I decided to give Celebrate Simple readers some quick ideas we used as we incorporated Living Books into high school course content. Our high school learners were greatly impacted by the Living Books they chose. In fact, several titles greatly impacted career choices and life goals.

livingbooks11.jpg

When we began our high school journey, the first content area in which we incorporated Living Books was history. This seemed a natural choice since we had been using Living Books--biographies, autobiographies, and historical fiction--to accent our history studies in the elementary and middle school years. 

Adding Living Books to our science studies was also a natural fit, especially for learners who had interest in specialty areas or who wanted to dig deeper to learn more about scientists and inventors. As our young adults advanced through the high school years, we branched out into adult and college level materials. 

Reaching our creatives with written materials was a challenge at times, unless the reading was related their artistic gifting or interest. If you find yourself in that quandary, know that you are not alone and that your efforts are worth the time spent trying to find them great, applicable reads.

And, I had to let go of my more rigid definition of what a Living Book was in order to be open to the plethora of possibilities I would  have otherwise discounted.

The power of the story--not my definition of Living Book--impacted the life of the reader. 

What about an athlete who loves to read? How can Living Books be interwoven in a personal fitness or weight training course? And, what about an athlete who would rather play ball than read?

Living Books have the power to pull in even the most reluctant reader! 

Living Books can give life to any subject, if we allow them the opportunity to do so. Recently, one daughter began to lean toward personal growth and leadership materials, while another continued on her pursuit of all things medical. Why not include Living Books in that area, too!

If you are in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend, I would love for you to join me in my workshop, Keeping High School Alive with Living Books, at the FPEA Convention. This workshop will offer insight as to how Living Books bring high school studies to life and influence choices learners make beyond the tassel turning. The workshop will be packed with specific ideas in regards course content, book titles, and life-learning experiences. Hope to see you there! 

 

 

Torn Paper Rainbows

"Cheryl, take the kids outside to see the double rainbow!"

Mom called, encouraged.

Out we went. Raindrops continued to fall.

Sun brilliantly overcoming wet shadows.

Children and I look up, mesmerized, awed!

Like a fresh watercolor. Radiant.

Learning moment launched.

"I want to make a rainbow!"

Pulling from my mind activity file, construction paper colors gathered. Glue found.

Together, thirty minutes, tearing paper-- fine motor strengthened--a colorful paper rainbow appeared.

Mesmerized, awed.

"Mom, look what we created!"

A together moment. A learning moment.

And a rainbow gleaming through water droplets started the process.

It was simple and it was glorious. 

Picture Pie: Fractions, Art and Fun!

One of our favorite picture books related to fractions is Picture Pie by Ed Emberley.

Learners often use fractions and dread in the same sentence. 

It doesn't have to be so.

Picture Pie by Ed Emberley allows fractions and fun to partner for intentional learning and retention. 

My children found the circle cutter in the scrapbooking cabinet, the one that hadn't been opened for quite some time. One child carried the circle cutter. Another carried twelve bright-colored sheets of construction paper. Each raced to the kitchen table, inspired by Ed Emberley's book. 

Within minutes, piles of rainbow-colored circles grew on the table. Elmer's glue flowed, spurted, then sputtered from orange tops as contents were drained. 

The results. Folds. Fractions. Art. 

Mastered. 

What we did?

  • Read the explanations and looked at Ed Emberley's collage work.
  • I explained fractions are parts of a whole. The bottom number is the denominator. It tells how many total parts are in the whole. The top number is the numerator. Itrepresents a specific part of the whole. 
  • Each child selected one paper circle from the circle piles and followed directions to fold the circle in half—two equal parts. Together, we unfolded and cut along the fold line. I had each child write the fraction 1/2 on each semicircle.
  • I encouraged the learners to select more paper circles to fold and cut into two equal parts. I demonstrated how each half circle could be folded in half again, making four equal parts. I labeled each part with the fraction 1/4.
  • I allowed time for experimental folding, cutting and creating. WOW! Creative. Fraction. Fun.
  • One child suggested using printed papers and aluminum foil. 
  • At the end of the afternoon, I offered our magnetic circle set, demonstrating equivalent fractions by laying pieces on top of one another. For example,  I modeled how two 1/4 pieces fit on top of one 1/2 piece with no edges    extending over, making the statement 2/4 = 1/2.

My learners not only understood fractional parts and equivalent fractions, they applied what they learned to create amazing art--an all-around WIN WIN WIN for fraction, fun and art. And we learned together!

Intentional. Real. Relational.