January 31, 2023 | Clara Buckley
A line is a line. But what can you do with a line?
The Trees Class met the art of Bridget Riley, a woman who loved lines. Bridget Riley is one of the best-known Op Art painters, creating patterns that confuse the eye and create a sense of movement. We observed how Riley shapes her lines and paints colors alongside each other.
We began by looking at Riley’s circle paintings and creating our own. Drawing circles was an opportunity to practice the tripod grip. When each child forms a circle we start at the top and first make a C curve. Using this method helps children when they learn to write the letters C, G, O, and Q.
The emphasis in our program is on multi-sensory and play experiences, so the children are also making and exploring using clay. Remembering how to make a slab by first rolling a ball, each child made clay circles to match their drawing.
Painting while standing at the easel involves the large core body muscles as well as developing fine motor skills. By this age most children have determined which hand is dominant but there can sometimes still be switching when the object being painted extends across the paper. We have quite a few lefties in the class.
While Bridget Riley is best known for her black and white murals from the sixties, we also viewed her colorful vertical line paintings. The children had a wide range of colors to choose from for their drawings and paintings. The pre-writing skills we practiced this week included starting lines at the top and using a helping hand to hold the paper. At Mustard Seed School we follow Handwriting Without Tears, a curricular program that addresses fine motor skills in developmentally appropriate ways.
When it was time to make lines using clay, a challenge was set to make a line the length of the table. Small groups collaborated to join their coils together. Some children began to work in three dimensions and lift their coils from the table.
Older students worked on a monochromatic painting, their wavy lines moving from left to right.
So, why all these lines?!
Now the children had drawn straight lines, curved lines, circles, and wavy lines, we put them to use in our art. Meet Mat Man. Mat Man is an activity to help children develop body awareness, drawing and counting skills, with a catchy song! Using this song in the classroom and art studio, students built a person and then used their line skills to draw and paint a person. Do you see the curved lines, circles, and straight lines?
What else can we do with lines?
All these line activities scaffold the introduction of letter-writing. Building finger strength through working with clay, learning to start lines (and letters) at the top, controlling placement and order of brush strokes, forming a complete circle.
In the studio the children used clay coils to build letters from their name. In the classroom they worked on building those letters through other sensory activities and then, and only then, writing.
We appreciate the beauty inherent in the children’s art while also knowing these skills are the foundation for future handwriting.