Layered Pastel Leaves

You can show students how to overlap leaves and blend colors with oil pastels, and have very lovely picture as the result. 1. I tend to think of the maple leaf as the classic fall shape, and made templates out of chip board with the stem left off. Give each student one leaf and ask them … Read More

Draw the Mayflower

I drew this Mayflower ship with my students last fall and was happy to see so many make beautifully detailed ships. Try drawing on kraft paper from the scrapbook dept. at Michaels and those sails just pop off the page. • View and download Mayflower Tutorial

Gilded Halloween Portrait

I found a great book simply called “Halloween” by Joanne O’Sullivan, which has a ton of creative ideas. This is an adaptation of a portrait project, which I am including in an after-school class next month. 1. I started with one of those super-inexpensive unfinished frames from Michael’s. had some iron-on appliques in my stash of … Read More

Maple Leaf Drawing

Today I combined two past projects – how to draw a maple leaf and making a batik-looking watercolor and crayon drawing. The key is to use cheap copy paper. Strange as it sounds, good drawing paper doesn’t work nearly as well. 1.  I showed students how to draw a leaf, as shown in my Maple Leaf … Read More

Funky Witch Feet

Another idea that originated from stock Halloween illustrations. I think it offers some colorful seasonal fun, and some good symmetrical drawing practice too with those curvy, funky boots. 1. Students start drawing the boots in very simple steps. For instance, two centered lines for the backs of the boots, then the right and left heel, then … Read More

Make a Paper Pumpkin

This project turned out to be a very quick and easy way to make a 3D shape out of strips of paper. 1. I used orange construction paper in the standard 9″x12″ size, and then used a paper cutter to make a pile of orange strips that were 1″ wide by 12″ tall. The students were … Read More

Contour Fall Leaves

Contour drawings are made with just lines, which also add a bit of visual energy to this picture. • View and download line drawings of Leaves 1. I started by printing out my sheet of leaf line drawings. Give the students one print of these leaves, and one matching-size blank paper. Have the students trace several … Read More

Day of the Dead Drawing

Day of the Dead is also known as All Souls Day, and is celebrated in Mexico to pray for and remember friends and family members that have passed away. PREP: Print out a skull template, which you can download HERE. 1. Students fold the printed skull paper, and cut on the solid lines. The eyes and … Read More

Tree Silhouette

I was inspired for this project by a stock art illustration. I really like how it turned out as it lets students focus on how detailed tree shapes can be. And it makes a good Halloween project too. 1. Give the students a 9″ x 12″ piece of watercolor paper, and some yellow and blue watercolor … Read More

Draw a Haunted House

I love all the creative possibilities of Halloween. Students can practice their architectural drawing while changing just a few elements to make their houses spooky. 1. You could begin with a discussion of what so-called haunted houses have in common: they are usually old, have lots of add-ons, broken windows, and a generally dark palate. 2. … Read More

Batik Crayon Pumpkins

Batik is a resist-dyeing process that originated in Indonesia. Children can simulate the look with crayons and watercolor. 1. Show the students how to draw overlapping circles to start their pumpkin picture. Stems are added near the top, and lines that radiate out curve down to the bottom. When complete, the drawing is traced with a … Read More

Ceramic Pumpkins

This project comes from Ellen at Clayworks Studio. It’s basically making two pinch pots and blending them together. My kids grade 3-5 loved making these and the success rate was very high. 1. Give each student a piece of clay about the size of a small apple. Instruct them to remove a small piece for the … Read More

Plastic Bag Mache Pumpkin

This pumpkin is made from about 40 plastic grocery bags, some Saran wrap, 3 rubber bands, newspaper, paper towel and mache, topped off with a beautiful new orange glitter paint I found at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I’m so excited to have found this beautiful way to recycle plastic grocery bags. Plastic Bag Pumpkin Tutorial 1. Collect about … Read More

Vegetable Garden Watercolor Painting

I found this idea for painting vegetables over at If anyone would like to take credit for creating it, please let me know. I’ve painted plant roots before, but never colorful vegetables – it’s a great idea. 1. On watercolor paper, students draw in pencil a horizontal line across the middle of the page. They … Read More

Color Pattern Leaves

This is a good exercise for developing small motor skills. 1. Student traced at least two of their favorite leaf templates on a tabloid sheet of paper. Veins were added to divide the leaf up into large sections. 2. All their lines were traced with a black marker. Within each leaf shape, students drew a pattern … Read More

Doodle Summer Self Portrait

I like to have my first art project of the year somehow acknowledge all that has happened over the summer. I’m going to try a doodle self-portrait and ask students to tell their summer story with just visual cues; i.e. a bracelet made in camp, mosquito bite from the lake, etc. I hope the loose style … Read More

Back to School Decorated Pencils

Here’s one quick way for your kids to get creative and personalize their back-to-school pencils. I just pulled out my handy-dandy stash of Sharpies and tried a few different looks: animal skin, flowers and stripes. I’m sure kids could think of many more. Fish scales? Reptile skin?… 1. You may have read on my “Favorite Supplies” … Read More

Close Crop Portrait

One way to simplify portrait drawing is to start with a large U instead of an oval. 1. Start with a square drawing paper. With a pencil, follow the steps shown in the diagram to the right. Remind students that our eyes are located in the middle of our heads, but because of this cropping, they … Read More

Cut and Tear Cityscape Collage

This comes from “The Usborne Book of Art Skills” which has a ton of great art ideas. 1. Begin with a description of neutral colors, which are the only ones used in this collage. Give the studentsa 9″ x 12″ sheet of white paper and several of neutral construction paper (black, brown, tan, gray, etc.) I … Read More

Soup Can Paper Mache Owl

During my visit to Art Creation Foundation for Children in Haiti, I was overwhelmed by the quality of paper mache art that the children had made. My favorite purchase was this owl (above right) that I’m told is painted with voodoo patterns. While I love the detail of it, I decided to see if I could … Read More

Doodle Lettering

There are some really cool new paper-like products out these days. I found YUPO at, which looks like vellum but feels like plastic. It’s great to paint on or trace with markers. 1. Students draw large stick letters for their name on copy paper, and then trace around those lines to make block letters. The … Read More

Back To School Self Portraits

I’d been exploring ideas for a back-to-school project combining art with story telling much like a popular art journal technique, in larger scale. This project which combines a self portrait with a composition about the students summer experience has become popular with the kids and their teachers. • View and download Body Template 1. Students draw … Read More

Beans in a CD Case Experiment

A friend suggested this idea of growing beans in a CD case, and I loved it immediately! Think of it as the world’s skinniest terrarium. My experiment is to see how long the plant can grow in this narrow environment. So far, so good, with wet potting mix soil, 3 seeds and a fat clear CD … Read More

Overlapping Rings

posted in: 3rd Grade, 4th Grade | 11

This can be a great exercise for drawing overlapping shapes. Use new rolls of masking tape for tracing – they are easy to hold and grip the paper. 1. Starting with a large sheet of drawing paper (I recommend 12″ x 18″) have each student draw many rings by tracing both sides of a masking tape … Read More

Art Trading Cards

Art Trading Cards, also known as ATC’s, have been popping up everywhere as a means to create small-scale art that can easily be collected and traded. 1. Purchase many packets of 2.75″ x 3.75″ plastic trading card sleeves for each student. They generally cost just a penny each. Provide lots of construction paper that is already … Read More

Toucan Painting

When young students are just learning how to paint, large size paper really helps allow for more freedom of movement. 1. Starting with approx. 18″ x 24″ drawing paper, students draw the bird body, beak and legs. A branch is added below 2. All of the drawing lines are traced with a thick black permanent marker. … Read More

Batik Baskets

One way to give any crayon piece of art an aged look is to crinkle it up in your hands, smooth it out, and paint over with watercolor. The paint goes in the cracks and makes a pseudo-batik look. 1. I gave students paper with the outline of a basket shape already in place so they … Read More

Paper Mache Bowl

Paper-mache projects can work really well with any upcoming Earth Day themes. My favorite recipe for the mache is included below. 1. Tape a balloon to a heavy bowl so that is doesn’t move. Apply strips of newspaper covered in mache in both directions. Apply 2 – 3 layers. Allow to dry for several days. 2. … Read More

How to Draw City Buildings

The very first lesson in perspective is learning to draw depth. This is basically turning squares into cubes, and making a city skyline.  1. It’s very helpful for the students to draw on paper that has light grid lines already on it. I made my own, but you could go to Free Online Graph Paper and … Read More

Keith Haring Drawing

Keith Haring was one of the first artists to mix street art with the world of high art back in the 1980s. He got his start by decorating billboards in New York subway stations. 1. I had some drawing manikins that I inherited from a previous teacher, and figured out how to remove the base and … Read More

Fruity People Collage

One CA Visual Art Standard centers around how to create feelings with one’s own artwork. This book “How Are You Peeling?” is full of some very creative photographs of fruit and vegetables, all made to reflect a wide variety of emotions. Reading it first helps to make connections that certain shapes can look a lot like … Read More

CD Case Diorama

Here’s one more recycle project – using a CD case, cardboard boxes, and dried beans. 1. Collect clean cardboard packages, such as those used for cereal, crackers, pencils and markers. Open them up and cut out simple vehicle shapes, along with mountains, trees and sun. 2. Glue a small amount of dried beans to the inside … Read More

Rainbow Painting

This project offers students a chance to practice either wet-on-wet or dry brush watercolor painting. I used both for my sample.  1. I had the students paint without the aid of a pencil outline. They began by painting the grass across the bottom of the sheet. 2. Students who preferred the wet-on-wet rainbow painted the red arc, then orange, yellow, green, blue and … Read More

Baby Plant Craft

A parent recently donated a LOT of baby food jars, so I’ve been playing around with some different ideas. This comes purely from supplies that were on hand: peat moss, grass seed, and white paint marker. I wrote a simple message so the roots could still be seen, but a row of clear grassy jars would … Read More

Grocery Bag Paper Chain

Paper chain art seems to be most commonly associated with gum wrappers, as was popular in the 1960s. I’ve found that the process of folding and linking paper chains to be extremely successful and satisfying for students as young as 2nd graders. The sample shown here is made from a Trader Joe’s grocery bag, cut into … Read More

Fun with William Wegman

William Wegman is a photographer famous for his compositions with his Weimaraner dogs. His fascination with humanizing his animals has created hundreds of amazing videos and photographs. I like his book shown here as it shows the dogs in many everyday poses. 1. Print Dog Head template and gave each student a strip that contains 4 … Read More

Bleach Pen Jeans

There seems to be lots of decorative art in fashion these days (think peasant / ethnic wear) and this is a good way to imitate that look without using a single needle or thread. 1. As part of a weekend class, I had students bring in an old pair of jeans. They first planned their decoration … Read More

La Boca House Collage

La Boca is a neighborhood, or barrio of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires and is a popular destination because of its colorful houses. Looking at lots of photos of these amazing buildings is a good way to start this project. 1. I discovered these really cool Fiskar paper crimpers at JoAnn Fabrics, and brought several to … Read More

Simple Starry Night

I like having students make their own simplified version of famous paintings, which can encourage their appreciation of the original. 1. View Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, and discuss the composition; the foreground tree, the middle ground hills, and the background stars. 2. On a 12″ x 9″ turquoise paper, have the students draw their own simple … Read More

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