I enjoy the “mixed media” of writing and drawing. They compliment and enhance one another, making my art more satisfying and beautiful.
After working on my blank page art project I knew I wanted to try it with my kindergarteners. I wondered if they would have a similar experience of comfort using the magazine as a scrap paper journal, and their words as the background for their drawing.
It was fascinating to be part of their experience!
I began by sharing my own work – both my process and my product. I shared my reluctance to work on the beautiful, blank pages, as well as how free I felt using the magazine as scrap paper. I told them I loved being able to experiment on the magazine pages. I showed them my magazine drawings and talked about my thoughts – what I liked, what I didn’t like, how I studied the faces I found in the magazine, and how I eventually developed a face that I liked. I commented that I didn’t think it was perfect, but that I really liked it just the same.
I encouraged them to relax as they worked. “Don’t worry making mistakes. It’s all part of the process. Look at what you did. If you see something you don’t like, don’t fret, just do it again until you do like it.
I asked them to be free and soft – in their minds and in their bodies – as they used sharpie markers to make the faces. I reminded them there could be no erasing but assured them they would be fine.
They were very funny in their interpretation of my words. I had to explain to some of them – as the pen almost fell from their overly relaxed fingers – “Oh no, that’s fabulous, but you really do have to hold the pen with a nice grip. What I meant is relax your arm, make your strokes easy and smooth. Like this.”
I started by giving them a drawing technique that would allow them to be successful while at the same time, giving them the freedom to create “their own faces.” I told them they would be able to make as many faces as they liked, but asked them to make their first face by following the steps with me.
The technique was quite straightforward.
- First a large oval for the head.
- Then a column for the neck, with two small hills on either side to form the shoulders.
- One long curved line for the eyebrows and sides of the nose came next. We noticed that the shape of the eyebrows really changed the emotion of our faces. We had a really tough time with the tip of the nose, so many left it out.
- The eyes were almond-shaped with circles. We experimented with different sized almonds and circles. We placed the pupils in different places. Some of us added glasses. The faces had great character – even without lips or hair!
- Lips were a bit tricky and some wanted to just make a smile. I told them they had to give the lips a try. After a bit of “ugh” and a sigh, they relented and tried. They drew awesome lips.
- Some of us added ears – amazed that they actually go from the center of our eyes to the center of our lips. Finally we added hair.
My students seemed intrigued by my thought process and used my words throughout their work. One student drew something she didn’t like and said “Well, that’s ok, I can just go to the next page.” Another told me “I’m trusting myself, Miss James. I’m being brave, doing it and just believing it will come out alright.” It was absolutely amazing to see my words empower them!
After a good bit of drawing, it was time to fill a page with words that made them happy. I suggested they think of their handwriting as a beautiful part of their art piece. They worked hard choosing words and then filled the page with their handwriting. (It’s a LOT of work for a kindergarten student.) When every line was filled they were ready to make their final face.
I gave them the option of practicing in their magazine again before working on their art piece. Some did, some didn’t, but either way, they were all engaged, confident, happy, and successful!
Our bulletin board is filled with different faces – each unique and fabulous – just like the artists who made them. Occasionally I shake my head, amazed that the artists are kindergarten students.
Why were they able to be so successful? I’m not certain, but I have some ideas.
I believe they are fantastic and capable. I value them and their work, and my behavior and language reflect that value.
- I share my expensive art pencils with them (and they treat them like treasures).
- I give them the best paper I can, and even if it is simple, inexpensive paper, I make sure it is worthy of their work – clean, cut straight, and unwrinkled.
- I treat them as fellow artists.
- I ask them to do art that I do – not just “kids” art.
- I share my thoughts and work with them.
- I don’t hide my struggles. I consider their suggestions and offer my own.
And, wow, there is something powerful about the process.
- The technique is easy to remember but still rich enough to express the wishes of each artist.
- There is a nice balance of structure and freedom.
- There is the comfort of the non-blank page of the magazines and word filled pages.
And some how, that all combines to be magical, powerful and emboldening. I dig it!
Journal Spilling: Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression by Diana Trout (2009)
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