Abstract and Realistic Metallic Drawings 

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

Fourth grade students discussed the differences between several of Paul Klee’s paintings. They created one realistic and one abstract drawing, and then colored their artwork using metallic crayons.

PowerPoint: Abstract and Realistic

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 9″ black construction paper (2 per student)
  • White colored pencils
  • Metallic crayons

 

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

This project provided the perfect opportunity for my students to become familiar with the difference between abstract and realistic artwork. (I struggle with how in depth to go when introducing these concepts. I’ve settled on saving the “non-objective, abstract, representational” conversation for middle school and beyond.)

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

We started by comparing and contrasting paintings by Paul Klee. The students usually made an observation that dovetailed into a discussion about the difference between realistic and abstract art.

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

I wanted each student to have a chance to create both and abstract and realistic piece of artwork. During the first class period, they sketched their drawings with white colored pencil on the black squares. I loved how much creative freedom my students had for this project. They came up with so many unique ideas!

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

During the second and third class, they used the metallic crayons to color in their artwork. I encouraged that they color the whole page, although some kids explained why they wanted to leave parts of their artwork black. I am always a fan of my students making “artist choices!”

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

The biggest reminder I had to give them was that if they wanted the shapes to look shiny, they had to press down hard with the crayons. It takes a little elbow grease, but the results are so stunning! I also had a handful of students who chose to use colored pencils. I was impressed by how sharp they looked on the black paper.

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

This ended up being a two and a half day project. I had my students work on sketchbook projects when they were finished. Next time, I’ll probably plan to follow it up with a project that we could get started on during the second half of class.

Inspired by Paul Klee, students draw one realistic and one abstract piece of artwork, then color them with metallic crayons.

 

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Brushstroke Paintings 

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After observing artwork by Alma Woodsey Thomas, second graders created a watercolor background and filled their painting with brushstrokes using tempera.

Art Lesson Videos: Brushstroke Paintings, Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3

PowerPoint: Alma Woodsey Thomas

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ poster board or watercolor paper
  • Brushes
  • Watercolor paints
  • Tempera paint
  • Scrap paper to create shapes

I was so excited to share Alma Woodsey Thomas’s artwork with my students! They had so many interesting observations to make about her paintings. This turned out to be one of those projects that really captured my students’ attention.

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They started by creating a watercolor background using the wet-on-wet technique. This was its own special kind of magic! It is always fun to hear gasps of amazement when students are experimenting with a new material.

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The second day we worked on the project, we looked at her painting “Starry Night and the Astronaut” again. (Isn’t that the best title!?) They noticed that the shape in the top corner was a different color than the background.

Create brushstroke paintings inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas.
Starry Night and the Astronaut, Alma Woodsey Thomas

They tore a piece of paper into an interesting shape and traced it on their paper. Some students just traced it once and others filled their paper with shapes. In the process of tearing, a lot of kids created more than one shape that they wanted to use.

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During the middle of class, I played a video demonstration about using tempera paint to outline their shapes with small brushstrokes and fill them in. I wasn’t sure how my second graders would respond to doing what could be seen as “tedious work.” They surprised me by how focused they were on painting their dots! I gave them large brushes so that it wouldn’t take too long.

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On the last day of the project, they watched a video about filling in the background with brushstrokes. A lot of students wanted to experiment with mixing colors together on their artwork. I reminded them to wash their brush in between colors and they went for it! Some kids finished quickly and others still had a bit left to do, so we saved the paintings to finish on a Centers Day.

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The paintings are so bright and cheerful and the kids had so much fun making them! It was a great introduction to tempera paint because it focused their energy. It was definitely worth spending three weeks on just one project!

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Found Object Sculptures 

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

Inspired by Louise Nevelson, second graders created a found object sculpture by working with their classmates. They could bring in an object or choose an object; then they chose where they wanted to glue it and voted on what color the artwork should be painted.

PowerPoint: Found Object Sculpture

Parent Letter: Found Object Letter (Edit it with your school’s info)

Art Display Sign: Found Object Sign

Supplies:

  • Small objects
  • Cardboard box lids
  • Hot glue
  • Donated spray paint

 

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

At every Showcase, I display a piece of collaborative artwork that the classes worked on together. Sometimes, it comes together as one large mural-type display. Sometimes, four students will work together to create poster-sized art. Because the second grade Showcase was scheduled for January, I planned a project that they could complete in one art rotation.

Image result for louise nevelson sky cathedral
Sky Cathedral, Louise Nevelson, 1958

I started by sending letters home with my students, after we talked about Louise Nevelson and found object art. I emphasized that they would not be getting their objects back and that the object needed to be small enough that it could fit in your pocket. I had bags for each second grade homeroom so that kids could give their object to me early. By pure luck, I happened to have recess duty that week, so I also collected their objects in the morning.

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

I emailed the faculty and staff at our school, asking for donations of partially used spray paint. We ended up with so many contributions! I also scavenged in my classroom and found a bunch of random objects that students could choose from if they forgot to bring an object. I asked the office to save a few cardboard lids from our paper boxes. It was pretty cool to be creating a project using all donated and free supplies!

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

On the day of the project, we started by talking about found object art and voting on what color the class wanted their sculpture to be spray painted. They chose between two different colors.  I have three 2nd grade classes each day, so I recorded each class’ vote and explained that the color with 2 or more votes would win.

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

During class, I had a drawing project that they were working on at their tables. I called up one group at a time and had them show me where they wanted their object glued. After I put the hot glue on the right spot, they could choose to place their object themselves.

 

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

At the end of each day, I spray painted the artwork the color that the classes had chosen. For our Showcase, I used a staple gun to secure them to the wall. (Another reason to encourage kids to bring small objects! There were a couple of sculptures I was afraid were going to be too heavy.)

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

It was so much fun to see the second graders talking about the sculptures with their families at the Showcase. There were big groups of people who stood and observed the art for a long time! The students were so excited to search and find the object they had added.

 

Kandinsky Drawing Game 

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

After learning about Kandinsky, second graders played a drawing game using crayons. Later, they painted over their artwork with ink to create a wax resist.

Art Lesson Video: Kandinsky Drawing Game, Part 1Kandinsky Drawing Game, Part 2, Ink Set-up Video

Drawing Prompts: Kandinsky Drawing Game

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ white paper
  • Crayons
  • India Ink, one part ink to 5 parts water
  • Brushes

 

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

I am not a huge fan of crayons; it’s hard to get them to do exactly what you want them to do. But since I inherited boxes and boxes of crayons with the Art Room, I’ve been designing several projects around a technique that makes crayons interesting – wax resist.

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

My older students love doing a wax resist project that involves covering the whole paper with crayon and then crumpling it. For my 2nd graders, I wanted to try something that would involve a little less intense coloring. I decided to inspire them with images of Kandinsky’s artwork.

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

After they talked about his paintings, we played a drawing game inspired by Kandinsky’s abstract art. I love playing games with my students; it is such a great way to get their creative juices flowing! I think next time I might use the game as a warm up and then let them create a drawing on their own inspired by Kandinsky.

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

I emphasized how important it was to press down hard with the crayons as they drew. What really helped them remember was a visual example that showed a “soft drawing” and a “hard drawing” side by side. It was a great reminder that once you paint over it with ink, a hard drawing will show through bright!

Inspired by Kandinsky, students play a drawing game using crayons. Then they paint over their artwork with ink.

Second graders with india ink is a scary proposition. It worked out that we were inking our artwork the week before Christmas Break – Yikes! I was so proud of how my second graders handled themselves and the art materials. We didn’t have a single spill in all 14 classes. Making a video about how to set up the table for ink was a huge part of that success. It showed them exactly what to do and the magic of videos meant that they all listened carefully!

I always have a few kiddos who are absent, so I save their artwork in their class folder so that they can work on it during a Center’s Day. I had kids who were also finishing their Watercolor Grids. On a whim, I decided to have them paint over their crayon designs with watercolors. It was magical! Next time, I think it would be fun to give my students a choice of using india ink or watercolors for the background.

 

Surreal Self Portraits 

Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.

Fourth grade students created a surreal self-portrait using symbols that represent them as the different parts of their body. They colored in their drawings with colored pencil.

PowerPoint: Surreal Self Portrait

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ drawing paper
  • Colored pencils

Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.

Two class periods into the Surreal Landscape project, I realized my students were going to be finishing at very different paces. I needed a project that they could easily transition to after completing their watercolor pencil background.

Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.

I wanted to continue working with the concept of Surrealism; I could see that some students were still figuring out exactly what it meant. I decided to build on their last project by connecting the idea of Surrealism with self-portraits. By fourth grade, they have already learned about and created self-portraits, so it was a great way to deepen their understanding of both concepts.

Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.

As students started to finish painting their Surreal Landscapes, I paused class and gave a quick explanation of how to create a Surreal Self-Portrait. It was amazing to hear the conversations students had with each other as they tried to figure out how to build their face using things that represent them!

Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.

I was definitely concerned about having watercolor pencils and regular colored pencils out at the same time. Luckily, the timing worked out so that by the time kids were ready to start coloring their self-portraits, almost everyone in the class was finished using the watercolor pencils. I also reminded them every class period to check the side of their pencil – if it had a paintbrush on it, they knew it was a watercolor pencil.

Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.

I let them decide if they wanted to create and abstract or realistic background. That choice was a great review for them about the difference between abstract and realistic. This project was an excellent stepping stone from the Surreal Landscapes. I could see that the reason the kids enjoyed it so much was because they were able to express themselves creatively.

Create a Surreal self-portrait by drawing things that represent you as the parts of your face.

 

 

Surreal Landscape 

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

Inspired by Vladimir Kush, fourth grade students cut out an image from a magazine and created a surreal background for it using watercolor pencils.

Art Lesson Video: Surreal Landscape, Cutting & Surreal Landscape, ColoringSurreal Landscape, Painting

PowerPoint: Surreal Landscapes

Supplies:

  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • 9″ x 12″ poster board
  • Watercolor pencils
  • Brushes

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

One of my favorite art movements to teach is Surrealism. I especially enjoy introducing it to my students who are in the upper elementary – middle school grade levels. Developmentally, they are able to understand more abstract concepts. And age-wise they are all about silly non-sequiturs!

I had bookmarked images of Vladimir Kush’s surreal paintings; I was intrigued by how he incorporated objects or animals into a landscape. I decided to create a collage/painting project inspired by his artwork. When I introduced the concept of Surrealism to my fourth graders, I pointed out how he had used animals as the sails of a ship or as a bridge. I explained that they were going to be choosing an image to use as a part of a landscape or cityscape.

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

After introducing the concept of Surrealism, I asked my students to cut out an image from a magazine. I suggested that they choose an image that was interesting to them and then start brainstorming ways to turn it into a part of their landscape. When I do this project again, I’ll frame that challenge differently. I realized a better prompt would be: “Cut out an interesting image. Draw a background for it that doesn’t make sense. Where would you least expect to see this object or animal?”

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

I gave them tips on how to carefully cut it out so that the details showed. Being a stickler on the craftsmanship aspect of this step made a big difference in the impact of how their artwork looked when they glued down their image. The hardest part of managing this project was helping the kids keep up with their magazine image as they were sketching, coloring and painting the background. Gluing down the image was the very last step, but cutting it out had to be the first step. I spent a lot of time reminding kids to put their images in their table folders where they would be safe!

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

After they cut out their image, they traced it’s outline on their paper so that they could see where they were going to glue it down. Then they sketched a surreal background that involved their image. This step was tricky for some of my students. I spent a lot of that class period walking around and brainstorming with them. Next time, I think I’ll have them do a quick brainstorm with their tables before we even pass out the paper.

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

I love introducing watercolor pencils to my students! It is a pretty magical art supply – and it’s fun to tie in a little science and explain that the difference between these pencils and regular pencils is that the lead is water-soluble. I also point out the paintbrush logo and emphasize how important it is that they don’t get mixed in with the
“normal” colored pencils.

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

Coloring the background took a solid day and a half for most of my students. This was one of those projects where I had students finishing at vastly different rates. I went ahead and played the video about painting the watercolor pencil background as soon as the first student was ready to move on to that step – even though there were students who hadn’t started coloring their background. I also designed a drawing project that tied into Surrealism that they could easily transition to if they finished their painting early.

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

In the past, I’ve noticed that the biggest issue kids run into with watercolor pencils is not realizing that you have to wash your brush in between colors. So, in my video I showed them what not to do. I painted all over a section of my example, smearing together 6 or 7 colors into one big, muddy mess. It was funny to hear their gasps of astonishment! And it was the first year I didn’t have any heartbroken artists who had painted over several different colors.

Create a Surreal Landscape using an image from a magazine and drawing a background using watercolor pencils.

This was one of those projects that was a little overwhelming to tackle for the first time. It had so many different aspects that had to all come together in each student’s head. (Which I’m realizing is difficult to do when you see them once every six days!) Now that I’ve tried it out, I’m excited to fine-tune it for my next group of students.

Not Your Average Coloring Center

Elementary art students can choose to go to a coloring page center where they re-invent artwork by an artist they just learned about.

PowerPoint: Table Artists 2015 & Table Artists 2016

Supply Box Labels: Table Name ImagesTable Names

Coloring Pages: Kusama ColoringLange Coloring

This is the second year I’ve named each of my tables after famous artists. I decided to add a new element to our discussions about these artists on Centers Day. I created a Coloring Page center, where students can re-create a painting by the artist we just talked about.

I will admit, I never thought I would incorporate photo-copied coloring pages into my art classroom. (I love having students create their own coloring pages!) I was looking for a way for kids to spend more time thinking about our table artists, and this turned out to be a great way to make that connection.

At the beginning of our Centers Day, I give the kids a little background information about one of the artists our tables are named after. Then I have them talk with each other about one or two pieces of their artwork. Focusing the mini art history lessons on our table artists has definitely increased their connection to the artwork. They get so excited to hear about the artist their table is named after!

This year I wanted them to have the opportunity to work on something they could take home with them. Only seeing them once a week makes it hard for them to retain the vocabulary words that we cover. Remembering an artist’s name is even trickier!

I was able to find a lot of pre-made coloring pages online. I created one for Dorothea Lange by putting her self-portrait in PowerPoint and changing the contrast. I also found a great website called Luna Pic that will take an image and turn it into a coloring page. The page I created using one of Yayoi Kusama’s paintings turned out great!

I have really enjoyed watching the way that they bring their own creativity to another artist’s work. I also love seeing coloring pages on display in other teachers’ classroom after a student gives it as a gift!