Posted by: dbjaquith | June 7, 2015

Artists Observe!

A first grader's painting of iris and peonies.

A first grader’s painting of iris and peonies.

Artists are visual thinkers, constantly observing and recording images of their experiences each day. Observation includes all of the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. These senses alert artists to fine nuances that can inform their artistic practice. Observation is a Studio Habit of Mind (Studio Thinking, Hetland, et.al., 2007).

This still life observation painting shows consideration of the background with designs and a border.

This still life observation painting shows consideration of the background with designs and a border.

In the spring I bring flowers from my garden into the classroom. Some children love the challenge of painting from observation and choose this activity. Last week we had blue iris and columbine; this week there were peonies and purple iris. The students discussed composition – that the vertical arrangement of the flowers suggested holding the paper “the up-and-down way.” Students enjoyed mixing their paints to get the just-right purples, greens and pinks. Some worked in tempera and others worked with watercolors.

Observation is not limited to objects that students can see. Some art is informed by observation done outside of school, retrieved later for artistic expression. Observation can also occur when a student learns by watching a peer. Students benefit by a wealth of resources, including  ideas, techniques and strategies, when they observe one another. Observation is how we experience the world around us and how we learn.

Students share tempera paints and mix colors in palettes.

Students share tempera paints and mix colors in palettes.


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