Noilly Prattle: Call Me Mr. B. – Sixteen

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Call Me Mr. B. – Sixteen

Grades 5 and 6
Zentangles and Mandalas

a zentangle
Noah's zentangle
    Recently a social networking friend of mine posted some drawings done by her grandson. The young fellow seems to be showing some talent and creativity. One of the pictures she posted was of something called a “Zentangle” (reproduced, on the left), something I hadn't heard of before—or at least so I thought. 

fantasy design
         At her suggestion I Googled “zentangle” and found that it used pattern designs to fill in the picture elements instead of solid colors, and that I had used this concept, unbeknownst to me that it had a name, with my 6th Grade classes. I used the technique and just called it an "abstract pattern design". I realized that I had used the same technique in another project called ”fantasy design” with the 5th Grade classes. The objective was to get the kids away from the same old, same old boring straightforward coloring à la your standard coloring book and look at different and interesting ways to fill in design elements.

monks making a mandala
Navajo sand painting
        Then I noticed the “zen” (as in Zen Buddhism) part of the word zentangle and that reminded me of the mandalas that are designed by Tibetan Buddhist monks, as well as Navajo sand paintings both of which have symbolic and spiritual connotations. My main interest in them, however, wasn't spiritual, but in their abstract design and how I might be able to adapt the concept to a classroom project for older kids.

        I decided to use an ever popular motif with children, namely animals. I prepared about a half dozen different animals shapes in outline only (such as the gorilla below) and cut them out for use as templates. The students were free to choose any one of the shapes, or, if they were really adventurous, to design their own, which a few did. Then they simply had to trace the shape on white drawing paper in black magic marker. I then instructed them to divide up the animal outline into variously shaped sections at their own discretion.

elephant outline, divided with a couple sections
filled in with repetitive patterns
        I would then discuss and demonstrate on the whiteboard how to fill in the shapes with different repetitive patterns in black and white pencil only. Some possibilities were basic shapes like squares, circles, triangles, stars, etc. Others were lines of different kinds: straight, curved, dotted, etc. Combinations of shapes and lines could also be used in and endless variety of design possibilities. When the design fill was finished I had the kids outline the shape with the flat tips of three colored markers and write the name of the animal in fat letters and fill them in with designs similar to the main drawing.

        The main challenge was in persevering and not getting bored and sidetracked to the point of rushing to finish and ending up with hash. Not a few would get trapped into just that frame of mind, but the ones who were able to persevere turned out some very interesting works of, dare I say, Art!

abstract pattern design...but, is it a zentangle?


Anonymous said...

So proud! Noah' art teacher is my daughter! G

Noilly Prattle said...

Dear G., Please thank your daughter, she taught me something! '-)