Modigliani Mixed Media

Term: 2 Year: 2012

Students at Christian College Geelong make a connection between art making and art appreciation with this unit of work.

One of the situations that I recognise as an art teacher is the necessity to keep activities fresh and stimulating. I call this the ‘reinventing the wheel ‘syndrome.  Year 9 students are at that interesting age where it can be quite demanding to keep them focused and engaged. My main focus as an art educator is to challenge the kids and to encourage them to create art in more nontraditional ways hopefully allowing them to achieve stunning results. A positive outcome of this activity would be the potential emergence of young artists who are then inspired enough to continue with art at a senior level.

The objective of this unit of work included a number of criteria. The first was to explore the life and art of a ‘focus’ artist; in this case Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. In previous years I have included Picasso, David Hockney and a variety of still life works by various artists. In preparation for this activity I ensure that I have a wide range of colour images of my chosen artist and different images for each student. This 'strategy' helps avoid the ‘copycat’ behaviour. The ‘focus’ artist provides a great stimulus for the students and they are encouraged to discuss some of the main features of each work. In this exercise elongated physical features and the use of specific materials and techniques used by the artist e.g. composition, colours, mark making, texture etc. are topics for discussion.

Students are asked to model their work from that of the work of a chosen artist but are also encouraged to interpret and manipulate any aspect of the design they choose. I supply a great deal of different materials in a box I have specially created for this activity – wool, string, tissue paper, decorative papers, 3D junk, hot glue guns, etc.

Students learn that they need to begin collaging the background or base surfaces first. It’s important to ensure that the students learn about the aesthetic qualities of layering. Working from background to foreground is quite challenging for the students but it also helps consolidate the need for exploring specific design elements in their work. Limiting the use of techniques works well as it eliminates the need to procrastinate about their options. Scissors and glue sticks are our main tools for this work however the students are also encouraged to tear and manipulate any or all materials to create pattern and surface qualities.

As their images start to take shape it’s amazing how exciting and surprising the kids find the activity, especially those students who may otherwise struggle with the basic technical skills of art making. The purpose of the activity is to encourage and inspire the students by enabling them to get fabulous results, even if some of those results are rough and not fully resolved. This activity can be modified to suit younger years as well.  My Year 5 students created some extraordinary Van Gogh ‘sunflower’ works using mainly tissue paper.  To finish the activity I discuss the importance of presentation and this is a great opportunity to discuss the role of galleries, museums, and conservation and exhibitions.

Molly Drayton
Middle School
Art Design and Technology Coordinator
Christian College Geelong
Suitable for Level 6