Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Homeschool High School Art Class: How to Earn the Girl Scout Senior Collage Artist Badge


My obsession with using Girl Scout badges as homeschool units of study continues, as Will and I turned earning the Girl Scout Senior Collage Artist badge into an excellent and super fun study that I'll incorporate into part of a high school fine arts credit for her. 

Step 1: Explore collage. Normally, I wouldn't have thought twice about taking a field trip to an art museum to look at collages, but... you know, there's a pandemic going on. Now that our local university's art museum has re-opened, I do think we'll chance a visit, but until then, I satisfied this step by requesting a ton of collage books from our public library and employing contact-free pick-up. 

I actually ended up really liking what these books brought to our study, as we were able to look through not just fine art collage books but also casual how-to and craft books, which I think gave us more ideas about what we, ourselves, could do with collage. 

Here are some of the collage books that we explored:

Our public library has a stellar collection of zines, so if we'd had more access to the library, or if I'd also been leading Syd through this badge, I was toying with the idea of centering all the activities on zine creation.

Next time!

Step 2: Focus on composition. For this step, Will did do one of the suggested activities, just because it looked like fun!

Since this was a for-fun activity, not really one that I had planned as part of her fine arts unit, I didn't make any criteria for neatness, precision, or craftsmanship. If I had, I might have showed Will how to use our paper cutter to make precise squares, or how to grid the paper lightly to ensure accurate placement, etc. But since this was our very first actual collage activity, and since Will isn't the most confident artist on the planet, "cubomania" turned out to be the perfect low-impact, high-interest collage to get her interested in digging deeper.

3. Create with color. Here's another suggested activity that worked perfectly as written and was also very fun! It tied well into a review of the color wheel, although, as you can see, Will chose to work entirely in greyscale:

Here are some of our color wheel resources:
  • 3D color wheels. My Scouts have a varying level of patience with step-by-step directed activities such as this one, but this DOES make a beautiful hanging piece!
  • color wheels composed with strange paintbrushes. Sometimes it's not what you make, but how you make it that's the point of the activity. This project ties into the Outdoor Art badges by challenging kids to make the standard color wheel, but to paint it with something unusual. In this particular activity, I had my kids use tree branches, but it would be fun to have kids first collect a variety of nature finds to use--perhaps even without telling them what they'll have to use them for! I think older kids especially enjoy these kinds of physical challenges that are both unusual and maybe just a tad bit babyish. Who wouldn't want to play a little bit longer?
  • giant collaborative color wheel. Yes, this is written as a preschool art activity, but not all process-oriented art is solely for preschoolers! This would be a fun group activity to begin a color study, especially if you encourage kids to collect ephemera between meetings. 
  • interactive color wheel. This is such a good idea! Instead of using a pre-printed template, though, I think it would be fun to have kids make their own card stock template, and then let them choose their own colors and color wheel combination. Think how much fun they'd have playing with their favorite colors in this wheel, instead of the standard assortment.
  • mandala color wheel. Here's a much more sophisticated color wheel that will make an appropriate challenge for an older kid.
  • spinning color wheel. This is a quick and easy activity that gets kids up and moving a bit.
Step 4: Use found objects. Will and I went off the rails for the last two steps of this badge, and so instead of creating a found object collage, for this step we reviewed symmetry and how it effects artistic composition. 

Afterwards, Will created a larger piece that incorporated three different types of symmetry into a single composition. 

Step 5: Share a message. Until this step, each of Will's collages had been completed in a single sitting. Even if it took her a couple of hours and/or several episodes of Welcome to Night Vale, each time, when she got up from the art table, she had a finished product to show.

I wanted Will to have the experience of creating a multi-step, multi-day, more involved project, so instead of any of the "share a message" activities, we created that elaborate piece.

I used this large-format collage animal tutorial, and I LOVED it! The only step that we did not attempt was the free-form, process-oriented art while listening to music, and that's only because I have SO much large-format paper ephemera, some of which includes old kid art. So that's what we tore into strips--

--and used as the base for our collage animals:

Matt made us the tracers, and I was surprised when Will wanted to create not the dog that I'd just assumed she would, but an owl:

Black screenprinting ink worked great as a substitute for india ink, but polyurethane did not work as well as the resin called for in the tutorial would have. Definitely use the resin for realistically shiny eyes!

Imperfectly shiny eyes aside, Will and I are both very pleased with her large-format, multi-step, carefully-crafted owl collage:

It's now mounted high in our family room, so it can watch over our bookshelves and keep our books safe from mice.

Even though Will was my only Girl Scout who earned this badge with me, I think this is a badge that would work particularly well for Girl Scout troop meetings. It's set up so that completing one collage per meeting is very manageable, other than that last collage, but the tutorial for that one is written by an art teacher who lays out how to space it out over a period of days. Add in a socially-distanced field trip to an art museum, followed by a picnic and some free time outdoors, and you have a picture-perfect Girl Scout badge!

Want to do more with collage? Here are some of my favorite collage resources and projects, and even more collage projects and resources that are on my to-do list:
  • Jack-o-lantern. This is a little cheezy, yes, but so fun and festive to do on a holiday week!
  • reflection board. I think this would be such a cool starting activity for every Girl Scout meeting while you're working through the Collage Artist badge, or for the beginning of every school day if you're incorporating it into your homeschool. There's a lot to be said about the experience of getting into the practice of something, even if only temporarily, and I love this as an extension or alternative to journaling. 
  • window cards. Here's a way to multi-task collage activities with a service project! You could use this activity to make Christmas or Valentine cards, in particular, because they both have iconographic silhouettes that come to mind. Kids could make them for their families or for nursing home residents. 
  • tags and bookmarks. This could be another good pre-holiday activity, or you could forget the gift tags and just focus on bookmarks. The extra artistry and detailing that's called for with these types of projects can be extra-appealing to older kids, I've found, and sourcing materials should be easy, because you can simply ask kids to bring in some of their recycling!
  • magnets. These are similar to the tags and bookmarks, above. This project would work well with the Senior Room Makeover badge, since kids could also make an upcycled magnet board to go with it (pro tip: thrift old cookie sheets!).
  • postcards. You have to be a little more careful with postcards, but it's fun to see how things end up when they go through the mail! I recently did a similar project with my Girl Scout troop as an at-home activity, and the kids are all waiting with bated breath to receive them as I type this!

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