In art class we often talk about and emulate artists that are no longer with us. Amazing artists like Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh …, but what about the artists that write and illustrate the books that we read to our kids everyday? One of our favorite picture book authors and illustrators is Oliver Jeffers. You may know him from his books: The Day The Crayons Quit, Stuck, and The Incredible Book Eating Boy, to name a few. While Jeffers makes mixed media picture books filled with stories and images equally pleasing and amusing to children and adults, he is also a visual artist with an amazing body of paintings and installation art. He has a series of art where he focuses on making an image, then taking it away. It is a study on memory and loss.
The LBJ Presidential Library donated a bunch of prints of paintings of presidents and first ladies to me, to repurpose the canvases. I saw this as the perfect base to use as a lesson on Oliver Jeffers’ work. I would like to preface by saying that I would never paint over an original (these are prints), and I would never try to make a political statement with children. I had each child choose their base.
I find that when teaching a lesson to children, if you can add a hands on activity, the memory of it sticks and stands out as an experience that you are less likely to forget then say a lecture. In essence, that is what I do at Figment. My husband, son, and I built a wooden box to hold the paint, caulking the edges to prevent leakage.
I knew that there would be some children that wanted to use other colors, so I gave them the spray paint option.
We used painter’s tape and paper to cover the tops of the portraits. If I did this again, I would have them use tape over the whole top, to make sure no spray got on it.
It was really interesting to see some of the kid’s variations on the project.
We got so into dipping stuff! We made small drawings and framed them with magnetic locker frames that I found at Hobby Lobby and made mini dip paintings.
Oliver Jeffers writes and illustrates his picture books at the same time, so that is what we did. I gave the kids each a blank white bound book (found at Target). I stock up on them whenever I find them in the $3.00 bins. I talked with the kids about the important parts of a book- the beginning, the middle, and the end. As well as the elements of a story- characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Then I really just let them get to it. It was wonderful to see the kids around the table discussing their main characters, and what they had in mind for them. Dragons, fairies, and ninjas seemed to be the main themes throughout.
At the end of the class I gave each child a tiny composition book (from Dollar Tree)to keep on them, since you never know when you are going to get an idea.
I hope this art lesson inspires more future artists and picture book authors and illustrators in the world. Do you love Oliver Jeffers? I would love to hear all about it in the comments below. Thanks, Ms Amber