Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring Shapes! Kindergarten

So ready for spring, right everybody? In my quest to get past these last few gray days of winter, I took to Pinterest to see what kind of spring-spiration I could find. I quickly came upon a blog that I have been drooling over for a few months now and decided it was time to see what the kids could do with the spark of Helen Dardik's work. If you haven't seen her work, please hop on over to Orange You Lucky, where you will find many whimsically colorful designs and illustrations. 

  I thought these were really great for our spring theme, and students found not only springy plants and animals in her work, but also organic shapes and a composition that fills the space. We found primary colors and also mixed them to create new colors, sometimes tinting them with white.

So here were the steps for our two session activity - draw six big organic shapes, paint them with  primary and mixed tempera, add smaller organic shapes to help fill the space. Next, add lots of raindrops in the negative space because rain is such an important part of spring. We used Crayola metallic fx crayons for the raindrops, and also next with the details and patterns. Finally, we traced the largest shapes with colorful sharpie to help them stand out in our full composition. Such a fun project, really effective and engaging with success by all. Thanks again to Helen Dardik and Springtime for inspiring us with lots of fresh ideas!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Scientific Illustration in 5th grade

A scientific illustrator has an important job - to capture nature's forms and details in the most realistic way possible so that others may learn through their work. We see their art in textbooks, museums, and films. Other types of illustrators, like storybook illustrators Ezra Jack Keats or Lane Smith, focus more on the creative side of illustration, using artistic license. My fifth graders really enjoyed the process of creating these symmetrical assemblages using observation from life and interpretation of texture through materials. Inspired by the beautifully realistic sculptures of North Carolina artist Yumi Okita, students drew thumbnails of various insects and selected one for the final work. Okita uses fabrics, wire, and threads to craft her slightly larger than life insects, making it easier to see the details.

Using the folded paper method, our insects came out perfectly symmetrical. We began with a pair of complementary colored papers for contrast, then started building up the shapes and textures using a variety of materials like yarn, fabric, feathers, shiny sticker paper, craft foam, and cotton. Students were really engaged in the process of material selection and finding just the right scrap to fit their needs. The pictures here really don't do justice to the students' work -the variety of textures is really beautiful in person.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blue Willow in 2nd grade

"Two birds flying high,
A chinese vessel, sailing by.
A bridge with three men, sometimes four,
A willow tree, hanging o'er.
A Chinese temple, there it stands,
Built upon the river sands.
An apple tree, with apples on,
A crooked fence to end my song."
This is the poem that describes the Blue Willow pottery design, a china pattern collected around the world that originated in Asia centuries ago and gained popularity in 18th century England. Many designers have created their version of Blue Willow, inspired by the original Chinese blue and white porcelain that was imported into Europe.
Photo from
As part of our Asian art unit, my second graders illustrated the poem on paper plates using blue sharpies, then explored the monochromatic possibilities by mixing tints of blue. We looked at a variety of examples to help us with our designs, and students were encouraged to put their own spin on it. Breaking down the parts and examining them has been fascinating for me and I see a new Blue Willow collection in my kitchen very soon...

I have been posting photos of these plates in progress on Instagram (@smartestartists) and it turns out that several other art teachers are either currently involved in this lesson or are planning it for the near future -  so there has been lots of great feedback. It is great to see how each one is different, yet still fits the classic design. Thanks to Use Your Coloured Pencils for sharing the paper plate idea!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

3rd grade Bridgescapes

After our work with atmospheric perspective in our Birds of Georgia project, we examined another type of perspective with size and placement changes. "Bridges of the world" was our inspiration, and in our thumbnails we practiced horizon line placement and size changes as the bridge moves away from us in space. On our final copies, color choices create a time of day or a feeling of the weather. Blendable oil pastels are a great choice for this step, and I encouraged the kids to be brave and bold with their colors.

My thumbnails page is available on Teachers pay Teachers -

Needle & Thread club update, March 2015

My after-school-clubbers have been quite productive lately and are having lots of fun to boot. Here are some shots of our recent plushy project and our old school potholder weavings:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Celebrating YAM with a TpT sale!

March is Youth Art Month and I am throwing a 20% off sale for the next four days at Teachers pay Teachers -
The sale begins on Thursday, March 5 and runs through Sunday, March 8.

New item alert! I know that many art classes, including mine, begin loom weaving in the spring, so I have cleaned up and updated my weaving handout and uploaded it to my online store. If you need a handout with a little weaving history, vocab, examples, discussion points, and sketching space, check it out! I have all my students keep this weaving handout with their cardboard looms in a large baggie from week to week.