This year, my school is participating in a fundraiser called Art to Remember. A2R give parents the opportunity to purchase things like mugs, plates, mouse pads, key chains, iPhone cases, and grocery bags with their child's artwork on it. Part of the proceeds from each item purchased goes to the school's art fund (yay!). A2R sent me "special" paper for the students to create their art on. It's a sturdy white paper, 8"x10".
Since parents ordering keepsakes requires nice art, I had to think of lesson plans that every student could succeed at, and that were beautiful and colorful. A2R says to use bright art supplies, like markers, crayons, and paint, and to stay away from colored pencils and construction paper. I often "cheat" by having my students start their art on colored paper. This saves the students from having to color the whole background.
Usually, art projects that have very rigid rules and instructions produce the best results. Since I want keepsake-quality art, I needed a lot of structure. I decided that my 2nd and 3rd grade students would paint Van Gogh-style sunflowers. I introduced the lesson with plenty of art history. Then, the students drew their vase, and signed their name on it (like Van Gogh did on his). The following week, we added stems, leaves, and brown centers for the middle of the flowers (all in crayon). Then, we used a watercolor wash to paint the background. Finally, the last week, we painted the petals with yellow tempera.
I did Van Gogh sunflowers with 2nd grade 2 years ago, but the results weren't as nice because I did my typical colored-paper thing. Using colored paper for background color is partly a budget issue; paper comes out of general funds, and I have a mostly unlimited supply of it in the teacher workroom, whereas paint comes from my art money. But, if A2R is a success, I'll be able to afford a lot more watercolors!
Below are some finished sunflower vases by 2nd and 3rd grade. Nearly all of them are truly beautiful. But, I had one concern: what if some of the kids really didn't like their sunflowers, and didn't want to order anything with a flower vase on it? I really wanted to have my students create two pieces of art for A2R, and choose their favorite to send in. But, A2R only sent us one paper per student, with just about 70-80 extras. So, I asked them if we could create art on a paper with a similar weight, cut to the same size. A2R said yes! So, after the sunflowers, we are going paint Homer seascapes. I think out of those two projects, all of my students will have at least one they love.