Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Winter came very late to Indiana this year. I started doing wintertime artwork with my students in November, and many of them noticed that our artwork didn't match the weather outside! We finally got a light dusting of snow on Friday, but it didn't last. Then today, the day after Christmas, we got a real snow! 

I'm actually snowed in right now at my parents' house in Indianapolis (they're calling this a blizzard on the news). So, I put the snow to use to create a work of art! I hope everyone else is having a wonderful Christmas break, and that you are enjoying the snow as much as I am if you got some :).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

4th Grade Snowflake Mandala Printmaking

After studying Indian Mandalas (for some classes, I introduced the art; for others, it was a follow-up on a sub lesson), my 4th grade students watched the YouTube movie Flowers are Fun, which shows a person drawing a Mandala design. We talked about radial symmetry, and how a design can look really complicated if you repeat simple swirls, lines, and shapes around a circle design.

Next, the students brainstormed things you can find in nature that have radial symmetry. I let the students keep coming up with ideas until someone said, "a snowflake!" Then, we talked about how snowflakes always have six points, and if you draw a mandala with 6 points, it could look like a fancy snowflake.

Next, I gave the students 4 1/2 by 6 inch paper with a six-pointed asterisk on it (printed very lightly in gray). I told the students the lines were to guide them in making their snowflakes balanced, but the gray lines are not part of the finished design.

The students used markers to draw snowflakes on the guide paper until they came up with a design they liked. Then, we taped the paper to a piece of foam, and traced over every line in the design with a ballpoint pen, pressing hard. I had to remind the students to not trace the guidelines.

Then, we peeled off the paper, and inked the foam with silver block printing ink. The students printed multiple times on 6 by 9 inch paper (just on one half), and then when we were all done, they could fold the paper in half, and use their prints as Christmas cards!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kindergarten Polar Bears

Toward the end of my color unit with kindergarten (after we learn the primary colors, and mix all of the secondary colors), I do a lesson on the importance of color. An artist's color choices have a huge impact on how the viewer sees it, and kindergartners can understand that.

Last year, I did a lesson on Audubon's cardinals, and we talked about how Audubon had studied birds so carefully that he knew just what colors to use in his paintings. Several of the students immediately recognized the bird in the painting as a cardinal, and we talked about how if Audubon had used any other color besides red, no one would know the bird was a cardinal.

This year, I tried polar bears. A white bear is immediately recognized as a polar bear, and an artist needs to know to use the color white if painting a polar bear. There are also some nice images of polar bears in Eric Carle's book Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? that many students will immediately recognize. I love Eric Carle's art, and I've incorporated his work into lessons for several grades this year. He has a distinctive style, and he is a great gateway into talking about art careers, such as illustrating.

Here are some of my students' polar bears. We drew the bear the first day, and then painted him. The second day, we added the ground (I told them to draw a line that touches all 4 of his feet), and we drew his face with a black crayon. Then we painted the ground, and added little snowflakes in the sky. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

4th Grade Value Snowy Landscapes

My 4th graders have been learning about value. We made these snowy landscapes by mixing different tints and shades of the same color. We also discussed perspective, and how far away things look smaller than close-up things (in this case, trees).

My students did a really nice job painting the trees! I broke trees down to three kinds of line to simplify them; the tree trunk is a thick line, the branches are medium lines, and the little twigs are skinny lines. This helped the students create beautiful trees with confidence. I showed them how they can make skinny lines with the tip of a paintbrush, but I also had skinny brushes available so the students could choose their painting utensil. I think it's important for students to learn how different brushes work, but also to learn what works best for them personally.

This project took 4 weeks. The first week, we talked about value, and divided our paper into 5 sections. We painted the top section black, and then practiced painting trees. The second week, the students chose their color, and mixed it with black to make a shade. We painted the second section with the shade, and made a little tree above it. The 3rd week, we used the regular unmixed color to paint the middle section, and a slightly larger tree, and then we added some white to the color to make a tint. We painted the fourth section with the tint, and a larger tree. The last week, We used white to paint the bottom section, and the largest tree of all, and little tiny snowflakes all around it.

The students seemed to enjoy this project, and I am proud of how well they did.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Draw a Volleyball

Many of you seemed to appreciate my soccer ball tutorial, so here is the volleyball version. Drawing a volleyball is harder, so I have been known to say, "but don't you like any other sports, too?" when my students want to include a volleyball in their artwork. But, there are times when students need to express their own ideas (no matter how far off their ideas are from anything Picasso or Van Gogh ever painted....), and I need to equip my students to be able to draw what they want.

2nd Grade Value Cities

My 2nd grade students have been learning about value. We used three different values of blue paper to make these value cities. I was very impressed with their cutting skills! It makes me happy when I challenge my students with a difficult project, and they exceed my expectations.

The first day, I introduced the lesson, and the students drew a line across each blue paper for their buildings. I told them to draw the buildings near the top of the paper, not near the bottom, so their city would be tall. Some students finished cutting that day, so I showed them how to glue; they would make a line of glue across the bottom of the light blue paper, and attach it. Then, they would make a line of glue along the bottom of the medium blue paper, and slip it behind the first page. Last, they would put glue all over the whole back of the dark blue paper, and slip it behind the others. Last, they would add more glue to any light blue or medium blue buildings that were sticking up.

The next day in art class (we have 40 minute classes), I began by demonstrating the gluing process again. Then, I told the students that if they were done gluing, they should start drawing windows on their buildings, and a moon in the sky. The students who were not done cutting and gluing would work on that.

After about 10 minutes, I would get the white paint and skinny paint brushes out, and the students could start painting if they were ready. Anyone who finished painting before the end of class got to do this coloring page that I found on Activity Village. Activity Village has lots of very nice coloring pages for seasons, events, and holidays. The kids loved this page! Here is a link to the full-size printable PDF: