Nellie Mae Rowe : Stormey Weather

Overview Artist Biography Planning Ahead Materials & Setup Class Discussion Project Directions Reflections Downloads & Resources Docent Forum

Overview

Nellie Mae Rowe, Stormey Weather [sic] 1980, oil on canvas, 22 in. x 24 in. Art in Action, Menlo Park, CA, USA

In this lesson, students will:

  • Analyze Nellie Mae Rowe’s painting Stormey Weather and learn about her Folk Art style
  • Identify organic and geometric shapes, patterns, and curving lines
  • Find contrasting warm and cool colors
  • Sketch bugs and small animals and draw patterns in and around writings of their names
  • Use oil pastels to create compositions with lively moods

Lesson Teaching Notes

A document of summary pages on the lesson’s Key Concepts, Vocabulary, Discussion Questions, Artist Points, and Project Directions.

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Materials and Setup

Materials List
  • sketchbooks
  • 9×12 white paper
  • drawing pencils
  • oil pastels
  • craft picks
  • color wheel
  • erasers
  • newspaper
  • paper towels and sponges

How to Draw Small Animals

Setup Directions
  • Cover work surface with newspaper.
  • Set out sketchbooks, drawing pencils, erasers, and How to Draw Small Animals guides.
  • Have ready color wheel.
  • Have ready 9×12 white paper, oil pastels, and craft picks.
  • Have ready damp paper towels and sponges for cleaning fingers.

 

Variations
  • Use light-yellow paper.
  • Color some patterns using oil pastels, then paint a watercolor wash over the entire picture.
  • Use stencils to write students’ names.
  • Make a classroom mural and include all the children’s names in it. Display the mural on a quilt-style mounting for open house.
  • To simplify project for younger students: Write each child’s name in cursive on the 9×12 paper.
  • To extend project for older students: Select a computer font and copy it for the names.

Photos of Setup

Class Discussion

Why is this landscape painting called Stormey Weather?
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Style

This painting is a landscape that tells the story of a night from Nellie Mae Rowe’s childhood, when a storm frightened her. She imagined birds and small animals hiding from the rain and thunder in a big tree. There are 4 large birds in the tree and 2 small birds in a nest hiding from the storm. A duck is in the water. A mouse hides in a tunnel and a rabbit and another small animal hide near the tree trunk.

Why did Nellie Mae Rowe misspell part of the title?
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Style - Folk Art

When she painted this memory, Nellie Mae Rowe wrote both her name and the title in the painting. But the word “Stormey” is misspelled. When she was young, African American children in Georgia were not often educated. Nellie Mae went to school for only 3 or 4 years. She is considered a “Folk” artist because she did not learn to paint at school. But her lack of education did not keep her from expressing her ideas and feelings through her art. People in her town knew she was an artist, and they visited her to see the art in her home and yard. In addition to painting, she made cloth dolls and sculptures out of chewing gum.

Do we see the tree from a bird’s-eye view or from the side?
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Space - Viewpoint

There are different viewpoints. The birds and small animals are shown in a profile view from the side. However, the bird’s nest is round, as though seen from above, and the blue water and floating duck are seen from a bird’s-eye view.

What do you see first when you look at this painting?
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Space - Placement

Many people first see the birds in the trees, with their bright colors. The birds and animals are the same size. There is no variation in size to show distance. Everything appears to be on a flat surface. Some people first notice the large bird near the center. Its central placement and bright colors attract attention. Bright colors attract our attention to the animals below the tree.

How do colors tell us about the storm?
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Color - Mood/Cool/Warm/Contrast

The dark blue and cool green are storm colors. They create a mood by reminding us of the dark, wet feeling of a storm. The bright colors and white remind us of lightning.

Blue and green are the cool colors of the tree and water during the storm.

Pink, red, and orange are warm colors. They add excitement and danger to the mood of the picture.

The bright birds and flowers contrast with the green trees. Contrasting colors are far apart on a color wheel. They add excitement to the mood.

Where does repetition of shapes and colors create patterns and unity?
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Design - Repetition/Pattern/Unity

The round and curving animal shapes are repeated in the lines of the branches, flowers, and water. Blue and green are repeated in the tree and water. Red, pink and orange are repeated in the birds, flowers, and animals.

Repeated lines create patterns. The dark-blue lines make a water pattern around the tree. Straight blue lines make branch patterns. Straight and curving lines at the base of the tree make patterns.

Repeated bird shapes, curving blue lines, and the animals in the white space below give unity to the picture.

How do lines show the storm?
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Line - Jagged/Curving

The tree branches and zig-zag tunnels have jagged lines that remind us of lightning.

Curving blue lines look like rivers. The curves of the birds and animals, and the trees and flowers show the natural world that is threatened by the storm.

What repeated shapes unify the painting?
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Shape - Round/Organic

The round tree shape is repeated in the round nest, duck, flowers, and fruit. Repeated round shapes give unity to the picture.

Organic shapes, the natural shapes of plants and animals, are repeated in the birds and branches.

Download Discussion Questions
Download Key Concepts

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Project Directions

Oil Pastel Name

Directions

Warm up and Brainstorm

  • Talk about small animals and insects that could surround the letters of a name. List insects (e.g., ladybugs, grasshoppers, spiders, and butterflies) or small animals (e.g., mice, cats, birds, and bunnies) that could hide among the letters.
  • Talk about fonts for writing a name. Compare cursive and manuscript writing, and talk about the many different fonts available on a computer. How does the style of writing affect the shapes of creatures that fit into the spaces?

Project Directions

  1. Sketch small animals. Use How to Draw Small Animals guide.
  2. Write your name in large letters across the paper.
  3. Color small animals or insects in folk art style around the letters. Color heavily with oil pastels in cool and warm colors.
  4. Draw organic designs and jagged and curving patterns around the letters.
  5. Use sgrafitto, or the scratch-back technique.
  6. Color the background.
  7. Check for balance in composition. Make changes as necessary.
Tips
  • Adult can print or write each student’s name.
  • Try writing name in different font styles – tall and thin letters, bubble letters, block letters.
  • Talk about fonts and writing styles used in children’s books.
Variations
  • Use light-yellow paper.
  • Color some patterns using oil pastels, then paint a watercolor wash over the entire picture.
  • Use stencils to write students’ names.
  • Make a classroom mural and include all the children’s names in it. Display the mural on a quilt-style mounting for open house.
  • To simplify project for younger students: Write each child’s name in cursive on the 9×12 paper.
  • To extend project for older students: Select a computer font and copy it for the names.

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Student Gallery

Reflections

  • Find the animals hidden in the pictures.
  • Look for warm and cool colors used expressively in each picture.
  • Find jagged and curving lines.
  • Compare ideas expressed through your own artwork with the ideas expressed in the works of others.
  • Use the vocabulary of art to talk about color, line, shape, and texture in describing something successful about your work.
  • What is the favorite part of your artwork and what would you change if you could change something?

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