Thursday, April 14, 2016

FIFTH GRADE . . . Abstract musical sculptures

Abstract sculpture by Tomas

Fifth graders explored abstract art with our latest sculpture project. Inspired by the shapes and forms of our favorite musical instruments, we built an abstract version of our instruments using wood, string and cardboard.

Pablo Picasso changed the way we all view and accept what we consider to be "Art." His brilliant and influential ideas went far beyond just painting a face with features in the wrong place. As a well trained realistic artist, he could create a very recognizable and beautiful study of the human face. He was trained in anatomy and in figure drawing. He understood how to represent the world on paper in a traditional way. Why would an artist paint a face as strangely abstract as he is best known for doing, if he could draw like this image below?

Realistic Sketch by Picasso
Abstract painting by Picasso
Fifth graders compared these two images in class and most students thought he was just having fun with the shapes and colors, or he was looking for a way to be different. We looked at the events and developments at the end of the 19th century that might have led to an acceptance of abstract art as an art form. Architecture with the design of the Eiffel Tower, for example, also displayed this new obsession with an abstract visual that went beyond practicality. The world was changing and Pablo Picasso was a dramatic leader in our changing vision. His cubist portrait with features drawn in strange places was a creative experiment in how to portray a 3D person on a flat surface. Why would you try to make something look like it has dimension on a flat canvas, if the surface is flat? He broke all the rules as he tried to make sense out of these revolutionary ideas.

Picasso's Guitars
Music was a recurring theme for Picasso and many other abstract artists of his time. A few years back, the MoMA in NYC held a show of Picasso's guitars. These pieces were collages and reconstructed musical instruments reflecting his ideas with cubism and abstractions. We used this collection of pieces by Picasso as the inspiration for our fifth grade art show.

Just as Picasso was trained early in his life as a realistic artist, we began with realistic sketches in our sketch pad of our instruments. Then we looked for creative ways to break all the rules and create a sculpture inspired by music, without trying to reproduce our instruments in a realistic way.

Here are a few examples of our work. To see everyone's sketches and sculptures, follow this link to the Ranney School exhibit page on

Sketch by Adele
Abstract Sculpture by Adele

Sketch by Maya

Abstract Sculpture by Maya

Sketch by Ankush

Abstract Sculpture by Ankush

Sketch by Nicholas
Abstract Sculpture by Nicholas

Sketch by Michael

Abstract Sculpture by Michael

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

KINDERGARTEN . . . Why is Blue dog blue?

Paulie painted his dog black because it is dark outside.

"Why is Blue Dog Blue?" is a colorful picture book, written and illustrated by George Rodrigue. In this story, Blue Dog changes color for many reasons. For example, what color does Mr. Rodrigue paint his dog when he eats a hot dog? Mustard, of course!

We learned how to draw a sitting dog in our class, following the pose of the familiar Blue Dog. Then we set about choosing just the perfect color for our dogs. Some of our dogs stayed blue, others were painted turquoise, magenta, black, orange... What color would you paint your dog, and why?

As always we focus on the story behind the artwork we make. Kindergarteners described the color of their painted dogs and why they picked that color. All of our painted dogs will soon appear in our very own digital book. Look for our published story in an upcoming post!

Here are some of our stories. To see all of our Kindergarten dogs, follow this link to our exhibit page on

Anthony painted his dog turquoise, just like his football.

Elijah painted his dog red because his favorite apple is a Red Delicious.

Evelyn painted her dog brown because she and her brother Marcus love monkeys and monkeys are brown.

Hannah painted her dog yellow because that is the color of the sun and she loves the sun!

Karina painted her dog pink because it reminds her of her pink bedroom.

Note to families...
This art blog will be updated regularly with new posts sharing our daily activities in the art room and news about upcoming art exhibits. To respect the privacy of our students, names will always be limited to first name only and identifiable photos will never be accompanied with a name. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write in the comment box below or send me an email at I would love to hear from you!
    In my class, students are given the chance to explore different materials and fun new techniques as they develop their signature style. Some young artists love to draw with a pencil, some like to paint on canvas or create images in a digital format, while others prefer working with clay and molding three-dimensional forms. In my classroom, we use a variety of materials allowing all artists to experiment and figure out which type of art they like the best. At Ranney School, we place a strong emphasis on originality and celebrate artistic differences, always nurturing and encouraging the imagination of every student.
     Remember to check out our display of finished artwork and student portfolios in the Ranney home page of