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.

 

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!

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!

 

 

Warm and Cool Shapes

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

After cutting and gluing organic and geometric shapes, elementary art students use warm or cool colored markers to fill the background of their artwork with lines.

Art Lesson Videos: Warm and Cool Shapes, Part 1 & Warm and Cool Shapes, Part 2

PowerPoint: Warm and Cool Shapes

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ white paper
  • Sets of warm and cool colored construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Sets of warm and cool colored markers

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

I really enjoyed starting the year with this project! It was the perfect balance of structure and freedom. I was inspired by a lesson I saw on Art Tango and decided to make it appropriate for my third graders by allowing them to make more of the artistic decisions. I tried to step back during the first day while they were cutting out and gluing down shapes. I wanted them to have the creative freedom to make different choices than the steps they saw in the demonstration video.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

I wanted them to have the creative freedom to make different choices than the steps they saw in the demonstration video.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

I let them decide how big or small they wanted their shapes to be. I didn’t put any limitations on how many shapes they needed to have or if their shapes could overlap. During the first day of this project, our room had that pleasant buzz of kids working! I overheard so many great conversations as they brainstormed with each other about their art.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

On the second day, I had some kids that jumped right in to drawing lines to fill their background. There were other students who needed a little more direction one on one. I told them to start out by drawing an outline around each shape three times. After that, I showed them how to fill in the new spaces their outline had created.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

In the demonstration video and during class, I made sure they knew that they could be creative and come up with their own way of using lines to fill the back ground. It was so much fun to see how unique everyone’s artwork was!

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

This was a great project to set the tone for how the art room operates. Students had a chance to see that they have the creative freedom to make different choices about their art. The project also had enough structure that they were able to learn the art room procedures and expectations.

Students glue down organic and geometric shapes, then fill the background with warm or cool colored lines. Elementary art project

 

 

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.

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!

 

Castle Creativity

3rd graders use oil pastels to create a castle and landscape.

Third grade students planned their castle’s mood and landforms, chose their focal point, then colored their drawing with oil pastels.

Supplies:

  • Construction paper
  • Pencils, erasers
  • Sharpie
  • Oil pastels

Downloadable PowerPoint: Castle Creativity

I am always searching for projects that will encourage my students to stretch their creative and problem-solving muscles. I found an idea for a great project on Donald Art Room. I decided to condense the project down a bit so my third graders could finish it in a week.

3rd graders use oil pastels to create a castle and landscape.

I started the project by having the kids brainstorm with a bubble map on the back of their paper. I love that this project introduces ideas from Literature and Science. They decided what kind of castle they would create, what the mood would be, and what landform they wanted to draw around their castle. Some kids needed a little more help understanding the concepts, so as they were brainstorming I walked around and talked with them about possible moods or landforms they could choose.

3rd graders use oil pastels to create a castle and landscape.

I have them sketch their castle directly onto the paper that will be their final artwork. We do this project after talking about shapes for the Shape Robots project. This is a great way to get them started on drawing their castle if they feel stuck. I have examples of organic and geometric shapes on the board, so I can tell them to pick a shape to use as the building part of their castle. That helps them get started and they take off from there, adding shapes for different details.

3rd graders use oil pastels to create a castle and landscape.

Because we only have a week to finish each project, I let them choose a colorful construction paper for the background (I like using gray, light blue, and yellow as options). This way they can leave some parts of the artwork uncolored and the piece still looks great. It also helps me to stretch my oil pastel supply for all 1,000 students!

3rd graders use oil pastels to create a castle and landscape.

When they’re sketching, we talk about deciding which part is more important to them. If they want the castle to be the star of the show, then they can draw the castle really big and add the landforms in as smaller parts of the background. If they want the landforms to be more important, they can draw the landforms first and make them bigger.

3rd graders use oil pastels to create a castle and landscape.

Sharpies are an essential part of this project! After they sketch, they go over their pencil lines with Sharpie. This make a huge difference in the design standing out after they have colored it in with oil pastel. Once they are ready to start coloring, I do a demo where I show them some techniques for using oil pastels. First, we talk about outlining a shape first and then coloring it in. I also teach them a couple ways to combine colors – they can overlap the colors and leave them or blend them in with their finger. We also talk about how pushing hard makes a color darker.

3rd graders use oil pastels to create a castle and landscape.

Kids usually either hate or love oil pastels. What I like about this project is that they decided how intense they want to get with the materials. I have some students who will labor over coloring every part of their drawing, blending multiple colors together. Other students will put a lot of energy into the sketching part and then are content to quickly color their art. Either way, I love that this project gives them a chance to do some critical thinking about the subject of their artwork.

 

 

Independent Projects

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

At the end of the quarter, fourth grade art students created Independent Projects by choosing their subject and medium.

Supplies:

  • Markers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Watercolors
  • Construction paper and glue
  • Printmaking supplies
  • Yarn
  • Poster board
  • Drawing paper

PowerPoint: Independent Project

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

For whatever weird scheduling reason, the third quarter is a little longer than the others. I decided to use that time to encourage my fourth graders to express themselves creatively through Independent Projects. I’ve done this kind of assignment with high school students, so I was interested to see if my fourth graders would embrace it or feel overwhelmed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

They blew me away with how much ownership they took of their projects! I started the assignment by reviewing subject and medium. I reminded them of the difference between abstract and realistic. Then I put up a list of all the materials we had used throughout the quarter. They were able to pick just one or several materials for their project. The first step was sketching, which they did directly onto their final paper.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I was so excited by the way their ideas bubbled out of them. You could feel the creative energy in the room! The wide range of ideas was incredible and seeing the students work together to problem solve and brainstorm warmed my heart.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

I had the art supply options set up at the front of the room, so the most intense part was getting each student the appropriate kind of paper. I had stacks of poster board, drawing paper, and printmaking paper ready to go. After they had written down their subject and medium, I would check in with them and give them the paper they needed.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

Several students in each class decided to do mixed media. They had to plan what order they should use the art supplies. If they needed to wait for one step to dry, I had them work in their sketchbook for the rest of class.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

If a student had a hard time getting started, asking them if they’d rather do an abstract or realistic piece of art was usually enough to jump start their thought process. It was also fun to watch them be inspired by each other’s artwork. There were definitely some trends that ran through each class period.

4th grade students choose their subject and medium to create Independent Projects.

The timing was a little tricky; there were about 3-5 kids in each class that finished much earlier than everyone else. Luckily, the assignment lends itself to further exploration. If there was enough time left in the week, I let the student go ahead and start another Independent Project. They could decide if they wanted to stick with the same medium and subject or if they wanted to change it up.

 

 

Miro Creatures

 

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

Third grade art students “painted” a background with bleeding tissue paper, then created creatures using lines and shapes from Miro paintings.

Art Lesson Videos: Miro Creatures, Part 1 & Miro Creatures, Part 2

PowerPoint: Miro Creatures

Supplies:

  • Poster board – 9″ x 12″
  • Bleeding tissue paper, cut into rough squares
  • Small spray bottle for each table, on mist setting
  • Pencils, erasers, Sharpies

 

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I like to ease my third graders into painting, and bleeding tissue paper is perfect for that. It’s all the excitement of painting with about half the mess. On the first day, they observe two paintings by Miro and draw three shapes that they see. Then I demonstrate how to use the bleeding tissue paper to create a background. I keep the steps posted on the board, so they can remind themselves.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

First, they have to spray the whole paper with water. Then, they overlap the tissue paper squares so that they cover the page completely. Next, they spray the paper again so that every square sticks down all the way. I make a big deal about the last step – which is to use a paper towel to soak up any puddles on their paper before they bring it over to the drying rack. After the demo, I really ham it up and have the kids repeat the “Spray Bottle Pledge.” It is incredible how much silliness (and messiness) it prevents in the long run!

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

I let the poster board dry overnight with the tissue paper still on it. In the morning I take them out and throw away all of the tissue scraps. (Which sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually fun – a little dose of colorful confetti to start my day!) The kids are usually excited by the results; I learned that I have to prep them the first day by showing them an example of how the background might turn out, so they aren’t frustrated by the whites spaces. If a student is disappointed, I tell them that it looks like tie-dye and that the white helps the colors to pop out.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

On the second day, I keep the image of the paintings on the board and I pass out a sheet that has some of the shape and line combinations from the paintings. I talk them through an example of how you could make a creature by putting together some of the shapes. I think aloud about which shapes I could use as the head, the eyes, the body. This also gives me chance to explain that they can change the size and direction of the shapes. And they can use the same shape more than once. They have free reign to use other shapes they observe in the painting that I might not have put on the hand out. They can also choose if they want to make one, big creature that fills the whole page or if they want to draw a lot of smaller creatures.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

For most kids, they are able to sketch their creature in pencil, trace it with Sharpie and erase the pencil marks during that second class period. If they finish before class is over, I let them free draw in their sketchbook. Then during the third day of the project, I introduce the “Roll a Miro” game, which keeps them engaged in their sketchbook for the whole class.

Miro-inspired creatures using bleeding tissue paper and Sharpies.

This project had definitely become one of my favorites. The kids really enjoy making it and it’s a great way to get them thinking creatively. I like that it scaffolds them into more abstract art-making. They aren’t just copying one of Miro’s paintings, but being inspired by his shapes gives them some building blocks to start with.

 

 

Monster Sculptures

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

Third grade art students created three dimensional monsters by painting their design onto a cardboard tube, then hot gluing “extras” onto their artwork.

Supplies:

  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Sharpie
  • Tempera paint
  • Brushes
  • Hot glue
  • “Extras” like googly eyes, gemstones, pom poms, feathers, colorful wire

I like to finish the quarter with a project that introduces my students to the difference between 2D and 3D art. I don’t have a kiln this year, so I decided to create a project using materials that were easier to work with. After reading this post on Redefine Creativity, I knew that creating monsters out of toilet paper tubes would be a great fit! I sent out an email at the beginning of the year letting teachers know I was collecting toilet paper tubes. I also told my students that they could donate them for an art ticket. I ended up with enough tubes to last 4 years!

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

I organized my curriculum so that this project is right after our Pop Art painting project. This way the procedures and techniques for painting are still fresh in my students’ minds. After discussing the difference between 2D and 3D, they sketch their monster onto the tube. I emphasize that the design should go all the way around the tube. If a student has trouble with that idea, I ask them, “What do you think the back of the monster might look like?”

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

After drawing it in pencil, they trace over the lines with Sharpie. This step is essential! Painting such small details on a curved surface can be tricky. Having the bold lines helps to keep the design from getting lost. This project goes fairly quickly, many students will be done tracing by the end of the first class period. I let them work on an old sketchbook project and then we all start paint on the second day.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

Most students finish painting on the second day. After the paint dries over night they are ready to add their “accessories” on the third day. Some students will still need to paint on the third day. I usually have them choose the “extras” they want to add on and then help them hot glue it during an Art Centers day.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

A sketchbook project is essential to having Hot Glue Day go smoothly! For this project, their prompt is to draw and color their monster’s family. I have 4 “shopping baskets” and I tell the students I will choose who will “go shopping” first based on who is focused on their sketchbook project. Each student brings their painted monster tube and chooses 7 items that they want to add to their monster. They can choose 7 different things or they could decide that they want to have all 7 items be the same thing.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

At the beginning of class I show everyone a couple of techniques for taping some of the objects on. I stand at the front of the “shopping” line and help each student hot glue the things that can’t be taped. Past the hot glue station, I have a tape station, so that students can tape down the feathers and wires while I’m still close by in case they run into any problems.

Introduce students to sculpture with tube monsters!

Initially, I felt like this project was a little too “crafty” for my taste. But after seeing how well it reinforced the idea of three-dimensional art, I’m glad I tried it out. There is so much room for each student to think creatively; it’s exciting to see how unique each monster is. The kids really look forward to doing this project and they love seeing all of their monsters on display at the Showcase at the end of the quarter.