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Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Students studied the work of Brice Marden before starting a multi-week-long project inspired by his art. Marden is known for his serpentine, calligraphic drawings with layered networks of lines. Marden's work is often inspired by Chinese (hanzi) and Japanese (kanji) characters, and at times uses sticks as extender tools to draw with. Students were introduced to hanzi and kanji characters and were challenged to make both small and large calligraphic patterns on various papers, inspired by Asian letter characters and Brice Marden's work. During the first stage of the project, students worked at tables and made drawings using twigs as drawing tools by dipping the sticks into ink and then working to make calligraphic markings with an unconventional tool. In a related exercise, students were instructed to smudge charcoal over their pages before using sticks and ink, and later, after the ink had dried, they worked with erasers to reveal original paper color in various "negative shapes" which they discovered between their markings. For the second part of this project, students were given larger tools that forced additional challenges. Students were given yard-long sticks and ink and tempera in bowls and palettes on the classroom floor, and while standing above their paper, they made wonderfully unpredictable calligraphic drawings with increased accidental markings. For these preliminary exercises, students were challenged to think about "varied line, and shapes," and to "consider the space displaced by these markings," and to "value using multiples layers" by understanding "why certain materials and mediums came first when layering their markings." These first experimentations prepared the students for their final project, in which they used acrylic on canvas boards and painted networks of layered lines, forming crisscross shapes with brushes and various colors. In their final Marden-inspired project, students were asked to think about what they learned from making their preliminary drawings and were challenged to transfer their understanding into their final paintings. They were encouraged to consider color as a way to "activate the illusion of space." They were challenged to "pay attention to which colors appear to come forward in space, and, which colors appear to push back into space." The results of these projects are quite sophisticated for these young artists in grades 2-5.