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Curriculum Connections

James Castle’s artwork can connect to your classroom curriculum in a variety of ways. Use some of the suggestions below before or after visiting the Museum’s exhibition. A James Castle teaching poster is also available to K–12 educators; contact the Education Department at (215) 685-7580 or to receive one.

Untitled (Farmscape, view from inside shed through shed doors)
Untitled (Farmscape, view from inside shed through shed doors), Date unknown
James Castle, American
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In Castle’s images of interior rooms he uses an artistic technique called linear perspective, creating the illusion of three dimensions (height, width, and depth) on a flat surface (two dimensions). Linear perspective is based on math but can be created using only a pencil and a straight edge. This website by artist and educator Harold Olejarz will teach you how to create the illusion of three-dimensions in drawing:

Castle’s art was his way of expressing his thoughts and ideas to the world. Try communicating through art, too, using only lines. With a partner, share one pencil and one piece of paper. Taking turns, start a silent conversation on the piece of paper, expressing yourself by drawing lines (thick, thin, heavy, light, curvy, sharp, etc.). What is this line conversation saying? Did you have a disagreement? Did you tell secrets? Did you express your feelings?

The material Castle used in his black-and-white drawings was a combination of his own saliva and soot (a black substance deposited in wood-burning stoves); saliva is thicker than water and helps the soot stick to the paper better. For his colored wash drawings, he probably soaked bits of colored paper in water and then rubbed the wet paper onto the surface of his drawing to transfer the color. What other kinds of materials could be used to make colors? Experiment with one or two to see which one works best.

Art, Art History, Cultural Studies, and Research
Castle made his own books and sometimes changed books into art by drawing or collaging in them. Bookmaking has been an art for centuries, and today, most books are made of paper. Conduct your own research to find at least three different kinds of materials that books have been made of in different countries around the world. Which of these materials would you use to make a book of your own? (Think about the sturdiness of the material, the cost, etc.)

Untitled (place/lace)
Untitled (place/lace), Date unknown
James Castle, American
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Language Arts
People who are deaf often use sign language to communicate. With his family, Castle invented his own signs to express himself. In your class, make up some signs for activities you do everyday at school, like reading, eating lunch, listening, etc. Then, go to the website ASL University, by William G. Vicars, Ed.D., to discover what the standard in American Sign Language is: