5th Grade Pop Art Illustrations – Roy Lichtenstein

Fifth graders started the year off focusing on Pop Art.  The students walked through a classroom discussion focusing around what Pop Art is – how the word “pop” extends to “popular” and examples of artists who are famous for their Pop Art work.  The artist fifth grade then focused in on was Roy Lichtenstein. Check out my very simple Prezi to help guide our discussion.

We looked at a lot of his work and came up with some conclusions: he uses limited color, really enjoys sarcasm and uses comic strip-like illustrations for a lot of his work, including some of his famous sound shapes.  We discussed what we mean by Comic-Strip-Like: bold lines, bright colors, solid colors, and shapes. This opened up the path for a discussion about Onomatopoeias – words that make the sound they portray – and how we could use lines and shapes to convey the word’s sound as a sound rather than an action.  Ex. How can you illustrate “sizzle” without a frying pan full of bacon?  One exercise we did was that we closed our eyes and said our chosen onomatopoeia in our head to see what kind of animation or illustration we saw.  This took a few tries but after prompting students to focus on line and shape, we had a great foundation of ideas to build from.

Students worked in their sketch books to get their ideas down on paper.  The chose one onomatopoeia, either from a list I supplied or one that they thought of and checked to make sure it worked.  One rule was that they could not chose the same onomatopoeia as someone at their table because we didn’t want to copy one another’s idea.  They also couldn’t use the example I supplied, Pop.    Using shapes and line, students sketched out their brainstorming ideas in their sketchbook that would help them when they put their final project together.

For the first step of the final project, students used textual paper found from some old encyclopedias to fill the background with what resembled newspaper.  We would have used newspaper, but it served the same purpose and we had no newsprint to use.  Rather than present students with limitations, students were able to glue and layer the printed paper on their background how every they wanted – they could work it around their onomatopoeia idea or keep it simple.  Students used glue sticks to avoid the bubbling effect you can get with school glue.

The second step of the project was transferring their original ideas from the sketchbook to their background.  This was a good challenge for kids because they had to enlarge their ideas to a much larger paper and draw lightly to avoid having mistakes show through.  I always talk about drawing with light pressure so it’s easier to erase but it’s important to remind them that just because you use light pressure doesn’t mean it can’t be dark – they can layer if they’re having trouble seeing their pencil – pressing into the paper too hard is what we try to avoid.

The third step was using black sharpies to go over their pencil and bring out the bold lines that we discussed regarding Comic Strips.  We talked about how if we made a mistake (drew in a spot we didn’t intend), we simple use that mistake to make a positive.  For example, making a line on one bubble letter thick instead of thin because of that mistake.  They were encouraged to use their permanent marker to turn their bubble letters into unique ideas using contrast and varied widths.

Once students were finished with their black lines, the final step was adding the color. We had a quick discussion on the amount of color we see in comics and realized it can be very limited to add to the dramatic effects that some comics aim for. Especially, my students realized, when comics had sound bubbles.  So, students had to choose 2-3 colors to finish their project.  This may sound limiting but we didn’t discuss how those colors should be used – only what we see in comics.  I told my studentss, “I may give you one or two limitations in your project to help you learn techniques or mediums, for instance the amount of colors like in comics, but if there is an idea you have and it’s not addressed with the limitation, it is your job to push yourself and your creativity.  Challenge yourself as well as me to see how creative you can get.” And the results have been rewarding because there are many students who are using lines and shapes withing their letters and illustrations through use of color.  Some are simply coloring in the different letters and shape using solid colors, which doesn’t miss the point, but others are using dots and patterns which adds to their sense of creativity.

The success of this project is completely due to my students who now see how art can be used to help learn literacy concepts, what an art career such as Illustration can include and how they can use their creativity and problem-solving skills to make a set of instructions work for them.  The products are turn out great and I couldn’t wait to share.  Essentially, there is nothing left besides providing a self-assessment for students and simply finishing the coloring.

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