Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Art Adventures: 8 'Till Late, the Felt Grocery Store!

A few years back I read an online article about a British artist named Lucy Sparrow. She had created a temporary Cornershop in London, stocked completely with felt re-creations of everything you would find inside. It was like a cross between a pop-up shop and art installation, and there were over 4,000 items for sale. At the time she hinted at a project in New York and I was thrilled, hoping I would hear about it when the time came. I did. 

Inside the ice cream freezer, with glitter frost on the wire baskets.

So a couple of weeks ago, I got up bright and early, invited my daughter on an art adventure, and into New York City we went. Lucy Sparrow strikes again! On Little West 12th Street in NYC, Sparrow and company opened 8 'Till Late, a little grocery/bodega created entirely out of felt. Here is one of the signs right beneath the High Line.

Sparrow did her research in making a "fauxdega" complete with Americanized products, a bodega cat, meat counter, hot dog stand, and more. She was actually in the shop when we visited, and I regret that I came over all shy and didn't tell her how brilliant she is! Maybe she will read it.

Storefront windows.

Checking out the deals.
Chips, alcohol, frozen food.

It was fantastic. Sparrow's love for simple, brightly colored felt truly lends itself to package design, and her pieces were simultaneously fine art objects and cuddly toys— well, as cuddly as toilet paper or orange juice can be. 

Chips of all sorts.
Fresh fruit and veggies.
Hot dog stand.
Meat counter and bodega kitty.
The felt register.

Multiples of certain items in plexiglass cases were given finer placement. These soup cans were in a gallery room towards the back of the shop. 

All of these felt items reminded me of a Halloween costume I made way back when my daughter wanted to be a package of Twizzlers. I couldn't imagine making thousands of them, no matter how cute!

We did purchase an item each from the shop. My daughter chose Reese's Pieces, and I chose a jar of grape jelly. I just loved the purple felt! I read that the most popular items to sell out first were Moet Chandon champagne, Heinz Ketchup, Vagisil, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and JIF Peanut Butter. No rhyme or reason I can think of, but a fun fact nonetheless!

My post was going to include an order for you to go and visit ASAP because the shop would only be open for the month of June. Unfortunately the shop is closing today. Over 9,000 items sold out, and there was just no way to keep 8 'Till Late open for the last week or so. Pretty amazing, if you ask me.

I truly enjoyed my visit, and loved the idea of everyday items as art. The simple construction in colorful felt, the pop art inspiration, and connecting to contemporary artists would be an instant hit with my students. I feel an art lesson coming on! 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Color Theory Leaf Paintings

I've been working on different ways for my 5th grade students to collaborate in the art room. We discuss how every child's work has value, and how all of us contributing to a larger creative effort can be a powerful thing. Since I am part time I also find that it helps to assure my presence in the school communities and to make our displays even more impressive. Gotta advocate for the arts! 

Quite a while ago I read about these fantastic color theory leaf paintings on a blog titled Art to the Moon & Back, by Linda Limbach. I thought it was a great way to make a color theory painting more interesting, to allow for choice in the painting, and to create a collaborative mural. Plan for several class periods to create these pieces.

For the first class, I took a walk around my neighborhood to see how many different kinds of leaves I could find, and brought some examples to share with my students. I also made a reference sheet to have available at each table. We talked about organic shapes, symmetry, serrated and smooth edges, and variety in color and size.

  Then each student drew a leaf shape in pencil on 12x16 paper. It could be a realistic shape like the ones we discussed, or they could create an original creation. The only rules were that it had to take up as much of the paper as possible, and that the stem of the leaf should e included, but drawn as a large shape to be able to paint inside of it. Also, if they were going to create a serrated edge, I suggested keeping it simple and stylized to be successful in cutting out their final painting at the end of the unit.

We then divided our leaves into 12 sections. Depending on the design, students either split the leaf down the center first, or did so without including the stem. So on the leaf above, there are six sections on the left, and five on the right, and the stem makes the twelfth. On the oak leaf below, a line was drawn down the center of the entire leaf, and six sections were made on each side. Then students reviewed the color wheel, and named each section along the outside in order, beginning at any point of the leaf they wished. The lines at this point are drawn in the biggest permanent markers you have on hand! And students can even redraw the lines thicker for the main outline, so they will have a generous area of black for the final trimming.

Inside each of the sections we then used a fine point Sharpie to create 4 more areas. There should be a variety of approaches to creating the four smaller sections. In the leaf above, I showed that the easiest way to divide up the stem is with an X. I also explained how the section with the ovals has only three, but the background area counts as a fourth section. Now that the color wheel is completely drawn, the goal is to fill each section of the leaf with the color, and a tint, shade, and tone of that color.

The area around the outside of the leaf can be messy, as you can see. This works for many reasons. First, their color wheel is labeled around the outside, so they don't forget or repeat a color. Their name, class, and table is listed at the top. This is great for pulling pieces from the drying rack and sorting them easily. I also find that many times I have the children write their names on the back of their projects, but when they are on the front I have a prompt for remembering each child's name, their artwork, and its progress. This makes it a great unit for the beginning of the year. And lastly, students can test a mixed color on the outer edge of the paper. Sometimes there is concern over whether a tint is light enough, or if a tone is different enough from the shade just painted. So testing the color on the outside is a great method for testing colors out before applying them inside the final piece.

Final touches are added by cleaning up any lines that were painted over by redrawing here and there with black Sharpie. Then at the very end, make sure students write their names on the back, and carefully cut out their painted leaf designs. Here are some of our finished pieces:

For our collaboration, I created a painted tree on bulletin board paper. It was about nine feet long! All of my students' leaves were added for a wonderful collaborative display. i have to say that displaying the paintings just as floating leaves along the hallway or bulletin board looks great too. I hope you get a chance to create some color theory leaf paintings in your art room. Enjoy.