Thursday, April 6, 2017

Superflat! A Lesson Based on Takashi Murakami and His Work

Murakami Flowers 
I recently went to Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, and I noticed they are preparing for an upcoming exhibit of art by Takashi Murakami.  I fell in love with his art when I was in college, and I hadn't seen any exhibits of his work lately.  I thought it would be fun to teach the middle school students about him and to encourage them to go see the exhibit this summer.  We learned about his style, known as superflat, which is inspired by manga and anime.  We looked at three recurring images in his work:  Mr. DOB, smiling flowers and "jellyfish eyes".  We talked about how he merged two sides of his culture and also made his work his own expression.  I had them use plastic sheets to make the work shiny.  They drew sketches on paper, choosing to either imitate Murakami or to create their own unique characters, and then traced with sharpie onto plastic.  They painted on the back with craft paint.  I like how they turned out.  They are really colorful.  I hope some of them feel inspired to go to the MCA!
Some Middle School Work
The third grade classes screened Jellyfish Eyes, Murakami's film about kids coming together to combat negative energy with a collection of animated F.R.I.E.N.D.S.  They created wax resist patterns in the style of the artist and some fun clay mini-sculptures.

Experimenting with Cel Animation

Art by Carol Cohen

Cel Animation Concepts Discussed in Class

I first planned a project with plastic sheets when I wanted to build a project around the work of Carol Cohen.  She had an amazing piece of art at the MFA in Boston that was made of plexiglass layers.  Each layer had small images painted on it, and the layers stacked up to build a 3-D image.  The 3-D effect is something that the kids love, and it is fun to replicate using plastic sheets.  

This project was one that I planned for 4th grade.  They learned about perspective and about proportions of the human body earlier in the year.  I wanted to challenge them to apply their knowledge of both concepts in a new project.  We had done a lot of drawing, so this gave them a chance to paint.  
My sample:  I drew myself at the dog park with Belle:)  

They drew a scene showing perspective and a character showing proportions.  I then asked them to break the scene up by tracing different parts of the scene onto layers of plastic.  I bought sheet protectors from the office supply store for the plastic.  They used sharpies to trace, and they painted with craft paint.  Most of the time, the paint required 2 coats because of the slick surface, but otherwise it worked well.  We also learned that you can "erase" the sharpie with hand sanitizer on a cotton swab:)  This was a relief to a few nervous students.  
Yoli's Work
Nate's Work

We watched some Youtube videos about classic cel animation techniques, and we compared our work to the work of scenery and character artists who created movies like Disney's Snow White.  It was a very busy studio environment, but they worked well and the products were fun to see.  We played around with my Boomerang app to see some of the characters in motion.  They used strips of cardboard and duct tape to layer and display the sheets of plastic with a little space between them.  Here are some fun photos of their work and the process:  

Display of Finished Work

Martha Experimenting

Ruby Painting a Cel

Helping Each Other Build Scenes

I just let them take over the rug area.  It was a mess, but they could work together  as they finished painting.

Felipe's Layers

Stella's Layers

Monty's Layers

Amari's Layers

American Sculpture: Martin Puryear

Martin Puryear is a 79 year old sculptor who lives in New York.  He has traveled the world to study art and craft traditions, and he has rec...