Apr 6, 2014

Choice Patterns

These patterns, made from complimentary colours plus black and white, were all made by Year 1 students.

Step one in the process: divide the paper in half with a single painted black line. Each child chose whether to halve their paper horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

Step two: paint intersecting straight lines on one half of the paper, and intersecting curved lines on the other side (as many lines as the students wanted, still in black).

Once these were dry...

Step three: choose a colourway from three given combinations (blue & orange, red & green, or purple & yellow). The combinations are all complimentary colours — those which are opposite each other on the colour wheel. Students then painted some (but not all) of the resulting shapes with these two colours.

As often as possible I try to plan for students to make some conscious decisions in their art making. Even though the time and resource constraints of the school setting mean that these options are not often left wide open, they still help to foster ownership and enthusiasm from the children and mean that there is more variety in the resulting art. Every child was asked to make two deliberate choices within this process (how to halve their paper, and which colour combination to use).

The first image above includes all of the students' work. Below are four that you can see a little closer (click on the image to see them bigger again). I know that simple graphic patterns won't be everyone's "cup of tea" — but I love them!

Feb 28, 2014

10 min Kandinsky

It's nice to have some meaningful but quick and easy art lessons up your sleeve. Here we imitated Kandinsky's famous "circle" art using a simple computer paint program. Small disclaimer: there's no guarantee it will take 10 minutes! It could take a little less or lots more depending on all the usual variables... But I can say that of the multiple students I tried this lesson with (ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old), they were all really engaged.

I briefly introduced the students to Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky and his Farbstudie Quadrate work from 1913. There's a small photo of Kandinsky and his original art at the bottom of this post. Using the computer paint program the students then made their own concentric shape patterns. The grid of circles above is the combined results of a year 2 class. Each child was responsible for one square in the matrix, pasted collectively here for your viewing pleasure! Immediately below is a collection of other shapes used by year 2.

The next collection (below) is by year 4 students. Click on the image to see all the nuances up close. I originally intended for all the year 4 students to make a grid of four concentric shapes, but had a bit of a brain freeze and asked some classes to make a grid of 4 and others a grid of 6... however with a bit of extra effort I still managed to stick them altogether in a rectangular shape : ) Down the track I'll post work from year 1, 3, 5 and 6 as well. 

Below is one student's example of what I'd intended for all of year 4 to create (all of year 3 and some of year 4 made these). Year 1 and 2 all created a single shape.

And below is a great example of a year 4 grid of six. All students in years 5 and 6 made grids of six.

And last (but not least), here's Wassily Kandinsky and the original work that inspired this lesson.

Jan 25, 2014

Black Trees

These year 2 students painted their black trees (silhouettes) straight on the paper without pencil planning first. They also painted from their own mind, realistic or stylised, whatever they preferred. I did  a few sketches on the board, but there were no photos or artworks to copy (partly because I didn't have any on hand, but also because it's good for them to come up with their own shapes).

They were asked to touch all four edges of the page with their tree. Later in the day they returned and filled in the spaces with colours, again whichever and wherever they wanted. The effect is a bit like stained glass. Probably a little similar to the last post… The chance for this lesson came up on the day and it happened as I thought of it! But I'm sure I've previously seen similar lessons online, here's one by Marcia from Art Is Basic.

Dec 14, 2013


This colourful artwork was made collaboratively by students from kindergarten to year 6. The children's feet were traced repeatedly until they covered the surface with overlapping shapes. Students from year 5 and 6 then used watercolour paint to colour the various resulting shapes. How many feet can you see?

Footsteps was inspired by their library theme of Empathy. The students were encouraged to practise "walking in another person's shoes". Imagining and trying to understand the experiences and feelings of others is a great life skill for all of us.

Fibre pen and watercolour on six cardboard panels.

Nov 3, 2013

Paper Cut Patterns

Paper cut patterns from way back at the start of the year with year 4. I've been holding off posting them because I've posted this lesson a few times already during this blog's short life! Simple and effective = great for casual teaching days... and I think the results definitely speak for themselves : ) The previous examples are here, here and here

Oct 13, 2013

Art by Mr Hall

Musical rather than visual art, and it's not just by me but also my wife and two good friends who formed our second band The Mandelas. XYZ is a short bit of fun with the back end of the alphabet, maybe you can use it to inspire an art lesson with your students?

Sep 15, 2013

Mosaic Landscapes

Very intricate, very laborious but very rewarding art. They are (painted) paper mosaic landscapes courtesy of year 5 and 6. Most of the scenes depicted are directly inspired by landscape photographs, some are a fusion of different photos and a few are entirely imagined. Islands and icebergs, mountains and rivers, rocks, roads, oceans, jetties and sunsets—there's a great variety of scenery, and as with all good landscape art, it's very easy to stop and stare at these beautiful natural environments. 

The first and probably most enjoyable part of the process was painting all the paper. We gathered a tonne of scrap paper (just regular old copy paper) and went a bit wild with the paint, making numerous colour mixes, tints and shades. The unprinted side of each A4 sheet was quickly painted one colour, then the mix was tweaked (darker or lighter or greener etc) and another full sheet was painted. And so the process continued until virtually every flat surface in the room was covered in dozens and dozens of differently coloured pieces of drying paper. Once dry, the paper was flattened underneath a pile of atlases (proving that a printed map is still more useful than a GPS!). The speed of the painting also left lots of visible brushstrokes, which made for a very textural look on the mosaics.

The students then made planning sketches based on a series of landscape photos that I showed them. I had a quick conference with each student and made sure that they had a strong composition that was distilled down to the basic shapes and free of overly intricate details (e.g. just foreground, mountain, sky etc). They also wrote down the colours they intended to use in each area. 

Next they very lightly drew in some guide lines on their good piece of art paper. Finally they began the laborious task of blocking in each segment of their landscape by cutting and pasting down pieces of the paper we had painted previously. As well as deciding exactly where to place all those great colours, other goals included gluing each piece of paper so it didn't touch its neighbour, and also to rub out the pencil guides before they were immortalised in glue!

This cutting and pasting part of the process was quite taxing on their patience and admittedly the enthusiasm had waned for a few students towards the end... Hopefully it was patience-promoting rather than patience-demanding. It took around 5 weeks to complete and made for a fantastic class display at their school art show. Well done any 5/6 students who are reading this : ) I think that may be the first time I've used the word fantastic on this blog! 

Aug 25, 2013

Primary Colour Gradients II

These primary colour gradients were painted by year 5 and 6 students. The process is simple but the results are striking. This is a slight variation on my original more detailed Primary Colour Gradient lesson. To read about the process involved please take a peek here.

This time around I supplied the students with cardboard shape tracers to cut out their chosen shape before sticking it onto the background gradient. Last time every child used a circle, but I realised that the results would be improved with more variation. What do you think?

Aug 11, 2013

Excellent Art!

As you can see Umina Public School is having an art show next weekend. It will be grand I'm sure, if you're in the area please pop in. My talented wife designed the above image as part of the advertising. 

I'm teaching at Umina for the rest of the school year and have recently been lucky enough to work with one talented 5/6 class on their art-show entries. They've made some mesmerising paper landscape mosaics. I will post photos soon. I've been lagging behind in my blogging but I hope to be back to my weekly routine before long.

Jul 7, 2013

Value Scapes

I'm often surprised that some lessons are very popular with visitors to my site while other ideas that I thought might resonate with a wide audience have a lot less people viewing them. Perhaps "good" art lessons and ideas are just like "good art" in general - very subjective. That's fine though, art wouldn't be what it is without this innate characteristic. Anyway enough rambling... I was a bit surprised to see 10min Value Landscapes very quickly become my all time most popular post. I hindsight it may have something to do with teachers wanting to avoid messy painting clean-ups!

Here are a small selection of "value-scapes" a year 6 class created in computer class earlier in the year. They viewed the aforementioned post and I asked if they could see a way to extend the initial idea or put a new twist on it. In a break from tradition I've just posted a few that stood out for me.