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Concentrated and Focused Artmakers!

6th graders at MS 226 in South Ozone Park settled quickly into their art-making after a lengthy holiday break. Their drawings which used all the components of a pencil took greater form as details were added and a background environment was developed for each one. Students were given their choice of media - some continued with colored pencil while others added watercolor and/or marker. Concentration was required to move forward - which proved very successful. Working with Teaching Artist Glendalys Medina, students gave their opinions of how this lesson relates to our theme of TRANSFORMATION.

A topic was thrown out for discussion during the process: which came first (as in "the chicken or the egg") - do pencil manufacturers form the wood around the lead or is the lead inserted into the wood? Other topics included what the numbers mean (#2 pencil, etc.) and why Ticonderogas are considered the best pencils and what exactly does the name Ticonderoga mean?

Meanwhile, later in the day, in the Gallery at MS 226, a new group of after-school students joined forces to create a new 'art club'. After a lively symposium about art-making concepts, materials and our current theme, Teaching Artist Glendalys Medina explained the process called Exquisite Corpse; an understandably odd term for a fun project. Definition: Exquisite corpse is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.

Using large sized watercolor paper folded into horizontal quarters, each person (which included intern Leslie Ramirez and on-site administrator Dennis Buonagura) drew the top of an animal portrait and a background setting (if time permitted) without exposing what they'd drawn to any of the others. Glendalys set a timer and when the bell sounded, the papers were folded back and passed on to the next person, who continued with another 'body' part. Three rounds allowed for a round of review (and laughs) which will continue at our next meeting. The results are smart and beautiful.

A new cycle began at PS 770 - the New American Academy - in Crown Heights, after the long holiday break. Teaching Artist Fatima Traore and intern Leslie Ramirez discussed diverse types of cycles with 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in conjunction with our theme of TRANSFORMATION. It was interesting for the ART YARD BKLYN team to learn that students of these grades knew a great deal about transformations - in nature, in geography, in cities and even in super-hero comics!

Discussing the life cycles of animals, plants and insects created excitement and upon seeing Fatima's beautifully drawn samples, students were anxious to jump in and draw. Using pencils and drafting paper, they created a huge variety of life (...well, not all were living things!) cycles including dinosaurs, trees, potatoes, snow-people, humans and mythical creatures. While most cycles included 4 stages, many developed into 6 or 8 or 10. Some cycles continued to go around and repeat while others arrived at an end - resulting in additional end-of-lesson discussions during critique.

For some PS 770 students, this was their very first critique - others were seasoned, having participated in art programs in the past. For the first-timers, learning to verbalize their thoughts was challenging - some succeeded, and some will need extra time; hence the importance of this segment of our curriculum.

Meanwhile our other sections of 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders and their classroom teachers at PS 770 enthusiastically greeted Teaching Artist Glendalys Medina, Intern Kyra Novick and me when we walked in the room arms loaded with art supplies. The large multi-use classrooms are well appointed with Smart Boards and easels placed near by a comfortable rug where students gather for our focused introduction and demonstration.

Glendalys challenged the friends to create timed Contour Line drawings. While the task is a challenging one – drawing an entire picture without lifting the pencil – the students were deeply concentrated and focused.

After two warm-up drawing exercises students chose one item to draw in large scale on Strathmore drawing paper.

Next session these drawings will be entirely filled with pencil imagery (albeit the pencils can be bent, curved, spiraled, short, long, etc.) then completed by adding color.

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