Space Invader Pixel Art

Teaching Art

Invader, is a French urban artist, is known for his ceramic tile mosaics modeled on the pixelated art of 1970s–1980s 8-bit video games. His creations can be seen in highly-visible locations in over 65 cities in 33 countries. 

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As a massive fan of Invader, I have been dreaming up a unit to incorporate and connect Pixel Art with the Lower Primary Visual Arts curriculum. So when I wound up with a crazy amount of small papercraft tiles, I pinned down a unit that combined art, math, and spatial planning. WINNING!

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To introduce the concept of a pixel, Reception 1 students practiced using grids and pom poms to make simple pictures. Learning that a pixel is a small part of a bigger picture, students practiced following a template as well as planning their own picture using the grid and pom poms.

After making a grid that matched the size of the paper pixel tiles, I drew different colored Space Invaders on the grids to match the color paper tiles I had. Students then glued the tiles to the grid using glue and Q-tips.

Students then created their own Space Invader grid template by using colored pencils, colors that matched the paper tiles and then gluing the paper pixels to their grid. The photos below show the grids before and after the pixels were placed.

The unit totalled six, 30 minute lessons. Two lessons were spent on practicing with large girds and pom poms, the next two lessons, students glued pixels on to a pre-made template and the last two lessons students designed their own template and finished gluing.

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Students worked on a large Invader at the early finisher corner each week to help create large pieces of pixel art to use for the display as well as hide and hang-up around the school.

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I also printed 20 pictures of Invader’s Pixel Art and put them in various places around the school. This created intrigue from other grade levels who spotted them and wondered what they were. Despite only facilitating this unit to Reception 1, the entire school, including teachers and staff, learned about the art of Invader. The hope is that students continue to try and spot Invaders around the world, wherever they go!

Pop Art Patterned Puzzle Portrait Prints

Teaching Art

When I left for maternity leave (3 weeks earlier than expected) one of the units I had loosely proposed was further planned and facilitated by my teaching partner, Augustine Tse and my maternity leave substitute, Kim Campbell. Combining the styling of Andy Warhol’s Pop Art Prints, printmaking vocabulary and processes, portraiture and pattern building, these Pop Art Patterned Puzzle Portrait Prints produced by our second graders are positively…phenomenal.

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After discussing the life and art of Andy Warhol, students began by taking selfies using the iPad. Their photos were then printed out, in black and white, on A4 cartridge paper. With their picture on top of thicker weight paper, students traced over prominent lines of their face. The pencil marks push enough through and into the paper beneath to act as a guide for them to then trace over in black marker. Students then added other hatching lines to add value and details in their face, clothing, and hair. This traced portrait from a picture acted as their template to transfer to a foam printing plate.

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Once engraved into the printing plate students cut around their head and torso then glued their portrait print plate to a cardstock weight paper backing to help make printing easier for them to align their edges (an ingenious move by Kim and Augustine).

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Students used four different ink colors on four different pieces of colorful paper to pull their prints. The prints were them clipped together with a binder clip and students followed guiding instruction to cut around the outline of their head and torso, cutting the background pieces into two parts, then cutting out their hair, dividing their torso as well as their face. Students were left with puzzle pieces of their portraits which were then put back together varying the colors in the four different portraits glued to an A2 dark colored base paper.

Lastly, students drew from prior knowledge to add pattern using only line and two colors to the background and highlighted areas of their face and torso. The final product truly pops and students were pretty proud of their pasted portraits.

This unit is an example of three art educators working together on various parts and pieces of the lesson plan to provide a uniquely punchy piece of…GOLD, PURE GOLD!

Indian Woodblock Printing

Teaching Art

My former art teaching partner, the fabulous and ever talented Claire Kirk, dreamt up this richly layered unit ladened and linked with many different levels of learning.

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With our Kindergartners participating in a unit centered around the Hindu Festival, Diwali, in their Kinder classroom, The Indian Woodblock Printing Unit was designed for students to then further explore how art is influenced by and connected to culture. Students are introduced to the intricate and symmetrical designs synonymous with Indian textiles and learn about how to create artifacts that celebrate the traditional arts and crafts of India, specifically woodblock printing.

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The unit begins with inquiry about how patterns are transferred to cloth and fabric. Students are then introduced to the idea of woodblock printing with a focus on the designs and techniques found in India. Students learn about symmetry and how to create a symmetrical design. The first lesson is devoted to practicing and creating symmetrical designs in pairs using paper shapes.

In the following lesson, students begin by planning designs in their sketchbook based on the adhesive foam shapes provided for them. Once they have created a successful symmetrical design, students transfer the adhesive foam shapes to the surface of a woodblock. The shapes are cut from larger shapes to ensure a variety of sizes are provided to make a developed design.

Ink trays are prepped by soaking felt squares in salt water before ringing them out and putting them on a plastic try. The salt helps delay the felt pads from drying out so the pads can be covered and used over and over again. Water-soluble printing ink is painting on the felt ink pads and are reinked twice within a lesson by students or the teacher.

Students practice printing on paper before they print on fabric. A great emphasis is placed on ‘hovering’ over the spot they want to print on to ensure they are being mindful about each print’s placement. Once the fabric dries, it can be used for a variety of things. From gluing it to a bag or sewing two printed pieces together, the results are luscious and lend themselves to lots of variations for creations.

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This unit is one of my favorite for its integration of culture, math, the design cycle, and printmaking. It gives a great foundation to show young learners that art is more than painting and drawing but a part of many different aspects of life and learning.

Dafen Oil Painting Village

Seeing Art

There is a magical place just beyond the border where the streets and alleyways are lined with colorful canvases, peppered with thick pallets of paint, teaming with tall handled brushes and abuzz with wizard-like artists honing their craft. Dafen Oil Painting Village, twenty minutes outside of Shenzhen, is a mecca where the paths of perseverance and practice cross making painting religion.

To journey to this magical place from Hong Kong, you can either day a bus or the MTR. The below information is how to use the MTR to reach Mecca. Take the MTR to Lohou Station where you will cross the border. American can get a VISA on arrival which takes about an hour and cost slightly less than a 10 year VISA. Once you exit the station make your way to the taxi queue. Make to get a metered taxi as many will offer a hire car in which you will be overcharged. Most taxis know Dafen and will know where to go. The journey will take roughly twenty minutes and cost 60 RMB.

Dafen village covers a larger area and there are multiple entrances. You could spend the entire day there as there are an Art Museum and other areas of interest. The actual painting village is a network of alleyways and small lane houses with individual artists painting on commission. There are also art supplies store selling everything and anything painting related.

From Starry Night to pet portraits, anything and everything can be painting by these masters. The cost of a commissioned painting varies on size, style, and detail. Dafen painters will specialize in certain styles of even artists. Your best bet is to make an exact replica or copy of something you want. Due to language barriers and the exactness in which the artists work, giving creative licenses may result in a painting that may not meet your expectations. Therefore, the more specifics, visual examples, and references you provide more likely you will be happy with the end result.

If you find yourself there around lunchtime, there is an excellent Muslin Resturant that has streetside seating and menus in English. Try the hand-pulled noodles and watch as they make the next batch and don’t miss roujiamo which is spiced lamb with coriander in warmed buns.

After your visit, you will be left with wonder as well as some deep questioning. Are the Dafen masters proof that if you send 10,000 hours doing anything you will become an expert? Or, what would Van Gogh think of artists copying his works and selling them for profit? Whether you walk away with a painting, philosophical wonderment or you simply visit it as you would an art gallery, this colorful corner of the world is definitely worth a visit.

Baby Belly Painting

Being Art

As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, I started dreaming up different baby belly painting ideas. However, I did not consider the difficulty of putting on my shoes while preggers let alone painting my own belly! After a little encouragement, my husband agreed to paint the baby bump and it turned out to be a beautiful bonding experience between me, my beau/bae and our baby.

The first belly painting was a design by the artist, Lisa Junis, a multidisciplinary artist, illustrator, and designer born and raised in Luxembourg. Because it was a body painting, I assumed I would use body/face paint. Although it worked, it was difficult to blend and layer. The results were still bold, blue and beautiful. With my husband’s new found baby belly painting skills, we began planning our next bump painting.

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With my love of Yayoi Kusama stronger than the force, I had hubby paint a yellow polka dotted pumpkin on my bumpkin for Halloween. This time, we tried using acrylic paint and it worked like a dream! Cheap, easy to find and fast drying with the ability to layer, the painting went much quicker and lasted a lot longer. In fact, I was able to peel the entire pumpkin off my bump like a sticker and have actually saved it in a scrapbook! WARNING: It was painful as it acted like a wax strip and removed much of my baby belly fuzz.

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For our third baby belly painting, our theme referenced a bit of popular culture. With the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody playing in theaters and my husband sporting a mustache for Movember, my belly was Queen (later we learned it was more like King). Little did we know that our baby boy would break free three weeks earlier than anticipated fulfilling this painted prophecy! We had planned to do one more baby belly painting but bubs had other plans.

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The baby belly painting allowed my husband and I to spend hours looking at our baby. Albeit, a flesh barrier between us but it allowed us to spend time with the baby before his arrival. As the paintbrush painted a polka a dot, a little kick. When a gem was applied, a hiccup. These moments, although small, made beautiful memories before our bump became baby.

Shibori Baby Shower

Making Art

As an art teacher, I could not settle for a brunch or a high tea for my baby shower. If I was gathering some of my closest family and friends to celebrate Baby Lang we were going to make art together, gosh darn it! Hence the Shibori Baby Shower was born!

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Guests were provided with baby onesies, blurb towels and muslin blankets to dye at the party. I demonstrated four different folding and binding techniques; Triangle fold, Sprial Bind, Scrunch Bind, and Square/rectangle fold. Guests than wet their bound bundle in water to aid in the dyeing.

Once wet, guests could begin dipping their items in the indigo dye vat. For the dye vat, I used two large plastic storage containers with lids. The lids are needed to cover the vats before and after. The items needed to be dipped at least twice to ensure the indigo colors are dark and the dye can soak into the areas that are not bound creating contrast in the dyed designs.

Twenty minutes between each dip need to allotted to allow the dye to oxidize. The items will initially look green as the indigo color or appears when it reacts with the air. SCIENCE!

Plastic bags were used to contain the wet items between dips. After the final dip, the items were unbound and rinsed in cold water until all the water ran clear. Once rung out, the items were hung to dry.

I ordered the Shibori Dye Kit from Amazon and used 3 kits total to 30 guests and dye roughly 60 items. By the end of the shower, the dye baths were exhausted. Below is a list of items needed in addition to the dye kits.

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Shibori Supplies & Materials:

Rubber bands, binder clips, latex gloves, large containers for dye vats, plastic bags for storage, natural fibered clothing or fabric (100% cotton absorbs the dye the best,  dying of synthetic fibers do not yield as bright an bold color contrast)

Everyone had a wonderful time, the cost to host and for guests to attend was minimal and the afternoon was spent celebrating the arrival of a baby by making art.

 

Papier-mâché Pumpkins

Teaching Art

If you know me, follow me or ever met me, you are aware and often obnoxiously reminded of my love for Yayoi Kusama. As an art teacher, I have always wanted to create a student art exhibition of all Yayoi Kusama inspired artwork. So when I learned that my school hosts an annual Pumpkin Festival for our school and the local community, I began plotting.

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All of our Grade 2 students, which includes 200 kids, all constructed their own papier-mâché pumpkin sculpture inspired by the artwork of Yayoi Kusama. The enduring understanding for the unit was, ‘Artists make art to express their thoughts and feelings.’ Yayoi, using art as her medicine, uses repetitive mark making to cope with her mental illnesses. Incorporating vocabulary such as Shape, Form, Organic, Geometric, Pattern and Infinity Nets, Grade 2 students not only learned perseverance through the pumpkin making process but also practiced talking about their art and their artmaking – an opportunity which I think is often missed in primary art education programs. Below is an outline of the step-by-step process toward creating the pumpkins sculptures but I must warn you, if you plan to participate in this pumpkin project be prepared to experience potential highs and lows throughout the process.

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Preparing the Pumpkin Form

To create the pumpkin form, balloons were blown up for each student. If you can, procure an air compressor to speed up this long-winded part of the project. Make sure to really tie the balloons extra tight to ensure that they do not deflate too soon. Also, different balloons have different elasticity backed on their size and age. Balloons, not blown-up all the way, allow for the rubber bands to push into them more so the indentations are more prominent. With that said, the rubber bands move more easily which can create a problem in the early stages. Balloons that are more taunt and feel tighter, the rubber bands will stay on easier but the indentations are not pronounced.

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We had students put their own rubber bands on in partner pairs – one stretched the rubber band while the other person held the balloon and helped wrap the rubber band around the bottom. This is challenging for kids but they CAN do it. Just be prepared for a few popped balloons and some rubber band flingage.

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I have always used flour and water for my papier-mâché mixture but due to Hong Kong’s humidity, I thought I should use watered down latex glue instead. BIG MISTAKE! After the first layer, with 200 kids mind you, the balloons stuck to the latex glue and as the balloon shrunk so did the entire pumpkin forms looking like real pumpkins come Thanksgiving – a shriveled, shrunken patch of pumpkins! DISASTROUS! RIP the first batch of the papier-mâché pumpkin patch.

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After some screaming and repetitive head-banging against a wall, I returned to my old stand-by – GLUTEN! Students started over and they successfully applied three layers of flour and water based papier-mâché to create a strong pumpkin form. Due to my allotted class time (40 minutes per lesson), students worked together on one pumpkin with a partner and then the next lesson switched. The third lesson they papier-mâché their own. This made sure that the forms were strong enough if the balloon began to delate.

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Teaching STEM – LITERALLY!

For the stem, students used newspaper and masking tape. By scrunching the newspaper, folding it in half leaving the two ends out before wrapping the shaft with tape, students taped the stem down and then applied a layer of papier-mâché.

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Pumpkin Painting

To help cover the newspaper print, students applied a layer of gesso to their entire pumpkin, allowed it to dry and then painted it one solid color. We mixed our own paint colors for students to ensure the colors were rich and varied.

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Lastly, students drew guidelines on their pumpkins and then used the line to guide the painting of their polka dots.

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Students also had the choice to paint their stem, polkify it or leave it one color. Painting uniform dots is not easy and students needed a lot of guidance and reminding about how to be successful. Last but not least, the pumpkins were coated with a thin layer of varnish to help protect them from the humidity.

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Storage & Management

Each class painted their class one color which helped for the organization of the pumpkins. Also, be prepared not to see your floor for several weeks as the pumpkins take up a lot of space! We found it helpful to use masking tape name tags which were used to place next to the drying pumpkins, stuck on once dry if needing to be moved and later writing names and class codes on the bottom. Large moving bags worked great for later storage, moving and returning the pumpkins to the classes. We see students once every 3 days for a 40-minute lesson, note that this project spanned 1 and half months (about 10 lessons = 6 to 7 hours) but can go faster with a smaller group. 

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Polka Time

The real power of the pumpkins is having them displayed collectively. Like Kusama’s artwork, the repeated forms and patterns presented together provides a punchy and dynamic display. Although visually appealing and producing Instagram worthy pics, this project is challenging nor can be done quickly. Heed my warning, it is messy, it is smelly, it is long and sometimes scary but like we teach our students, if you persevere, great things will happen! Like Yayoi, greatness came from such perseverance and we now have the artwork to prove it!

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P.S. The reading of this blog post can double as a drinking game. Every time you read ‘Pumpkin’ you drink or every time you read a clever alliteration, you drink! After the positively preposterous pumpkins making process, you’re gonna need a drink…DRINK!

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Birds of a Feather

Being Art

As you know if you follow my blog or my Instagram handle, I use any and all opportunities to dress up. So, naturally for the Killers concert this fall, I made some feathered shoulder pads inspired by the jackets worn by Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of the Killers. With Halloween right around the corner, I thought the same process could be used to make other feather themed shoulder wear and may be useful to my fellow flock of DIY costume enthusiasts.

To make the feathered shoulder pads I collected and scavenged the following items.

  1. A small amount of thin cardboard – a tissue box, or cereal box will do
  2. Colored felt of your choosing
  3. Feathers attached to a ribbon for ease of gluing
  4. A hot glue gun and glue sticks
  5. Ribbon for trimming and detail work
  6. Safety Pins

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Start by cutting the cardboard to the length of your shoulders or however long you would like the shoulder pads to extend. Then, cut a piece of felt that can be wrapped around the cardboard covering it like a present.

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Use this as the base to glue the feather trim on either side of the felted foundation. I also plucked the feathers from the ribbon trim to arrange and then glue the individual feathers around the edge where the feathers curve around the shoulder.

Then glue the trim or ribbon to the top of the feathers to seal them in and stave off any feathered fraying.

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Simply pin the felted base to the shoulder of your frock. Note that pinning is easier when not wearing the top – TRUST ME! Once properly positioned, you are ready to soar! Godspeed my feathered friends and be sure to tag me in photos of your funky feathered frocks so I can see you take flight!

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White Rabbit Color Mixing with Pre-K

Teaching Art

Color Theory is an obvious choice when introducing your youngest learn to art experiences in the art room. It provides a foundation of color mixing knowledge as well as introduces students to key vocabulary. For my Pre-Kindergarten students, I adapted and redesigned a unit that I facilitated with partner last year. Using Alan Baker’s White Rabbit Color Book as a color mixing catalyst, students follow White Rabbit as she mixes different colors of paint into her fur discovering the magic of primary colors!

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This series of units is similar to the ones you have seen with Mouse Paint but includes a fun final color mixing task that learners will not soon forget!

The video and lesson outline below gives a brief look into the steps within each of the three lessons within the White Rabbit Color Mixing Magic Unit.

Lesson 1: 

  • Introduce White Rabbit and read White Rabbit’s Color Book
  • Introduce the Primary Colors
  • Use inks in water jugs to show color mixing in action
  • Use primary colored inks on coffee filters or transparent circle rounds to experiment with color mixing

Lesson 2:

  • Review the Primary Colors and facilitate call and response practice with color mixing of orange, green and purple i.e. red and yellow make…?
  • Demonstrate color mixing on the color mixing paper palette
  • Students mix paint to make orange, green, and purple
  • Students mix all three Primary Colors to make brown

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Lesson 3:

  • Review the Primary Colors and facilitate call and response practice when mixing to make orange, green and purple
  • Present the color mixing magic using the inks in the water jugs again to review
  • Draw White Rabbit on student’s Brown painted paper using white paint markers or white oil pastels
  • Read White Rabbit’s Color Book and say goodbye to White Rabbit

There are so many ways to introduce the Primary Colors and color mixing theory to young learners. This unit ties in a fun book to reference, color mixing exploration, painting practice, and drawing practice. Also, in a way, the lessons are linked together like a story which is helpful to learners this young. I must warn you though, your little learners may magically turn into brown rabbits when painting but it is part of the fun right!?

Screen Printing Practice

Making Art

The last time I screen printed was in high school and my choice of imagery was related to Dave Matthews Band. So, when I saw that there was a workshop hosted by Make and Do HK for an introductory screen printing class, I signed up immediately to bring focus to my foggy memory of the process and to block out the poor imagery choices I made when I was 18 years old.

Prior to the workshop, the facilitator asked the participants to bring in two copies of an image that they wanted to screen print. Providing examples of what would be successful, I choose to select something that was related to Hong Kong and could be used for Christmas present making opportunities. Teapots it was!

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Using contact paper and Exacto knives, we carefully cut out our imagery and then put the stenciled contact paper directly onto the screens. This process took the longest as once printing started, things moved fast and messily! Acrylic paints were used to print which made for fast drying prints and endless color options. From overlapping prints to marbling colors, it was a fun way to revisit the screen printing process and view it through the lens of an art educator rather than student artist.

The process that was taught used simple materials and could be easily adapted for young learners and has definitely got my mind revving of the potential lessons that could be facilitated or Grade 1 or 2. In lieu of Exacto knives, students could simply cut out shapes in contact paper with scissors and stick it on to the screen. To cut down on the need for 20 plus screens, a few students could collaborate on one screen building up a pattern. Because they would stick the contact shapes it would print the negative but the learning is still there and great exposure to screen printing.

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Thank you to Pinyin Press and Sara Armstrong, a boss babe who has taken her love of printmaking and design and transformed it into a thriving business!