Art Unit using Hundertwasser as our inspiration

Hundertwasser is an incredible artist on which to base an art unit on as his work is so diverse.  This means you can use it as inspiration for so many styles of art work from sketching, painting and 3D building.

With being in New Zealand we have one of his famous buildings  the Kawakawa toilets, which are just 25 minutes from me, although a bit far to take my class, unfortunately.

From his clothes to his stamps and his paintings to his architecture there is either something or an aspect that can appeal to everyone.  There is also his philosophies which he applied to so much of this work, which brings in a whole other conversation.  The best part for me is that because of Hundertwassers styles and diversity there are going to be elements or works that people just do not like.  This also applies to me, I enjoy his quirky architecture but I am not a fan of his paintings!!

To introduce my students to Hundertwassers work, I created a power point using photos available on line (where you can find hundreds of examples).   I paired this with quotes from his philosophies which help explain his work.  Great examples are

  • His refusal to use a ruler which he felt was a tool of the devil.  
  • He also believed that an uneven floor was a melody to the feet.
  • The world needs bright colours in order to be a happy place to live
  • that mankind needs to be surrounded by nature even in a city

The power point started with photos of his buildings which received lots laughs and amazement along with oohs and ah's and look at that.. Then we got to some of his paintings and that all stopped.

It was like watching a class of owls as they blinked and turned their heads left and right and cocked them over trying to sort out his work for themselves.  Granted they were very busy with a lot of detail, but his refusal to follow any colour rules (like painting the sky green) means it takes awhile to figure some of them out.

The best part (and funny for me) was after a couple of minutes of the class trying to discuss the works positively, I turned around and said:

"But you know what....I don't like them at all"

The looks I got were priceless.  Twenty-four pairs of eyes just stared at me wide with surprise - you could see them thinking 'had she really said that?'

I just looked at them said

 "its OK not to like it, just because its from a famous artist doesn't mean you have to like it."

I explained how we are all going to have different opinions and that is fine to voice that (as long as you are not being mean of course) and its okay to like something when others do not as well.  Well that was it, they were prepared at last to pick that painting apart and really look at it from all angles.  Gone was the polite comments of nice bright colours, and out came the multiple comments of 'its weird'.

It was liberating for them to be honest about the work, we went back through the power point and used our honesty on the buildings, although in fairness the kiddos really still liked them!!

This lead us into creating our own art.  I gave the guidelines of creating a landscape in which they had to include a building or buildings inspired by Hundertwasser.  It must include at least two spiral trees (Hundertwassers symbol for life), they were not allowed to use rulers and the finished work would be painted using bright colours which did not have to follow any colour rules.

My unit had been inspired by a lesson plan I had found on line (which I can not find again for the life of me - I should have pinned it) and our own TKI Educational website.

The first session had the students sketching out their concepts. I started them with a planning page before they were allowed the good paper.  Even with the reminders that the elements will need to be large to enable the next stage to be completed there were students who wanted to do fiddly details.  A few struggled with filling the whole page or having their elements large enough to have an impact on their page.  We got together to discuss what had been done.  I followed the whole positive feedback and what they need to improve feed forward system to assist them in improving their pictures.  The kiddo's caught on pretty quickly on what needed to change in their pictures and took over their feed forward portion which was perfect.  Others in the class were quick to point out the good points as well!!!  As a result at least half the class decided they wanted to start again (so much for sketching first so not to waste good paper), and this time they really got it.

 The following session the students traced their pencil lines with black PVA glue using a squeezy bottle creating a raised glossy line.  This process took time and skill, ideally I would have loved to have given the opportunity to practice this skill separately but I did not have enough glue.   It took practice to get the pressure just right so it was not to think or thin.  For a number of students I did help with this to speed to process along, however they had to have given it a really good go before I gave help.  The glue took at least 24 hours to dry so you need to make sure you have space to lay them out :).

They then had to paint with watered down acrylic paint - it was meant to be water paints but the school didn't have any and as it turned out the acrylic paint made for lovely bright colours and I was really pleased with the results, almost as pleased as my students were :).  This still took a fair bit reminding not to overload their paintbrush with paint or the colours would run into each other and to not have the same colour touching each other to enable contrast.

The following are some of their great work:

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