Connect with us

ArtStarts in Schools Logo

August 27, 2014

Sideways Segues: Year Two at Infusion Champion School J.A. Laird Elementary

Guest blogger Lynne Grillmair is an Infusion Teaching Artist working with teachers and students at JA Laird Elementary in Invermere, BC. Lynne stepped into this role in Year Two of the three-year Infusion Cohort program, and speaks about some of the challenges and breakthroughs experienced by the team in the past year as they work towards implementing arts integration practices in their school.

"Infusion was about infusing art into all that we do at school.
I think art will be infused in my life that way." —Abby, Grade 7 Student

Being conscious of filling a big pair of shoes to replace our original Infusion Teaching Artist at JA Laird Elementary, I , with the guidance of the participating teachers, did my best not to drop the ball but run with it. Still, the best laid plans seem to slide sideways — so we adapted our plans as we went, and in the end we managed some great successes.

Mrs Sherk's students express how they felt about painting an emotion

Because all classes had studied the book, When Pigasso met Mootisse, they saw different styles of painting and use of dramatic colour. The teachers had the students do their own work choosing to follow Picasso or Matisse.

"I witnessed my students appreciating each other's varying artistic styles and being able to pick out something they found unique they valued in the work of their peers." Mrs Gauthier, Grade 6 Educator

"The students were able to explain the difference between the two styles and defend why they preferred one over the other." Mrs Sherk, Grade 4 Educator

"I chose to draw in Picasso's style because I normally want everything perfect, but I wanted to be more abstract this time." Davis, Grade 7 Student in Mrs Jensen's Class

"I chose Matisse because he has bright colours which I find inspiring and vibrant. I think I am a vibrant personality." —Allie, Grade 7 Student in Mrs Jensen's Class

This story of Matisse and Picasso segued beautifully into my picking up where the previous ITA left off with the study of colour wheel and emotional qualities of colour, as read in the book Hailstones and Halibut Bones for Grades 6 and 7 and My Colour is Blue for Grade 4. Mrs Sherk had her Grade 4 students complement their book on colour with creating a poetry booklet with illustrations.

"The experience was cool, making art without images and using a
playing card, then end of the brush to spread paint and make marks."

We studied "colour and emotion" next, looking at the art of Kandinsky to illustrate a way of painting with only coloured marks. Each student picked one colour, black and white to create a non-objective piece using a plastic playing card and/or brush for mark-making to express a feeling: loss, confusion, isolation, chaos, joy, etc. The broad sweep of the card rather than a brush enabled the students to move the paint around the large piece of paper quickly. They were encouraged not to linger in one area but move in all directions so the paper would not become too wet. The results were amazing!    

Happiness bubbles of child who rarely smiles.

"I feel chaos becoming calm." Grade 6 Student

"I feel energetic." Grade 6 Student

Next came teaching educators about "gridding" out a masterpiece of well-known BC artist Emily Carr, in conjunction with social studies of BC and language arts curriculum. The Raven was chosen because it seemed it would be quite easy to copy. It is stylized and contains strong shapes. So wrong! The concept of using a grid to get the correct proportions from a postcard size to a 12" x 16" size was difficult for teachers and students alike. But everyone persevered and in the end, renditions of The Raven - with very inventive colour - created by the Grade 4 students were hung all together for Art from the Heart exhibition in our cultural centre to great acclaim and excitement. One of the works was even featured in the local Wings Over the Rockies bird festival!

Learning to grid the painting The Raven by Emily Carr

Our third class for painting Emily Carr's The Raven

Experimenting with colour

Drawing of The Raven, ready for paint

Progress to date on The Raven

Mrs Jensen's class saw the film Winds of Heaven about the life of Emily Carr so they totally embraced her, her animals and eccentricities. One student named Braidie wrote this poem:


The Raven flew over the lands
It was peaceful until
The white men came and took it all away
Lands were taken over
The Raven was hurt to see what the white men had done to his home
He cried and his tear drops hit the ground
Trees grew and flowers bloomed
Animals were born - bears, wolves, cougars
The white men were frightened and ran away off the lands
Peace came across the Raven's home
Everybody cheered and the people of the lands created 'the big raven' totem pole.

Drawing and painting in one-point perspective came next. We learned about vanishing points, horizon lines, and made boxes in the air to be followed by going downtown to sketch a building which might be used for a painting. However this plan was aborted as it was nearly impossible to isolate one building and use one-point perspective. I did notice that some of the boys were very good at "getting" perspective, quite quickly moving on to draw cars in perspective.   

"I was never good at art but then I met Lynne. I feel more confident with drawing in front of people. I think my favourite thing was sketching downtown because I got to look at places and consider distance, perspective and vanishing point It is great to look at a place and think, 'Wow, that would be a great painting'." —Emily, Grade 7 Student

A street scene using one-point perspective

Grade 6 student work

Grade 7 students playing with perspective outside the box

The thumbnail sketch and notes about landscape painting were next in the plan. This was in preparation for painting outdoors. We used some landscape photographs that were projected on the wall and then making 4" x 6" or smaller frames the students were required to simplify shapes, work out the value pattern that would provide enough information for a painting down the road. There was some objection to the small size, but after a few tries it worked. We learned about atmospheric perspective (Leonardo Da Vinci's observations) and had many dates set for a "paint out" but this was not to be. The Grade 7s did get out to do a pastel landscape in situ with Mrs Jensen, but perhaps this can happen sometime in the future.

Thumbnail sketches by Grade 7 students

Thumbnail drawings by Grade 6 students

Larger than a thumbnail, but getting the idea of interpreting the photo

"When my students asked Lynne for assistance on our thumbnail landscape sketches she resisted their pleas to point out what was "wrong" with their interpretations, opting instead to point out how each student was working from a different perspective, highlighting different features of the landscape. I noticed students became more comfortable discussing their vision for what they were working on and notice how their questions transitioned from asking how to sketch correctly to asking how to accomplish their vision for a piece." —Mrs Gauthier, Grade 6 Educator

"The main thing I will use in the future is vanishing points and making thumbnail sketches. I am hoping in the future to go out into the forest and get to paint or sketch in the moment. Learning about shading and lighting was amazing and it helped me to see and include more details. I will definitely sketch in the future, maybe even for shows. I know that. Learning about detail, shading, perspective, vanishing point, colour and mixing has helped develop my art". —Zoe, Grade 7 Student

"In the latter part of this year, my students were participating in art whenever they engaged expressively with some type of content. This may have meant they chose to sketch out a poetic idea before finding the words to their poem or when students asked to sketch while we read a story so they could pull out the textures and emotions arising from a part of a story that registered somewhere within themselves. Students were not merely learning about angles and measurement while working with perspective and vanishing points, they were not merely learning about brush strokes and colour mixing... students were learning about themselves. I watched my students gain confidence, perseverance, tolerance of themselves and others, and joy through art." —Mrs Gauthier, Grade 6 Educator

The grand finale of our year was a visit from two families of successful artists with their art practice in hand to share with the Infusion classes. The children asked lots of questions to all the artists. We had a jeweler, glass blower and drawing/painter in one family, a metal worker who works with recycled material, a potter and a woodworker in another family. The practicing artists were very impressed with the manners and engagement of the students for this enterprise.

Artists come to the school

Students were very receptive to meeting successful artists from the community

The jewelry designer shows her process

Teacher and students explore the painter's sketchbooks

Pat Bavin's sketches and journal entries

The glass artist and his fish captivated students

The potter showed his wares and his sources of ideas

At the end of the term, I was surprised to see a presentation of many small paper plates spelling out the word "Infusion". The paper plate project was not successful on its own, so the teacher had this brilliant idea to put them on a black background and make lemonade out of lemons. The students happily helped arrange in colour sequences to produce this work.

While not all plans went from A to B, the eventual outcomes were valuable and successful for students, teachers and myself. It is all about process, flexibility, open-mindedness, generosity, sharing and caring, gaining confidence and making the best of a situation when things go sideways.

Learn more about the Infusion Cohort program.

Read more guest blogs about Arts Integration in Action!

Social Sharing

Past Stories