Kandinsky for Kindergarten

Wow – is it fun looking at Kandinsky artwork with kindergarteners.  They are still so literal and try so hard to make an abstract work be something.  Kandinsky is such a great jumping off point for our line collages though.  We study line as an element of art.  Not only do we draw lines, and dance lines, we cut lines!

After the lines are cut from black construction paper, we paint a background with just colors, not trying to make this painting be something real.  When the painting is dry, we glue down our cut out lines.

Making is collage is fun, and so is saying the word – cooo-laaage.  See, you just spoke French!

Enjoy Shay’s ode to Kandinsky.

A is for Art!

These whimsical highlighter letters are a fun color lesson.  I teach this to grade 4’s.  We gridded out the actual letters – this was the hard part.   Gotta love it when kids come to art class and complain about having to “use their math brains”.

After students draw the letters on grid paper and transfer them to cardstock, we create sections by using different line type.  Then we outline with a sharpie and begin to add color with pick, yellow and blue highlighters (the primary colors!)  Next, we layer colors on top – creating secondary colors as we go, orange, green and purple.  The last step is adding whimsical lines that go around and through the letter.  These are gorgeous and a fun way to use highlighters.

Fall Leaves

Fall Fun in the Art Room!

These beautiful leaf print/paintings were made by first graders!  They loved the process and we all loved the results.

Materials:  Black construction paper, whiter tempera paint, fresh fall leaves, tempera paints in a variety of warm and cool colors.

Day one: students printed the leaves on the black paper, by painting the bumpy side of the leaf with white paint, setting it down gently, and pressing onto the paper.  We let the prints dry.

Day two: students chose a warm or cool color scheme.   Then we got to work painting.  We used big brushes and sort of dabbed our way around the leaves.  Kids did not wash brushes,  just let the colors blend between color changes.

Comments from students: “I feel like a real artist” and “My leaf looks like an x-ray”.

Monet with chalk and tempera

Monet paintings are always popular.  For several years, our Denver Botanic Gardens boasted a Monet garden, complete with water lilies and the Japanese bridge.  It was a beautiful, quiet place to sketch and paint.  My daughters and I spent many happy times there. Many of my students were also able to visit the Monet gardens.  Monet is an artist whose “palette” is easy for students to understand.  By palette, I mean a selection of colors.  He kept a clear palette, never muddy, with a lot of light colors and white.  By using white tempera and pastel chalk in this lesson, students were able to keep a clear palette.Together, we looked at Impressionism, primarily Monet.  Students were able to produce some interesting looking “brush strokes” with the moistened chalk.   Students created some beautiful “watery” paintings.  When dry, the paintings have an impasto look and appear more painting-like than chalk-like. The kids loved working with it.

PS – be prepared for mess!

Our objectives

▪  Vividly communicate a deep understanding of Impressionism

▪  Accurately reflect upon learning

▪  Explore color mixing and blending of chalk (or pastels) – work with tints of colors – learn a little about color planning (complimentary colors – related colors

▪  Find beauty in nature

The Big Questions:

Who is Claude Monet?

What is Impressionism?

What are tints?

What is a color plan?

Resources & Materials

Poster images of Impressionism and artwork by Monet

“Le Pont Japonais a Giverny Art Styles” by Claude Monet,

Claude Monet “Garden at Giverny” Print 

“Impression Sunrise” by Claude Monet

Calendar Prints of Impressionism – various artists – post card prints Landscapes and garden photographs

Claude Monet Water Lilies Wall Calendar

Monet’s Passion-The Gardens at Giverny Wall Calendar

Monet Paintings: 24 Art Cards

Video: Linnea in Monet’s Garden

Greg Percy’s Songs in the Key of Art Volume 4 “Monet’s Mom”

Supplies: Oatmeal paper or 12″ x 18″  -any textured paper will work, pencils, colored chalk pastels, white tempera paint, plastic dishes, water cups, and brushes.


•View video and discuss artwork

•Display posters and discuss Impressionism – Show PowerPoint®

•Review/demo Instructions on PowerPoint®

•Choose what you will paint.  Here are some ideas: Garden scene, water lilies, the Japanese garden, and water garden.

•Draw a rough draft on your paper.  Keep it “coloring book simple”.

•Have several cups of white tempera on table. Each child may have his/her own water cup

•Paint area (fist size/baseball size) with white tempera

•Dip chalk into water dish and draw into the wet paint. If paint dries – brush on a bit more.

•Blend some related colors together for interest within shapes.  Notice what happens to the colors as they mix with the paint.

*Have a class critique and “show opening” when all are finished. Display all work and admire the beauty.

Suggestion: Have a student panel select the ones they like best and make cards for Mother’s Day. They make a wonderful gift. Staff members will buy several sets, as will parents. Make them to order and have parent volunteers help with the printing.

Clay Leaf Bowls

This is a project that I can’t take credit for.  It’s been floating around the web for a while.  However, the process is simple and the results are stunning.

I’ve done this project with kids as young as kindergarten and up to fifth grade, as an enrichment sort of project.

The timing is important, at least in Colorado.  I love to do this project in the fall and ask students to bring in a leaf from home (in a Ziploc bag to stay fresh).  But with a class rotation that can go on for a while, it can be tricky getting leaves that are soft and supple before it gets cold and the leaves get crunchy.

So, here’s the process.

Have students roll out a slab of clay.  I’ve used a red body and a white body clay.  It’s just a personal preference and sometimes dicatated by the type of glaze.

Students place the leaf bumpy side down on the clay.  (One side of the leaf will have veins that are a little bumpier and more pronounced)

Either the students (or maybe an adult helper, if they are little) cuts the leaf out with a needle tool or a paper clip or tapestry needle.

Remove the excess clay and put the prettiest side of the leaf facing up in a bowl.  Gently press the clay into the bowl, shaping the leaf.

Let dry and remove from the bowl.  Fire – I usually use a clay that is fired 04 to 06.

Let students apply glaze and re-fire.

Some favorite glaze options: Mayco Elements Chunkies, and watercolor underglazes with a clear overglaze.

Students and parents both are always delighted with the end result!  (me too)

John Nieto Inspired Animals

John Nieto is a contemporary Native American artist who paints animals with vibrant colors and bold lines. My students were especially drawn to the use of non-realistic colors.

My students used a similar style to paint animals, reptiles, fish, and insects.

After looking a Nieto’s art, students drew the animal of their choice in pencil on white construction paper.  To achieve the bold, black line work, we used the “Slick” black fabric paint to go over pencil lines.

When the fabric paint dried, students painted the animal with tempera paints – using some realistic colors combined with unexpected, totally unrealistic color choices.  Think violet ladybug.

After this paint dried, students carefully cut the animal out of the white paper, leaving the black outlines.

Students choose a pre-painted background paper that I spray-painted directly on construction paper, creating tonal gradations (ombre effects) in many color combinations.  After the animals were glued down, students added a collage element that showed a part of the background, such as seaweed for a fish or a rock for a lizard.

(This lesson was inspired by a lesson in a School Arts magazine – I think – from several years ago).

Russian Basilicas

This is a great line and pattern lesson for second grade students.  They love to look at architecture, especially from other cultures.

Materials:  Watercolor paper, hand outs with architectural elements, pencils, sharpies, liquid watercolor or (semi moist in pans), brushes, salt, saran wrap, sequins, glitter glue flat backed rhinestones, etc. Resource pictures of Russian onion domed buildings.

Vocabulary: Russian Architecture, Onion Dome, Basilica, Pattern, Embellishment, Flat Wash


  1.  View pictures of Russian architecture, particularly onion-domed buildings.    Students practice drawing these buildings on white scrap paper.  I demonstrate drawing some of the elements.
  2. 2. Students now choose a piece of watercolor paper and use a pencil to draw their Russian buildings, filling the paper and incorporating line and pattern into the overall design.
  3. Students paint the background first, using a wet on wet watercolor wash in cool colors and adding texture by laying crumpled saran wrap on top until dry or adding salt to wet areas.
  4. Next, students paint the buildings, making sure to use a fairly dry brush (for better control of color placement) to add color to the buildings.  I demonstrate jumping around in areas of my paper, not painting next to a wet area.
  5. When the paint is finished drying, students can add embellishments such as glitter glue to highlight patterns and gluing rhinestones and sequins to buildings.

Student Examples: