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.

 

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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.

 

 

Watercolor Grid

Draw a grid with crayon and fill it with letters. Paint over it with watercolors to create a wax resist.

After discussing a painting by Jasper Johns, second graders drew a grid using crayon and filled each square with a letter of their name. Then, they painted over their drawing with watercolors.

Art Lesson Video: Watercolor Grid, Part 1 & Watercolor Grid, Part 2

PowerPoint: Watercolor Grid

Supplies:

  • 9″ x 12″ poster board
  • Rulers
  • Crayons
  • Watercolor paints
  • Brushes

 

Draw a grid with crayon and fill it with letters. Paint over it with watercolors to create a wax resist.

I love the first painting project I do with second graders! They are ecstatic when I start our class by saying, “Today we are going to begin our watercolor project.” This year, I decided to do a lesson that used watercolors along with crayons. When I saw Kristin Thomas’s post about a Jasper Johns-inspired project on her blog For the Love of Art, I knew I wanted to try it out. After they observed Jasper John’s artwork that used a grid filled with letters, I showed them a video about how to draw their own grid and trace over it with crayons.

Draw a grid with crayon and fill it with letters. Paint over it with watercolors to create a wax resist.

At first, I was worried that splitting this project into 2 days would leave us with too much extra time. It ended up being perfectly timed. We definitely need a whole class period to draw the grid and fill it with letters. After the video, I reviewed the steps to drawing the horizontal and vertical lines for their grid (with hand motions, of course!) Those few extra minutes made a huge difference with helping them remember how to use their ruler.

Draw a grid with crayon and fill it with letters. Paint over it with watercolors to create a wax resist.

I toyed with the idea of adding measuring into the mix, but I’m glad I didn’t. Just using the ruler as a straight edge was a lot for them to process. I made sure to tell them that their squares didn’t have to match. In fact, it would make their artwork even more interesting if they didn’t! I also emphasized in the video and during class that they had to press down hard with the crayon. If they didn’t, the letters wouldn’t show through the paint.

Draw a grid with crayon and fill it with letters. Paint over it with watercolors to create a wax resist.

In my example, I used the letters of my name to fill the grid. I let the kids decide if they wanted to do their name, another word or just random letters. Most kids decided to use their name. I think next year it might be fun to use adjectives that describe them.

Draw a grid with crayon and fill it with letters. Paint over it with watercolors to create a wax resist.

Painting day was so much fun! In the video demonstration, I focused on just the basics of how to use watercolors. It was exciting to watch all of the different experimental directions that the kids went with their artwork. Some kids experimented with letting colors bleed together. Other kids tried out mixing more than one color in a square.

Draw a grid with crayon and fill it with letters. Paint over it with watercolors to create a wax resist.

Overall, this one of my favorite painting projects that I’ve done with second grade. It was the perfect balance of structured and loose. And it was an amazing introduction to the magical world of watercolors!

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!

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!