Doing art projects with my students never fails to inspire me. There are so many pieces of the puzzle to get excited about–the conceptualization of the project, the research, the introduction, the implementation, the students’ work and reactions and now, of course, blogging about it! If you’re a parent of a student in Room 8, you’ll have hopefully received your parent gift by this point. I’ll tell you–it’s been hard sitting on this post and not spoiling the surprise! Now, here’s another treat–a closer look at our Mini Monets Project:
First order of business–as with any project–is a dose of research. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to France and see both Monet’s home in Giverny (including the famous gardens and Japanese waterlily ponds) and the enormous Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies) paintings at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, so the research part was a little bit like a walk down memory lane. I knew I wanted to do Mini Monets, but at first I wasn’t certain I wanted to limit their subjects to water lilies. However, a little experimentation on my own showed me the error of my ways. I’d love for my students to have more opportunities to “paint like the Impressionists,” but I had a specific goal in mind for this project–they were making gifts for their parents. Water lilies it was. I began to collect materials, starting with books:
- Katie and the Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew
- The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt
- Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christine Björkman
- A Child’s Introduction to Art by Heather Alexander (More an encyclopedia of art and artists, but it has a fantastic page about Monet and got my students looking up different artists.)
- Claude Monet by Mike Venezia
- Claude Monet: Sunshine and Waterlilies by True Kelley
- Where Is the Frog? by Geraldine Elschner
I also used a few online resources:
- Monet Worksheet from Education.com
- “Hey Kids, Meet Claude Monet” Biography from Making Art Fun
- Claude Monet Biography from Ducksters
The most useful item I found, however, was the following YouTube video:
I watched this video three or four times before trying my hand at a sample Water Lilies painting. I love how simple and straight-forward it is, plus the tiny bits of Art History that are thrown in for good measure. In the end, I decided to show the video to my students as well. I showed it to them as a group and then had them watch it again just before they painted.
Reminder: Try before you teach! I do this for two reasons: One, I like to have a sample art work for the kids to see. Two, trying the project before you teach it will help you to troubleshoot when you actually do the project with kids. In fact, it’ll help you figure out any kinks before you even run into trouble.
- White 4″x4″ mini stretched canvases–not the canvas panels. (I used the Artist’s Loft ones from Michael’s, but they can be purchased from Aaron Brothers or Dick Blick Art Supply.)
- Small, flat brushes–this is essential to create the “tache” technique that defines most Impressionist paintings. Choose small brushes since their space to work is small. Shorter bristles will give them more control with the paint.
- Acrylic paints in the following colors: white, yellow, blue, red and brown. The Paint Like an Impressionist video specifies Titanium White, Ultramarine, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red and Burnt Sienna. I had the basic Liquitex six color set (which includes Ultramarine and Titanium White, but has Naphthol Red and Cadmium Yellow–go figure), so I used those and borrowed some Burnt Sienna rather than purchase the exact colors separately. That being said, I do suggest using “pure” colors, as they’ll work best for color blending. A yellow that leans toward orange will make a brownish color when mixed with blue instead of the more vibrant green you were hoping for.
- Craft sticks and craft glue for making easels. Get the instructions from Art Projects for Kids.
- I showed the “Paint Like Monet” video to the class and then asked them what they remembered. Things that stuck out in their minds:
- Monet used bright colors instead of dark ones.
- Monet didn’t believe that the color black existed in nature.
- “Tache” means “touch” in French. They really got a kick out of this.
- For the first time, tubes of paint and flat brushes were used.
- Some things to point out to your students in case they missed them:
- We had a quick discussion of Realism v. Impressionism and compared and contrasted a few paintings.
- It’s not necessary to mix the colors completely, on the palette or the canvas. In fact, not doing so can give the painting depth and create the look of images on water.
- Holding the flat brush in one direction gives a broad stroke and turning it sideways creates a thinner one. This is especially important when they do the petals on the water lilies.
- Having less paint on the brush will give them a finer stroke and also make it easier to control the paint.
- The instructor only wipes his paintbrush once (before doing the white petals of the water lilies) and doesn’t wash it at all until the end. (I gave my students a paper towel and no water while they painted.)
- Monet painted “alla prima,” all in one go, and so would they. We didn’t be revisit our paintings later to add detail or change things, but finished them in one sitting.
- We revisited color mixing (How would they make green? What if they wanted a lighter color?)
- Finally, I gave each student a mini canvas, one small, flat brush and dabs of the following colors: White, Ultramarine, Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Red, and set them up with some samples (my Mini Monet, an iPad image of one of Monet’s paintings, and the Japanese Footbridge card from my Usborne Famous Paintings Art Cards set.)
- I loved seeing this project capture my students’ interest. A couple of them experimented with their own Mini Monets in Art Class with Stan and one even painted at home!
- Extensions of this project came naturally. Since their interest was piqued by the idea of painting like him, some of the students chose Claude Monet for their research assignments.
- Kathy, the lovely blogger at Art Projects for Kids has quite a few ideas for other “Mini Masterpieces,” including Van Gogh, Matisse, Kandinsky and Mondrian. She uses Sharpie Paint Markers for her Mini Masterpieces, which I’d like to experiment with next. I love the idea of having each student create a Kandinksy-style circle and putting them all together for a collaborative art piece.