Submitted by:Emily Baysinger, Lansing Middle School
Depicting Birds in Nature: John James Audubon and Charley Harper (6th grade) Time: Two art periods
We will look at and discuss the artwork of John James Audubon and Charley Harper and how they had different purposes, but both depicted nature (specifically birds) but for different purposes. Students will then pick out bird pictures from nature magazines and create a construction paper collage in the simplified style of Charley Harper.
Art has a variety of purposes and can supplement many subject areas and professions.
Nature is often an important source of inspiration for artists.
Usually the things we see around us can be broken down and simplified into basic shapes, which makes them visually and practically easier to see and draw.
Objectives: Students Will:
Compare the artwork, purposes, and styles of Audubon and Harper.
Choose and use photographs of birds in nature for inspiration of their own artwork.
Simplify birds into basic shapes and plan a composition to create a piece of work in the style of Charley Harper.
#1 Understanding and applying media techniques and processes
#2 Knowledge of structure and functions
#6 Making connections between the visual arts and other disciplines
CBS Sunday Morning clip of Todd Oldham and Charley Harper (this is an amazing clip, but I recorded it and I don’t think its online. In place of this, it would be good to get a short bio on Harper as well as some additional images about his artwork and style. See the book described in the video, Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life )
Ornithology is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of birds. Composition: the plan, placement or arrangement of the elements of art in a work Shape: Lines than connect an enclosed space.
Do any of you hunt or help your parents outside in the garden?
Did you ever think that hunting or gardening and art could be combined? Well, in the early 18th century, there was an ornithologist (person who studies birds) and artist named John James Audubon who did just that. He was an Englishman, but his primary focus was to come to the United States and record many of the bird species that live here. Back then, our country was still a vast, mysterious landscape to many Europeans, so Audubon came here to do research and draw many birds so others could see what they looked like.
Cameras were not invented yet, so artists had an important job of depicting very clearly what animals, people and places looked like. Since the invention of cameras, many artists’ roles have changed. Instead of trying to make things look exactly the same as they really are, they often take on the role of coming up with new and creative ideas for artwork. An example of an artist like this is Charley Harper. He usually created artwork involving animals and nature, but most often he depicted birds. He differs from Audubon, though, in that he simplified and stylized the birds, instead of trying to make them look as close to reality as possible. (5)
Watch the video clip on Charley Harper and Todd Oldham (If you can get a copy). Each table of students will get a color example of Harper’s work and can view Audubon’s Wild Turkey on the whiteboard. (10)
As a class, fill out a Venn Diagram worksheet on things about Audubon and Harper that are similar and different.
Where are they from?
How did they make money with their artwork?
What was their purpose in making their kind of artwork?
What materials or medium did they use?
What were their styles? (10)
I will show a demonstration on how to measure with rulers and compasses to make the correct size of circles and triangles. We will be using birds from magazines for inspiration and simplify their overall shape into more individual shapes. Students should use similar colors from the magazine picture so it looks natural and cut with precise, clean lines. (10)
I will then pass out nature magazines and students will look through to find an image of a bird that they want to use as inspiration. They can then begin finding colors of paper that are similar to that of their bird picture and figuring out how to break it up into shapes. (10-15)
Students should also look at the bird’s habitat and include a few branches, grasses, flowers, snow, berries, etc. that can be found and also simplified to balance and bring more interest to the composition.
I will grade their worksheets and use a rubric to assess their comprehension and completion of the studio project. (See work sheet )