Artist Study: Giotto

We have, at last, finished up our next medieval artist study.  I specifically chose to study Giotto.  Giotto was apprenticed to Cimabue, yet he overtook his master in many ways, excelling in portraying a more natural and normal human form.  He was a fore-runner, if you like, away from the Byzantine art which influenced Cimabue.  Although their art and techniques and subject matter are similar I thought it might be interesting to contrast the two.

We used these books to familiarise ourselves with Giotto:

 

And wrote a biography about him and the works we will be studying:

DSC_0056We started our study by rereading this book:

This contains the well-known story of Giotto’s boy hood, drawing on the rocks with charcoal, chalk and other coloured stones.  We discussed how God gives every one a gift of some sort, and more often than not it is the thing that no matter our circumstances we feel a driven compulsion to do.  Giotto didn’t have all the fancy colours of his compatriots, nor the posh stucco plaster on which to paint, yet he created wonderful pictures using what he had to hand.  We talked about making the most of what we had, and being thankful for that.  I made up some ‘rocks’ from some air dry clay and allowed to dry overnight.  After reading, I gave the children a rock each and some muted coloured chalk pastels:

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They pretended they were Giotto and drew some pictures:

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And the result of our final stone drawing:

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Our first picture study was of a mosaic of Giotto called the Navicella:

I had the children go and do some research on the computer to find out how mosaics were made in the middle ages.  We had a mosaic making kit and so this time round we were making our own mosaics before we did a picture copy.  I asked them to present their findings verbally to me in a mini presentation, if they wanted they could print off pictures etc and do a display board.  The children found that mosaics were traditionally bead, stone or glass pieces although these were replaced by specially made tile pieces called tesserae, which were only a couple of millimetres in size, and could be tailor-made to the artists needs.  We made our own tesserae as per instructions on the box:

Our charity shop buy of a mosaic making kit.  Perfect for our studies
Our charity shop buy of a mosaic making kit. Perfect for our studies
Mixing some white plaster fors, onto which the mosaics will finally go
Mixing some white plaster
The white plaster was placed in the molds to make some slabs for the children to eventually stick the mosaics to.
The white plaster was placed in the molds to make some slabs for the children to eventually stick the mosaics to.
Some dye was added.  I also used some balck paint to dull down the very bright colours
Dye was added to some white plaster. I also used some black paint to dull down the very bright colours
Pasting it into the mosaic molds
Pasting it into the mosaic molds
Scraping off the excess plaster
Scraping off the excess plaster
They were left to dry over night
They were left to dry over night

We made all sorts of colours, mixing black with all the bright colours they supplied in the kit:

Our mosaic tiles ready to fill the plaster sheets above
Our mosaic tiles ready to fill the plaster sheets above

I gave them a slab each and asked them to make a simple design using pencil.  I am trying to be a bit more mindful about how we use our resources.  Often after doing activities, photos are taken and unless the children particularly want to keep something, everything goes in the bin.  The main reason for this is that we do so many activities throughout the week, it would be impossible to keep everything.  However, I had thought about how I could encourage the children, whilst doing their art projects, to keep in mind that they might make a lovely hand-made gift for someone at Christmas.  So we thought of simple emblems to mosaic, such as hearts or crosses and stuck to those.  The children and I thought, if varnished the mosaics might make lovely wall hangings or heat pads:

Using glue to attach the mosaics.
Using glue to attach the mosaics.
 As Easter was coming up they chose a simple cross design
As Easter was coming up they chose a simple cross design

We also did a picture study of the fresco nativity:

And in particular we looked at the detail of the angels:

The idea for this study came from the book ‘Mario’s Angels’  A book based specifically around this particular fresco:

Each artist study, I like to have the children copy a piece of our chosen artist’s work.  I had decided one of the activities I wanted to do was a close up of an angel in the picture.  I photocopied an enlarged area of the angels as shown above and we discussed Giotto’s colour usage to show light, shade and depth.  The goal for this piece of work was to show an understanding of this.  We made some tempera paint as before, crushing chalk and adding egg yolk.  This time we used our artistic pastel chalk we had done the stone drawings with.  They were in the gorgeous, muted natural tones required for the angel:

Crushing the chalk pastels
Crushing the chalk pastels
Something even A4 could join in
Something even A4 could join in
All our lovely homemade paint, once the egg yolk had been added.
All our lovely homemade paint, once the egg yolk had been added.

The night before I prepared some plaster bases for the children to work on.  This time, however, we were going to put a thin layer of wet plaster in sections, just as they would have done in Giotto’s time.  The race was on for the children to draw and paint their angels in sections before the plaster dried.  First we used some tracing paper to trace our chosen angel.  We redrew it on the back of the paper and so were able to make a rubbing of its outline onto the dry plaster:

Tracing the angel onto tracing paper
Tracing the angel onto tracing paper
Tracing it from tracing paper onto plaster
Tracing it from tracing paper onto plaster

We painted a very thin layer of very thin plaster on top of the damp p[laster, so the angel picture still showed through
We painted a very thin layer of very thin plaster on top of the damp plaster, so the angel picture still showed through and we were ready to paint
We used a thick brush to brush wet plaster on and they began their painting:

All painting away
All painting away

We were really pleased with the results:

T11's fresco
T11’s fresco
C10's fresco
C10’s fresco
L10's fresco
L10’s fresco

Lastly we did a picture comparison of the crucifixion as portrayed by Cimabue and that portrayed by Giotto.  The very similar subject matter made for an easy comparisons:

 

My goal for the children this year is to become familiar with a five paragraph essay.  This being the case, I set them an essay entitled: Compare and contrast a Crucifixion painting of each Cimabue and Giotto that you have studied:

C10's essay
C10’s essay

I had planned for the children to prepare a piece of wood as they had done in the middle ages and produce a copy of Giotto’s crucifixion, but to be honest we were ready to move on to a completely new artist study (Giotto being that little bit too similar to Cimabue).  I’m not one to work for the sake of work so we decided to leave our study of Giotto there.

This has been a rich study for us and one we will never forget.  We are definitely ready to move onto illuminations and the Lindberg Brothers!

For more art and craft ideas see:

  Highhill Homeschool

26 comments

  1. I love that you made your own mosaic tiles. We saw a fresco like this in Istanbul and I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to create the entire thing. They cover very large wall spaces. This is another wonderful hands-on project. Thanks for sharing with Hobbies and Handicrafts.

  2. Wow, these are really cool! I never thought of making my own mosaic tiles…that sounds so fun. Pinning for when my son is a bit older.

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