Creating space

Our first elementary art project of 2010 is finally finished. We made it into space!

When a project takes four class periods, it's a relief to have it be worth the effort. I wasn't too sure we'd get past the first morning doing a reprise of the the shaving cream printmaking the kids loved in December. The second time the kids loved wallowing in the mess even more, so I need some space and a few light years to recover before I try it in a large group again. We got great marbled effects on some old, faded construction paper, though.

The second morning we did a calm color-mixing experience while painting to the space music mix cd the Woolly Mammoth made for me years ago. A little Star Wars, some Star Trek, Holst, and a final frolic with the Purple People Eater were a treat while trying for a a wide range of tints and a soft, feathery brush stroke. Using some freebie overhead transparency sheets for palettes made for easy clean-up, plus we used the last of the paint on each palette for a couple of monoprints.

By the third week, each student had several interesting papers to use, tracing and cutting circles to make planets, asteroids, and other orbs of various sizes. At ages six to nine they feel competent at tracing and cutting, so that class had a relaxed mood. They could trade their leftovers with classmates to get different colors.

Now for the tricky part--how to introduce composition to get the best space, the best illusion of depth, so the circles wouldn't be glued on like polka dots or domino spots. Our eyes and brains play such wonderful tricks on us. The small circle seems more distant than the big circle. The circle that interrupts the picture frame seems closer still. The overlapped circle is automatically more distant than the overlapping one. A small shape interrupting the edge of a large circle seems to be moving in front of it!

The kids were delighted with their results. Their planets and moons weren't just in space. Some seemed to be rotating and revolving thanks to the patterned papers. We even had a few eclipses, and we got safely back to Earth.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

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