An Aerial View: The Language of a Line

My name is Silvia Gonzalez and I am a teaching artist and photographer. I currently work at Village Leadership Academy Upper Campus and attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a graduate student in the Masters in Art Education program.

I got interested in art at an early age because it was a language for me. When I was in grade school, I was placed in ESL classes.; I wanted very much to find a way to communicate and thrive in both of the worlds I inhabited as a bilingual, young, Latina.  Art was a way for me to experience, see, and visually articulate my experiences with others. I had incredible mentors along the way that encouraged my interest and propelled my growth, this made me want to be the same for other young people. My experiences as a student have influenced my own pedagogy as an educator. I want learning art to be an opportunity to find voice, to experience creative ways of thinking, and to encourage critical problem solving. Most, if not all of my curriculum, is also rooted in social justice based learning. As I build and navigate learning social justice with youth, it  is particularly important to acknowledge and utilize the power of creative language and visual literacy within the predominantly Latino and Black communities I work with. I want students to not only find a voice but to also use the tools they learn in my classes to feel empowered and validated as they share their own stories. I believe that because art renders an opportunity for critical and creative dialogue it also opens up a space for  powerful experiences to influence the building of positive relationships between people. This is particularly valuable as we engage in building the type of world we want to see for ourselves.

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When I started planning this unit on Space and Perspective, I wanted students to understand basic concepts like line, shape, and form, as well as how these play a role in constructing images. I also wanted them to make deeper considerations about space and mark making. I wanted them to consider the many things that can be revealed when we change the perspective at which we study things. Many of the middle school students I work with not only met me at that depth, they also reminded me the importance of opening a space for their ideas to flourish. The more questions I posed, the more beautiful answers they provided. If I asked them how they would re-imagine the birds eye view of their communities, they replied with color, wonder, and playfulness.

Essential Questions:

How do artists translate experiences, stories and journeys using line and mark making? What can we learn from our environments when we look at it through different perspectives?


  • Broken Language: Jose Parla:

  • Nature of Language: Jose Parla

  • Julieanne Kost:

Reflecting with students:

A line is from point A to point B. It leaves a mark where it has traveled. Lines are languages that translate movements. What journeys will your lines take? What stories will your lines tell?

Students looked at artist Jose Parla who experiments with mark making, building layers, and using the context of spaces he is asked and commissioned  to transform. He takes the energy and experiences he has in the different places he visits and creates a visual rendition of all of those absorptions.

We did several build up activities as we discussed and explored the journey of a line:

Students were prompted to create contour line self-portraits using. I timed them for 5 second sketches, 20 second sketches, and 1-5 minute sketches as they explored the lines and curves of their own faces.

Students played with idea of their own identity with the sentence stem, “I come from a line that…” and practiced drawing different types of lines on their self-portrait photos.

Students Identified their own physical journeys using a google map and giving us a google map tour of their neighborhoods and commutes between various places. This was a particularly awesome lesson. Students were so excited and eager to share details on their communities, neighborhoods, experiences, and everyday commutes.

Around the same time students were working on Where I’m From Poems in their Literacy class. It was an incredible opportunity for students to conceptualize work from that class into what we were trying to do in Drawing. I assigned students to do bird’s eye view perspective drawings of their communities and asked them to give an interesting title to their re-interpretations of their communities and  bird’s eye view drawings. Titles like “Fruity Football Field”  took on the task of making a part of a student’s community more colorful than it currently is. Students had also viewed the different ways artists interpret “space” and  document or interpret aerial or flat perspectives. Instead of focusing on form, these landscapes took on patterns and shapes.


Procedures for Aerial Perspective Drawings:

Students look at artist Paul Klee, examples of aerial landscape art, and the images of contemporary artist Julieanne Kost. We discuss how color, shape, line and form are used. They will be asked to close their eyes and imagine their neighborhoods/homes/communities in different seasons and think of the colors around them. Students can also envision the colors they would like to see expressed in their neighborhoods.

We explore the work of Julianne Kost who photographed the San Fransisco Bay Salt ponds. We will talk about how the infrared camera picks up color changes created by the salinity in the water and also look at which explains more on how microorganisms, saltiness, and other factors contribute to the color changes in the way infrared cameras capture color.

After we imagine color, students will go on google, find their neighborhoods/communities and use the satellite feature to zoom into  a surround block of part of the community they wish to represent. They will be drafting/drawing the shapes and colors they see on the map. I will help them create a lightly sketched grid first.

Students create a sketched grid to help guide their drawings. Using a ruler and a pencil students draft out what they see on screen on paper.

After they draft out the grid, they will draw the shapes they see on the parts of their map.

Once they draw the shapes they will start adding color using color pencils. I will show them how to do mark making and various ways they can fill in color on their drawings. (Hatching, crosshatching, curved lines, etc.)




Take aways:

Studying and discussing how other artists engage their practice as it relates to experiences rooted in the everyday and translated through artist work.

The value in giving students the space to consider how something as simple as line can carry so much weight and meaning.

Giving students the space to talk about their communities and neighborhoods using technology to give tours.

Allowing students to re-imagine space and title their art works is a powerful moment. It gives them a sense of belonging and being responsible for the spaces they engage in daily. It also allows them to consider what impact they could have once they allow their imagination and voice to have a means of expressing their dreams.

Prompting students to consider how use of perspective literally and figuratively asks that we look at things from different viewpoints.

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Another cool article to check out:

Kids in India Are Sparking Urban Planning Changes by Mapping Slums


Silvia Gonzalez About Silvia Gonzalez
Silvia Inés Gonzalez is a photographer and teaching artist in the city of Chicago. A believer in the arts as a form of transformative healing and a cultural worker for social change, she enjoys practicing art as a labor of love with others. She has experience working in Chicago Public Schools, media literacy practices with youth and community based projects with women. Her personal work explores individual narrative and ritual as well as the significance of collective healing. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with two degrees, one in Art Education and the other in Photography. Silvia is currently a teaching artist at the Village Leadership Academy Upper Campus. She is also a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Masters of Art Education Department where she is researching transformative praxis that addresses power and engages social change.

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