Tag Archives: grade

Picasso Heads in Second Grade?!

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Second Graders (!) did these fabulous Picasso Heads!  They really got into the spirit of Picasso when they drew and “painted” them with oil pastels.  It was very exciting to see how they embraced the fact that not everything needs to look exactly like the real thing … even my very linear thinkers stepped out of their comfort zone for this one!

We first talked about the use of color and shapes in art to communicate feelings and meaning in a painting.  Using Picasso’s Portrait of a Womanthe use of blue and cool colors, triangle for a tear, a white/open circle where her heart is, shows us she is very sad.  We then moved on to the painting, Girl Before a MirrorThis is an excellent example of Picasso’s use of shape and color.  Also, Picasso many times would put a line through the face to show that the subject has more than one personality or many sides.  He also outlined everything in black to accentuate his color.

Students drew 3 heads that touched … representing a relationship between their characters.  They then had to draw a line top to bottom on each head showing the 2 sides of each “person”.  Using shapes for features, students began building the personality of their Picasso heads.  We talked in simple terms about what shapes might represent.  A heart for a mouth, corkscrew for eyes, etc.  Of course, crazy shapes for hair is a given!!!  After pencil, everyone outlined in Sharpie – their choice of thick or thin lines.

For color, we used oil pastels.  I introduce the fact that oil pastels aren’t really glorified crayons.  There is a reason for oil pastels.  The pastel goes on nice and thick, but pastels are made to be spread and blended like paint!  We use Q-tips to make the pastels look like oil paint and get a heavy coating of color.  The use of an everyday item in our art always gives the students a little thrill and makes them think, “what else can I use?”  (and no one put them in their ears …  (-:!)

OUR RESULTS WERE FABULOUS!

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Filed under 2nd Grade, Artist or Focus, Faces, Medium, Pastels, Picasso, ~Blog~

Clay Busts in Fifth Grade

This project is always one I enjoy because I think it brings out the best in the boys.  The boys feel free to experiment a little and bring a little craziness to their bust I don’t always see with other projects.  Clay seems to be the medium most boys thrive with.  Don’t get me wrong … the girls do  great job too, but some boys really struggle with drawing and painting and all those fine motor skill activities and clay helps them realize they are creative and artistic!  It’s just like playing in the sand box or in the mud at the creek!

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By the time they are ready to do clay 3-d heads, students have not only used clay before, but we have talked a lot about the map of the face – where the features belong (did you know your eyes are really in the middle of your head – not up towards your forehead?!?!) and keeping things in proportion.  After some review on all these subjects, they are ready to rock and roll!  This project is one that ties a lot of concepts together and students are able to pretty much just enjoy what they are doing and everyone is successful!

The clay I use is gray, self-drying clay (a day or 2) and I try to give everyone a pretty generous amount.  A 25 pd brick breaks out to at least 65 students.  I purchase it at Blick Art.  Students can paint or Sharpie details on if they like after the clay dries.

Of course, our most valuable tool when using clay is our hands, but I also give students a simple toothpick, the sculpture tools I make from clothespins and a hook of paper clip, and it just wouldn’t be complete without the garlic press for cool hair.  I like using plates for the clay.  It really keeps the desks clean and helps with clean-up.

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Filed under Clay, Faces, ~Blog~

Peter Max and Acrylic Postage Stamps

I LOVE this project because it introduces an artist who is still alive and painting today, as well as exposes my 5th grade students to a more “modern” medium ~ acrylic paint.

Peter Max’s art is not only eye-catching and appealing to young children, but his subjects tend to the ones that are easily remembered and appreciated.  We talk about his influence on pop/psychedelic/60’s art (beatles’ Yellow Submarine), as well as his modern take on painting iconic things and people.

I love the book, The Art of Peter Max by Charles A Riley and we look at many different examples of his very distinctive style.  This book is chock full of visuals!

Peter Max paints very freely and doesn’t worry about getting that perfect paint color or line on his page.  I encourage NOT cleaning your brush much and just “loading” your brush with 3 different paint colors and just explore the paint and colors.  I love the shrieks I hear when I turn the paint plate upside down and hold it there for a minute or so to demonstrate to students the thick paint that doesn’t mix and mingle with other colors like other mediums they are used to using.  The unique properties of acrylic paint (we talk about these too) really lends itself to this project and older students appreciate using a medium they have never experienced before.  It is so flexible and forgiving they can’t really mess up and the bright colors used make all the paintings beautiful.  This project always goes up on the classroom boards afterwards!

I chose the postage stamp theme because it was a different way of looking at the paper and it celebrates all the philanthropy Peter Max has done through his art.  I mention that every July 4th, Peter Max paints canvases of the Statue of Liberty and the proceeds of the sale of the painting goes towards her continued restoration and maintenance.  At one time, Peter Max painted numerous paintings of Lady Liberty, donated the proceeds and, some say, he single-handedly saved Lady Liberty from disrepair.  Peter Max also designed postage stamps to raise money for our National parks – hence the postage stamp theme!

I demonstrate and encourage students to play with the paint and the colors with their brushes.  There is lots of dabbing and rolling of brushes to get different effects.

Starting with a stencil of a postage stamp, students trace the stamp outline which will become the paintings frame.  After painting and the paint dries, the final step is to cut out the postage stamp! 

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Filed under 5th Grade, Paint, Peter Max, ~Blog~

Weaving and Building our own Loom

Third graders study Indians and do a lot of discussion about how they use natural resources for all their needs.  I thought it would be fun to think about how they make their blankets and anything else that is textile related.  After some discussion about how the indians (and pioneers for that matter) had no stores that sold fabric etc., we talk about how yarn is created (spun from animal hair) and how they dyed the yarn (plants and minerals).  The ancient craft of weaving is found in countries around the world and people have woven yarn and fibers to make useful items for centuries.

We then talk about the weaving process itself and how a loom is made and the weaving is held together.  The indians made crude looms by securing tree branches together, then evenly tieing thin string from top to bottom (the warp).  Weaving then begins with the “weft” yarn.

Creating a loom with 3 straws is an interesting project because it makes students think about how they can use everyday things to help construct their art.  There is an element of problem solving with this project that I like.  This project can be a stretch for some 3rd graders because they haven’t quite developed the fine motor skills or the “following directions” skills necessary for success.  Usually, everyone comes out with something lovely, however and I think the boys appreciate this project more than the girls!

The biggest challenge is getting students to understand the concept of weaving and catching one straw at a time in an “in – out” and “around” pattern.  Once they have their “ah ha” moment though, everyone works really hard to finish.  I give directions in a number of ways … verbal, demonstration, and then actually physically help move the hand for some.  For some students, it is difficult holding the loom and weaving at the same time.  In this case, I masking tape the loom to the desk and that seems to help.

The loom is secured at the top with masking tape, black yarn inserted for the “warp” using sparkly pipe cleaners to catch and pull through, we tie off the multi-colored “weft” string (thank you Wal-Mart), and then the weaving begins!

About 10 minutes before our class is over, I walk students through carefully taking apart their loom and tying off their weaving.  Make sure the “warp” threads stay in place!  Pull the straws down out of the weaving!

Wallah – they have a bracelet or a bookmark!

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Filed under Weaving, Yarn, ~Blog~

Gyotaku or Japanese Fish Printing

First Grade students study ponds and fish and I love to do this project celebrating the art of Gyotaku. (Gyotaku: “gyo” = fish – “taku” = impression – pronounced: guh – yo -tah – koo).  While it isn’t reeeeaally pond related and I suppose there are other ways to celebrate fish, this is a unique way to think about fish and art together!


Gyotaku originated about 100 years ago in Japan as a way for fisherman to record the exact size and species of fish they had caught. With no photography available and the practical need to sell or eat the fish the fisherman would hire an artist to make a print of the fish using inks or paints when they had an exceptional catch. The inks and paints used were water-based, and more importantly nontoxic so that the fish could be washed off and then sold in the market. Fish were painted to exactly replicate colors.  If a fish is large, rice paper or a silk sheet is placed over the top of the fish, rather than trying to turn it over and get a good imprint.

In 1955, Gyotaku officially became an art form.  The Association of Gyotaku was formed and the first exhibition was held in Tokyo.   Recently,Gyotaku has become popular in the United States. Along the docks in San Francisco and Hawaii, and also in other parts of the country, artists wait for the sports fisherman boats to bring their catch back from the ocean. Many tourists on the boats choose to have prints made of their fish, rather than having it stuffed and mounted by a taxidermist.

I have done this myself using real fish (slimy), but I chose to invest in rubber moldings of the fish.  I am so lucky to have purchased these when we had more grant money available… I purchased our “fish” over a 4 year period and finally had enough for everyone to use 1.  Before, I was madly washing a re-using them in one class time.  Thank goodness I have the classroom teacher who gladly helps!

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Filed under 1st Grade, Medium, Paint, The Art Room, ~Blog~

Happy Accidents! Abstracts with Liquid Watercolor

brilliant purples using just red and blue

One of the issues when creating any piece of art, but particularly with watercolor painting, is how to salvage a painting or make something out of a problem when you make a “mistake” – especially with elementary students  You have spent all kinds of time and energy making your masterpiece and you can’t throw it away!  This is especially true in an art class where you have a minimal amount of time to complete your project and limited funds for supplies.

It can be hard to loosen up a little and “let go” of what you perceive as a huge eyesore in your work or to look at it a little differently and discover something new and interesting. This is what artists often refer to as “Happy Accidents”.  Students not only had great fun, but also learned to ” hide” a little something inside that fun (or accident) “Where’s Waldo” style.

This project also reinforces the principles of color and mixing primary colors in different strengths to make other colors.  It also reinforces the “mud” factor… too much paint only makes “mud”.  I like doing this project in 4th grade because they are just old enough to be respectful and careful of the supplies we use that are very tempting in other grades.  They aren’t quite “cool” enought to go crazy yet, either.  (-:

We used watercolor paper squares, straws and primary colors of  liquid watercolor (I like Blick Art for brilliant colors) I put in a little squirt/dropper bottle.  I also give each student a good length of paper towel.

After blowing to our heart’s content … we got some wonderful results and the students are soooo excited about all the items they “find/create” in the art.  The color blending is awesome too!  They are beautiful mounted on black paper and put on the wall.

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Filed under 4th Grade, The Art Room, ~Blog~