First grade art students study "the world as they know it" through artist's eyes. Using a variety of media and techniques, students study the seven elements of art (line, shape, form, color, value, texture, and space). Themes include artists, art styles, people, animals, architecture and basic perspective, landscapes, and sculpture. Historical and present day functions of art are also explored. The following are just a few units studied at the first grade level.
Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, Gray, 1921. Dallas Museum of Art
After viewing early and late works of Piet Mondrian, students begin work in his careful and precise style. Using a ruler and pencil students design the layout by intersecting lines; creating squares and rectangles. Primary colors are introduced and painting begins with painstaking detail. The finishing touch is applied using black strips of paper and black marker.
Elements of Art: Line, Shape (organic), Color (warm and cool groupings), Texture, Space
Students begin by collecting 2 or 3 autumn leaves, looking for unique shapes. As a class we discuss the differences between geometric, free form, and organic shapes. Students organize, arrange, and trace the leaves creating a balanced design. Some students also include a pumpkin or gourd, drawing from sight. The pencil lines are then retraced with warm colored oil pastel. Using a wet-on-wet watercolor technique, the students create subtle color changes in the leaves and pumpkin. The background space is quickly painted using cool colors while dropping salt into the wet areas. As the painting dries the salt dehydrates the paint and leaves a wonderful texture!
Mary Cassatt: Portraits and Self-portraits
Agatha and Her Child, 1891. Mary Cassatt. Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH.
The first graders are introduced to portraiture using American artist, Mary Cassatt. Her artwork is known for its sensitivity in portraying the mother-child relationship. The students were asked to think of a special adult to include in their self-portraits. Using mirrors, the students created lovely drawings. We then experimented with crayon to add color. Students were encouraged to layer color-upon-color and to try a variety of values using pressure - light, medium, hard, etc.