Exploring the Self through Materials

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Making art is a physical venture.

Materials are arranged and rearranged.

Ideas are explored and edited.

One can stand. One can sit. One can work on the wall.

Enter into any visual arts lesson, and students are approaching the processes at hand in many different ways.

Below is a lesson with Ms. Brooke in a K class.

Students looked at the work of Elizabeth Murray, and they were creating their own shapes. They then created patterns within the shapes using oil pastels.


At the end of the session, students were invited to build a community shape with their shapes.

The physical interaction with everyones’ shapes was exciting.

In the reflection the students talked about what they noticed.

“I see an L shape.”

“I like the colors that artist used.”

“I notice all different kinds of lines.”

“I like how all the shapes touch and make new shapes.”


In another class, a 4th grade class, students are working with charcoal.

There are many choices when working with charcoal, and the 4th grade students were given exploration time to discover how they wanted to approach the material.

The students are  looking at California landscapes as inspiration.

Do I want rich dark blacks? How can I get them?

Do I want to smudge areas and create grey tones? What tool can I use to achieve that effect?

Do I like how the charcoal feels on the paper?

Do I prefer to sit or stand while I make my work?

As the young artists worked with the materiality of charcoal, the made many discoveries about themselves.

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