King Island, Bass Straits -- Diane Blake. Diane is a native of the Eastern Shore, but has travelled all over the world to capture her images. She has been an artist and photographer for over 30 years, and loves to use her artistic lens to examine the natural environment. In particular, we focus on Diane's view of the seascapes and natural beauty of King Island, Tasmania (Art with Al, 2013).
Description and Rationale - Dianne Blake celebrates the natural beauty of Mother Nature with her interpretations of the land and sea of a number of environments, in this case, King Island, Tasmania. Her work focuses on texture, color, and combinations of both that create natural wonder in paintings. In this case, Diane focuses on kelp, sponges, anemones, works, barnacles and the myriad of life in tide pools and rock ponds near the ocean shores. Each of the pieces is meant to be indicative, not literal, and may combine various interpretations for a number of micro-environments (e.g. different tide pools at differing times of the day or season) (Art with Al). For example:
Figure 2 -- King Island 6 (2008)
Figure 1 -- King Island 1 (2008)
In both examples we can see a contrast being realism and interpretation. Number 1 could be a detail of a plat, or it could be the view from miles above a tide pool. Figure 2 is obviously based on sea life, but the texture and technique do not give us an exact replication of an animal.
Part 3 -- Q&A for students
Question 1 -- What kind of art is this? Drawing? Painting? Sculpture? Photograph?
A: The artist is Diane Blake. In this case, she uses painting techniques that combine oils, glue, pigment and oil wash. Notice how the colors tend to blend into one another, how they swirl, how there are tones that seem to be layered on top of each other. Why is this technique of layering more indicative of the way colors actually exist in nature?
Question 2 -- What do you see in these pictures? A: While each person will "see" different things, are there patterns that we can identify that look like plants and animals? Where are they and how can you tell? Do you see faces or just shapes? How does the artist combine real plants and animals with her interpretation of the texture of the natural environment?
Question 3 -- Describe the colors and textures the artist uses? Why do you think she did that?
A: The artist uses a large pallet of colors that are hardly ever pure. She uses washes to give the feel of rocks and earth, mixes and blends colors to show shadows and different angles of light, and even blends multiple colors together so there is a progression of color and movement.
Question 4 -- How would you describe this art if someone could not see it? Are the lines straight, curvy, different shapes? Do the colors mix? Does this art describe a natural environment? Why or why not? The art is very organic and textural in nature. It has very few straight lines, and many different shapes. The colors swirl and seem to move. In fact, some of the paintings seem to be alive. They seem almost to be photographs of the environment because they are so lifelike. In some ways, they may also resemble the artists' interpretation of an alien environment.
Question 6 -- How do you think the artist felt when composing these pictures?
Question 7 -- How do these paintings make you feel? Why? A: These questions vary in interpretation and are individualized per person.
Part 4 -- Visual Arts Lesson Plan
Lesson Title -- Using Art to Express Nature
Age/Stage -- Elementary; easily tweaked for older/younger groups -- Stage 2-3
Duration of the Lesson -- 50-60 minutes after exhibit is viewed
Lesson Activity -- After viewing the Diane Blake exhibit, students will discuss the works. Instructor will provide 4-5 slides of a natural environment, students will then be asked to create their own interpretation of the environment based on what they saw at the Blake exhibition.
Materials Needed: paper, watercolor paints, and brushes, cleaning supplies, small container for water, paper towels, sponges, and different types of brushes for texture.
Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to:
Make connections between visual arts and the natural world (Visual Arts)
Be able to proactively explain and interpret their view of a painting (Communications and Visual Arts).
Learn assigned vocabulary and be able to use said vocabulary to explain art to other students (Communications, evaluating data, multicultural understanding).
Use their own creative skills to complete an original piece of artwork based on a natural environment.
Describe the natural environment they choose (Language and Science).
Based on: Stage 3 Foundation Syllabus: Students make artworks for a variety of audiences using different forms and techniques to convey meaning and represent the likeness of things in the world. They discuss artworks in terms of how subject matter is used and represented, artists' intention and audience interpretation and make reasoned judgments about these artworks (Board of Studies, NSW, 2006, p. 21).
Chronology of Lesson:
1. Either view the exhibition or spend one class period viewing the individual pieces of art through a projector and combining the Q&A portion of the exercise.
a. Prior -- pass out vocabulary sheet, ask students to fill in as exercise commences.
2. Prior to entire class discussion, break class into 4-5 groups (depending on number of students). Assign each group one of the pictures of a natural biome. Provide students with worksheet that asks them to:
a. Define the name of each biome
b. Speculate on the geographic location of this biome
c. Describe the time of year, season, and events depicted (temperature, humidity, etc.)
d. Describe both the flora and fauna in this environment. Why do you think these animals or plants live in this environment?
e. Would you like to live in this environment, why or why not?
f. In a round robin setting, rather rapidly call on each student to answer a question about their biome.
3. Pass out paper, brushes, watercolors, small containers of water, and paper towels.
4. Ask each student to reflect upon the exhibit -- how it made them feel, how the interpreted the events depicted, the colors, etc.
5. Then, ask each student to use their biome to produce a visual representation of that environment in the style of, not to mimic, of Dianne Blake. Encourage the students to use various colors, textures from brushes, crumpled paper, sponges, etc.
6. Tell the student that they should find a unique title for their work of art.
7. If time on Day 1, proceed; if not, bleed into Day 2. Have each student present their work; explain the title and what it meant to them. Once done, find a portion of the classroom wall and hang the pictures.
8. Additional activity: If time and room in curriculum, have students view the gallery. Then write a 2-3 paragraph theme analyzing and critiquing one of the student paintings using the developed vocabulary. The painting must not be of their own. If there is time, pick out the best works and make a classroom scrapbook showing the painting, the critique, and if the equipment is available, a picture of the artist. Use this for a back-to-school night or an art fair.
Learning Processes: 1) Exploring -- the exhibit, the biomes, new vocabulary; 2) Developing -- use of vocabulary, analytical and comparative skills, synthesis of information; 3) Responding -- via oral communication and artistic expression; describing art through critical eyes.