Woody Guthrie Elementary School Curriculum
here for text only version
LINE | SHAPE | COLOR | PERSPECTIVE
has observed a multitude of fence posts running along the edge of a forgotten
farm, he has watched tall telephone poles outline the horizon along a
track, he has witnessed a long train carrying freight and hobos away down
the line. These visions are reflected in the way he uses perspective in
his art work. Many of his paintings provide children with an excellent
opportunity to observe perspective. For example, "Woman and House" from
the Bound for Glory series shows a rounded, large figure of a woman in
the foreground. She appears close to the viewer and is the biggest element
in the painting. Near her, the lines of a fence recede into the back of
the picture, the fence posts shrinking in size with each step back, finally
disappearing into a point far away. Meanwhile, the house appears smaller
than the woman because it is far back.
to understand this use of perspective is just one goal; inviting children
to use perspective in their own studio work is the other.
One of Woody's
best examples of perspective can be found in the painting "About a Hundred
of Us Fell Out" which shows a bunch of men jumping off a freight train.
About a Hundred of Us Fell Out by Woody Guthrie
Children will easily observe that the men in the foreground, closest to
us, are the largest figures in the picture. Way back in the distance are
smaller looking figures. Are they really smaller men? No, they are just
so far away from us that they look that way. Look at the farthest men
in the crowd. They are so far away that Woody doesn't show any facial
features or complete bodies . Notice the size of the train cars, the ones
nearest to the viewer are large and have readable messages on the sides.
The farthest train cars look small and lack detail. Look at the puffy
trail of smoke diminishing as the train recedes.
It's time to go outside! This is the best way to study perspective. Look at the telephone poles. Do you notice how they change in size? Compare the trees closest to where we are standing to those trees down the block. How do they appear? How is this like Woody's art work?
Have a few students run down to the end of the playground. Let the others observe how their friends look smaller now, especially compared to the people standing beside them. Bring along a chair or trashcan from the classroom and put it as far down the play yard as possible. Now look at it through your fingers. How many inches tall does it appear now? Why is this? Look at the neighborhood surrounding your school. What appears big? What looks small?
in the classroom, practice drawing puffy smoke as in Woody's train
picture. Make it big and billowy in the beginning and smaller and
tinier toward the back of the scene. Think of the trashcan when
the class put it far away out on the playground. Try to draw yourself
and the trashcan. These practice exercises will let students manipulate
the concept of perspective.
the final project, have students draw themselves in the foreground
of a picture and ask them to include a background that reflects
perspective. Where will they be standing? In their neighborhood?
By a train? Near their house? After painting share the pictures
and look for how perspective was achieved.
Woody and Charlie Guthrie in a Cyclone