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When I heard Dan Reeder (aka Dan the Monster Man) present his keynote address at our Texas state art education conference in 2011, my art educator life has never been the same! I hope this post will excite you about taking this practice into your own classroom! I honestly thought paper mâché was kind of lame and not worthy in the high school art room, but seeing his cloth mâché creatures completely changed my mind! Using cloth as the final layer takes the sculpture to a new level. When dry, it feels and looks like leather, and is an interesting surface for a variety of paint techniques. I walked out of that keynote session ALL fired up to go home and make monsters with my students! We have made them ever since, thanks to his awesome books, website and videos that give you step by step instructions.
After gathering the materials together, wire hangers, LOTS of newspaper, and old bed sheets, we were off! I teach a 9th & 10th grade Sculpture I class, and I love all of the sculpture objectives we meet in this creation: understanding balance, creating an organic creature, considering the piece in the round from all angles, creating movement, using paint techniques for an interesting surface and more! The process is also easy for the students to make corrections if somethings not going right – it’s very forgiving! I think it’s a wonderful beginning sculpture project and the students LOVE it! It’s fun! There is no right or wrong way to make a monster, so they don’t get hung up on being “right” or making it “perfect”.
The monsters above are my sweet boys. I always make one at the same time as the students and try to stay ahead of them so I can demonstrate next steps. After all of our monsters are created, we have a display at our school – it’s a much anticipated moment. Getting them all together in one display is really awesome. When it’s time to take the display down, believe it or not, there are those artists who can’t (space constraints) or don’t want to take their monster home. I created a Monster Adoption Program on our campus, because I didn’t want to see any monsters living in trash cans. You wouldn’t believe how successful this Program is! I send out an email to the entire staff that there are monsters up for adoption, and the emails start rolling in! First come, first served, my colleagues get monsters for their classroom or for their children and grandchildren. Some monsters need additional love, and finding the right adoptive family makes a huge difference in their lives!
Here are a few of my favorite monsters from years gone by:
One thing I love about my students’ monsters is that no two ever look alike! The opportunity for them to express themselves in their own, unique way is just the best thing ever for an art teacher!
The monsters can also be very sweet and precious!
And some of the monsters are just downright awesome!!!
Love, love, love this project and am SO proud of what my students have created over the years! Before they begin sketching out their ideas, we use the Question Formulation Technique to generate student driven questions about the prompt “monsters feel”. This video is a great opening activity that really gets the creative juices flowing!
I hope I have gotten your art teacher juices flowing with this post! Check out Dan the Monster Man and get your students making some monsters of their own!