Thursday, 16 March 2017

Mark Ryden Figures

My current crop of students continue to work hard on the 'Weird and Wonderful' project. Following on from recent lessons on Tim Burton and Maurice Sendak, students have begun to create work inspired by the 'pop surrealist' painter Mark Ryden.

Ryden is known for paintings that blend the cute and cherubic with the macabre and sinister. Though he works on a flat surface in oil paint, I wanted my students to experiment with creating some Ryden inspired figures using Model Magic air drying clay.

The following pieces were created in this material, left to dry for an hour or two, and then painted in tempera paint.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Tim Burton Inspired Scratch Art

Tim Burton's illustrations often read like a more gothic version of Dr. Seuss. One of the units I teach at Red Balloon is on the theme of 'Weird and Wonderful' and Burton is always a popular choice for students to take inspiration from. In previous years I've always asked students to create Burton inspired art work using pen and ink but this year I thought we'd try out something new.

Below are some Tim Burton inspired illustrations created using scratchboards. I think the bright, almost psychedelic colours really pop out from the areas of black space. This use of wild colour to create the lines really takes the Burton-inspired work in a new direction.

Other lessons which I regularly use when delivering the 'Weird and Wonderful' theme are;

Giant Exquisite Corpses
Salvador Dali Dream Landscape
Max Ernst Surrealist Collage
Fantasy Creatures

Monday, 6 March 2017

Abstract Soap Carvings

Carving into soap is a fun, clean and gentle introduction to working in three dimensions. Many of the young people I work with are resistant to working in clay; they often find it rather messy and frustrating to work in. With these students in mind, I started to look around for some other three dimensional materials that are low cost and accessible. My research led me to carving soap, a medium I'd never worked in before.

As the process of soap carving requires access to sharp cutting equipment, young people should be closely supervised throughout this activity.

When a student is presented with a block of soap and a variety of differently shaped blades, they will quite naturally want to see what kind of marks, shapes and lines can be made in three dimensions. This gentle, exploratory process can lead to particularly exciting sculptural work as the photographs below testify.

If you're looking for other lessons using three dimensional materials, here's a few options for you.

Wild Things in Clay
One Piece at a Time Construction
Wire Mesh Heads
Organic Forms Clay Sculpture
Secret Diary Sculptures

Saturday, 28 January 2017

"...Made him King of all Wild Things"

Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most loved picture books. It uses poetry and lavish illustration to tell the story of a young boy making peace with his animalistic side. The book reminds us all to attend to (and befriend) the more hidden aspects of our nature.

In this session, students worked in clay to create their own 'wild things.'  I chose clay as a medium as its robust physicality lends itself well to the creation of a personalised beastly creature.

We started the session with the book, taking some time to read through it and enjoy the pictures. Most students had come across the book before, but they gained a different appreciation of it through re-reading.

After reading through the book as a group, and discussing the themes of the story and the images, I introduced the artistic concept of anthropomophism. Students then considered where else they'd seen the combination of the animal and the human. We made links to the fantastical paintings of  Heironymus Bosch and the soft sculptures of  Claes Oldenburg.

Students then set to work and created their own clay Wild Things!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Lines from Letters - Creating a Logo

In this session, students took the initials of their name or a favourite catchphrase and twisted the lines and shapes of the letters around until they formed an abstract composition. They then simplified and further experimented with the lines until they formed an image resembling a corporate logo. Once they were happy with the design, student's redrew the image at a much larger size and coloured with tempera paint.

This session works really well as a way or learning about line, or can be used alongside this lesson as part of a unit on graphic design or word art.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Art, Love and Beauty

Throughout The Symposium Plato argues that 'love requires beauty and thus doesn't possess it.' As I re read this dialogue for the first time in many years, I was moved to consider what possible dilemmas this proposition might create for aesthetics.

A traditional understanding of art is that it must be beautiful. In a previous post I discussed ideas of the Kantian Sublime and suggested that an experience that brings forth psychological movement could be a possible expansion of the concept, adapting it into something that is both transcendent and pragmatic. Taking this further, one might delve deeper into the proposition that 'art is beautiful' and perhaps find common ground with my 'therapeutic' re-interpretation of Kant's concept of the Sublime,

Plato's argument throughout The Symposium states that love requires beauty to exist and thus love is not inherently beautiful. In Plato's reasoning, love relies on a separate concept of 'beauty' and thus must lack beauty in itself. A similar line of argument could be applied to the proposition 'art must be beautiful.' If art requires beauty in order to define itself, it surely follows that beauty is not an innate component of art.

What, then, of the Sublime? If art is not beautiful in itself, then the rapturous, transcendent experience that it might engender can not lie dormant within the artwork. The old adage that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' is of relevance here. The psychological movement that the experience of the Sublime allows fo must reside within the spectator. In this model, the perceiver holds transformative potential with them, and just needs to wait for the right image to bring it forth.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Let The Materials do the Talking

Working with a new medium for the first time can be intimidating. Just as we tend to create 'comfort zones' of rendering particular types of imagery, it's very easy to fall into relying heavily on the same materials. It's certainly no bad thing to endeavour to master one medium, and many artists build successful careers on doing just that, but I think there's a definite case to be made for doing as much material experimentation as possible.

Whenever we use an art medium, we form a relationship with it. As we use a particular material, we begin to discover its potential and limitations. A teacher might show you a particular technique, or you might discover it for yourself. Either way, it's important to allow the physical properties of the medium to influence the work you create. If you can open up to the potential of your materials in this way, you'll start to find that different media will tell different stories. Knowing when to consciously guide the creative act and when to allow the characteristics of the medium to take control is key, and this is an intuitive process learnt through time and patience.