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Students craft ‘larger than life’ candy, superhero portraits
Piney Grove
Seventh graders Priyanka Chaudhari and Rachel Wang hold their candy sculptures they made at Piney Grove Middle School in Cumming. - photo by Alexander Popp

The artwork of Gena Robbins’ seventh and eighth grade art class is “larger than life.” 

Each one of her 100 students crafted jumbo versions of his or her favorite candy or a painting of a superhero or villain. The heroes and villains were depicted in giant portrait style, while the candy bars and boxes dwarfed the students who created them. 

“I’m hoping that they will bring home an appreciation for art. And if you see what they are making out of paper and stuffing, this could be something that they have forever,” Robbins said. 

She said that the idea to blow up candy packaging came to her after Halloween when her students wanted to bring in the candy they had gotten while trick or treating. 

Piney Grove
Jackson Gibree, 8th grader at Piney Grove Middle School, shades part of his Superman painting drawn using the grid method of painting. - photo by Alexander Popp
When the classes began studying Claus Oldenburg, a pop artist of the 60s and 70s known for his soft sculptures of American fast food, and Chuck Close, a photo realistic painter who uses the grid method to create massive works, Robbins knew how she could incorporate her students’ love of candy into the lessons. 

“Ms. Robbins really pushes her students and challenges them to think outside the box. She is always working towards incorporating other disciplines such as science and math into her art lessons,” said Pam Pajerski, principal of Piney Grove Middle School.

Robbins challenged her seventh grade class to take their candy of choice and blow it up to giant proportions — taking the mundane and making something surreal.

Robbins’ eighth graders imitated Chuck Close’s grid method by dividing a superhero or villain into a grid and drawing one giant section at a time, until a fully formed and blown up image was formed. 

“This just reinforces the learning of a discipline like math or science. And it makes them stop and say, ‘wait, there’s math and science in art?”’ Robbins said.

“It’s crazy fun to create a huge, larger than life box of candy. When I finish, I’m going to hang it from my ceiling so I can see it every day,” said Whitney Pruitt, a seventh grade art student at Piney Grove Middle School. 

Another student, Manav Dhanani, an eighth grader at Piney Grove Middle, chose to draw his favorite superhero instead of candy and said that Robbins’ mathematical approach helped him draw accurately. 

“The grid method of drawing a portrait really helped me to accurately draw my superhero. I chose (comic book superhero) Flash and worked hard at really blending the reds and adding the highlights,” Dhanani said. “I hope to draw another portrait one day using this method,” he said. 

The enthusiasm is another goal for which Robbins strives.

“We want them to take something they love and build something from it, but we want them to learn to appreciate art and art advocacy,” she said. 

“I hope I can see one of Oldenberg’s works in person someday,” Pruitt said. 

Robbins said that she is getting ready to take her students to Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, where they will get to study masters of all art disciplines up close and personal.