Wayne Thiebaud Delights
Ahhhh, group projects, like this Wayne Thiebaud one. You either love ’em or you hate ’em. They’re like an east coast/west coast rap battle: you pick a side and fight to the death for it. It’s akin to the hero-hoagie-sub debate. Which one do you call it? (For the record, it’s a “sub” in this house because that’s its real name). You’re sure to guess where I live if I tell you that there’s an imaginary (read: it’s real) line across our state for the bennies versus shoobies, the WaWa’s versus 711’s, and the taylor hams versus pork rolls. Everyone from states like Kentucky and Oklahoma just did a huge mental, “What the heck?” in their heads. (((Did you hear it?))
But pork isn’t the food of choice I wanted to talk to you about. Cupcakes are. Oh yeah, and group projects.
I’ll be honest. I find that the younger they are, the less likely they understand the concept of “working together” when it comes to art projects, so I tend to start out with easier ones where they’re working side-by-side rather than making constant group decisions. And the older they get, the more decisions they make as a unit, while I hover nearby-ish putting out small campfires while they work in that guide-on-the-side kinda way things are done. This Wayne Thiebaud art project is one such case.
I did this lesson last year for my unscheduled observation (groan: observations). You might remember that it inspired me to create my iPad glitter frames clipart to print out pictures for the activity.
The Art Lesson
I started out this lesson using a Brain Pop Jr. video on color. It’s a quick refresher for remembering how to make secondaries from primaries. It also throws in dark and light hues, too. And that’s what I use as the catapult in learning to mix pastel colors. We look at and discuss various examples of Wayne Thiebaud’s artwork, dissecting the colors, shapes, and forms used throughout. I show them a part of an interview he did for CBS Sunday Morning which wets their appetite for everything sugary. And then we get down to the nitty gritty of designing our own cupcakes.
I line up the students in rows at the end of each table and spread out a long piece of butcher paper in front of them. I give them a quick tutorial on how to draw a cupcake. We use a tracer for the plate so they can judge the size of their cupcake against it.
Once they have their basic cupcake drawn out, I have them line up at the sink to get paint. They come up and tell me what rainbow color they want, I pour in some white paint on top, and they tell me what color it makes: “orange and white make light orange.” Then they begin painting the icing. They switch colors and paint the plate. And then switch again for the middle section. And that’s usually the better of two classes worth of work.
While it’s drying, we discuss what toppings and decorations they want to put on and how to go about overlapping the colors so they stand out against the painted background. (You know, a second grader doesn’t naturally get the concept of painting in layers unless you tell them it might be necessary depending on what they’re painting). They usually come up with the same things to put on each: sprinkles and candies.
The last part of the project involves the students creating a table for their gynormous cupcakes to sit on as well as a background, all of which they do together in total bliss. Hopefully. Well, sometimes. In a dream world with unicorns and faeries.
So this year after the project was completed, I reflected on what we had accomplished. The decorations and toppings portion of the project had me thinking: what if I could help them get the ball rolling quicker by turning this into a fun roll-a-dice game?
Make Collaborative Art Projects Fun!
So I developed a game that would allow for a more interesting group project. Each student has a chance to roll the die to make either a cake, cupcake, layer cake, slice of cake, ice cream cone, or ice cream cup. And then they roll to decide what toppings and decorations they add. This will definitely make creating the group mural more challenging next year but I think it’ll be a worthy endeavor.
Check out Roll a Masterpiece: Wayne Thiebaud Art Game in my shop!
How do your students fare when it comes to group projects? Do you love ’em or hate ’em? Are they a necessary (read: state core content curriculum standard) evil or a reason to celebrate? Drop me a comment below. Comment moderation is always.