Reproducing the greats
Each year at Alexander Junior High school, Quest teacher Vickie Driskell engages her gifted seventh- and eighth-grade students’ imaginations in an art project that continues to prove just how capable they are.
AJH students presented their projects in their hallway-turned-gallery during an Open House and Art Show Tuesday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m., and where they will remain until May 1.
For the last nine weeks, Quest students have worked to complete the collage dioramas, toothpick bridges, sketches, mosaic portraits and paintings currently on display. Seventh-graders are assigned the “masterpiece reproduction” project, where they use specific methods to emulate works done by famous artists. The project is quite the undertaking, requiring students to research and write about artists before beginning a process to recreate one of their favorite works by the artist.
Driskell said the project is a multi-faceted exercise in many skills that the young men and women need to take from seventh grade.
“It is an individual project that covers all of the skills that we need to learn in seventh grade,” Driskell said. “It’s got math. They’re required to research five artists before they begin, so they have to write, [and] use creative writing. They have to use communication [when they’re] standing in front of it and telling everybody about it. It requires so many different skills that we use.”
Students use a mathematical grid system to transfer images of the artwork they choose to a larger piece of paper, on which they will paint their rendition. This mathematical process, which most students cite as the hardest part of the project, is what Driskell said allows students to achieve more than they expected at the beginning.
“Initially they think they can’t do it, because they say they aren’t artists. But since it’s done to scale and it’s done mathematically, everyone is successful,” she said. “They’re really apprehensive in the beginning because a lot of these kids aren’t artists, and they may not be creative, but since its done mathematically they are able to do it and have success.”
James Gardner was one student who exceeded his own expectations when he chose to recreate Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.” Gardner said he was not very interested in art, but he found works he liked when researching Dali. Gardner’s reproduction of the ultra-famous, surreal melty-clock painting displays ability which might have otherwise gone untapped.
“I was excited, but I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything good because I never really painted before,” he said.
The sometimes surprising behavior of paint was something Gardner said he learned when working in certain areas of his painting. Classmate Gracie Piper said she too learned a thing or two she wasn’t expecting during the project.
“I learned a couple different things. I learned that art had more math to it than I thought it did,” Piper said, laughing. She said mixing paint taught her more about color; “like when using blues you can bring a green into it, and it will make a completely different shade of blue. And I like the simple fact that you can make different colors by adding just one simple color.”
Piper chose a work by Van Gogh – a blossoming almond tree against a blue sky, with painterly marks reminiscent of the Impressionist movement.
“I like Van Gogh, personally, I like him and Monet,” she said. “I chose this one because I really like flowers, and I just like the way the colors blended in together and how he used the green to outline the branches to make them stand out.”
Driskell said the students love the reproduction project each year, and that it is a way to get students involved in so many aspects of learning through the fun of art.
“I hope we can do it again next year – or something very similar because I like to get my hands dirty when it comes to art,” Piper said. “I like to build stuff, I like to paint stuff, I like to draw stuff. Anything in art, really, I like to do.”
Piper – like many ambitious youngsters discovering their passions – draws in her spare time and said she would like to pursue art in the future. If she can’t make it through medical school, that is.