Based on the pieces from the last post, we settled on a basic color palette for each season:
Though the scene would be blended and cohesive and represent a single landscape, four distinct seasons would be present. We also decided that the sky in the background would represent a different natural cycle—that of a single day. Spring, therefore had a dawn sky, summer was high noon, fall was dusk, and winter represented night.
Below is the initial plan for the background pieces—the flat plywood to be affixed directly to the library wall (adjacent to last year's pointillist mural).
Additional pieces would be cut out of plywood and attached with spacers, so the effect would be that the pieces were floating in front of the background. Below is the background with the 3D pieces added. Though the pond only appears in the summer panel on the blueprint, we extended it into the fall in the final piece, and added an additional large flower to the spring/summer transition area.
Every student's set of 4 photographs are displayed below, as well as a description of the project, and an homage to the masterwork, The Gates in Central Park by Christo and Jean-Claude. Click on any picture below to launch a slide show. Larger versions of the photographs by each student are available on JacksonArtfulLearning.tumblr.com.
The students worked long and hard. Thousands of Q-tips met their demise. Nearly 400 squares with upwards of half a million dots grace the final piece. Many students never want to see another dot as long as they live. (Click any image in this post to view larger.)
Stand close, and you get a unique perspective of layers of dots—coat of paint upon coat of paint.
Stand back a little, and borders between colors begin to become apparent across multiple squares.
Another step back, and the picture begins to take shape.
But, if you stand all the way on the other side of the library...
Remember what we started with?
This mural will live permanently above a bank of computers in the library. When I say permanently, I mean permanently. Those sheets of plywood have been affixed to the wall with both a pneumatic staple gun and liquid nails. That sucker is never coming down. They'll either have to paint over it or remove chunks of the wall. Luckily, it's a pretty nice piece. The students are proud of it, too.
Once the proper paint colors are mixed, the process of adding dots with a Q-tip begins. It is a long and monotonous process. Some students are methodical and slow, and others have opted for speed in lieu of accuracy.
There is an amazing depth of color present in the layers of dots that the students painstakingly apply to the squares (and triangles), and more dots usually makes for a better looking square.
Squares that are in progress or finished get turned in to a central location to be approved by me. I check for color and line accuracy. Some get returned to the original artist to fix, some get passed on to different students to amend as necessary, and some I fix myself. Squares that are just a few dots away from being completed I often finish as well.
As squares are finished and approved, they are temporarily taped to the plywood in their final locations, so we can begin to see the picture come together. Only a few more squares to go before we can start gluing them down permanently.
My suggestion of, "Your paint is too bright, try adding some white," met with confused looks too many times in a row, and I realized that the difference between "light vs. dark" and "bright vs. dark" was not well understood by the students.
Adding white paint will make something lighter, but it will also make it duller, especially in combination with black paint.
I created these reference sheets to illustrate the differences (click to enlarge):
The hardest part of this project is mixing paint colors accurately. One of the largest obstacles is that not everyone can see the same range of color. Some people are color blind in the classically understood sense, but some just have a limited range of color visibility.
Throughout our time working on this project, many students have been able to identify specifically their own limitations when it comes to colors they can or can't see. I will suggest a square for them to complete next and they'll tell me, "I probably shouldn't do that one because I can't see green very well." Luckily, seeing color accurately is only one part of the painting process, and students who can't see various colors very well can still create pieces that are beautiful and useful.
These two resources are both useful and fun for learning about color and testing color abilities:
The students are also getting better at estimating paint volumes. Mixing paint colors can sometimes cause the puddle to get away from you. As you add a little of this and a little of that, the puddle of paint becomes an unwieldy quantity, and still isn't quite right.
The "real" mural will be done with paint in the pointillist style rather than tissue paper, and will be installed permanently in the school library. We decided to make the grid angled 45° in homage to the Big Emma piece by Chuck Close. Our reference photo is of a biome (naturally), and one that all of the students have experienced in person.
The mural was originally divided into individual sheets of twelve squares. Students chose one square to copy with painted dots. No one was allowed to do more than one square per sheet. Further into the project, we began to run out of sheets, and the remaining sheets were cut in half to accommodate more students.
Though labeling the squares correctly with number, letter, and directional arrow is essential for accurate placement, it still eludes many students. Squares are now turned in along with the original reference grid so the accuracy of both paint colors and labeling can be checked before the source is removed from the art.