Owls abound! Methow Valley 4th graders paint owls using oil pastel/watercolor resist technique

Arts Education Spotlight

by Ashley Lodato

Education Director, Methow Arts

In any given day, Methow Valley 4th graders move effortlessly among core subjects, integrating visual arts, science, language arts, social studies and math into their International Baccalaureate units.

With one teacher who is a former wildlife biologist, a weekly “Schoolyard Science” experience facilitated by the Methow Conservancy, and easy access to the stunning outdoor classroom of the North Cascades, it’s no wonder that the natural world is so smoothly incorporated into everyday learning.

A recent residency focusing on nocturnal animals–specifically owls–was yet another way that one core subject (art) complemented and enhanced another core subject (science).

Working with Methow Arts teaching artist Annie Venable, students first examined the shapes of different owls, looking at bodies, heads, beaks, wings, and feet. They then sketched their owls, first with pencil, then outlining the entire sketch with a white oil pastel crayon, adding a few wispy highlights to the wings and body to indicate feathers.

After sketching the owl’s eyes and beak, they outlined these parts with a black oil pastel crayon. When watercolor paint was applied, the parts outlined with the oil pastels would “resist” the paint, providing a unique and vibrant visual appeal to each painting.

Once the painting began, some students adhered strictly to realistic colors for their owls, while others got creative with color choices. Although most students juxtaposed their owls against a night sky–they ARE nocturnal animals, after all–some painted theirs against backdrops like a red barn, or the window of a house.

Some of the owls will be displayed at Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster, while others will be installed in the main lobby at Methow Valley Elementary School.

This art residency was brought to students by Methow Arts’ Okanogan Region Arts Education Partnership.  The partnership serves more than 5,200 students and 370 teachers across Okanogan County with arts programs in classrooms in the Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Bridgeport, Pateros, and Methow School Districts, and in the Paschal Sherman Indian School. The principal project sponsor is Three Rivers Hospital, with help from the Public School Funding Alliance, the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, the Methow Valley School District, Icicle Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ArtsWA.

CONTACT: info@methowartsalliance.org or 509.997.4004