Something Spicy from the Art Room

Some days, doing classroom examples is the full extent of my ability to exercise my creativity.  That doesn't mean that sample projects for classroom use don't require a healthy dose of my favorite attribute, it just means that sometimes the act of showing other people how to do something (repeatedly) can take all the creative energy I have.  I can only demonstrate how to adjust pressure to create a colored pencil gradient so many times before I want that colored pencil to morph into a tranquilizer dart that I will then stab into my jugular as I reenact the Will Ferrell pool scene from Old School.

"Spicy," 2011
Colored Pencil on Paper
However, that is not always the case.  Sometimes I really, really like it.  I could demo paint techniques all day.  I love showing kids how to make textures in pencil, and I like some of the projects we do so much that I just keep doing them over and over with the kids.  My descriptive word illustration project that I do with 8th graders at school (as well as 13 year-olds at camp) is just such a project.  

I designed this project when I was student teaching in 1998.  Wow.  That wasn't yesterday was it?  Anyway, I needed a drawing project that would facilitate experimentation with colored pencils that also had graphic design elements, pushed critical thinking skills, and also had a possible literacy tie-in, so I came up with Illustrated words.  I've seen stuff like it before, so (like everyone who creates art curriculum) I tweaked and adjusted to get the project that I needed.

It works like this: the kids pick and adjective or adverb (that has between five and eight letters - for spacing purposes) and spell out the word using pictures instead of letters - and all the pictures fit the theme that the word itself creates.  They brainstorm and sketch and research and re-sketch and draw and shade and it usually turns out pretty nicely for the kids who put forth the required effort.

I think that I like this one so much because a) I love teaching colored pencil illustration, but b) now matter how old I get, I just still really, really love to color.  I mean who doesn't?!  You lock in and tune out the world.  You're in total control of the situation as you pick colors and choose what details you want to include.  It almost becomes meditative as the colored pencils smoothly glide over the surface of the hot press 80 lb. white sulphite drawing paper.  A Zen calm usually follows and I end the whole experience feeling like my mind just received it's own deep tissue massage.

All the high pressure stress jockeys that are riding the wave of pushed back meetings through their day should stop and color for a little bit once and a while.  That little slice of Zen might get them through.  

But if they did that, what would they post on Facebook?


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