First Quarter Arts Projects Capture the Essence of Messy & Promote Collaboration

The Painting 2 & 3, and Stagecraft classes have been pretty busy this first quarter. Mr. Jerry King, Arts Director and Teacher, described two big projects the students undertook and shared the amazing results.
The Big, Messy Portrait (Painting 2 & 3)
This first project of the year challenged student artists with a multi-layered, complex, over-sized portrait. Students chose an important person from their own life to depict. Unlike a normal portrait, these pieces are more "portraits of the person" rather than just capturing the contours of a face. The subjects were interviewed for pieces of their life story. Then colors, textures, shapes, objects and materials were selected that related to the person in some way. Each artist was tasked with doing at least two life-sized or larger renderings of their subject’s head or face, then overlapping or combining them in some way to show the same person from a different perspective or in a different style. Text was required to be incorporated into the composition as well as the subject's signature, actual or reproduced as a design element.
For media, we tried to limit ourselves to "before artists' paint, brushes and canvases were invented." Instead, students worked in more primitive available pigments and binders found in the world around them, and drew or painted on recycled materials, natural "grounds" or throwaways. Media used in these works include dirt, coffee, tea, wine, chalk, charcoal, clay and house paint.
Portraits are intimidating; so is working big, and  -- for some! -- letting messy be messy. This project allowed or forced students to jump in with courageous trepidation to a challenge that was "beyond them," that included a story that matters from a person they care about. It also opened up the space to let the process of the creation of the piece be a story unto itself, to let accidents and discoveries be just that, and not terminal failures, and to admit -- and even celebrate! -- that we people, ourselves, are messy, imperfect, the accumulating sum of many, many parts, and not yet fully finished.
The Giant Covenant Eagle Project (Stagecraft)
This larger-than-life eagle sculpture is the class "warm-up project" for the semester.
Working as a whole class with different jobs in the fabrication and assembly of the overall piece, students learned and developed some basic skills of tracing, cutting, gluing, bending of wood and wrapping rope. They learned to interpret and work with a design and pattern given to them. They also experienced what it is like to be part of a production team with each individual charged with certain tasks, without which the whole would never be achieved.
The design is derived from the natural world, the body shapes of an eagle. The silhouette was kept fairly close to naturalistic realism, but within each part, the constituent lines and shapes are quite abstracted. The resulting “see-through” eagle form is much more dynamic as a result; try picturing this same piece as a solid, entirely feathered, realistic sculpture. It would be much more static, less “caught in the moment of alighting.”
We used entirely resources on hand for this project: leftover basket-weaving materials, stage light gels, corded twine and paper. And much glue.
Each faculty/staff member signed one of the feathers, so this giant raptor really is an expression of “We are Covenant.”

The Covenant School

Birdwood Campus | Lower School | Pre-K–Grade 5 |
1000 Birdwood Road Charlottesville, VA 22903 | 434.220.7309

Hickory Campus | Middle and Upper School | Grades 6–12 | 175 Hickory Street Charlottesville, VA 22902 | 434.220.7329
Located in Charlottesville, VA, The Covenant School is a non-denominational, private, Christian day school for Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, visual and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.