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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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.

Create a Coloring Page

Students draw a coloring page, then color a photocopy of a classmate's drawing.

Third and fourth grade art students drew their own coloring book pages, then colored a photo copy of a classmate’s artwork.

Supplies:

  • Copy paper
  • Pencils
  • Sharpies
  • Crayons
  • Copier (Make one copy of each drawing)

Downloadable PowerPoint: Create a Coloring Page

 

This project is a winner for artists of all ages – I have done it with high school seniors and they loved it! Last year it became my classic end-of-the-quarter project. After the Showcase was over, this was a fun project that allowed students to think creatively and work together.

On the first day, we observed an abstract and realistic example of a coloring page. We talked about how the artwork only had the outlines. They got to choose what the subject of their artwork would be. This is the most fun part for me! I love seeing the wide range of topics that they come up with. It is also a great opportunity for kids who want to get better at drawing realistically to practice drawing from observation. If kids need to see an image in order to draw something, I paste it onto a blank PowerPoint slide.

They draw using pencil first and then trace over it with Sharpie. We take two days for this step. As they finish a page, they turn it in to me so that I can put it in the “Copy” folder. If they finish a page early, they can draw another page to have copied.

The next step was a little confusing for some of the kids, so I tried to explain it a different way each day we were working on the project. After the second day, I photo-copied all of the coloring pages that were finished. On the third day, they got to pick someone else’s page and color it in using crayons, markers or colored pencils. (I reassured them that they would get back their own original drawings.) Because they wrote their names on the back with pencil, it was easy for me to see which were originals and which were copies.

On the third day, they got to choose someone else’s drawing to color in. Each table got more pages to choose from than people who sat at the table. That way the last person to choose still had three options to pick from. I mixed together all of the drawings from the entire grade level. Before I passed out the photo-copied drawings, I gave a pep talk on speaking respectfully about each other’s artwork.

Before I passed out the photo-copied drawings, I gave a pep talk on speaking respectfully about each other’s artwork.

I modeled polite ways of talking about which artwork you were going to choose (“I don’t care for snakes, so I think I’ll color the drawing of the flower…”) and I gave examples of inappropriate ways of talking about the art (“Eew! I hate snakes! I don’t want that one!”) I was so proud of my students! After doing this project with 28 classes, I only had to talk with one or two kids about speaking respectfully.

The coloring portion of this project is so relaxing! I put on mellow music, and the kids get really into coloring their classmate’s artwork. They also love the idea that someone else is coloring their drawing. If they finish the first page early, I give them back their original artwork and they can start coloring it in as well. At the end of the class period, everyone leaves with at least two pieces of artwork – their original drawing and the photo-copied drawing that they colored.

 

 

 

 

Bold Wax Resists

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Wax resists are a great way to end the quarter! Each student created an abstract or realistic drawing, colored a thick waxy layer with crayon, crumpled it and painted it with india ink.

Art Lesson Videos: Wax Resist, Part 1 & Wax Resist, Part 2

Supply Set-up Video: Ink Set-up

PowerPoint: Bold Wax Resists

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ or 9″ x 9″ drawing paper
  • Crayons
  • India ink, watered down (approx. 1 part ink to 3 parts water)
  • Wide bristle brushes
  • Newspaper

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Every teacher develops a toolkit of lessons that get kids through those last few weeks of school before a big vacation. With summer break inching towards us, I knew I needed to unleash one of my special projects to keep my third graders excited about their artwork. What I love about wax resist is that the process is oddly calming – coloring a thick waxy layer of crayon is a good way to work out some frustration!

Coloring a thick waxy layer of crayon is a good way to work out some frustration!

I let them know that their design needs to be big and bold because small details will be lost once you crumple and paint the paper with ink. But other than that, they are free create any idea they like! It’s a project that kids can easily choose their own subject for. The majority of my students decided to create abstract designs.

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

When we use 9″ x 12″ paper the coloring takes awhile, usually two solid days. At the end of the second day I might have a kid that is ready to ink. This year, I used 9″ x 9″ paper instead. Most kids were able to finish coloring during the first class and then ink during the second. I was excited that there was a way to make this a two day project!

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

I keep the inking at two or three tables that I call kids up to when they are finished coloring. The kids rotate in and out of inking. When they are finished inking, they go back to the coloring table to work in their sketchbook. I decided to make a quick video about how to set up the table for ink. It has streamlined that process to be able to point to the paused video and say, “When your table looks like that, I can give you the ink.”

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Crumpling the paper is so much fun for the kids! I make sure to tell them about that step before we even start sketching, so that they don’t feel surprised or sad when I ask them to crumple their artwork. I show them how to open and crumple several times to get cracks in the wax. We talk about how the ink will soak into those cracks, but the wax on the rest of the paper will resist the ink.


My demonstration for inking is a little dramatic. I make a very big deal about how india ink is permanent. I tell them that even if they aren’t inking, they need to walk around the room calmly and carefully during this project. You never know who might be behind you with artwork covered in ink! It is essential that they wipe off all the ink from their paper before they walk it to the drying rack. Cleaning up india ink trails from the floor is no fun!

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

Getting a good coat of ink without over-doing it can be tricky for a lot of kids. Not enough ink means the cracks don’t show up. But too much ink can mean that their paper tears when they pick it up. I’ve started telling them to “scrub” the ink into the paper with their bristle brush. I also have to remind them to paint all the way to the edges – that’s what the newspaper is for!

I’ve started telling them to “scrub” the ink into the paper with their bristle brush.

Students create wax resist artwork using crayons and india ink.

The results from this project are stunning! Most quarters, we were working on this project when the Showcase was already hung up. I definitely was tempted to mat their wax resist projects and hang them up in between classes! I’ve thought about re-structuring the order of my projects, but the wax resist is such a perfect way to keep my 3rd graders engaged before a big transition that I think I’ll keep it right where it is.

Kandinsky Circles

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

A collaborative art project for 2nd graders – students painted circles inspired by Kandinsky’s artwork.

Supplies:

  • Colorful poster board, 12″ x 12″
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes

For Hanging:

  • Staple gun
  • Staple Remover (This kind of staple remover has saved me so much time and frustration!)

PowerPoint: Kandinsky Circle

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

My goal last year was to display one collaborative piece of artwork at each Showcase. For our last Showcase, I included all of the grade levels I was teaching to create a large mural-like display. We began by observing paintings by Kandinsky. My students talked about what the two paintings had in common and how they were different.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

I did a short demonstration about layering colors to mix them right onto the poster board. Then I set the kids free to paint. They had very few limitations – I asked them to create a painting inspired by the artwork they saw on the board. They got to choose what kind of shapes, colors and composition they used. Some students created realistic paintings, but most created something abstract, like Kandinsky’s artwork.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

The best organizational decision I made for this project was to have each class paint on the same color poster board. It made passing the artwork back infinitely easier! While I was hanging the artwork, I happened to do it in waves because I had three classes that were finishing their artwork just a couple days before the Showcase. I really liked the “gradient” effect that the larger piece ended up with because I hung it two or three classes at a time.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

It was liberating for the kids to create a project in one day. Many of them were the most excited about experimenting with creating new colors. At the Showcase I had a lot of kids stand in front of our mural and search for their piece. They were so excited to point it out to their families!

 

Relaxing with Rothko Watercolors

Students create artwork using watercolor washes inspired by Rothko.

Fourth grade art students used color schemes to create watercolor washes inspired by Rothko’s artwork.

Supplies:

  • Poster board scraps, various sizes
  • Color Wheel worksheet
  • Colored pencils, one set of 12 for each table
  • Wide watercolor brushes (for washes)
  • Watercolors
  • 9″x 12″ watercolor paper

PowerPoint: Rothko Watercolors

Students create artwork using watercolor washes inspired by Rothko.
I needed a quick three day project for my fourth graders to fill in one of those weird weeks where the schedule is off, but I have enough time to start a new project. I was also wanting to do something that would keep my antsy fourth graders engaged as we approach the last 2 weeks of school!


I remembered how excited one of my classes was when I demonstrated how to create a wash with watercolors for their Rizzi-inspired wax resist projects. At the end of the year I always have scraps of poster board left over. I decided to use those odds and ends to create a project using washes inspired by Rothko’s paintings.


I planned to talk about color theory on the first day. The kids filled in a color wheel, then drew symbols on it to show complementary, analogous and split complementary color schemes. (I downloaded the Color Wheel worksheet from this website.) I had a PowerPoint on the board that showed the symbol key. I also walked individual kids through figuring out the color schemes. The split complementary was especially tricky.

Students create artwork using watercolor washes inspired by Rothko.

It was a little crazy finding all 12 colors and creating colored pencil sets for each table. I had to substitute some random colors, and I dug deep into my buckets of old pencils looking for multiples of the same color! For blue-violet, I had the kids color purple on top of blue, which worked just fine. The crazy part of this project was that the day I was going to start with the color wheel, there was a huge storm so they had to relocate my classes to the library for the day. I was so happy that the lesson I had planned was perfect for a day outside of the art room!

Students create artwork using watercolor washes inspired by Rothko.
The second day was a lot of fun! I did a demo of how to create a wash using watercolors. I emphasized the importance of mixing up all of the colors in a tray before starting the painting. Each kid made three small paintings using the three color schemes they had marked on their color wheel. They decided how they wanted to arrange the different colors.

I was pretty loose with this first practice round. If a kid only finished one or two small paintings, they were able to move on to their large painting on the third day. I wanted this project to feel more like a chance to experiment than a list of tasks to complete.

Students create artwork using watercolor washes inspired by Rothko.

As I was tidying up my supply closet, I discovered a beautiful stack of watercolor paper. It was just enough for me to cut down and give each kiddo a 9″ x 12″ piece. For our third day, they were able to create their own color scheme using any combination of colors they wanted.

Students create artwork using watercolor washes inspired by Rothko.

It was so interesting to see how different each student’s large painting was. Some stayed pretty close to the color schemes that had used on their smaller painting. And some students tried combinations that were totally different.

Students create artwork using watercolor washes inspired by Rothko.

I enjoyed the sense of ease and excitement that this project created in my classroom. I love having a project that introduces students to an artist’s work, teaches them a new technique and then sets them free to explore and experiment!

 

 

Pop Art Words

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

Third grade art students drew and painted onomatopoeias inspired by Lichtenstein’s artwork to create Pop Art Words.

Supplies:

  • Poster board, 9″x 12″
  • Pencils and erasers
  • List of onomatopoeias
  • Sharpies
  • Tempera paint
  • Brushes
  • Water cups

PowerPoint: Pop Art Words

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

I was so surprised by how quiet my classroom got when my first group of 3rd graders started painting their Pop Art project! I had been nervous about classroom management with paint, but setting up routines made this a project that made them go into super-focused mode. I was inspired to create this lesson by a post on There’s a Dragon in my Art Room.

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

I started out by showing them examples of Lichtenstein’s artwork and talking with them about pop culture and Pop Art. We talked about onomatopoeias and how he used them in his artwork. Before they started sketching, I did a demo of how to draw block and bubble letters. I showed them that if they draw the regular letters very softly, they can trace an outline around the letter and then just erase the inside. I also brainstormed with them about what lines and shapes I could fill the background with that represented the word I had chosen. When they went back to their table, they picked a word from a list of onomatopoeias.

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

I learned the hard way that the two most important supplies for painting at the elementary school level are poster board and Sharpies. Anything thinner than poster board is going to get dripping wet with paint and cause a huge mess at the drying rack. Tracing over their sketches with Sharpies before they paint helps my students to see their lines throughout the process. And it makes the design of the finished piece stand out.

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

As usual, it was so much fun to see my students make this project their own. The backgrounds could be realistic or abstract, and they had a lot of fun connecting the background design to their word. The sketching went quickly, so I started off the second day of class by demonstrating our painting procedures. First I walked through the jobs of setting up the table for paint. (Each seat has a job that they are responsible for during set-up and clean-up.) I also show them how the supplies need to be arranged on the table; if the paint and water are easily accessible to everyone, there are much fewer spills. I walked them through the expectations for the Sink Room – only one person at a time, stand on a red line while you wait, only fill the cup up half way. It is an in-depth demonstration, but saying it once at the beginning makes painting go so much smoother for the rest of the week!

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

Then we finally got to talk about painting! I have observed that most kids will naturally use a paintbrush the way they use a marker, moving it back and forth to fill the space. This makes it hard to control where the paint goes, and they get frustrated that they can’t keep the paint inside the lines. I show them how to load up their brush with paint and then pull it in “one direction” (cue boy band joke!) along the line that they drew. I also show them how to turn their paper so that their hand is always comfortable when they are painting.

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

Because I have given them so much new information about how to paint, I don’t talk about mixing colors for this project. They have the primary and secondary colors at their table. In almost every class a student will ask me how to get pink, blue-green, or another mixable color. When that happens I explain how to mix colors and give them a mixing tray. Sometimes it catches on like wild-fire and by the end of the period every table has a mixing tray! I love that they are exploring and experimenting at their own pace.

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

I have several third grade classes back to back, so I emphasize with every class the importance of keeping the paint trays fresh. We talk about rinsing out our brushes and getting fresh water. I also tell them that accidents happen and that if a color does get mixed, they should let me know right away so that I can teach them how to clean it out. Giving them the responsibility of fixing the mess, should it happen, makes them a lot more proactive about keeping the paints clean. Putting away a hundred paintings and passing them back out 4 days in a row is a bit overwhelming, but I have perfected a organizational system that makes it quick and easy!

Students use onomatopoeias and tempera paint to create Pop At.

I love that this project introduces my students to an interesting period of art history and teaches them the basics of painting. The results are so eye-catching! Because some students finish a day earlier than everyone else, I have an engaging sketchbook project that they can work on after. They get to draw and color their own comic. Some of my students get so invested in the comic they create that they go back to those characters and continue the story as a sketchbook project after other assignments.