Ask students to brainstorm what specific manufactured items are part of their everyday lives (e.g., buses, cars, roads, paths, bridges, buildings, desks, windows, litter, phones, computers). Then ask students to brainstorm what natural items and elements are part of their day (e.g., grass, trees, flowers, animals, bugs, birds, humans, the sky, weather). Brainstorm with students how they can combine manufactured and natural elements to create interesting juxtapositions that tell the viewer a story.
Lina, Rainy Day; Fatima, UntitledIsabel Z., The Power of Nature.Zaynab, City Park
For this lesson, share with students the picture book Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd (Random House Children’s Books, 2016) and excerpts from The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton, 2017). These books arenʼt middle-school level, but the illustrations and themes provide a perfect starting point for a discussion about the connection and disconnection between humans and nature.
Ask students, “What do you notice in these stories? In the illustrations? How might the authors feel about the wild?” Point out that the juxtaposition of manufactured (human-made) and wild (natural) elements deepen the conversation. Share other images and artworks that illustrate juxtaposition with similar subject matter.
Define and further explore juxtaposition. Place two or more possibly unrelated objects side by side and ask students to compare and contrast them. Next, ask students to brainstorm what specific manufactured items are part of their everyday lives (e.g., buses, cars, roads, paths, bridges, buildings, desks, windows, litter, phones, computers). Then ask students to brainstorm what natural items and elements are part of their day (e.g., grass, trees, flowers, animals, bugs, birds, humans, the sky, weather).
Brainstorm with students how they can combine manufactured and natural elements to create interesting juxtapositions that tell the viewer a story. For instance, if they combine concrete with flowers, they might depict a tough plant that thrives in challenging circumstances. Buildings and trees together could be used to illustrate how humans and nature interact.
Making a Personal Connection
Have students generate their own ideas for a human-made/nature juxtaposition using ideas from the brainstorming session. Small group conferences helped us develop our designs to tell the viewer a visual story. This is a great opportunity to discuss how we certainly have some influence over the viewerʼs interpretation, but ultimately, viewers will see our work through the lens of their own unique lived experiences and perspectives.
Students can use a variety of drawing techniques to build their underdrawing and a variety of watercolor techniques to paint with. This is a great opportunity to introduce or refine glazing and layering techniques to build shading, depth, and visual interest. Students may wish to add an artist statement to their work that includes a title and a brief story.
Have students use another medium to combine natural and manufactured items as they generate ideas and draw their compositions. Students at Calgary Girls Charter School used both photography and weaving to better understand juxtaposition. This year, we used a large collaborative loom as students waited for their watercolor layers to dry.
Zoey Graf is an art teacher at Calgary Girls Charter School in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Zoey.Graf@mycgcs.ca
Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
Art teachers encourage students to tell stories through their art. Young students listen to a read-aloud and create clay creatures inspired by the book, elementary students illustrate influential figures in art history, middle-school students juxtapose natural and human-made elements through narrative compositions, high-school students manipulate images to create imagined landscapes, and more.