Sunday, November 24, 2013

In the Art Room: The Magritte Project, One

Ya'll might recall that we are experiencing a bit of Magritte-madness in the art room. It started when I settled upon him as our Artist of the Month, got all surreal and wore this Magritte-inspired get-up to school and decided the third grade could/should create a mural as epic as this one by our fourth grade.
And, standing at 9' X 12', weighing in at 10 lbs, I'd say this thing went beyond epic and hit Mammoth Magritte-dom. Which is perfect for my third grade as this thing is as big (and surreal) as their personality.
The whole thing started when I hung up this piece by Magritte for the kids to chat about during our "What do you SEE? THINK? WONDER?" time. When I overhead the Deep Thoughts (not by Jack Handey) of the third graders, I knew I had to create a project that turned this spark of interest into a big fat hairy fire. You know, because the Fire Marshall isn't going to lose his sh** enough when he sees that mural.
I used these couple of books to help introduce Magritte. I began by reading the fictional Dinner at Magritte's which was awesome because there is something surreal taking place in each illustration. After reading each page, we'd attempt to find just what that was. This really helped the kids understand the concept of surrealism: objects that are real but combined in such a way that they couldn't possibly be real. This was followed up with by surreal-themed art homework. Of course we had to read Mike Venezia's book on the artist. The kids love his books.
During our study of Magritte, I had the kids look at another painting of his and list all of the nouns they saw. As they said things such as bird, sky, water, ocean, sunset, clouds, etc, I wrote them down on small pieces of paper and threw them in a little box marked nouns. Then they had to come up with adjectives that described the painting and I proceeded to do the same thing. I then drew two nouns from the box and one adjective such as Clouds, Sunset, Stormy. The kids were given a small piece of paper and two minutes to create their own surreal drawing. This proved to be a short and fun assessment tool.
After that, I told the kids that we'd be creating a Mega-Magritte Mural. Now, I'm all about stressing individuality in my room, as I'm sure you are too. But we had to chat about working collaboratively on this mural. I explained to them that it was like a big ole puzzle and that we all had to work together to make the pieces fit. With that in mind, the kids were given a piece of 12" X 18" piece of paper folded in half vertically. At the top, they were to use horizontal brush strokes and paint a tint of blue while at the bottom they were to paint a shade. Once these dried, we added clouds and stars with oil pastels.
The following art class, I placed a couple different bird templates on the tables. I thought the mural would make more sense visually if all the "daytime" birds were flying in one direction and the night in the opposite. I knew that this concept might be difficult for the kids if I didn't make my directions very clear. My solution was to write Day and Night on the birds. They were to use the Day birds on their daytime sky (tracing on the back to hide those unsightly pencil lines) and the Night birds on the nighttime sky.
Now it just so turns out that this art project is going to be like a gift that keeps on giving. I love how their negative space papers look! I'm dreaming up another Magritte-inspired project for these pieces. Any thoughts on what they could collage/paint/write/draw in those negative spaces?

By the way, the trick to getting the kids to cut so that they end up with that great negative paper was to tell them that they could only cut with one point of entry. Usually I'm all about cutting off the excess paper as I cut because it gets in the way. However, after I showed them how cool the negative paper would look, they were careful to cut slowly and only have one entry and exit point cut. This initial cut was taped back together after the bird was cut out.
Now I have five 3rd grade classes with about 17 students each. At first I thought we'd need both of their birds for the mural but it turns out, they only needed to donate one. I allowed the kids to choose which one they'd like to give to the mural and which to keep for a future project (to be shared with you next week, I can't wait!).Which is why this post it titled The Magritte Project as I think we'll end up with three pieces as a result.
When finished with their cutting, I laid out huge pieces of blue paper for the kids to begin painting the clouds. We painted a lot of cloud papers. Some got used in the mural...some will be used for our display of the other Magritte-inspired masterpieces.

I used black bulletin board paper and hack-cut a horizon line. Once everything was complete, we started to day it out on the floor in the art room.

I'm fortunate that I have the floor space for such big endeavors. The other kids (and adults) were super curious about what the 3rd grade was up to, so I created this sign to help explain our work. Because, honestly, if I had to answer the question "What's that?!" one more time, I was a-gonna scream
Now most of my little friends know not to walk on artwork on the floor because in my art room, artwork is always all over the floor (I have a love-hate with my slightly-angled/can-cause-drips-and-paint-runs drying rack). So I also created some make-shift construction cones with orange paper and my gallon paint bottles. And I STILL had at least two kindergarteners walk right through the mural? Really?! Sigh.

By the way, do you see that huge roll of orange paper my mural is on? We just happen to have a ton of this stuff and it's what we've used to glue both the Warhol mural and this one two. It works great as a base to our murals. I use a combo of spray and hot glue to adhere it to the paper. It makes my room smell magical and I see stars for up to a half hour after the fact.
Magritte's Dominion of Light was also used as inspiration in the mural. A couple of my students painted that while others used circle sponges to create the dots.
I am fortunate to have some great volunteers in the art room. They worked on hot gluing the birds in place and adhering the bulletin board paper to the large roll of orange paper. With the help of one sweet volunteer, I was able to get the mammoth mural up right outside my art room door. It so fun to see whenever I leave the art room. Of course, the kids were thrilled with their hard work...even if they were under the impression that their mural should "cover up" the fourth grade one. 

Stay tuned for more Magritte-madness. Until then, enjoy your weekend and we'll chat soon!


  1. Awesome! How many classes of third grade do you have? If they all made two birds I'm guessing two classes of around 15/16 ?

    1. I have 5 classes of about 17 students...they only had to donate either their day or night bird for the mural. The other bird we used for another project I'll share this week-ish :)

  2. I love reading your blog….it always makes me smile if not laugh right out loud ….& I can't help but think how lucky those crazy little kids are to have a teacher like you.

    1. You are sweet, thank you...and thank you much for reading!

  3. Great mural, you really captured the essence of Magritte's style. Just an FYI there is a great exhibit of Magritte's work at the MOMA museum in NY. They may have some good online resources.

    1. AHH!! Thank you! I'll check it out for our other Magritte project, I need all the resource help I can get!

  4. Your students are so lucky to have such a dedicated teacher! I'm always impressed by the amount of thought and planning you put into your projects - this one is briliant.

  5. Wow! This is absolutely stunning, I work a lot on large scale murals myself as I am responsible for constantly changing the school entrance mural. It's a hard task to get all the students involved but the outcomes are so rewarding!
    This is definately worth sharing it's such a wonderful way to study Magritte while creating something wonderful.
    You are constantly inspiring me, with every post you show so much creativity and practicality at the same time. I love your blog. I look forward to recreating something similar. I hope you don't mind if I share it on the new Margritte's board on

  6. I really love this! Did you say you have 17 students per class! Jealous!! I have at least 28 per class! Thanks again the inspiration!

  7. Amazing!!! The mural is beautiful!

  8. I'm inspired now to do up the art room hallway with a mural! My question is what do you use to attach the whole thing to your wall? At our school, we're allowed to use blue tack for the painted white walls and even though I sometimes sneak in double sided tape, I have trouble keeping work up.

  9. Love this idea and your blog! I teach high school art, but many of your ideas are perfect for my collaborative adaptive art class. An idea for the negative space paper- maybe have each child write their favorite poem or song lyrics on a piece of paper to mount behind it so it shows through the bird spaces? Not sure if that is suitable for elementary kids, but might be fun! Thanks, again, for sharing your wonderful ideas :)


Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.