Spring Owls

These bright-eyed owls were made by my daughter and her first-grade classmates.

Crayon rubbings over texture tiles imply feathers and the cut trees were modeled after Henri Matisse’s “painting with scissors” technique.

Michaels and Party City both carry Duff Goldman’s texture tiles for fondant.  I’m not a baker so I wasn’t aware that such things existed, but they are very cool (and pricey).  Any time I have a coupon, I pick up a set.  Lakeshore Learning carries a 6-pack of tiles that aren’t quite as sophisticated but are more reasonably priced. 

I brought the tiles to class, along with my collection of peeled and broken crayons and 12×18 sheets of spring-colored paper.  I had drawn outlines of owl wings, ahead shape and a body on white paper and made a set of copies for each student.

The children started with the crayon rubbings, which were a hit all around.

Then the cutting began.

“Painting With Scissors”
As the children cut out their owl parts, I talked about Henri Matisse and his paper cutouts.  How he called his technique “painting with scissors” and did it freehand – no tracing or templates.  Relevant, I thought, as many this age are quite concerned with doing things exactly the right way.

But the children were too busy wrestling with scissors and owl wings to pay much attention.

After a quick, silent apology to Matisse, I explained the next steps.  Choose two sheets of 12×18 paper in different colors – one for the background, one for tree branches.  Cut out branches for your owl to sit on – try rectangles or Y-shapes.  Use scraps to cut out eyes, beaks and feet.

The freehand cutting was a real challenge to a couple of kids.  All in all, everyone did a great job, but it took loads of encouragement and many still looked skeptically at the imperfect edges.

Finally, I encouraged them to lay out their pieces (Matisse took great care in arranging his cutouts before gluing them), but these children were READY TO GLUE.

I absolutlely love the results, but with only 40 minutes, start to finish, this one could’ve been simpler.

Snack Bag Class Portrait

My Sample

The idea for a fun tribute sign for Teacher Appreciation Week came from another great art lesson at Art Projects for Kids.

Two other moms and I had 30 minutes with our daughters’ class while their teacher enjoyed a special luncheon.  I remembered coming across APK’s Self-Portrait Painting, hoping I’d have a chance to do it.  But, we didn’t have time to paint.

Since the doodles I make on my daughter’s snack bags have become a popular topic of discussion in the classroom, I thought the kids would have fun making their own snack bag drawings.  (My daughter, in fact, had been bugging me to do a “snack bag art lesson,” so I selfishly hoped this would appease her.)

Before class, I cut a bunch of bags in half and spent time laying them out on poster board.  I wanted enough panels for all of the children, plus more to spell out the message, “We love Mrs. Smith.”

Of course, any paper could be substituted for the snack bags – I’d probably use cardstock with Sharpies.

Three instructions – (1) With a black Sharpie, write your name clearly on the bottom. (2) Then, draw a picture of your head.  If you have space add something you like (butterfly, baseball, musical note, etc).  (3) Then, add color with colored Sharpies.

Ed Emberley came in handy, too.  His step-by-step instruction makes drawing quick, easy and highly rewarding for 

kids.  (Paper, markers and an Ed Emberly drawing book make a great birthday gift.)  I recreated 4 pages from Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Faces on big, white paper and hung them up for optional reference.

As each child finished, we used rubber cement to stick his bag to the poster board (2 pieces, stapled together and trimmed to fit 30 bag halves).  Those who finished early made portraits of the kids who were absent or drew the panels needed to spell out the message to their teacher.

This project brought out the children’s sweet side, too.  Despite my planning, we still ended up with space for extra panels (clearly, math is not my forte!).  On their own, several kids made drawings of things they knew their teacher liked, like her favorite baseball team.

A happy accident and wholly attributable to the kids, it was the first thing she noticed.
CP Snack Bag Portrait

Very Nice Cats

One of my favorite art teacher sites, Art Projects for Kids, includes a wonderfully simple lesson, “How to Draw a Cat.”  Because of Kathy Barbro’s clear instruction, I was able to help 22 first graders make the most charming cats, which their teacher promptly dispayed in the hallway.

To ensure bright colors, I added a brief explanation of complementary colors.  And because I only had 40 minutes with them, I limited their color selection to pairs of oil pastels that I’d bound together before class.

I’d also hoped to find a basic color wheel that I could give each child – a tool for them to take home.  I searched online and at local art and paint stores to no avail,  so I made my own – my husband made the graphic, I printed them on cardstock and added game spinners that I found at Michaels.

Since then, Art Projects for Kids has posted a free color wheel download.  A great tool – thank you!

Finally, I found a great explanation of complementary colors here, and made labels for the children’s artwork that included the color wheel and a place for the kids to sign their names.

The children were thrilled with their results!

Self-Portrait with a Twist

This lesson comes from the Incredible Art Department, where it was submitted by Jeryl Hollingsworth, who also gives credit to Susan on Long Island (a Getty TeacherArtExchange member).  I used some of Jeryl’s suggestions for simplifying the project, as I was working with 22 first-graders and 45 minutes.

Ahead of time, I cut out a cardboard oval template for each child.  Then I played with photos of the children – as Room Parent, I’d had many chances to take photos in the classroom -until I had a closely-cropped head shot of each child that was just a little smaller than the oval template.

Grandma Layton’s story for 1st graders
Elizabeth Layton was sad almost every day.  She was 68-years-old – a grandmother already – when her sister suggested she take an art class.  She drew self-portraits by holding a hand mirror in one hand and drawing with the other.  The sad feelings went through her hand and onto the paper, so her early pictures show a lonely, old, sad-looking woman.  At this point I held up one of Grandma Layton’s earliest works, Void.

But she kept drawing and she started to feel better.  She used basic colored pencils and crayons.  She drew over 1,000 pictures and some of them even ended up in the Smithsonian.  One of her latest works, Untitled, shows her with her husband – they look happy and they’re surrounded by pretty, colorful flowers.

Elizabeth Layton believed that art changed her life.  The next time you feel sad or have a bad day at school, try drawing a picture about it, and see if it will help you feel better.

With a black Sharpie marker, the students drew two ovals – one for the head and one for the mirror.  I really wanted them to be able to look in a mirror to see the backs of their heads, but to save time I told them to turn their backs to a friend and ask:
–Can you see the backs of my ears?
–Can you see the back of my neck?
–If my hair were lines, would they be straight or wavy lines?

They drew the back of their heads, the mirror’s handle and an arm and hand holding the mirror.

Then I introduced them briefly to Vincent Van Gogh’s The Bedroom.  They were familiar with a simple horizon line, so they drew that and then added details from their own bedrooms.

Finished with the Sharpies, they colored in their pictures with basic crayons.  I told them only to make sure that the wall was one color and the floor was another color.  Then they glued their photos to the center of the mirrors.

I thought this project might be too complicated for first grade, but the kids really enjoyed it.  Thank you to both Jeryl Hollingsworth and “Susan,” as well as elizabethlayton.com.

Scroll down to see the explanation I taped to the back of each child’s artwork.

Painted Penguins

This lesson comes from Deep Space Sparkle.  As an Art Parent, I have about 40 minutes to complete a lesson, plus a few minutes on either end for set-up and clean-up.  Painting is always ambitious, but the kids love it – it feels special.

I followed Patty’s step-by-step instructions with only a few changes.

To save time and get the size right, I gave each child a cardboard oval template to trace for the body.  They also made the drawing with a black Sharpie, since they wouldn’t be able to outline them after the paintings dried.  I hoped that the Sharpie would show through enough.

I also found out when I made the painting myself first that washable tempura worked well for the blues and oranges,  but it wasn’t as dark as I would’ve liked for the white tummy and black wings.  So I gave the kids regular Black and White tempura for those parts and crossed my fingers that nothing would get stained!

Finally, I didn’t think the children would be happy if they couldn’t see their penguins’ eyes, so I brought along my favorite self-adhesive jewels from Oriental Trading.  The kids had fun picking out their penguins’ eye color and figuring out whether they should get one or two eyes based on where they’d placed the beak.

It was a giant mess to clean up when I got home - I  scooped 22 messy paintbrushes, palette trays and plastic cottage cheese containers (for rinsing brushes) into a garbage bag to get them out of the classroom quickly.  But I’ll absolutely do it again.  The subject matter was perfect for first grade, every kid was proud of his painting and the teacher was thrilled to have winter-themed art to hang in the hall outside of the classroom.

Thank you, Deep Space Sparkle!