JHS Studio Arts Teaches Valuable Creative Skills
Budding Jamestown High School sculptors in Kirk Frink’s Studio Art class recently created three-dimensional animals using many different art skills the students have learned throughout the course. The project also helps develop new skills, including awareness of form in a three-dimensional space.
“I think it's important for students in our society to be educated in the arts because it challenges them to look at problems from different sides,” said Mr. Frink. “Creative thinking requires practice (like any other discipline) and by making art products, students exercise sequential problem-solving steps to develop a synthesized product. Art making is very process oriented and the animal sculpture project succeeds in culminating many of the skills learned this semester, while introducing a new project in a different medium altogether.”
To start the project, Mr. Frink asks students to research their chosen animal, or devise a fantasy one. They first draw their sculpture as they see it in their "mind's eye" from at least three different perspectives. For practice, they create "maquettes," or models, using oil-based plasticine clay. The skills needed for this stage are heavily dependent upon modeling in a three-dimensional space, getting a form to occupy that space, and for it to resemble the animal. Once the small plasticine model is finished, it can be used as a roadmap for making the wire armature, a “skeleton” of a sculpture that provides the structure to hold the finished piece together. Packed and formed around this wire armature is aluminum foil that gives shape to the rough form of the animal. Students then begin to cover their wire/aluminum form with polymer clay. By kneading and running the clay repeatedly through manual pasta machines, students mix colors to create unique hues while also making the clay soft and pliable. Once students are finished with the base layer, details may be added by applying contrasting colored clay bits where they are needed. For example, most of the sculptures will need additional clay added to form what the head and face look like. Eyes, mouths, noses, ears (even horns or wings) and patterns or spots on the skin will all be added at this last stage. Finally, the sculptures are baked in a dedicated oven in JHS’ kiln room.
In addition to the sculpture project, Studio Art covers art history including: what art represents in our own and other cultures and what it means to be creative. After a research project using online information, students begin to incorporate the elements and principles of art into drawing projects - from still life sketching based upon realistic accuracy to more abstract, whimsical and imaginary problems. The skill sets developed during the drawing units build a foundation of perceptual awareness, visual accuracy, practice with fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination. Controlling line and tone values are skills that require practice and variety of experience. Students practice charcoal or oil pastel drawing to help prepare for the next challenge - painting. By exploring color theory through mixing colors and creating color charts, fine motor skills are further developed because painting demands brush control over a fluid medium. New perceptual skill sets include mixing colors to target a specific hues and using color schemes to reflect style and feeling develop. The painting unit allows room for experimenting with painting styles observed in their historical research and concludes with a graphic design project using their names with acrylic paint.