Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Creating Art with Shadows

A Lesson Plan in Shadow Art

If you’ve never seen the shadow art of Tim Noble and Sue Webster you’re missing out. They literally shine light onto piles of junk and produce shadow images of people. You can check out their website here but do it from home and not the classroom. There are a few inappropriate words and images.
Meanwhile, if you are like me (and most art teachers) you already have a box of junk in your classroom. I have used mine box of junk by having the students create Rube Goldberg contraptions. The sculpture teacher at our school uses the box for recycled art projects. After viewing Tim and Sue’s work, I knew exactly what i wanted to do with that junk... Have my students create shadow art.

There really is little planning that can be done with such a project. It’s isn’t like other art projects where you can search for references or create sketches. You literally need to get your hands on the junk, hold it up to a light source and see what shadows form.

To acquire enough light sources that I could afford, I had to think a little outside the box. LCD projectors would be perfect but they are expensive. then it hit me. Our media center was storing a bunch of old slide projectors that nobody was using. When I inquired about checking them out, they asked me if i wanted them. They were happy for me to take them off their hands.

To start the lesson, I introduced my students to several shadow artists through a Powerpoint presentation. I showed the work of Tim Noble and Sue Webster as well as Kumi Yamashita and street artist Ellis Gallagher. Then I explained the project.

I explained to my students that they would be working in teams, manipulating junk to create shadow art on the wall. I left everything else... what they wanted to create, the theme of their art, even where they would project the light... up to them. 

They had one class period, 90 minutes, to accomplish their task. I kept them up to speed on the amount of time left in class so they wouldn’t finish to early not not finish in time.

The interesting thing about this type of project is there is no actual project. It is solely up to the photographer to capture the moment. At the end of class, the projectors would be put away, the piles of trash disassembled, and the box refilled with junk.

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