All that being said, on occasion I do manage to come up with a lesson of my own that I end up loving. These colorful 2nd grade owls are one of those projects.
I was looking for a collage project for my kiddos when I came across the work of Brighton, UK artist Chris Hagan. Y'all, I absolutely LOVE his work: bright, colorful, magical, textural, and very reminiscent of both Henri Rousseau and Marc Chagall. His illustrations are wordless folktales. They truly speak volumes. In fact, I was so enamored of his work that I skipped right over to his Etsy shop and bought the print below. (I've felt a connection to Tennyson's lily maid since my Victorian Lit class in undergrad. I can recite all 171 lines, people.)
|Chris Hagan, The Lady of Shalott (c. 2015), mixed media collage|
So anyway, after spending a good half hour drooling over his gorgeous textured paper and whimsical colors, I decided he would be a terrific contemporary artist to whom to introduce my second graders. We started by talking about artist inspiration and compared Hagan's "Tyger, Tyger" to Henri Rousseau's "Tiger in a Tropical Storm."
The kids were quick to pick up on the similarities in style: both artists are inspired by nature, use bold shapes and patterns/repetition, and stylize their subjects. They also noticed the differences: Rousseau chose a more natural color palette, while Hagan uses bright, intense colors; Rousseau painted in oils, while Hagan often textures his own paper for his collages. (He also paints in gouache and watercolor.) We ended our discussion by talking about the difference between being inspired and simply reproducing another artist's work. After all, even at 8 years old, I want my young artists to begin making their own decisions about their art and how they will express themselves visually.
|Chris Hagan - Tyger, Tyger (2014), mixed media collage|
(Seriously...beautifully intense color and references to my favorite poets?)
|Henri Rousseau - Tiger in a Tropical Storm (1891), oil on canvas|
After our artist discussion, we looked at more of Chris Hagan's work and drew inspiration from his "An Owl in the Jungle," thinking about how we could create our own whimsical, brightly-illustrated collages.
|Chris Hagan - An Owl in the Jungle (c. 2015), mixed media collage|
You know how you always wonder if a project will turn out in real life as well as it's come together in your head? This was one of those. But my young artists and I were not disappointed. I absolutely adore the vivid contrast between the bright, colorful owls and the monochromatic winter sky and birches!
Here they are - a few of our "Owls Among the Birches." (We live in Pennsylvania, after all, haha. I should confess that when we began these in mid-autumn, I was planning to have students cut leaves and tree branches from painted paper we'd made earlier in the year, but holidays, field trips, and a six-day Specials cycle proved more powerful than my ability to plan seasonally, so our owls became winter owls. It's all good. The kids loved the idea that their owls were enjoying the snow as much as we all were!)