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Friday, April 8, 2011

"Under the Sea" Recycled Art/Mixed Media

    This is probably my favorite elementary art project to date...for sure my favorite 1st grade project!  Ocean scenes are a great theme in elementary art, incorporating science into the art curriculum.  I also tied math into this project, by reading a great book by Lois Elhart- "Fish Eyes", a counting book.  Lois' books are beautiful in their vivid simplicity, her artwork uses bold color and simple shapes combined for eye popping visuals.  The students loved the book, and as we read I pointed out the bright, beautiful fish they could get ideas from.  
    The first step in this multi-step project, was to create the ocean water.  Using a 12" x 18" sheet of white sulphite drawing paper, green, white and blue tempera paint and a 1" brush, the students created their ocean water by blending the paint on the paper.  I gave them their paint in one small metal pan...3 blobs of each color paint- they shared a pan to a group table.  I demonstrated for them how to pick up 2 or 3 colors with their brush at a time and then blend them together by brushing them out on the paper.  I emphasized they should not stir the paint in the pan, making it into one color- the beauty of the water was in all the tints of blue and green they could make on their paper.  They were to start at the top, painting from side to side, back and forth all the way down the paper- never painting in another direction.  Once they were done with the water, we set the painting aside to dry.  
    Next came the recycled portion of this project.  Laminating scraps that I had been collecting in the workroom for some time were my inspiration for the fish.  I have been experimenting with many different recyclable materials this year, and laminating scraps were one of the most challenging.  (By the way, if you have any ideas or suggestions for using them, please message me, I would love to have your input!).  I tried to warp them by applying heat from the oven, the microwave, a hairdryer, a heat gun- they are not to be warped!  If only!  Dale Chihuly projects were my first thought, and still are not out of the question, but they would have been easier to accomplish had I been able to warp the material.  I have other project uses for these that I will be sharing in future blogs, but I digress...
    Paint will not stick- at least not water based- I do not use acrylic with my elementary students, though I could with the older grades, and that could probably work.  I wanted to be able to color the plastic, so I kept at it.  I found that permanent markers work beautifully, and I had some with wide tips.  They colored large areas more quickly than a fine tip marker, of course.  So, I made some drawings on the clear plastic scraps and one was a project was born!
    Once the fish were drawn on the plastic, the students cut them out and we glued them on their ocean scene.  For some fun detail, we used glitter glue on top of the plastic- sometimes this can fall off when it dries, but I had very few incidents.  Overall, the glitter glue adhered nicely and was a beautiful touch.  The project was going to end there, except for a few white oil pastel bubbles in the water, until a student grabbed a colored oil pastel and without my knowing began drawing some sea plants in the water.  When I saw what they were doing I got so excited!  Oil pastels are beautiful on top of tempera paintings...why hadn't I  thought of extending the lesson with that?  My students ALWAYS come up with better ideas and surprise me with their creativity!  So, out went all the trays of oil pastels and the bottom of the ocean came alive!  
    These projects are so impressive and gorgeous!  The students had a blast creating them and were proud to turn trash into treasure!  I told them that I am a proud dumpster diver...especially when it means that we turn something discarded into a thing of beauty.  :)


  1. I like the idea of using laminator scraps!

  2. How are we looking at the paintings of Mark Rothko these days?
    Is he old hat, replaced in America by more contemporary concerns? Looking at his minimal canvases and their enticing floating squares of subdued paint live at the MOMA recently, I had to stop to wonder whether he still communicates to a modern and younger audience.
    Wahooart, the site that sells good canvas prints to order from their database of digital images, has many Rothko prints. I ordered this one, Blue and Grey, that I have now hanging in my study. I can spend a long time looking at this elusive image that takes me to some other place not in this world.