Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 18 - Representation & Abstraction (cont.)


Look closely at a painting by Thomas Hart Benton.

Observe that some artists experiment with their paintings.


Slide of Audubon's Large Billed Puffin

Slide of Calyo's A View of the Port of Baltimore (optional)

Slide of Jacob Lawrence's Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots

Slide of Thomas Hart Benton's Bubbles

Background for the Teacher

Taking another step along a continuum from looking at what we think of as highly representational art to abstract art, the children will look at a painting of Thomas Hart Benton.

Benton was born in 1889 in the Ozarks, in Missouri, and died in 1975. At nineteen, he left for Paris because he wanted to become an artist. Four years later he returned to the United States and eventually began documenting in paintings, lithographs, and murals a kind of pictorial history of this country as he saw it. Working people of all kinds abound in his art, and there is a great social conscience.

The painting the children will see today is quite different from his characteristic work, except for the great sense of energy it captures. Most of us think of Benton's work as showing rural farmers and urban workers, black and white, in almost super-realistic landscapes. The painting Bubbles is entirely different. It shows Benton experimenting with color and form in a very expressive way. Without using the technical terms representation or abstraction, the children will respond to the colors and geometric forms Benton has painted and see how he has put them together in an interesting way.


Show the children the Audubon colored engraving of Large Billed Puffin and review with them some of the observations and responses they made about how precise the details, how accurate the surroundings, etc. If time permits, you may want to show them the Calyo painting as well, reminding that they were both done the same year, about one hundred fifty years ago, at a time shortly before the camera was invented. Say: For both these artists, it was important to have their art work look as much like what they were painting as possible, to get all the details to look so real that people looking at them had a sense of just exactly what was there that the artist had recorded.

Next, show the children Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots of Jacob Lawrence, and review as you did with the Audubon. The children may need prompting; help them to notice the lack of detail, the limited number of colors, etc. Ask: Do you think the people were wearing only the colors that Lawrence painted? (no) Can we see the kinds of details we saw in A View of the Port of Baltimore or the Large Billed Puffin? Can we see what these people look like by their individual faces and expressions? Remind the children that Lawrence did his colored engraving about a hundred years later than the other two art works they've looked at today. Since we had plenty of cameras by the time Lawrence was doing his art work, there may have been something


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 18 - Representation & Abstraction (cont.)

else he wanted to do besides making his work as detailed and realistic as possible. Lawrence seems to have a different purpose in mind for his art work than Audubon or Calyo did in their art work. Do you remember any of the things that were really important to Lawrence in this picture? (migration of African Americans from South to North, voting, voting rights, any responses that indicate the children feel something in response to the engraving)

Say: There is a way that Lawrence's engraving seems to stand for all of those ideas that were important to the artist. When visual artists create works with that purpose in mind, we say they are symbolic of those ideas and beliefs, similar to the way that the American flag is symbolic of our patriotic feelings about being citizens of the United States. When things are symbolic, they usually do not have so many realistic details, but they express strong meaning.

Next, show the slide of Bubbles without telling the children the name of the painting. Tell them that it was painted by an American artist named Thomas Hart Benton. Ask whether the children think it was painted around the time of the first two detailed, realistic art works they saw or around the time of the Jacob Lawrence work, and why they think so. (It is not necessary that they know the correct answer, but their responses will be informative.)

Ask: What do you think Benton was painting in this picture? Can you guess what the name might be? When the children have had a chance to respond with guesses, tell them that the name of the painting is "Bubbles." Ask: Have you ever seen bubbles that look like this? What colors do you see in these bubbles? (Have them name as many colors and shades of colors as they possibly can.) What about the texture of these bubbles? Do they look soft or hard? (soft, fuzzy) What shapes do you see in the painting? (circles, rectangles) Do you like the painting, and if so, what do you like about it?

Finally, tell the children that Benton was experimenting in this painting, that sometimes artists do a lot of experimenting--just like scientists do--but their experimenting is for the purpose of creating something that looks pleasing, that seems to fit together to look just right, or makes us think of how beautiful it is. Say: There must be something in the way that all these soft, colorful circles seem to flow out from each other in a design that just seems to grow like a plant, or float around like angels or bubbles in space that made the artist feel that something very lovely and special was formed.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 19 - Representation & Abstraction (cont.)


Look closely at a painting by Jackson Pollock.

Guess what the title of the Pollock painting is.

See that there are no recognizable people, places, or animals in Pollock's painting.

Observe that Pollock's painting is also a kind of experiment.


Slide of Thomas Hart Benton painting, Bubbles, 1914-1917

Slide of Audubon's Large Billed Puffin, 1836

Slide of Jacob Lawrence's Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots, 1974

Slide of Jackson Pollock's Waterbirds, 1943

Background for Teacher

Jackson Pollock was born in 1912 and grew up on a farm in Cody, Wyoming. In 1956 he was killed instantly when he lost control of the car he was driving and had a fatal accident. He was greatly influenced in his youth by observing Native American sandpainting in Arizona, where he helped his father survey land during the summer.

When he was eighteen, Pollock went to New York City and began to attend the Art Students' League, where he studied with Thomas Hart Benton, among others. During the depression Pollock had trouble finding work; at one point he worked as a janitor for which he was paid $10.00 a week. Later, he was able to use his talents in Roosevelt's WPA projects, painting murals and paintings for public buildings.

During the same period, Pollock joined an experimental workshop, working with all kinds of unusual materials and techniques, trying to create as spontaneously as possible, almost the way one thinks of improvisation in music. He experimented, putting strange shapes and figures such as masks, circles, crescents into his paintings and then obscuring them by splattering or dripping paint on them. By 1946, Pollock was not using conventional brushes at all; rather, he used sticks, fluid poured directly onto the canvas, with no purposeful focal point so that there seemed to be no particular order to the painting. He gained the name "Jack the Dripper,"

and the method he evolved is often called Action Painting.

Art critics eventually coined the term abstract expressionism for Pollock's mature paintings and for the whole movement of American painters who followed his lead. The children do not need to know any of the complicated terminology, but should be able to observe some of the characteristics of Pollock's work. The painting they will see in this lesson shows Pollock experimenting with the techniques he later perfected and, in a sense, codified. Encourage them to enjoy the kind of freedom and energy they can see in the painting.


Show the children the Audubon colored engraving Large Billed Puffin, and encourage the children to tell you again what they see. Review with the children the fact that when Audubon made his bird paintings, he hiked and trekked all over the woods and wild countryside of the United States, so he could capture all the details and be sure he could make his paintings as realistic as possible. His purpose was to make each of his bird paintings so correct in its


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 19 - Representation & Abstraction (cont.)

particular colors, shapes, and natural surroundings that no one looking at it could ever be confused about just what that kind of bird looked like and the kinds of places it chose to live and nest. In Audubon's day, there were no cameras, but his paintings are as accurate as photographs we see today in National Geographic or Ranger Rick magazines.

Say: In the last lesson we learned that artists at different times have had different purposes when they did their art work. Do you remember the Jacob Lawrence silk screen that showed the African American migrants voting? We talked about the fact that Lawrence's people didn't have much detail and just a few colors for their clothing, but his purpose was to show his strong feelings about freedom to vote as a citizen of the United States and what an important part of our history he was showing us. (You may want to show the slide again.)

Ask: Does anyone remember the word that begins with s, that we could use to describe the American flag, or the six-pointed star in Judaism, or the Statue of Liberty? (symbol) Encourage the children to talk a little about how Lawrence's art is symbolic of the strong beliefs of many people in the United States. See what kinds of things they might name that have been simplified or exaggerated in the Lawrence silk screen.

Next, show the children the Benton painting, and ask who remembers the title (Bubbles).

Ask whether anyone has ever seen bubbles that looked like the ones Benton has painted. (In fact, someone may say he or she has seen colors in soap bubbles, outside, with the sun shining through.) Remind the children that Benton was experimenting with colors and shapes that he thought were pleasing, even though what he ended up with don't look like any bubbles we generally see.

Say: Here's another painting where the artist was experimenting. Show the children the slide of the Pollock painting and tell them the name of the artist (The next lesson suggests telling them some biographical information about Pollock; for this lesson, it is more important that they respond to the painting itself.) Ask what they see in the painting and what its title might be. You may want to write the suggested titles and subjects on the board, just for fun. If the children don't immediately have any responses, you could ask whether they see any people, places, or animals they could recognize. After everyone who wants to has responded (giggles, general amusement may be one reponse), tell them that the name of the painting is Waterbirds.

Ask: What do you think is the difference between these water birds and the birds that Audubon painted? (You may want to alternate between the two slides a few times.) Let them tell you the differences they see. Then ask: What do you think the artist was experimenting with? Help them to see that Pollock was experimenting with the different ways paint might look if without any planning he dripped or spattered it onto the painting, with what kinds of tools painters were supposed to be using, and whether the painting needed to look like anything recognizable at all in order to be a painting. Tell them you will return to this painting in the next lesson and they will do some experimenting themselves, so you want them to think about Waterbirds in their imaginations and tell you next time how they feel about it.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 20 - Experimental Art Activity


Look carefully again at an experimental work of Jackson Pollock.

Experiment with paint and nonconventional tools for painting.


Slide of Jackson Pollock, Waterbirds, 1943

Plastic squeeze bottles filled with different colors of poster paint

String, tongue depressors, toothbrushes, sponges, any other objects for spreading paint

Manila or heavy white paper for each child

Old newspapers to protect floor

Masking tape to secure individual paintings-in-progress to protective newspaper

Sentence strip for writing titles of paintings

Suggested Book

Florian, Douglas. A Painter. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1993.

A minimum of carefully worded text and a wide variety of styles and mediums beautifully illustrated by the author. The book can be read aloud to the class and could also be read by individual second graders who are particularly interested. The last page shows the materials most painters use, including tubes of different kinds of paints and their characteristics.

Note to the Teacher

If you have access to the Suggested Book, above, it would be an excellent aid to this lesson. Douglas winningly makes the point--with convincing illustrations--that artists may paint what they see or what they feel, that what they see may be from the outside (in nature) or from the inside (from the imagination). Although it is presented very simply, and without any fancy terminology, it is very much to the point of what the children have been exposed to these last lessons: the range and possibilities of the continuum between representation and abstraction.


Tell the children that they will be making paintings that are experimental today, and remind them of the art works they looked at in the last two lessons. Tell them some information about Jackson Pollock that you think would be helpful and interesting to them (from Background for Teacher in Lesson 19).

Next show the children the slide of Jackson Pollock's Waterbirds and ask for the name of the artist and the name of the painting. Ask: Do you see any specific shapes in the painting that look like water birds? (probably not) Do you see anything in the painting that makes you think of water? (blue sweeps of color, wave-like movements and shapes) Like birds or flying? (movement of lines sweeping across blue, like sky) Review with the children some of the ideas you talked about in the last lesson about experimenting with painting. Ask: Do you think Jackson Pollock painted this picture in sections or in layers? (layers; you can see the black lines dribbled over the blue areas and the white areas) Do you see a lot of colors in this painting? (no) What colors do you see? (white, black, several shades of blue and several shades of brown, maybe a tiny crescent of purple) Do you think Jackson Pollock made this painting with a paintbrush? (probably for some areas; not for any of the black, dribbly lines)


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 20 - Experimental Art Activity

Spread newspapers on the floor and have each child attach his or her paper for painting to the newspaper with masking tape. Tell the children that they will each choose just three colors to work with. Say: Now it's your turn to experiment. The object will be to see whether you can make a painting that pleases you without using a single paint brush. You may use string, a tooth brush, or any of the other tools placed on the table for everyone's shared use. You might spread the paint around with a sponge after you have squeezed some on to the paper.

Continue by telling them: Your painting will need a title, and you may choose it either one of two ways. Some of you may decide beforehand what the title or theme of your painting will be. If so, try keeping that theme in your mind while you are making the painting--not trying to make anything specific, but just keeping the theme or title in mind. It might be a season, a feeling, a journey you would like to take, anything at all. The other option is to try to have absolutely nothing in your head as you begin the painting; then, when you are finished, see what you think has emerged for you as a title or theme. Again, it's not that your painting should "look like something in particular" but that something has occurred to you as the painting grows the way a seed would just seem to grow into a plant, by itself, without your thinking about it.

Be sure and walk around the room to monitor and encourage the children.Assist those who might need help writing their titles on pieces of sentence strip. When the paintings are dry attach the titles and hang the pictures. The children can have fun looking at one another's paintings and talking about how the titles came about.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 21 - Abstract Sculpture


Observe closely a piece of abstract sculpture.

Observe the difference between two- and three-dimensional art.


Slide or reproduction of any of the paintings the children have studied

Paintings students have done, hanging on wall in classroom

A sampling of 3-dimensional forms (see below for suggestions)

Pictures in books or cut from magazines of traditional, representative sculpture

Slide of Henry Moore's Three Rings, 1966

Suggested Books

The Art of Sculpture. Scholastic Voyages of Discovery Series. New York: Scholastic, 1995.

The text is too complicated for reading to second graders, but selected images are good to show the children, and one of the pages actually feels like bas relief! All of the images are representational and therefore provide a good visual background for this lesson, which presents a piece of abstract sculpture.

Paine, Roberta M. Looking at Sculpture. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1968.

This book is beautifully organized to talk about specific kinds of sculpture, their definitions, the tools required and working process for each. Illustrations in black and white show a great range of time periods and cultures. Again, the text is not appropriate for reading aloud, but selected parts of it and all of the images can be shared with the children.

Background for the Teacher

This lesson will introduce the children to the first sculptural piece they have seen in a formal lesson, and it is important for them to recognize the difference between three- and two-dimensional forms in art. If you can relate these concepts to what the children have learned in math and science about measurement, the art lesson can serve as a kind of practical demonstration of line, mass, and volume. Any three-dimensional forms that you could bring to the classroom for the children to touch (carved wooden bird; decorative porcelain statue; decorative salt and pepper shakers; ornamental china bowls or mugs made to represent realistic vegetables or flowers) will reinforce this concept.

For the remainder of the year, the children will be seeing other examples of three-dimensional art in sculpture and in the architecture of Asian countries and of ancient Greece, so this first lesson will concentrate on what we have been working on over the last few lessons--the difference between art works that are representational and those that are abstract.

According to the Core Knowledge Scope and Sequence, children in First Grade are given a basic introduction to sculpture, so in future years Second Graders will have had the benefit of those lessons, but for this year we can presume no previous knowledge.


Start by showing the children some slides of landscape paintings you have showed them


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 21 - Abstract Sculpture

earlier in the year (#3, 5, 7, and 8 in the plastic sleeve). As you show each one, ask: How many

dimensions are there in this painting? (two--length and width) If any of the children seem confused or doubtful, say: It may look as though there is a third dimension, depth, in these paintings, because the artist wants us to see them that way. Remember how these diagonal lines of the water make our eyes think they're moving from front to back? (Show with a pointer in each painting.)

Next, take down from the wall, or out of a cupboard, a few of the children's paintings. Show them the front and the back. Have the children carefully pass them around as you remind them to see how flat they feel, how there is only a front and back, or length and width. When they have done that, begin to pass around the three-dimensional forms you have brought. As they feel them, ask how many dimensions these forms have. Ask various children to stand and show the three dimensions of the object they are holding to the rest of the class--length, width, and depth. Point out there is also an inside and an outside. Ask: Is there an inside and an outside to a painting? (no--let them feel a painting again if necessary) Point out that these forms have texture. Ask each child to tell the class about the texture of the piece he or she is holding. Ask about the lines in the pieces they are holding (wavy, straight, diagonal, horizontal, vertical).

Ask: Does anyone know what we call a three-dimensional art work? (sculpture) If any of the children guess the term architecture, congratulate them and take a few minutes to review (from Lesson 9) what sculpture and architecture have in common.

At this point, if you have one of the books suggested above, you might show the children illustrations of several classic, representational pieces of sculpture and let them respond by telling you what each sculpture represents, or, what is the subject of each sculpture.

Say: You will be seeing lots more sculpture and architecture from all over the world during the next few months. For today, I want you to see a very famous piece of sculpture that you can see at the Baltimore Museum of Art and was carved by an English sculptor who died only about ten years ago..

Show the slide of Henry Moore's Three Rings. Give the children a chance to really look at it. Ask: How do you know this is a piece of sculpture? (Accept any answer that indicates the child has looked and/or refers to the concepts you've explored so far in class.)

Say: Yes, you can walk all the way around this sculpture. Do you think it is big or small? Tell them it is about 3 feet high and nearly 9 feet long. (Show this with a yardstick or in terms of the children's height.) It is made out of a very special kind of stone called marble. Ask: Do you think it is heavy? How do you know? (stone is heavy, it looks heavy) What color is the marble? (Accept reasonable estimates.) What would you guess about the texture? (smooth, hard)

Is there an inside and outside to each ring? Does it make you want to crawl inside? Why? (looks smooth, looks like a secret cave, accept all answers) Do you think the sculptor who made this liked straight or curvy lines best?

Finally, show the children once more some of the pictures of more traditional, representational sculpture from one of the books and ask: What do you think is different about the Henry Moore sculpture we're looking at in the slide and these others we've seen in the book? Some of the children may observe that the Henry Moore sculpture is not about anything other than itself (i.e. a horse, a man, a dancer) and its lines, texture, shape etc. Ask which they like better--the sculpture that represents something specific, or the Henry Moore sculpture. Above all, encourage them to go and walk around it at the BMA.