(Original lesson from the Getty site. Adapted for use at George Kelly)
materials: paper, markers
This lesson draws inspiration from the art of Albrecht Durer, a very famous artist who lived during the renaissance period (he was a contemporary of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci) in the northern part of Europe. Durer felt that learning as much as possible about nature would help him to be the best artist that he could be, so he made many careful studies from his observations of insects and animals. He is now known for the many prints he made during his lifetime which are full of marvelous detail and precision.
(see slideshow, here)
slide 1 shows his work, Stag Beetle. Insects have three parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. Notice the details Durer used to make these parts look real in his picture. Describe them (the shadow, etc)
During the time when Durer painted this, bugs were considered mainly as disgusting carriers of diseases. Do you think Durer found this insect to be disgusting? Do you find it disgusting? Also note the interesting way in which Durer signed this picture. It was his signature signature.
slides 2 & 3 show photographs of other beetles. What details do you notice about these creatures? Do you find them to be beautiful or gross? Do you think their shells are hard or soft? What makes you have that opinion? (hopefully here the students will be able to describe that since the shells are shiny they can tell that they are hard, since furry things wouldn't reflect light)
slide 4 shows this amazing piece of art by John Baldessari, Specimen (After Durer) which hangs in the Getty Museum in LA. How is it similar to Durer's small beetle picture? How is it different? What do you think Baldessari wanted to say by making this piece of art? Do you think that being made so big makes the beetle important?
Have the kids draw their own insect, making sure they incorporate a head, thorax and abdomen. Encourage them to use the whole piece of paper (make a BIG BUG) and then have them color in their beetle in a way that is interesting and unique to them. Also encourage symmetry. You might have them give their beetle a scientific name (you can see in the bottom picture that the student named his big "squiggleus"). Then have them create a special monogram of their initials to use as they sign their work a la Durer in the bottom left corner.