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Abstract Animal Sculptures

Create a colorful Model Magic hanging sculpture based on Alexander Calder’s distinctive geometric style. Students will demonstrate balance, scale, and design skills.

  • Grades 7 and 8
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Explore the innovative artwork of Alexander Calder with the class. Calder’s imaginative vision combined with his background in engineering gave way to several new forms of art during his career, including mobiles and stabiles.
    2. View several of Calder’s sculptures. Discuss his use of natural and geometric shapes with the students and what role balance played in his mobiles and stabiles. Create colorful, abstract works of art inspired by Calder’s artistic style!
    3. Encourage students to plan ahead by researching the animals they choose to sculpt. What colors, shapes, and patterns naturally occur on those animals? How will the students stabilize their sculptures to create balance? Using Crayola® Classic Colored Pencils, instruct students to draw a sketch of their sculptures.
    4. Using a combination of chenille stems and Crayola® Model Magic®, sculpt an abstract animal. Carefully cut, bend, and shape the chenille stems to form the structure for the sculpture. Chenille stems can be twisted together for added strength if needed.
    5. Add bright colors of Model Magic to fill in the open spaces in the structure. Keep in mind the patterns and shapes that naturally occur in the animal. Mimic these in your sculpture.
    6. Experiment with a variety of Model Magic techniques. Try mixing several colors of Model Magic together to create a swirled effect or a new color! Roll out or press Model Magic on a hard surface to flatten it, and then cut interesting shapes from it. Create textures using modeling tool, plastic utensils, or other classroom items. Model Magic that is fresh from the pack with stick to itself. Dried pieces can be glued together.
    7. Enhance sculptures and preserve them by coating the Model Magic pieces with Model Magic Glossy Glaze for a shiny, protective finish! Brush on a thin even coat and let dry completely.
    8. If sculpting a mobile, add ribbon or yarn to the sculpture as the finishing touch! Be sure to test out of the sculpture is balanced, and make adjustments to the placement of the string if needed.
  • Standards

    MATH: Draw, construct and describe geometrical figures and describe the relationships between them.

    VA: Document early stages of the creative process visually and/or verbally in traditional or new media.

    VA: Demonstrate willingness to experiment and take risks in artistic thinking and making.

  • Adaptations

    Create a paper mosaic animal design in the style of Alexander Calder’s sculptures. Dip yarn in a glue wash and arrange on black construction paper to form the outline of the animal. Cut geometric shapes from colorful paper and glue inside the yarn shapes to fill the animal with bright patterns!

    Explore the wire portrait sculptures created by Calder. Sculpt similar wire portraits of modern-day people of influence. Write an essay describing the featured person and why he or is a leader in society.

    Much of Calder’s early works focus on kinetic art. Define kinetic and potential energy. Work in groups to create art that demonstrates both types of energy and demonstrate each for the class.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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