Sunday, January 31, 2016

African Tribal Masks

Fifth and sixth graders are studying Africa in their classrooms.  As part of this study, they learned about tribal masks.  Using paper mache and natural materials, they created large tribal masks based on the traditional masks that they researched.  I invited a sixth grader to share the mask-making process and some information about her mask in this guest post.

Kwele Mask
by Ciera
Recently, we have been working on making African masks. We have now finished painting our masks, and this is how mine looks. It seems hard to believe how it started as a big box, and now it has a shape and is painted.
                                                         Day 1:

               On day one, we shaped our masks, and started to build it up. I taped on antlers and built up the eyes.
Day 2:
                     On day two, we started to cover our masks with paper mache. It was sort of falling apart at that point. It took some duct tape to hold it together.

                                               Day 3:
   On day three we painted a base layer of white paint.


Day 4:



 On day four, we added color to our masks.
            My mask was based on a mask from the Kwele tribe. The Kwele originated near the borders of Gabon, Cameroon, and Congo. The masks were used in the 'Beete' ritual. In the Beete ritual involved Ekuk masks. Ekuk means 'spirit of the forest'. The Kwele believed in witchcraft, and the Beete ritual  is supposed to help protect them from it. The masks sometimes represent the antelope that is eaten after the ritual. The Kwele used to live more toward the coast, but their enemies got firearms and they were forced to move inland.
           One of the challenges for me was to get the shape of the mask right. It took a while because it was so big, and it was hard to staple and the scored edges together. Another of my challenges was getting the whole mask covered in paper mache and the coat of white paint. I enjoyed designing my mask and painting it. I enjoyed making my mask and learning about the tribe that it belonged to. I think that my mask looks awesome.

Here are some other tribal masks by fifth and sixth graders.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs! Inspired by William Wegman

I think this image speaks for itself as introduction for artist William Wegman. 

However, if you would like to learn more about Wegman and explore more of his work, head over to for hours of entertainment! 

Third and Fourth Graders learned about William Wegman and looked at many examples of his work.  We even enjoyed one of his "Hardly Boys" videos while we worked! Students used dog head templates (thank you to Art Projects for Kids for this!) and drew the rest of the bodies dressed in many different types of attire! 

In addition to looking at Wegman's contemporary work, we looked at the classic paintings by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge of Dogs Play Poker.  This series of paintings were made over 100 years ago as advertisements for cigars.  This connection shows that artists have enjoyed the idea of putting animals in human situations for a very long time. 

Dragons for Chinese New Year

Every Chinese New Year Parade ends with a Dragon Dance. The parades start on New Year's Day and continue for the next fifteen days until the end of the festivities with the Lantern Festival.

The Dragon Parade is a highlight of the festivities. The Dragon represents wisdom, power, and wealth and a very important aspect of Chinese Culture. It is also said that the Dragon Dance performed on New Year's Day scares away the evil spirits and all the bad luck with them...

During the Dance, a dozen or so performers hold the dragon up on poles. They raise and lower the Dragon making him "dance" as they wind through the masses to the sounds of horns, drums and gongs. (from

Here is a Dragon Puppet the was used in a Chinese New Year parade.

First and second grade artists looked at many examples of Chinese Dragons and then drew their own using construction paper crayons and oil pastels. 

Kindergarten Nature Names Paintings

One of the most memorable parts of being in Kindergarten at WES is having a "Nature Name." Each child has a native Vermont animal that he or she identifies with for the year.  In art class, we used tempera paint and really large paper to make paintings of these animals in their natural habitat.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Trees inspired by Rebecca Rebouche and Gustav Klimt

When I discovered the contemporary artist Rebecca Rebouche, I knew I would have to teach a lesson based on her work.  Her "Tree Series" paintings drew me in because of the balance of simplicity and detail and the obvious playfulness she enjoys in the process.
My art students love drawing trees and some even believe that they know How To Draw a Tree, as if there is just one right way to do it.  Here is where I introduce another favorite artist, Gustav Klimt, with his painting "Tree of Life."  In looking at this intricate, swirly, gold-tinted tree, we see that the possibilities are endless. 

Although Rebecca Rebouche and Gustav Klimt lived 100 years apart, when we compare their work we can see some similarities. 

Third and fourth graders looked at Rebouche's "Tree Series" paintings and Klimt's "Tree of Life" painting.  In addition to the symbolic meaning of the trees themselves, both artists included other objects in the branches of their trees to represent things that are important to them. Click here to learn more about the symbols in Klimt's "Tree of Life."

We often start the year by drawing or painting self-portrait.  This year we breezed through this with our Monochromatic Self Portraits.  In planning the self-portrait process, I wanted students to focus on what truly makes them special and unique.  Rather than trying to, once again, help students show this in a traditional head and shoulders self-portrait, I decided to take a more abstract approach.  These tree drawings by grades three and four are a type of self portrait. 

Can you guess the students who created them based on what they chose to include in the branches?

Watch these beautiful videos to see Rebecca Rebouche at work and see how she draws inspiration from the natural world.