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

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

Shape Robots

 

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

To create a collage robot, third grade students cut out and glued down overlapping organic and geometric shapes.

Supplies:

  • Glue Sticks
  • Scissors (mix of small and larger sizes)
  • Construction Paper
  • Pencils, erasers

Downloadable PowerPoint: Shape Robots

One of the challenges of teaching elementary art is learning to think like a kid again. What is fun? What is challenging? What concepts do you already understand? What concepts do you need to have explained?

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.
The first time I taught this robot shape lesson, I jumped right in! It seemed like a simple, straight-forward project. I was surprised to find out that many of my third graders were baffled by the idea of overlapping shapes to create an image. So with the next class, I broke it down into the easy steps. We compared my sketch to the robot I had started; we talked about how I glued down the larger shapes first and picked different colors for the smaller shapes that went on top.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

Once I had the kinks worked out, this became a great project to start off the new quarter. I begin the lesson by having the kids brainstorm what they would look like as a robot. It makes the assignment so much more fun to connect it to a self-portrait.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

My students start off by sketching their robot – I remind them to draw their shapes big enough so they fill the whole paper. Otherwise, they won’t have room to fit the smaller detail shapes inside. Usually, the sketching step takes one class period. If I have a couple students finish early, I let them work in their sketchbook until the end of class.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

Before we start cutting and gluing on the second day, I do a quick demo. I don’t take anything for granted! I show them step by step the easiest ways to cut out shapes (cut with the inside corner of the scissors; turn the paper, not your hand) and glue them down (put the shape onto scrap paper so glue doesn’t get on the table). I also emphasize that the shapes don’t have to look exactly the same as they do in the sketch, because sketches are like rough drafts.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

I use plastic magazine holders as a way to keep the construction paper at each table organized. I also have a system where students can line up by the paper shelves if they need more of a color. If I see them there, I come over and give them the color they need. I like that it gives the kids autonomy to get up and move around the room when they need something. But that is balanced with me helping them get materials so that the shelves don’t get crazy messy and kids don’t end up with five sheets of green paper that all have just one shape cut out of it.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

The only downside to this project is the little scraps of paper that take over my room! When it’s time to clean-up, I show them how to dump out all of the paper in their holder. Anything that is smaller than their hand, they recycle. Everything else gets stacked together neatly and put back in the holder. Instead of doing Circle Time, I have each kid pick up three scraps off the floor as their ticket out the door. And it truly is their ticket! I might I have to insist with one student per class that they have to do their part before they leave.

3rd graders use organic and geometric shapes to create robots.

I love how diverse the artwork is at the end of this project! Each kid has a chance to create something from their imagination; I’m always surprised by what they come up with. This project also really pops out when it’s matted and hanging in the hall for the art show at the end of the quarter.