This year I altered my single object still life project by adding more unstructured painting at the beginning of the unit. Students were given more time to experiment with creating value and just enjoy the medium. What I have learned in my 6 years at Stone Ridge is that most of my students won’t get very much time or any time at all to paint outside of this unit. (except in French class! Where more cross-curricular work is happening!) Some of them did not even have art in their middle schools previous to Stone Ridge. If they went to Stone Ridge they have a wonderful experience with paint, but either way I just want them to experience the joy of painting before I enforce an attempt at painting from life, which can feel very intimidating. I think a lot of the intimidation comes from my students admiration of representational art and misconception that their abilities to create representational art directly reflect their artistic abilities. I want them to see value in the process, or at least experience joy in the process, and take some pressure off the final product being realistic. This is also reenforced in my rubric where there are grading categories for different steps in the process.
So this year we started by painting gradients, and spent time using pallet knives to just mix colors and experiment with the color mixing process. Just like last year, I held a competition to mix the grayest gray and they did a phenomenal job. I love the low stakes of this competition and also that it has the opportunity to highlight the talents of a student that might not have confidence in their representational art but has wonderful eye for color.
In the pictures below you can see that this year’s paintings have a slightly more relaxed style from previous years and I think the best color comprehension I’ve seen from my classes to date! You can also see one of our pre-assignment assignments where my students painted solid objects cast in raking light.