Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center in Campbell, CA.
I took photos of the landscape one can see from the school yard and made a montage. I divided the photo in 22 pieces (22 is the most students I have in one class). I printed them, each of them letter size. I displayed the series of photos on a table and as the students entered the room we took some time to look at the panoramic landscape: background (The Santa Cruz Mountains), middle ground (trees and constructions) and foreground (empty blacktop).
We talked about the differences between seeing the landscape vs. looking at a photo of the same landscape.
Then each student chose a piece and traced the main lines of their portion of landscape (I had a projection with an example of what are “main lines”) on a white paper for wet medium. They retraced the lines with an oil pastel when they were fine with their first tracing and then they started painting. For this exercise I prepared the colors in advance. It helps for matching all the pieces of the landscape together.
We talked about proportions and empty spaces. the fact that trees look very “bushy” when they are next to each other, and it is important to pay attention to the photo and not to try to “draw” the shape of a tree when there is none. Paying attention to what we see is an important part of this exercise. Does the mountain look pointy? No, it does not. And why? Because it is very old and lost a lot of rocks.
Looking, looking and looking more! It’s about taking the time to pay attention to what is around us.
At the beginning of the session we talked about what was already done and what we were going to do. To have both the series of photos of the landscape and the series of paintings was interesting. The idea of working on a little piece which is part of the whole ensemble was clear.
Also: “Can you tell where is nature and where is the landscape transformed by us, humans”? They can point to the blacktop which covers the ground (and all the structures visible from the playground), vs. the mountain, which looks untouched, and the trees (although most of the ones we see were planted).
I told them we are trying to understand that landscape we see every day, trying to look at it with new eyes. Do trees have a defined shape when they are grouped? Not really. We can see that on the photo. Trees together look “bushy”. Trees together become a green “mass” with texture. As opposed to the sky, which has a fairly even color in the photos.
They spent the rest of the session painting.