From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Spattered Silhouette

Friday afternoon art classes


When I was a little girl attending Duff Valley District 4, we all loved Friday afternoons. (I'm speaking for myself and the half-dozen other students in our little one-room schoolhouse.) Of course, Friday afternoons were wonderful because the weekend lay ahead. And the other reason that they were wonderful was that we had art class after last recess.

We all did the same art project, no matter which grade we were in -- kindergarten, eighth grade, or anything  between. Some of us cut, pasted, and colored a lot better than others, but before we went home on Friday afternoon, everyone's project was pinned to a bulletin board where it would be displayed for the next week or two. Seeing my handwork in comparison with the others motivated me to cut, paste, and color more neatly.

And we did do a lot of cutting, pasting, and coloring. Sometimes the teacher used the hectograph to copy a coloring sheet, and sometimes, we drew our own pictures. Sometimes we cut pieces from construction paper and pasted the pieces together to make a valentine or a turkey or whatnot.

A lot of our art work was flat, but I do remember some three-dimensional projects:  flowers cut from egg carton sections or made from crepe paper, mosaics made with shards of Easter-egg shells, and even a sculpture of a cow's head made from crumpled aluminum foil.

Once in a while, our teacher got out the water-paint boxes or mixed up a batch of tempera paint. We all painted whatever she announced our subject would be -- such as "trees in autumn colors." And once in a blue moon, we did a finger-painting.

We painted just often enough to make us super-excited when we got to do it again. I am not sure whether we painted so rarely because paints were expensive or because our teachers hated the mess.

I remember quite a bit of spatter painting.  It only required one color of paint, and the paint was applied with the teacher's close supervision, outside if the weather permitted. It only took a minute to do the spattering. The procedure was this:

  • Draw or trace a shape and cut it out. 
  • Lay the cut-out (or several cut-outs) on a sheet of construction paper.
  • Put on a very large shirt, backwards.
  • Dip the bristles of an old toothbrush in tempera paint and scrub the toothbrush over a small window screen so little drops of paint spray all over the paper.
  • Let the paint dry and remove the cut-outs.

The day that I made my silhouette the teacher set up the filmstrip projector while we were gone to recess. When we came back inside, we took turns sitting in the projector's bright light and tracing each other's silhouettes. Then we cut out our silhouettes and spatter-painted them. I think I was in third or fourth grade at the time.

I did dozens of Friday afternoon art projects before I left country school at the end of 8th grade, but the only one I still have is my silhouette. I found it in my mother's things after she passed away.

5 comments:

Stitchy Mc Floss said...

I remember art class, too. Thank you for reminding me of that long ago memory.

I am not sure if kids still do art in school, but I hope they do. I know for me I realized it was a wonderful way for me to express myself.

Great post as always.

Blessings

Genevieve Netz said...

Thanks, Stitchy. You were probably a very creative little child. I hope your teachers recognized and cultivated your artistic talents.

Deb and Tom said...

Hi, Genevieve! I have read a few of your posts, courtesy of one of my brothers-in-law who sent me a link. I also attended Duff school, when I was in Kindergarten and first grade. My teacher was Bernice Kuchera. My family lived in Rock County, but we were actually in Brown County School District #76, Paramount, which my siblings and I attended through my sister's and my 8th grade year. My brother finished grade school in Bassett and my sister, brother, and I all graduated from Rock County High School. Your sister, Charlotte, (I think she's your sister!) was one of the older students when I attended Duff. I have wondered where your family moved to when you left the area. I was a Babcock; my parents were Jo & Bill and bought their ranch from Wilma Jean (Jeannie) Mengers. My grandparents were Harry and Margaret. Other students were Jimm Johnson, Teresa, Warren, Joyce (my age), & Mary Horner. I don't remember any others right now. We also had art on Friday afternoons. I remember making a silhouette, though not spatter painting. One of my favorite art projects was making mosaics. We cut kleenex boxes, often shiny, into small pieces, and glued them onto construction paper. I may still have a couple of them in the closet. We also wore big shirts, probably our dads', when painting. We still got our drinking water out of a hand pump in the back of the school room and had an outhouse and a barn. District #76 has indoor plumbing, but also had a barn on the school grounds. It's fun to think of all the games we used to play at school and music class, which was the teacher playing the piano and we kids choosing songs to sing.

Genevieve Netz said...

Great to hear from you, Deb. I remember your family of course, and you as a little child. I'm sure my sister remembers you as a fellow student at Duff School, but as you know, I was already gone to high school when you were attending there. I hope you've enjoyed what you've read of the blog so far and that you'll visit often. Best wishes to you and your family.

Deb and Tom said...

I have enjoyed what I've read so far. I'll continue to check in, though probably won't comment often. Have a nice summer!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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