Abstract Expression in Clay
An Art Lesson by Marvin Bartel, Ed.D.
Emeritus Professor of Art, Ceramics and Art Education Instructor
Goshen, Indiana 46526
Age This lesson is appropriate from grade
10 to adult.
Students learn to actively assert physical marks on the clay.
Students learn to find the natural marks and texture produced
only by clay.
- Students learn to think creativily about the quality of the processes they use as artists.
Build a frame of reference for the artwork by accomplished
artists who used similar approaches.
The teacher does not show any examples or pictures of
expressionistic clay work before this assignment. To do so defeats the
objectives of the assignment. This is not an assignment in "learning by
imitation." It is an assignment in learning how to creatively search one's
materials, actions, and ideas for expressive potential artwork.
Each student needs two pieces of canvas, heavy denim, or Tyvek paper
about 18 inches square and some fairly soft workable pottery clay. Tyvek can be picked up at construction sites when they cut the house wrap out of window and door openings after wrapping a house with it.
Combine this textured clay with some smooth clay or with
a clay form made by another method. Make a sculptural form, a vessel, an
imaginary animal, a plant holder to hang on the wall, or something else.
Something supportive of the main idea must be incorporated
in the decoration. Requiring decoration is a good way to encourage more
creative problem solving experience. There are many ways to decorate, including:
Colored slip and glazes - do something to strengthen whatever
already exists on the work
Words relating to the user, the contents, felling or meaning
intended or discovered
Coloring oxides or glazes brushed on the textured bisque
ware - sponge off the highlights
Why Make Requirements?
|Art teachers are often tempted to say, "On this project you can do
whatever you want to do." A very small percentage of the students are naturally
inclined to take the risk and the effort to be truly creative when given
this option. In a few situations, advanced students have been well conditioned
to get by with clichÈ work.
Typically, students are apt to do the safe thing. They will make another
one of whatever they have made in the past that was passing. This is not
a way to achieve growth. It encourages mediocrity.
Some students do not like the requirements and request to be excused
from the requirements. The teacher must ask for the student's proposal.
If the proposal actually shows creative problem solving for that student,
the teacher can feel justified in allowing an exception. Other students
will less likely complain if they know they have to come up with a better
and more risky alternative in order to be excused from the assigned limitations.
Connections to Art History and Other Art
|After they have made their work, assign videos, some slides, books,
journals, and/or web pages that have expressive work and or work that has
special meaning. Peter Voulko's ceramics comes to mind. He had a group
of students in the 50's including Soldner, Mason, and others whose work
is very expressive. Painters like Pollack, Hartigan, Hoffman, and Frankenthaler
come to mind.
Having students bring research about other artists to class is a good
way for them to make connections with professional work. Have a discussion
in class and test the students on these presentations. Asking students
to write critiques of work by professionals will help them reach the stage
of critical and reflective thinking.
Note: If you are reading a paper copy of this page, using this Internet URL gives you live links to related resources. http://www.goshen.edu/~marvinpb/lessons/express.html
© Marvin Bartel 1999, all rights reserved - For permission or copy or publish contact the author.
updated November, 2005