Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Monday, March 23, 2015

Oil Pastels and Sacrifice

Confession.  I HATE oil pastels.  With a passion.  The only other thing that is dislike more is chalk pastels.  I hate the texture. I hate the mess.  I hate the residue that they leave on my hands.  I hate them.  But I do it anyway.  

I haven't done an oil pastel project in probably 5 or 6 years and I thought that it might be time to break them out.  I think that the kids might be getting tired of markers, colored pencils and water color paints.  I have a big sculpture project planned for when it gets warmer but we probably have a few more weeks before we will get into that. Unfortunately, the supplies are getting scarce this year for some reason, so I am having to be a little more creative than usual.  

When we start using oil pastels, I have the kids do a practice chart where they can try them out and practice different techniques, some of them for the very first time.  We fold our papers lengthwise twice and then in thirds, which is easier said than done.  I have them label the 12 boxes that result from the folds as follows: Light Pressure, Heavy Pressure, Light Blended, Heavy Blended, Highlight, Shadow, Sgraffito, Red + Yellow, Blue + Yellow, Blue + Red, Blue + Green and then a free space where they put their name.  It always tickles me when some of the more tactile kids (who are like me) ask to wash their hands every five minutes while others enjoy the mess that they are creating.

We talked about the differences between objective and non-objective art for this project.  For the most part, the kids enjoyed using this medium and I think that the projects turned out nicely.

While we were working, I heard a few comments along the lines of "I HATE oil pastels! They are so messy! Can I wash my hands?" and a few more "I LOVE these!  Can we do another project with them?".  I must admit that I felt a little bit guilty projecting my own feelings about oil pastels on the kids, but I am pretty sure that they saw it in my face when I was demonstrating how to use them anyway so I might as well be honest and upfront with them to start with.

If it were up to me, we would paint and doodle and make books and mixed media and do projects with lettering and type and words and do printmaking and learn about art history every day. Thank goodness it isn't.  So we have to stretch ourselves a little and sculpt and collage and do technical things like perspective and drawing on a grid and try charcoal and pen and ink and even the dreaded pastels.

The parameters for the project were: At least 3 geometric shapes.  They can be different.

Or all the shapes can be the same.  You can do more, but not less.

Have at least 3 lines dividing the page.

You can have more than 3 lines, but not less.

Show me blending of at least 2 colors.

Show me highlighting with white.

And/or shadows with black.

Love the intense colors on this one.

Love the balance in this one.

This student attempted a little bit of sgraffito!

This one has a soft water colory feel to it, I think.

I love the color choices that this student made.

So, tell the truth.  What materials do you hate using personally that you let your students use so that they  can experience the medium and make the love/hate decision for themselves?  Are there things that you gravitate toward that you seem to fall back on, with your art lessons, time and time again?  Do you have to push yourself to let your students create outside of your comfort zone?

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