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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Monster Drawing Game

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

Second grade students played a drawing game by working together to each create part of a monster. 

Supplies:

  • 12″ x 18″ construction paper
  • Pencil
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

It is always fun to shake up an art project by doing it on large paper. I’ve done variations of the exquisite corpse game before. This time I used bigger sheets of paper and challenged my students to draw a monster.

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

It helped to have a drawing prompt that encouraged weird, crazy images. Since students were switching their paper with classmates, it minimized any drawing insecurities that they might have.

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

I started by demonstrating how to fold a paper into thirds. I emphasized that it was okay if the sections were not the same size – in fact, it would make the monster even more interesting if it had a really big head and tiny feet!

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

Students drew a head on the paper that they wrote their name on. This was the monster that they would get back at the end of class to outline, color and take home. Before we played the game, we had a quick conversation about respecting each other’s art by not drawing or erasing in someone else’s section.

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

They switched papers with someone at their table and drew the body and arms. Then, they traded with someone from a different table to draw the legs and feet. It was so much fun to see how creative they got with their monsters!

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

At the end of class, they got back their original drawing and started tracing the pencil lines with fine tip markers. During our next class period, they finished outlining and colored in their artwork. I loved that this project encouraged my students to think creatively and also make artwork as a team!

Play a drawing game to create a crazy monster!

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.

 

 

Chalk Pastel Observational Drawings 

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

After observing still lives by Georgia O’Keeffe, elementary art students create their own “up-close” observational drawings.

Art Lesson Videos: Chalk Pastel Observational Drawings, Part 1 & Chalk Pastel Observational Drawings, Part 2

PowerPoint: Observational Drawings

Supplies: 

  • 9″ x 9″ colorful construction paper
  • Sharpie
  • Chalk pastels
  • Assorted objects

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.
I wanted to put a new spin on my usual Georgia O’Keeffe observational drawing project. In the past, I’ve had my students observe and draw flowers after learning about Georgia O’Keeffe. This year, my goal was to continue to focus on observational drawing and filling the whole paper, but to switch up the subject of their artwork.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

We started by discussing Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork. Then I played my video demonstration for them which broke down the steps of looking at an object and drawing the lines and shapes you see.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

After the video I followed up with a couple of important reminders. I showed them how to pick a part of the object to go off the page. I also encouraged them that our goal was not to create exact photocopies of our objects. (If we wanted to do that we would use a camera!)

Instead, our goal was to be inspired to create interesting lines and shapes.

Instead, our goal was to be inspired to create interesting lines and shapes. Overall, this took a lot of the pressure off and allowed the kids to focus on drawing what they actually saw instead of being critical of their artwork.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.
I chose objects that I had 6 multiples of; I did not want any “object envy” between tables to cause a disruption! I also tried to pick objects that were simple enough to sketch in one class, but with enough details to keep them interesting.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

Observational drawing with students of any age is always a little stressful. Some students have a hard time getting started and others are easily discouraged when their drawing isn’t turning out how they envisioned it.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

The best fix I’ve found is to let kids start on a fresh piece of paper when they get frustrated. And, of course, lots of pep talks! Another trick I’ve discovered for the kiddos who are about to give up completely is to offer them a “very special object” to draw. I have a couple of stuffed animals that work perfectly!


Most of them have time that first day to trace their pencil lines with Sharpie. If they have any extra time, I always have a Sketchbook Project that they can work on. For this assignment, they drew a spot they observed in the art room. They created so many fun drawings of our classroom!

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

I love how much my students felt free to experiment with the chalk pastels. In the second video demonstration, I showed them a couple of techniques they could use. Chalk pastels ended up being the perfect medium for this project. They were able to finish adding color to their project in one class period. And the freedom they had with the pastels was nice balance to how intensely they had to focus on the observational drawings.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.

I inherited the chalk pastel setup from the previous art teacher. Now that I’ve used muffin tins as a way to organize pastels, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. The kids had a wide variety of colors they could easily see and choose from. And I was able to put out the tiny little pieces that, in the past, I would have just thrown away.

Students create observational drawings using chalk pastel.
This combination of subject and medium was a great way of tackling drawing from observation and introducing an artist. It felt less fraught than other realistic drawing lessons I’ve done. And a little controlled mess along with some color mixing always makes for a joyful art class!

Draw a Verb

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, elementary art students drew lines inspired by a verb and colored their artwork using markers and colored pencils.

Art Lesson Videos: Draw a Verb, Part 1 & Draw a Verb, Part 2

PowerPoint: Draw a Verb

Supplies:

  • Lines that Wiggle by Candace Whitman
  • 9″ x 12″ drawing paper
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.
I love connecting our projects to a book that we read as a class, especially with second graders. They are so enthusiastic and engaged when we sit together on the floor to read a story. Lines that Wiggle inspired me to create a drawing project that connected different kinds of lines to verbs.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

After reading the book, we talked about what a verb is and gave examples of different types of verbs. We drew lines in the air that could represent those action words. Then, I asked them to go to their table and write down a verb that they wanted to use for their drawing.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

Next they wrote their verb onto their drawing and created lines that showed the action. It was incredible to see how creative they were with the lines they chose to represent their verb. Most students were able to begin tracing their lines during the first class period.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

When I was making the video demonstration, I felt a little ridiculous breaking down how to use colored pencils to the very basics. After seeing the results, I’m glad I did! It’s easy to forget that second graders don’t have a lot of experience experimenting with colored pencils. Even knowing how to use a sharpener can be a challenge!

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

For this project, I was a stickler about asking the kids to fill the whole page. In the video, I showed them a way to color in big spaces quickly. So when I had a quick finisher, I reminded them of how easy it was to color in the big background spaces.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

At the beginning, I was curious to see how the students would respond to this project. I was a little worried that second grade was too early to make the jump of connecting abstract lines to the concept of a verb. It was exciting to see the wide variety of responses they came up with.

After reading Lines that Wiggle, second graders created a line drawing inspired by a verb.

 

 

Shapes and Sizes

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

Elementary art students used markers and crayons to create artwork with big, medium and small shapes.

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ white paper
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Pencils, erasers

Downloadable PowerPoint: Shapes and Sizes

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

The beginning of the year with second graders is always a little crazy. My class is the first time they have ever gone to Art Class! (Before, their homeroom teachers would do art and crafts projects with them.) So, we have a lot of procedures and expectations to learn and practice.

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

We started off the first day with a drawing game, which gave them a chance to practice some procedures and also got them thinking about composition and creativity. For our first multi-day art project, I wanted to build on those ideas.

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

At first, I was nervous that the prompt of drawing big, medium and small shapes would be too simple or boring. But, wow – did they get into it! I told them they could draw any kind of shape anywhere on their paper. I made a big deal about how they could make completely different choices with their drawing than I had made in my unfinished teacher example.

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

Their imaginations took over! I loved seeing how unique each piece of artwork was. When it was time for them to trace and add color, I had them circle up around my demonstration table while I showed them a couple tricks about using the markers and crayons.

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

I like to frame them as “tricks” instead of “the right way to use the supplies” because it makes them feel confident to experiment with the supplies in the art room. I showed them how to trace the shapes with marker by turning their paper so that their hand stays comfortable. I also demonstrated how to color the shapes by coloring the outline first and then filling in the middle.

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

When we got to the background, I told them they could color it in a solid color or use a lot of different colors. Background was definitely a new word for some of them! On the second day, I reviewed with them that the background was the space around their shapes, not the back of their paper.

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

This year, I’m trying to give my students more ownership of their art. One of the most powerful ways I’ve discovered is to give them the control of saying when the art is finished. In the past, I would insist that every kid color in every part of their paper.

Elementary students use markers and crayons to create artwork using big, medium and small shapes.

This year, student tells me why they want to leave the background blank (and it can’t be “because I don’t feel like coloring!”) and then they turn it in. I can see a big difference in the confidence and pride they feel as artists!

 

 

Frank Stella Inspired Drawings

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

Fourth grade students created drawings using geometric or organic shapes after viewing artwork by Frank Stella.

Art Lesson Videos: Frank Stella Drawings, Part 1 & Frank Stella Drawings, Part 2

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ white drawing paper
  • Pencils, erasers
  • Drawing tools (rulers, protractors, compasses, etc.)
  • Colored pencils
  • Markers

PowerPoint: Stella Drawings

I was inspired by a post I read on Art is Basic to create a Frank Stella drawing project to start the year with my fourth graders. I loved that it introduced them to new drawing tools and gave them freedom to make artistic choices.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

I created video demonstrations to use at the beginning of class for this project. On the first day, my students saw examples of Frank Stella’s artwork – one piece that used geometric shapes and one that used organic shapes. I paused the video and asked the kids, if they were leaning towards using geometric or organic shapes for their artwork. In most classes, overwhelmingly they were planning to use organic shapes.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

I played the second part of the video, which was a demonstration of how to use the drawing tools or your imagination to draw shapes. It was interesting that after watching the video, the majority of the class switched ideas and gravitated towards using the tools to create geometric shapes.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

Their goal for that first class was to draw their shapes, outline them with marker or colored pencil and cut their paper to a custom shape if they wanted to. We talked about how Frank Stella would create custom canvases that were the same shape as his artwork. I didn’t require that they cut their artwork – they could also choose to leave it as the rectangular paper.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

During the second day of class, we started off with another video demo – this time I told them to be listening for the definition of positive and negative space. After they watched, we talked about balancing the positive and negative space by coloring shapes all over the paper.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

Giving students the freedom to leave some of their artwork blank was a new approach for me. My mantra has always been “Finish your artwork, finish the background.” For a lot of projects it is important that students think of their background as a part of their work that needs attention. But for this project, leaving negative space felt like a natural fit.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

Their goal for the second day was to finish their artwork by coloring the shapes that they wanted to be positive space. It was tricky for me to balance my expectation that they not just color a couple shapes with my desire to give them creative control over their artwork.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

There were times that I might have colored a few more shapes, but I could tell that the student had worked hard – so I let them decide when their artwork was finished. There were also times when I knew that a student had only been working for 15 minutes and was in a rush to be finished. It was easy to say, “I think you need some more positive space” in order to encourage them to do a little more.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

It’s tempting to just jump right into the coloring part of a project, but I was so grateful that I had taken a couple minutes to demonstrate some coloring techniques. Overall, I could see a huge difference in my students taking their time and putting a lot of craftsmanship into their work.

Student use positive and negative space to create art inspired by Frank Stella.

It was very cool to see the wide range of ideas that my students had for this project! I liked that the assignment was concrete, but also open-ended enough that students could take it in their own direction.