My fifth grade students usually do their Family Portraits in the late fall so they often include holiday dinners. In rewriting my curriculum last summer, I moved the unit to late winter. Interestingly, many students still incorporated holiday dinners in their paintings, even though they were begun in February. To begin this unit, which addresses many objectives including perspective, space, figure drawing, color, and art history, we spent an entire class looking at and analyzing 18th century family portraits while considering what life was like in the late 1700s when the portraits were painted. We had lively discussions about clothing, customs, the need for the extended family, and the props the families included in their portraits including Memento Mori and “cardboard babies” (stiff looking children who appear to be miniature adults as in this painting by Robert Feke). Try as I might to convey a little bit of societal perspective around the Age of Enlightenment, my students steadfastly refer to this child as the “demon child”. Very sorry Mr. Feke. Anyway, 5th Grade Family Portraits have been uploaded to Artsonia and can be seen here.
On the polar opposite end of the art history spectrum, my 6th grade students have been engaged in fracturing the 2D plane using a method for abstraction called “Contour Continuation”. This unit encompasses drawing from observation, contour drawing, forming ellipses, as well as abstraction, and color theory. In fact, this is the project I chose to utilize for a common assessment my K-12 district visual art colleagues and I developed this year with color theory as the objective. Students used watercolor and employed both techniques of mixing and layering. In many of my middle school students’ minds, the word “Abstraction” conjure images of splattering paint and “going wild” on the canvas. Many were surprised at the formulaic approach of Contour Continuation and I expect many were grateful for the control they had over the surface and outcome. Sixth grade Abstractions may be seen in this gallery on Artsonia: