Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pumpkin Paintings inspired by Yayoi Kusama

This project is not only seasonal and fun, but it packs in lots of learning. To begin, we observed small pumpkins and drew thumbnail sketches on our Pumpkin Painting Planning & Reflection Sheets (now available as a FREE download in my Teachers pay Teachers shop).
We also studied the color wheel and selected a complementary(opposite) or an analogous(next to) color scheme and wrote it down on our planning sheet. Mixing colors in our color wheel trays was a fun challenge, and students examined some of Yayoi Kusama's amazing pumpkin art - paintings, sculptures, installations - to see how she creates optical illusions with her rows of large and small dots.

Contour lines complete - stippling, or painting with dots, is next...

Once the dots are complete, we create contrast in the background with neutral colors and geometric shapes, adding emphasis to our bold, bright, organic pumpkin forms. Students answered reflection questions about craftsmanship and artist choices, and finally uploaded them to Artsonia. Beautiful seasonal works and lots of great art learning!


  1. aack! these are fantastic! love all the layers and techniques you are teaching the children. thank you for sharing!

  2. Can you please expand on a few things:
    1) What size and kind of paper did you use?
    2) Acrylic or tempera paint?
    3) How many class periods did it take.
    These are FANTASTIC. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Andrea - We used 9x12" construction paper and liquid tempera paint. If I remember correctly, we spent one 45 minute class looking at her artwork and doing a planning sheet. The second class we painted the pumpkin and started the background shapes with sharpies and colored pencils. the Third week we cut, glued, and did our reflection. I am sure we had a few finishing up the following week as well, but the majority were done in three full 45 minute sessions.

  3. Thank you, I'm going to try this this week with 3rd graders. I have a couple of follow up questions.
    1) Did they sketch the contours in pencil first? Or go directly to paint.
    2) It looks like they did all the contour "painting" and dots in the same session?
    3) In the last session did they cut out their pumpkins and paste them on black sheets that had the geometric drawings?
    4) What did they use for the drawings? Was it silver sharpie or silver color pencils?
    I love this and can't wait to do it. I will be seeing her work in Japan in November!!!!

  4. oops, sorry you answered all my questions. My computer was misbehaving. Thank you!!!! I do have two other questions though.
    1) When you say they had to choose their color scheme, (analogous or complementary), do you mean choosing two colors of paint, or as compared to the color paper they selected.
    2) How many colors of paint were they instructed to use? Two?
    Thanks! (I'm a bit of a nervous new teacher)

    1. Hi Andrea! I had them choose the color scheme first, so both the paper and the paint should coordinate with their chosen color scheme. The colors depended on their choice - complementary is only two, so say blue paper with orange paint, and analogous may have green paper with yellow-green and blue-green paint. Hope that helps!

  5. Hi Hope, I'd love to know what grade these students were, and what tools they used for painting. Did they do the lines of the pumpkins in pencil and then paint over them with a paintbrush? Or use the q-tips to paint the lines? And then did they do dots with brushes or q-tips or both?

    And did the small pumpkins that you bought have those squiggly yellow lines on them or did you paint those on yourself?

    These look great and I would love to try this with 2nd graders.

    Thanks, Patricia

    1. Hi Patricia! I did this with 5th but certainly younger kids could do a simplified version. We drew with pencil, painted over with brushes and stamped with pencil erasers. The artificial pumpkins came with those texture-y designs on them. Good luck making your pumpkins!


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