Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Drawing - Making It Surreal

The children dream up synectic or surreal drawings by bringing together ideas not normally related to each other. For ages 9 to 13. Plan 1 to 2 sessions.

  • Drawing from observation
  • Drawing from imagination
  • Creative thinking
synectics, surreal, surrealism, transform, distort, animate, crossbreed

Synectics is a form of creative thinking based on the synthesis of opposites to produce the unexpected which becomes a surprise or trick on the mind, such as a pencil tied in a knot. The combination of unlikely elements was part of the Surrealist art movement that emerged in the early 20th century. Pointing to the bizarre and the irrational, surrealism frees the artist to do as he or she pleases, released from the confines of what we know. It is meant to deliberately shock the viewer, like the melting watches in Salvadore Dali’s The Persistence of Memory , the burning key in Rene Magritte’s The Gradation of Fire, or the shoes with human toes in Magritte's The Red Model.

  • White drawing paper
  • Drawing pencils
  • Colored pencils
  • Black fine-line, non-toxic permanent markers (Faber-Castell markers are odorless)
  • Objects for drawing such as pliers, scissors, paint brushes, balls of string, staplers, pencils, etc.
  • Examples of Surrealist art for discussion
  • Display the objects for drawing.
  • Set out drawing pencils and paper.
  • Set out black markers and colored pencils for use when the drawings are completed.
  • Have available examples of Surrealist art.
How to Begin
  • Discuss the basic ideas of Surrealism with the children while looking at the examples. Explain that they will be drawing common objects and transforming or changing them into surreal or unexpected objects by giving them characteristics we know are not rational, for example a pencil tied in a knot or a toothbrush with teeth.
  • Explain that each child should choose an object from the display. Using a pencil, make the first drawing an accurate representation of the object. In the next drawing, transform or change the object into something unexpected that will surprise or trick the mind. This can be done by distorting the object (melting, misshaping, or twisting it ); animating the object (bringing it to life); or crossbreeding the object (combining the elements of two opposites.)
  • When the pencil drawings are finished, the children should go over the lines with black markers and add color with colored pencils.
  • Encourage the children to fantasize or dream up preposterous images. Remind them that there is no right or wrong way to invent things–the more outrageous the thinking, the better.
  • Have the children sketch their objects with pencils, go over the lines with black markers, and color the objects with colored pencils. Remind them that through imaginative thinking, even the most ordinary object can be transformed into something strange and exciting.
  • The objects used for drawing should have simple shapes and be familiar to the children.
  • After completing the accurate representation of their object, let the children draw as many transformations as time permits.
  • Use good quality colored pencils; they should be soft with strong color that is easy to apply.
  • This project should be done with children who are old enough to understand opposites and the basic ideas of Surrealism.
  • Do the representational drawings accurately describe the objects?
  • Have the children talk about the processes they used to transform their objects.
  • Discuss why the transformed drawings surprise us.
What the children might say…
  • I don’t know how to draw a knot in a pencil.
  • This comb has so many teeth; I’m going to combine it with a centipede.
  • Drawing melted pliers took me a long time.
  • Can I change some of the details of my object when I transform it?
What you might say…
  • Since making a knot in a pencil is impossible, let’s tie a knot in a piece of thick string to see how it might look.
  • Crossbreeding a comb with a centipede is a great idea.
  • Some drawings will take longer to complete than others. You decide how many times to transform your object.
  • In this project, there are no wrong answers. However, it's a good idea to include enough information about your object so that your transformations surprise or shock us.
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