Monday, 02 February 2009 11:45
By Kenneth O'Connell
Wonderful sculpture can be made with simple materials and imagination. Cardboard is readily available to use as a flat painted surface and a three-dimensional sculptural object. This is just what art teacher Jean Hanna did with her seventh- and eighth-grade Art II students at Spencer Butte Middle School in Eugene, Ore.
Jean began by showing slides of work by Alexander Calder, the American artist who built mobiles and stabiles, initially out of paper, then large sheets of steel. She also showed slides of some of her students' projects from previous years. She then asked students to work in teams of two to three to design and build small, 12-inch tabletop models of their sculpture ideas
One week was set aside for the design, building and painting stages. The models or "prototypes" that were built during this week became the plan for the next five weeks. Students would have to translate their ideas to large sheets of cardboard, cut, glue and tape them together, and finally paint the full-scale sculpture.
They learned the importance of having a good model to help in anticipating some of the problems to come in full-scale construction. Utility knives and box cutters were used to cut and shape the large pieces of cardboard. Tape was used to hold the joints together, while large amounts of glue were used to hold everything in place. Sometimes it was necessary to glue the work upside-down so it would dry with less tension at the joints. Instruction was given to show how to hide the seams and joints, making the craftsmanship first rate.
Changes from the small model were made as the problems of working full-scale developed. Jean also encouraged the students to make the sculpture look interesting from all points of view. This got the students to really think in three dimensions. Tempera paint and papier-mache were used to finish the surface of the sculpture.
The evaluation of the project includes using a sheet to mark the success of the sculpture in each of the categories of Design, Craftsmanship and Expression. These terms are defined as follows.
Design: The form is three-dimensional and interesting from all points of view. Sculpture breaks up space and/or extends into space. The form stands firmly and displays formal or informal balance. The color of the sculpture appears to emphasize, enhance or blend well with the form.
Craftsmanship: No tape of glue is showing on the sculpture. Cuts ore made carefully so the edges of the cardboard are smooth. Paint is smoothly and consistently applied.
Expression: The sculpture draws you in for a closer look. The sculpture is bold and dynamic in color. The sculpture expresses an idea, feeling or subject in an interesting, unique way. The sculpture evokes or brings out in the viewer certain feelings.
The teacher remarked about how deeply involved the students became in this six-week project. They came to class ready to work, remained focused on their tasks, and were very willing to help each other.
At the conclusion of the project, the free-standing sculpture is displayed at the annual Cabaret Sculpture Show. The public is invited to this celebration/exhibit. This event includes participation by the drama and music classes to raise funds for all of the art programs at the school.
* Cardboard sheets (single and double ply, old refrigerator boxes can also be used)
* Box cutters and utility knives
* Tempera and acrylic paint
* White glue (water-based)
* Old paintbrushes for glue
* Masking tape
* Colored paper
* Aluminum foil
* Butcher paper
* Colored cellophane wrapping paper
Students will ...
* make a large sculpture that supports itself and stands firmly in place by gluing internal braces and considering gravity and balance.
* increase the scale of a sculpture and enlarge the original small model into a huge, full-sized piece that will communicate from a distance.
* extend the sculpture into space and break up the space in interesting ways, paying attention to negative and positive space.
* make the sculpture draw the viewer in for a closer look. Design it so that you see new things as you walk around it and thus don't see it all at once.
Kenneth O'Connell is a Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he continues to teach animation and sketchbooking.