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Masks at Mary Silveira: Studying Symmetry, Shape, Form and Color

Mentor Artist Julia James explored masks with the first graders at Mary Silveira School:

“The students and I began by looking at original masks from West Africa and Indonesia. Students observed the similarities and differences and as a class we shared and made connections to traditions in cultures around the world.  We then designed a mask together, as I drew and the students called out suggestions, using shapes incorporating symmetry.  Symmetry was explained as what is on one side of a face is repeated on the opposite.”

Step one: Drawing with pencil. Page is folded down the middle to encourage SYMMETRY: Whatever happens on one side, needs to happen on the other.

Students then created their personal mask beginning with pencil line and then adding vibrant colors with soft oil pastels.

Step two: Adding color with soft oil pastels, considering design: "What colors do I want to use?"

Careful coloring, and Reflecting on Patterns

Almost finished with coloring: What are complementary colors? How do different colors look when placed next to each other?

Step three: Cutting out the Mask: Careful around the ears!

Step four: Strategic cutting and taping makes the mask "POP" into three dimensions

And the finished Artwork: One project, infinite interpretations.

This lesson is wonderful in that it highlights many art standards and compliments the social studies unit on cultures and family traditions.

Primary Colors and So Much More

Kindergarten classes at Neil Cummins learned primary and secondary color mixing with liquid watercolor on shapes.

Mr. Price's KIndergarten class

Students learned the primary and secondary colors by doing folding techniques on coffee filters. The kids then painted them with red, blue and yellow dyes that bleed to make green, purple and orange.

We also used a square format.

Color! (with teacher Artist Jenna North)

First grade explores observational landscape painting with watercolor at the pond. Students exercise plein air painting techniques.

The first graders chose a range between the micro and macro in nature, drawing from the bugs in the dirt to the clouds in the shy hanging over the majestic Mount Tamalpais.

Mrs. Marcus first grade class using watercolors at the pond.

Second grade- Imaginary contour land maps

The second grade invented imaginary maps, using colored pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper.

Using flexible rulers, the second graders drew contour lines of their own imaginary world.

creative license + imagination = FUN!

Kindergarten classes used oil pastel on black paper to create fall drawings about scary things!

Scary things seem silly when we draw them, BOO!

"Things Are Scary" written and illustrated by Travis Collinson (friend of Jenna North)

Read one book before and one after the lesson. Poetry by Maya Angelou accompanied by Basquiat paintings, and an original  story and illustrations by San Francisco based artist and friend Travis Collinson.

Mrs. Capobianco's class

Mrs. Mathew's class loved drawing scary things!

The first grade spent several weeks on a Community Project; and made 3-d trees.

Drawing from trees that live in the Corte Madera/Larkspur Region.

Students learn techniques of how to create a 3-d tree out of a 2-d drawing.

trees made out of trees

The following week the first graders continued to work on the community Project and made 2-D building studies from a guided walk around campus where they took mental pictures of the shapes, architectural details, and plant life that they observed

Beginning by closing their eyes and envisioning their own house, then a house they visit often, the students then discussed the differences in shape, color, size, setting, etc.. We then took a walk around campus and students were instructed to take mental photos of the buildings, focusing on shapes and lines.

Students focused on elements and details of the buildings that they had not noticed before.

after the walk they came back to the art room where they drew from memory.

they used colored pencils

Second grade underwater sea life collages.

After discussing what some of the strangest things about sea life are, I show them a book of photos that focuses on unusual colored/patterned sea creatures and plants. Students (painterly) collage with colored tissue paper and drawings that they make from shells, coral, starfish, etc. that I brought in.

A student from Ms. Suther's class had a sculptural vision for the project.

Second grade Nature study rubbings transformed to imaginary stories in an accordion book format.

Students folded a long piece of paper into an accordion book, then learned crayon rubbing techniques, then went outside to do several different texture rubbings, and when they came back in they observed the patterned textures. They then were instructed to think about what each impression made them think of and  draw into the rubbings to create something  new.

Some of the natural textures they found had living creatures!

The Kindergarten classes did ” The dot print”- Printing with paint, using various forms of circles to make an image only using dots. I first read the book “the Dot”, by Peter Reynolds, then we talked about “print” as a way of making multiples.

Explored multiples, creative mark-making, and color mixing.

using corks, cylinder sahaped foam, and cup rings

First grade made a Still-life of fruit- Each table had a still-life made up of artificial fruit and one real piece that was placed on a colorful striped patterned knit mat. The students used oil pastel on paper. We looked at Paul Cezanne, talked about texture, and how each fruit has more colors than just the prominent color, encouraging them to mix, layer and blend colors. Students also drew the patterned mat and some background information to ground the fruit.

2: Architectural Tin Prints- We used images from architectural magazines, talked about interior versus exterior spaces, then students chose images to work from, adn were given creative allowance to invent, add and expand upon the original image to create dynamic embossed tin plates.

K: Art Gallery Collage/text- Using a variety of art show cards, the students cut into the cards to create their own art. We discussed layering/overlapping and cutting/ripping and glue stick techniques. Lastly, students used letter stamps and stickers to create silly titles for their works of art.

1: Sound Collage- Using colored tissue paper and music tab, students created collages in response to music I played. We focused on pattern/rhythm, color/mood, composition, and technique.

2: Tibetan Prayer/Wish flags- I showed them a string of 5 flags from Nepal, and we talked about the purpose and symbolism of the flags. Then students drew pictures and text of a wish for the world in one of 5 categories, associated with the color symbol/elements of a traditional Tibetan prayer flag (water, air, wind, fire, earth). The next step was to trace their drawing on to silk with paint markers, and then I dyed them.

need pics

K: Festive Ornament- Students used metallic tissue paper, glitter glue, and holographic rings on top of a clear plastic pocket rectangle/clip. The result was translucent little pieces of modern art that could be hung in a window, on the tree, etc..

1: Self Portrait Present- Students first did practice drawings of themselves on plain white paper while looking in the mirror. They then drew themselves, (using a dark/soft graphite) again on a thick, deckled edge watercolor paper, and used metallic and glitter watercolor paint to create expressive renditions of themselves to give to their parents or someone else special to them.

2: Festive Cards with 3-D elements- Students made simple abstract cards using metallic tissue paper, glitter glue, metallic tinsel, music notes, and holographic rings. I showed them techniques they could use to make certain elements 3-D, by bending and curling. Some students also worked on finishing their prayer flag.

K: Glazing of the pinch pots- Students used three colors and learned to layer glaze, but not mix, and trying to keep it off the bottom. They also did decorative details on top of their two coats of base glaze.

1: Papermache Globes- Using newspaper and paste on balloons, students did 1 to 2 layers around the balloon. We talked about what a globe was and briefly mentioned continents and oceans, which will be discussed further in the future.

2: Suminagashi Marbling- Students tried two different techniques of marbling working in partners and also alone. Using brushes and toothpicks to put small dots of ink and a dispersant on water, that is then captured on paper. Students also drew back into some of the prints using sumi ink and toothpicks.

K: Self-Portrait-ish mask- We read the book ISH by Peter Reynolds, and then discussed making things that look “ish”.

They then drew themselves with crayon and painted with metallic/glitter watercolor paint. We used paper plates, yarn, and I cut each kids eyes according to how they drew them.

1: Continued globes, last layers of papermache

2:Architectural Crowns- Using a black paper base, students creatively cut into building images and collaged them into a crown. We revisited interior/exterior and also talked about how to transform design elements into medallions for a crown. Each crown was then individually fit to the students head to make a really cool piece of wearable art.

Symmetry Explored Through Math & Art

An arts integrated unit takes time to develop and structure.

Wendy Powell, Middle School math teacher at Willow Creek Academy knew exactly what curricular nut she wanted to expand on at the beginning of this school year.

She approached teaching artist, Ascha Drake, with her ideas, and together they designed a unit that honed in on ideas of symmetry.

Throughout the unit, students were  encouraged to look at the natural world.

The students viewed different artists, who became artistic resources, and the students expanded mathematical ideas of symmetry and rotation through art materials and processes.


Students looked at forms from the natural world that are symmetrical, and created drawings that required close looking and observation.

Students then looked at other symmetrical forms/ radial patterns that exist around them:

And they then learned that Japanese Crests were also inspired by natural forms, and the compositional shape of the circle was the chosen space to work within.

Students then began to think about their own personal symbols, and how those forms could be used to create a crest of their own.

Using watercolor pencils on watercolor circles, students then began composing using a ruler, a protractor, and their shapes.

Rotation was a key mathematical concept that helped the structuring of the crests.

Extending the Arms of the Arts out into the Community: Part I.

Next Friday, December 10th, the K and 1st grade classes at Bayside school are heading out on an excursion.

They will ride on the Sausalito Ferry out to Alcatraz and back. While they are on the ferry, they will join many other school children to decorate the interior space with art work.

Kindergardeners in Ms. Banks’ K class created paper snowflakes for the project with Ms. Ascha.

Before beginning the project, the students looked at snowflakes and thought about how their art could be inspired by the images that were taken under a microscope!

They talked about the structure of snowflakes, and how they are symmetrical and  have patterns.

Recently the students had worked with paper sculpture with Ms. Brooke, so they were familiar with cutting and folding the material.

The students appreciated that each and every snowflake looked different!

And they could imagine how the snowflakes would add to the interior of the ferry.

Beautiful work!

In the reflection, the students, Ms. Banks, and Ms. Ascha talked about the importance of collaboration: working together : to create artwork. Over the next week the K artists will continue to make snowflakes, and mount them on black paper.

It will be exciting for them to see their work on view in a public space for others to see!