I confess I still don’t know how I feel about emojis–which is ironic given that the whole concept of an emoji is it is a digital icon that represents a certain feeling or sentiment! Sometimes emojis leave me perplexed…I still don’t understand the alien-head in the frame. When I receive a long chain of emojis, I sometimes feel as though I’m trying to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. And while I love to add a smile or heart or praying hands to my texts, I cannot for the life of me think of what possible scenario would EVER require me to attach a nose icon to my message!
However, a while back I was reflecting on the Pop Art movement as I was planning a lesson for my upcoming series, “Circles Galore!” and emojis kind of popped into the mix of inspiration. (Pun, intended…it’s lame, I know.)
If you’re not familiar with the Pop Art movement, you can read all about it here. I really appreciate the ideas behind the movement. Pop artists were trying to show that there are certain things in culture that are so ubiquitous, their artistic significance might be overlooked. Andy Warhol’s painting of the Campbell’s soup can, an iconic piece from this movement, shows that even a can of soup can be appreciated as fine art. Warhol often brought visual emphasis to his subject matter by repeating it multiple times, with or without variation, some suggest in a critique of modern mass-production.
I knew I wanted to do a Pop Art-inspired project where I used the concept of images from pop culture with repetition. All of my subject matter needed to be circular in shape. I have always been a fan of Wayne Thiebaud, an artist whose paintings of pies and cakes are reminiscent of the Pop Art movement, so I decided to do a donut and a peppermint candy, two items that definitely fit within the realm of mundane pop culture. The emojis, became my way of repeating the circular shapes AND communicating the way I felt about the sweet treats!
To do this project, I first gathered some image-inspiration from the internet. It would have been nice to have the actual donuts and candy in front of me, but inspiration had struck and had no time for me to wait and go buy those items!
Whenever I gather images, I make sure to find a wide variety, and I never copy from one picture directly. For example, I might collect five or six photos of donuts and then formulate my own composition from elements of each of those photos. I like to print out the images so I can mark them up as I’m drawing.
I started with a good piece of Bristol, which is a great paper for illustration work.
I cut my 9 x 12 paper into a 9 x 9 square, and then used my ruler to divide my paper into four equal sections. I drew VERY light lines to mark off these sections.
I then found a lid that I could trace for my circle shapes in each section.
After deciding on which item I would put in each quadrant, and lightly sketching it’s outline, I used Prismacolor Premier colored pencils to begin adding life to this project, building up the layers of color to achieve a realistic effect. I love my set of 72 colors—three whole trays of awesomeness!
When working with colored pencils, I always keep a piece of scratch paper beside me to test different combinations of colors. I’m always surprised to find a lot of kids don’t know that you can mix layers of colored pencil to achieve new colors. To me that’s the best part!
My students all wanted to know how I made the donut and peppermint candy look so real. I told them it’s all about the use of VALUE in their art. Younger students tend to draw everything with the same intensity. It is good to call their attention to shadows and highlights. The emoji images printed from the internet, upon closer examination, show that their circle shapes are NOT all the same intensity of yellow. There are areas of lighter value near the forehead and areas of darker value around their edges.
I simply noticed these variations in value, and planned ahead of time where I would put them. I left the paper white for highlights on the donut and peppermint, and used a pale yellow for the lighter areas on the emojis. I also darkened areas by pressing harder on the colored pencil, or by layering in a darker shade of the same color.
I recommend this project for 4th grade and up. It is a great project to:
Encourage creative thinking: they have to come up with their own pop-culture subject matter.
Facilitate problem solving: they have to think of what can work within a common shape.
Highlight a period of art history: they learn about Pop Art and its ideas.
Try new techniques with colored pencils: they learn how to layer colors and create value by the amount of pressure applied to the pencil.
and this project also helps students:
5. Learn about the art concepts of repetition and value.
That being said, don’t keep your younger kids from trying this– they can definitely do it, too. Just don’t burden them with the expectation of a technically executed and polished outcome. My 5 year old little artist did this project and chose to use M&M’s for her sweet treat!
With the younger set, I am all about praising their IDEAS. I sprinkle in the technique, just giving them the basic idea of combining colored pencil colors or trying to incorporate light and dark values.