I can’t say the kids were one hundred percent ecstatic when I introduced the idea of studying a “Grandma Moses” this week. Perhaps it was the name, or maybe it was the seemingly simple skills that may appear at first glance to go into her landscapes. Whatever the case, as we began to dig they found that the complexities were indeed in the details and there was plenty to gain from a week with this remarkable talent.
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Day One- Perspective Drawing
We started out the afternoon observing a variety of Grandma Moses’s paintings and taking some time to describe what we saw. One of the truly amazing things that really connected me personally to her work was the childlike whimsy the lay in her strokes and communicated so clearly the simpler times of community from her childhood.
I asked the kiddos what they thought was close up, and then far away. How could they tell? How did Grandma Moses create perspective on a flat white canvas? Because the things that were further away were smaller, and the things that were close were larger.
I found a terrific simple activity at My Messy Art Room that would allow the kids to explore perspective so that they could get a better hang of the concept. The steps are as follows:
- Lay down the sheet of paper landscape mode.
- Using a ruler lightly draw a line from to top right corner to the bottom left corner. Now do it again from the top left to the bottom right. Now you should have a giant “X” centered across the sheet of paper.
- The “X” on the page will create four triangles. The bottom triangle will be the tile floor. Again with the aid of a ruler have the student draw lines that gradually grow closer and closer. They can use the ruler to measure if they want to assure that there is an even development.
- Then they can draw about 5 or 6 lines from the center to the bottom. This will create the tile.
- Next, they will want to draw about four lines from the top and bottom of the left triangle. Again the lines should slowly grow closer together.
- On the right triangle, they should mirror what they have done with the left triangle.
- From the top of the lines from the left to the right, there should be an arc that curves upward connecting the two. When all four arcs are complete it should start to look like a long hallway.
- Now they can draw in whatever fish they would like to their aquarium. The further the fish are down the hall the smaller they should be drawn.
- Then color however they like, we just used crayons.
Day Two- A Farmer’s Perspective
Folk art is an art form that captures the customs and atmosphere of culture. One incredibly infamous U.S. folk artist is Norman Rockwell with his timeless realistic captures of everyday life during the golden age of the U.S. We see images from crowded shelves of toy shops, doctor visits, hair cuts, ice cream parlors, family dinners, and so much more. There is something in the colors, technique, and situations that almost transport the viewer to that time.
Grandma Moses was also a folk artist. She used childlike whimsy to capture the scenes from her childhood in the late 1800s. And when we think of old-time America, what industry comes to mind? Farming. There was far less of urban influence on the U.S. back then, and rural communities were most commonly comprised for shop owners, teachers, and farmers.
To talk a little be more about the way life was back then, I introduced this book. This book has a strange wide array of prices via Amazon so pay attention while ordering or there is also this video, which isn’t the worst so long as you ignore the coughing scattered throughout it:
I borrowed an activity from the archway art blog here. Sticking to the influence of farming, I wanted the kids to develop their own folk piece of the late 1800s, as well as to once again practice perspective.
- Laying the paper out landscape mode, draw a faint line down the exact center of the page, from top to bottom.
- Using a ruler to draw a line across approx the top 3/4 of the page, from left to right.
- Now placing the ruler where the two lines meet have the student draw a diagonal line from the center point to the left corner, then a diagonal line from the center line directly down to the center bottom of the page, and then from the center line to the bottom right corner of the page.
- Now fill in a diagonal line between each diagonal line drawn. These will be the crop rows. There should be about 8.
- Draw a half circle to represent a rising or setting sun on the horizontal line. The kids can also draw a barn, or mountainscape at the top quarter of the page around the sun if they like.
- Color the top scene in crayon.
- Now have the student fill in each row with the crop of their choosing. From big in the front to smaller in the back, the kids will draw with their pencil their crops.
- Color in the fruit, vegetables, and flowers with crayon.
- Using watercolor the students will now paint in the ground and sky. (Don’t worry about painting around objects, the wax will withstand the paint and make for a neat effect.
- Let Dry.
Day Three- From Top to Bottom Collage
Now that we understand the meaning behind her work we will discuss the method to it. I have never heard an artist so plainly explain their craft, and hearing this one sentence always fills me with an instant urgency to challenge myself to try it in just the order she describes:
I paint from the top down. From the sky, then the mountains, then the hills, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people. – Grandma Moses
- Construction Paper
- White Paper
- Super Tip Markers
- I borrowed this particular idea from Dymphna Song.
- I instructed the kids to take up the entire paper painting a sky, any variation of sky that inspired them. This kind of brought us back to our Monet lesson.
- As that dried we picked out the color of construction paper we wanted to represent the hills that would be our landscape. Then we cut them in the shape of hills along the top third of the paper.
- Then taking out a brown sheet of paper we cut out the shape of a tree trunk.
- Once the paint was dry we glued the hills, lining the base of the construction paper in even line with the base of the painting. Then over the hills, we glued the tree trunk near the bottom of the paper.
- I reminded the kids to take perspective in mind as they drew whatever they like with markers. Things on the hills were smaller, while things towards the bottom of the paper were larger.
Day Four- My Past, My Perspective
We reviewed once more folk art and talked about what would be represented in our own memories. For those unfamiliar with our story, in a matter of five years, we moved from Texas to Alabama and then onto Orlando, FL. Every move was difficult in its own way, the hardest for the entire family surprisingly being from Alabama to Florida.
We talked about memories we had, we discussed things that they had experienced that their children would not, like the elephant parade when the Barnum and Bailey train pulled up at the center of town. We talked about the many southern churches and the gorgeous flowering trees.
With these images in mind, the kids were allowed to create their own Grandma Moses folk art.
- Start with the sky, drawing with a pencil where the sky’s line would be, the mountains, and then the hills.
- Then they paint the sky.
- Then they paint the mountains.
- Then they paint the hills.
- Then the houses/buildings.
- Then the animals.
- Then the people.
It was fun finally allowing them a day to explore with their imagination and really take charge of their art.
Day Five- Poetry meets Art
Although art is perhaps the most commonly associated with paint, not all art takes on this form. There is music which is done with rhythm, theater which is done with acting, and then poetry which is compiled with words. And then there are times when the various forms of art may combine to inspire us all over again.
We read A Prayer in Spring, this is a compilation of Robert Frost poetry that places prose to Grandma Moses’s iconic works. We talked about the poems and what they were saying. How did they align with the painting?
At the end I wanted the kids to pick out a favorite line and paint a Grandma Moses style painting to it. This one did not need to be as elaborate as a memory painting as we were trying to only capture one line of poetry.
Interpreted from a Crayola activity here.
- The student will choose a favorite line of poetry that is descriptive and write it down on a scrap sheet of paper, just for future reference.
- Using a pencil and ruler the student will draw a faint line about 3.5 inches from the top of the page from left to right.
- With the pencil, they will lightly draw the elements that they can include based on the stanza that is inspiring their folk art. Remember the rules of perspective. So if they are drawing a road it needs to be larger at its base and grow smaller as it crawls up the paper.
- Now to paint the sky.
- Then the “hills”
- Then the animals.
- Then the people.
- Let dry.
- With a marker and neat handwriting they can write their quote anywhere they like onto their paintings.
Planning to try these great works?! I want to see!! Feel free to post all masterpieces to Instagram, tag it #H2UArtRoom