Color Wheels need not be a Circle!

IMG_0311Young artists were offered the challenge of designing and creating a color wheel that was anything but a wheel. View a few of the selected images below or click here to learn more about the process behind their unique creations.


Before embarking on our primary, secondary and tertiary journey, we gathered together to arrange color swatches in the formation of a colored wheel.

color swatches

I have a large collection color swatches that were painted with colors mixed by students of past years. I also like to grab them from local paint stores.


Have a colorful day!

What’s in a Name?


In the beginning of the school year, students have to create portfolios to act as folders for their art and as placeholders for their seat during class.


Of course, our portfolio must have our name, in large bold letters, written across the front. Natural materials work well for older students who have a stronger ability to tap into their imagination in an abstract way.


Younger students work well with pre cut lines that help them to form letters in a more concrete and clear way. I cut lines of various colors in curves big and small and straight lines, tall and short.


You can spot a more advanced ability when students illustrate a clever attempt at forming the letters of their name. The two images above were created using glue under the letters and also above for a sealed finish. The images at the beginning of the post created with natural materials were photographed then printed out and collaged to each student’s portfolio.

Hues, Tints and James Turrell


To jump start a painting unit, I had students explore hue and tints via concentric circle paintings. I wanted them to understand the difference between a hue and a tint, so we first mixed a hue using primary colors, then added the color to a pile of white a little at a time.



Each time, we painted a ring, and soon it grew and ended at the outer edge of the page with the original hue.




I showed these works to a colleague and they immediately screamed “James Turrell”. He had to be subconsciously in my mind when I devised this activity as I did not create this lesson idea with his work in mind. It is amazing, this brain of ours. I am grateful for it!


Understanding Symmetry with Rangoli

Happy Diwali Everyone!


Nature can inspire assemblages that teach symmetry, design and promote cultural awareness. Rangoli is made during Diwali, the festival of lights, with colored sands and glitter. In the art studio recently, we used nature. The leaf colors this time of year are divine!


A strong art historical connection can be found in sharing photographs of Andy Goldsworthy. His work can trigger our imaginative brain and help us to understand the immense beauty of the natural world around us.


Materials for creating self-portraits

An integration with mathematics, students measure the parts of their party, divide by 2 and use collected data to create a miniature version of themselves in a self-portrait.

First collage, then drawing…


Students first create collages of humans using simple geometric shapes. They then draw their collage and use details to enhance their art.






First painting, then collage…



Students use the primary colors, white and brown to mix the shade of their skin tone. Great text “The colors of us” by Karen Katz.



They then cut out their head, neck and shoulders from the painted papers and use colored papers to cut facial features, clothing and hair.

A focus on line and shape with pencil



And then a transition into watercolor



What medium do you enjoy working in for exploring the self-portrait?




Art/Science: Fossil Study

fossil study spreadIt is important for students to understand how artists and scientists share many work habits, one of which is utilizing the page as a “study” for multiple observational sketches.


While learning about fossil formation in Science, students study ammonites and trilobites in the art studio and record their lines, shapes and pattern using brown and black inks.

IMG_0252Using concentrated inks, students first notice the linear patterns and shape and create a contour drawing of their subjects. They create studies by working over and over again on the same page to truly understand the objects. Visit more about the benefits of observational drawings here.

Students mix different tones of their ink choice and incorporate them into their contour drawing to add value and make it stand out from their background.


Young artists need to know that a work of art need not be a single, majestic piece.  It is healthy, and imperative to our growth as artists, to loosen up and create multiple versions of something until we feel comfortable using our hands.

Romare Bearden Inspired Collage

“Take Harlems heartbeat, make a drumbeat.
Put it on a record, let it whirl!”
-Langston Hughes



Visit an informative and fun interactive site at MetMedia. Listen to the sounds that inspired Romare, discover the hip artists he grew up around.

We were first introduced to Romare Bearden through a picture book inspired by his life titled “Me and Uncle Romie” by Claire Hartfield. “The Block” is also a rich text that poetically places the collages of Romare Bearden alongside poems by Langston Hughes. I read aloud the poetry to students or have them perform it for the class, then ask them to search for visuals  within his mural sized collage that illustrate the terms, sounds and visuals they hear.

Students utilized their knowledge of paper collage to construct a selection of urban buildings. These were then collaged to a colored background and accordion folded for a 3-D effect.


Writing poetry about urban experiences would be a great way to incorporate literacy into this rich art making experience and bring it full circle in connection with the era in which Romare lived and prospered as an artist.

Art of Africa

Works of art can tell us a lot about the values of a culture, their beliefs and customs.

observational ink drawings of African masks

We can undertand a whole lot more about an object when we are given the opportunity to look at it closely. Observational drawing is always a successful activity in achieving this goal of deeper understanding. When we draw from life, are brains work at seeing with a different perspective. We begin to notice things that we were not aware of before. Taking our time, and maintaining our curiosity, we begin to understand what it means to truly “see”.

After learning more about the lines, shapes and composition of these African masks, students assembled their own personal masks using recycled objects that offered them interesting shapes and textures.

They first went “shopping” and explored different assemblages that held facial characteristics, then made it complete over a cardboard base.

Neutral colored tones were mixed and used to embellish the surface of their masks. Raffia and burlap were optionally added for additional texture.

Artfully Yours,

Winter Landscapes

Have you ever noticed the night sky during a winter’s snowfall? It is a stunning mixture of purple, magenta and blue. First grade artists created winter landscapes using these colors to illustrate the beauty of the winter sky.

We learned about the art of Barron Krody, a local Long Island landscape painter who paints on an orange background. Why? Because painting on a background that compliments the top layer of paint helps make the colors really POP! and catches the viewers eye.

First grade artists began by mixing a periwinkle blue for the foreground of snow in their landscape. They then added a bit of magenta which changed the blue into a purple and painted the sky over the ground covering the entire sheet of orange colored paper.

During the next art class, students learned about the branching patterns found in trees. We discovered that every tree starts off with one strong base: the trunk, and then branches out and up into many smaller parts. Every part of the tree, no matter how small or thin, can be traced back to its core, the trunk. Students tore brown paper into strips of various lengths and widths and collaged them in branching patterns over their painted background to form a landscape of bare, winter trees.

Some students choose to illustrate depth of field by collaging smaller trees in the background, making them seem far off in the distance.

Others incorporated glitter to help illustrate a snow storm in action.

Some students were eager to collage the infamous winter art form: Snowmen and Snowomen!

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! (just a little)

People in Collage

It is beneficial to allow students to explore an art medium before giving them a thematic goal or asking them to work with a specific content. After a collage exploration (which can last for one class or more) and a lesson focused on creating a shape collage, students will be ready to connect shapes to make people, animals, etc.  My good old saying is: “Lines connect to make shapes and shapes connect to make ANYTHING you want!”

Never underestimate the power of knowledge.  I believe that if there is enough exploration of the materials, and a clear, engaging and fun motivation, each student in their personal developmental stage will thrive with a challenge!

Motivation: We review how we cut shapes; flat and pointy shapes and curvy shapes. I describe and speak about them in categories: Shapes we all know and Shapes we invent. Today we are going to use shapes we all know and some of our own invented shapes to make people. I ask the class: “What shape do you know that we could use for a body? A head? Legs? Arms?” We build a person together. Then we invent some shapes. How about a fancy shoe shape? A dress shape? A hat shape?  They LOVE it!  They realize the possibilities are endless! And they are empowered to create and invent. I also talk about the smaller facial features.  Do the eyes have to be a perfect circle? No! We are practicing. We try our best, and if our eyes look like triangles, that is okay! The results amaze me every time! I arrange the shapes on a background and discuss how we should “Always Play First” by arranging our shapes on the page without gluing right away.

Lesson Development: Review how to cut flat and pointy shapes and curvy shapes. Review how to talk to our scissors like a pencil (view shape collage).  Remember our scissors can draw for us! You will hear children ask if they can use a pencil or marker to draw in the small parts; I just remind them that their scissors can do it. They try and try again, and become so proud to accomplish something they thought would be impossible.  Their joy and pride in creating their own person in collage is enough to have you beam with joy!

Materials: background paper of your choice no larger than 8 1/2 x 11in (I use an 8×8 square), cut paper shapes in various sizes and colors (I use fadeless paper because it comes in a variety of shades for each hue), glue jars, glue brushes, scissors.

Reflection: The children are so proud to share their collages with one another.  In a circle we look at each collage, and we discuss at what shapes we see.  Then the artist can share something special about their person.

Mondrian Inspired Assemblage

Piet Mondrian was inspired by music. He loved Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and dancing, and was motivated to express his love through art with color and shape, movement and rhythm. Inspired by Broadway Boogie Woogie, this art experience offers students the opportunity to listen to the music that inspired Piet and, by tapping into a kinesthic awareness, create a work of art using color and shape with actual wooden shapes.

Motivation: Introduce Broadway Boogie Woogie and discuss the color, shapes and movement found in this work of art. After informing students of Piets love of New York City, Jazz and Boogie Woogie music, play this musical piece and have students make connections between the beat patterns in the music and the movement and patterns made my color and shape in his art.

Lesson Development: Students select various wooden shapes and assemble them in a design/pattern that expresses the movement and rhythm of the musical piece. Liquid watercolors are used to stain the shapes with a limited palette to set a tone or mood with color. Tacky or wood glue is used to affix the shapes and design to a plywood base that is stained as well. I had every student use black to create continuity between individual pieces.

Materials: wood shapes, liquid watercolor, tacky or wood glue. Reproduction of Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian.

Skill Level: First Grade and up