So you might be thinking "Wait a minute, Aboriginal Art is from Australia and I don't think elephants are native to that country!" And you would be right. I wanted this to be a multicultural lesson and in order for it to truly be MULTIcultural, it can't be all about one culture. (Thank you, Dr.Grove!) So, we learned about Aboriginal Art and culture and used that for inspiration to create artwork featuring THEIR favorite animal that may or may not be Australian. This project was voted the favorite of last year's 6th grade students so it was a repeat.
Introduction: I had prints of Aboriginal artwork on the tables when students entered the room.* I asked the students to look at the artwork and make an educated guess as to where the artists lived. After several guesses, someone said Australia so I went into my introduction of Aboriginal people and artwork. We also covered the awesome vocabulary word of "indigenous" and split Aboriginal into Ab-ORIGINAL to help the students remember. To make it hit home, we discussed how Native Americans are indigenous to the United States. I won't type a script of my presentation (I have enough trouble keeping things brief) but I will tell you that most of my information came from http://www.aboriginalartonline.com/index.php.
After that, we went through the Elements of Art starting with the elements the students thought were most important in the artwork we looked at. We don't have the time to go so deep in discussion with every lesson but I think it's really good to do at least once in a while! I introduced the project and modeled drawing an animal in a style inspired by Aboriginal artwork.
This is the process we used for the paintings:
- Pick an animal to work on- your favorite animal or just on you want draw. If you don't have an idea, consider a fish, snake, or turtle.
- Figure out the best angle to draw the animal from- the simplest view that still gives enough information to identify the animal.
- Draw a simplified/stylized outline of your animal on your paper. (We used a pack of multicultural construction paper.)
- Use lines and shapes similar to those in the Aboriginal artwork to divide the body of your animal into sections.
- Include at least three symbols somewhere in your design. This could be in the negative space around the animal or in the body. They could be traditional symbols from Aboriginal artwork or made up. The symbols could go together to tell a story or just be symbols that you like the design of. **
- Trace the lines and shapes with a "skinny" sharpie.
- Use tempera paint to fill in the sections of the body and symbols with a solid color- red, yellow blue, black, or white. (We discussed limited color palettes and reviewed primary and neutral colors. I was mean and did not let them mix colors this time.)
- Use the end of your paintbrush to apply dots of paint to create designs in the negative space around the animal. I recommended patches of one color over the "confetti" effect. I also suggested a border of one solid color to outline the animal and moving around the paper as they worked so if they ran out of time, it would still be balanced.
**One of my students did something really cool with his artwork. He drew a dog for his animal and created symbols that meant he was the guardian of the home.
Last year this was a two (40-minute) class period project. I gave the students three class periods and still had lots not totally finish. Some came in during their lunch recess to work on it. I'm convinced that some students just would not finish even if I gave them ANOTHER class. The funniest thing to me about this project was my students who are known as being the "good" artists kind of freaked out! It was almost like if they couldn't draw it realistically, they didn't want to try.