Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Surrealist Scratchboards

After learning about the Surrealist art movement, students created these vibrant Surreal worlds using handmade scratchboards. We started by coloring a board with oil pastels. The entire space needs to be colored in or else the paint will stick to the board and the scratching will not work. I encourage students to color in lines and to switch off their colors as much as possible. Next, the board is painted over with black tempera paint with a little dish soap added. Once the board is dry, students attached a magazine cutout of a person to the front of the board. Then, students were able to create a vibrantly colored world of their own creation! I gave students the option of scratching out a landscape or to just include intricate patterns and designs. This is a project I do every semester because all students love the results!


Students in grades 1-3 created their very own robots! We began by looking at many examples of robots, from cartoons to real life models. Students then sketched several different types of robots while being encouraged to include a lot of details. For the next class, students chose their favorite design and drew it out large on a colored paper. They painted the entire shape gray and had to make sure each side of the robot came close to every edge of the page. During the final class, students drew in the details with black crayon, painted highlights on one side with white paint and a shadow on the other side with black paint. We also added a bit of color to the robots, some aluminum foil for shine and rubbed a texture into the background. The students were very proud of these and each robot has so much personality!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


PreK and Kinder students created these adorable penguin collages just in time for the cold weather! We began by painting a line pattern with cool colors for the background. During the next class, students used orange, black and white paper to create their penguins. Except for the nose, all the parts of the penguins were made with circles or half-circles. To complete the artwork, students cut a triangle border with white triangles to look like ice and dabbed some white in the back for snow. 

Autumn Aboriginal

Students in grades 4-6 created these enlarged leaves in a traditional Aboriginal style from Australia. We began by drawing a very large leaf form observation. Students needed to make sure the drawing came within one inch of all four sides of the composition. Next, students chose two complementary colors to paint the leaf and background- the warm color was to be the leaf and the cool color was for the background. 
For the second class, students painted a strong black outline around the leaf and some type of veins as well. We watched Aborigines from Australia painting and learned about this style of art before adding our own dotted patterns to our paintings. We stuck with warm colors in the leaf and cool colors for the background. 

This project focused on color contrast, patterns and learning about the art of another culture. Students were very successful and enjoyed decorating these fun fall paintings! 

Autumn Leaves in a Van Gogh Sky

This is a great lesson for teaching observational drawing, color contrast, watercolor techniques and art history. And the best part: almost all students succeeded  in creating a beautiful painting! 

I taught this lesson to first through third grades. We began by completing observational drawings of leaves. These were then outlined with a black glue(Elmer's glue mixed with black tempera paint). During the next class, we painted in the leaves with warm colors. I showed students how to blend the watercolor paints to create intermediate colors. For the final class, students learned about Starry Night and created lines in the background that demonstrated movement. We also discussed how cool colors are opposite warm colors on the color wheel and how placing them next to each other creates contrast. 

This is a great seasonal project that introduces so many important design principles in an easy and fun way!

Friday, October 20, 2017


Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle and is a form of art stemming from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. A Mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol that represents the universe and is meant to increase focus and strengthen meditation. These mandalas were created by middle school students by repeating a design to create radial symmetry. Students then outlined these designs with black sharpie and used colored pencils. We learned different techniques with the colored pencils- like blending colors, shading light to dark and creating smooth coverage. More advanced students were able to incorporate more detail into their patterning as well.

Here is a more detailed overview of the lesson which I wrote for the January 2017 issue of Arts & Activities magazine. You can read the digital version online by following the link below:

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Best Autumn Projects for Children

Below you will find easy art and painting ideas for fall leaves and autumn trees, pumpkins and scarecrows using several types of art processes- painting, printmaking, watercolor resist, etc.

Here are some links to the best Autumn projects I have done at my school:

Britto Style Pumpkins

Pattern Pumpkins

Fall Pumpkins

Autumn Trees

Watercolor Leaves

Textured Autumn Leaves

Texture Scarecrows

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Pumpkins with Glue

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Primary Popsicles

One of my favorite things to teach PreKinder and Kindergarten students is color mixing. Younger students are AMAZED by mixing primary colors and creating new secondary colors. This lesson incorporated color mixing along with learning the primary and secondary colors.

On the first day, I read the story Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh so students could see how mixing primary colors can create all three secondary colors. We then divided a paper into three sections and mixed two primary colors in each to create green, orange and violet. During the next class, we also divided a paper into three sections and then created different line patterns with secondary colors in the background. The final class is when students cut out the popsicles and glued them onto the patterns with a popsicle stick. Students really loved this project because they love mixing and creating new colors! 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Printmaking With Nature

Here is an article that I wrote in the November 2017 issue of Arts & Activities magazine. You can view the online version of the magazine with the link below:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Optical Illusion Self-Portraits

My students really love and enjoy making self-portraits. I like to start the year with a new style of self-portait and talk to the students about how the best portraits not only resemble the person but also show us something about their personality as well.

First through third grade students created these fun self-portraits to start off the year! We began by spending the first two classes drawing a realistic and proportional self-portrait and then coloring it in with colored pencils. The students were pushed to add details to make it look more like them. We then spent a class creating an optical illusion painting. We discussed different types of lines and created an interesting pattern for the background. During the final class, students added the self-portrait to the painting and added different line patterns. 

Throughout this project, students examined self-portraits by Chuck Close, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Kehinde Wiley and several others for inspiration. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lichtenstein Style Self-Portraits

Students in grades 4-6 learned about American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and created these dynamic self-portraits in a similar style. We began by drawing self-portraits in pencil as realistically as possible. Students then outlined the portrait in sharpie and added an action word and some lines or shapes around the word for emphasis. Next, students drew in several shapes and painted them in with the primary colors. We used primary colors and benday dots to stay in theme with the old school vintage style of early comic strips. This is a great project to teach about pop art while incorporating some elements that can capture the artist's personality.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Chuck Close Style Self-Portraits

Students in middle school created these self-portraits in the style of American artist Chuck Close. We began by working from a photograph- students drew a 1/2 inch grid over the photo and a 1 and 1/2 inch grid over a 12x18 sheet of drawing paper. We then transferred the information over so the portrait was accurate and proportional. Next, students chose a color and created a value scale in that color from light to dark. The drawing was then filled in with different values that matched the black and white photograph. Students had to become comfortable with blending and creating many values within the portrait. I do this project every year and the results are always incredible!