Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Thursday in the Life: Picasso's Birthday

Celebrating: Pablo Picasso's birthday, Thursday, October 25th. What better way to celebrate his birthday than a day of art?

Looking at: Picasso's work. I searched through our art books for examples of faces in Picasso's art and we looked at the pictures together, discussing the lines and colors and shapes. Granted, the fine young gents are six and four and the faces made them laugh. "They look funny!" giggled four-year-old gent. But they got it. They started to see how the shapes went together and folded out, and how the lines and colors created faces that were interesting to look at. They also really got one of Picasso's most famous works, Guernica, a painting about the horror of war. I turned the page and read about the mural. They were very quiet as they examined the painting. "I think that man is dead," said the younger gent. "The people are scared," said his brother. When asked, they both decided that the reason the colors are dark and gray is because it is a sad painting.


Picasso (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists), Mike Venezia.
Mike Venezia's famous artist books are some of our very favorites. As with the others in the series, Picasso offers an easy-to-read and interesting story of the artist's life and art.

Usborne The Children's Book of Art: Internet Linked, Rosie Dickins.
We pull this book out about once a week, read a page, and look at the suggested links. It's a nice low-key way to introduce art to the fine young gents. On this particular day, we read the page about Picasso and looked at the painting Three Musicians.

Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail, Laurence Anholt.

A lovely story about Sylvette, a shy and dreamy young girl in a ponytail, who became one of Picasso's models. Based on the true story of Sylvette David, a young woman who eventually became an artist in her own right, the story is charming and sweet, and includes biographical details and photos of the real "girl with a ponytail."

Picasso and Minou, P. I. Maltbie.
Unknown artist Pablo Picasso is nearly starving himself when he takes in Minou, a friendly stray cat. Eventually things get so bad that Picasso must let Minou go to fend for himself. Minou manages to find food for them both and inspire the artist to paint a circus family instead of the dreary blue paintings he's been painting.

Drawing: Faces. I spent a little time looking for Picasso-themed lesson plans in our art books and in the internet, then let the fine young gents choose which project they found most interesting. They chose this one, Picasso Faces. It's very simple, but it's one of those lessons that you could do just as successfully with a fourteen-year-old as with a four-year-old because the emphasis is on using one's artistic abilities to express what one sees or recognizes in the work of the artist. Materials are also simple: Paper, black markers, and oil pastels. I also printed a few of Picasso's better known faces, including a 1907 self-portrait, Jaqueline with Flowers, Weeping Woman, and Girl Before a Mirror (Girl Before a Mirror coloring page here).

What an art adventure we had. Fine young gent, four, insisted that he could only draw faces with a circle, two dots for eyes, and a curve for a smile, the classic smiley face. I drew a large circle on his paper. On my own paper, I drew another circle. "Look at my eyes," I told him. "Are my eyes little dots?" He shook his head. "What shape are they?" I asked. His little brow furrowed. "Hmmm....." I asked him to trace my eye sockets with his fingers. Then I showed him how to draw an eye shape. I asked him to trace my nose and my mouth and try to draw the shapes. What a thrill to see the "Aha!" Maybe next time I should have him feel my hair too, so that he realizes that it's not a little lump at the very top of our heads. Am I complaining? No way. Giggling a little, maybe. After all, that face is a far cry from a little smiley, which is a huge confidence builder.

His fine young brother didn't follow directions. The horror! "But, but,'re supposed to be drawing faces," I said. He looked crestfallen and as the words were coming out of my mouth I started looking at what he was drawing. I wanted to rewind, or bite my tongue, or kick myself really hard.

What he drew is delightful. Sure, it's not a face. It's a girl in a ponytail, dancing. You can see the movement in the drawing. She's happy.

It's hard to find a balance in art lessons sometimes. Without some guidance and direction kids often don't stretch themselves to try new things. It's important to learn to follow directions. But it's also important to experiment and explore, to try the new things in their imaginations, to see what they can do if they follow their instincts. As a parent-teacher, trying to walk that fence between guiding and allowing exploration, all without discouraging....whew. It's a lot like parenting in general, isn't it?

I backpedalled. Apologized. "You know what? I love it. Keep working on that. Then if you want to keep going, will you do a page of faces?" And he did.

The results are delightful. Not because they're Great Art, I know that. I'm not trying to turn out fine artists, but I do want my children to love art because it is a way to create beauty in our world, and I don't want them to believe that art is something that only hangs on a wall in a museum. In much the same way I believe that music is something that we can create, not just something to which we passively listen, I want my children to believe that art is something we can create ourselves not just something that an Artist creates for us.

On this day, they both took what we'd been discussing and made it their own. They understood a little bit of what they saw, the parts about colors and lines. And they are proud of what they've made. And that's what makes me glow.


Kate in NJ said...

I had planned to celebrate his B-day as well, but my P was not in an
"art day" mood :-(

Irie said...

That looks like SO much fun. I love the dancing girl.