Camouflage Hands

At a school I was teaching at, I had been teaching Grade 2's for about a month or so when I was also given a grade 4/5 split class to teach art to. I had many idea's of projects to start with, but the one that stuck out to me was this one. I knew I would be taking a risk with it, since I had no idea how this group of kids operated and how they would react to it, but I also figured it was a project to catch their attention right off the bat. I'm glad it ended up being the former!

*This is a great project to adapt to Junior High, and also to include technology since the work of art in end is a digital photograph. You could take this project one step further, and have the students alter the images in a computer program.

A few days before you are about to do the project, you need to tell the students to go to the library, or go home and research on their computer, to find pictures of plants or animal patterns close up. They all looked at me like I was crazy, so I gave them suggestions like a zebra's stripes, cheetah's spots, the veins of a leaf, etc. The grade 4's were doing a science unit on plants and photosynthesis, so this is a good art project to coincide with that.

Materials you should have ready to start:
  • - 11x17 white paper for each student
  • - various colors of tempera paint for each group of students
  • - paintbrushes for each student
  • - buckets of water for each group
  • - digital camera
  • - newspaper
We moved the students desks into groups of 4 so it was easier to share paints and put down newspapers on the desks. I also assumed some students were going to forget a picture of a pattern in nature, so I had a bunch of pictures ready. Students are to begin drawing out their pattern in pencil on their large sheet of white paper. They had to raise their hand and have me approve it to move on to painting. Once they were painting, they had to paint the ENTIRE sheet of paper right to the edges leaving no white spaces. This whole process took about a 1 hour class, and I stopped at this point because you need the students patterns to be dry. Some students weren't finished painting, so I had them come in at noon the next day, so they were caught up to everyone by the time we started the next class.

The next class is the fun one!! The students begin with their painted animal/plant pattern on the desk in front of them. They then place their left hand (non-dominant hand) on the pattern. I came around and approved the placement, because I wanted it to be complicated enough for the students to actually have something to paint. Once their placement was approved, it's time to begin painting! Students are to paint the pattern on to their hand with tempera paint....the pattern should continue exactly how it would be underneath the hand. The end goal is to camouflage it, so we can't tell where the hand is. The students LOVE this part!

When the students are done painting the pattern on their hand, they had to raise their hand (not the one that has been painted!) and wait for me to get to them. The work of art will be a digital photo of their camouflaged hand, so I came around and took a picture of them.

This is such a fun project for the kids. They love being able to paint on their hands and not get in trouble for it. I had students who told me they hated art on the first day, and it was a really tough go getting them to even draw and paint the pattern in the first place. By the 2nd class when they got to paint on their hand, they were excited from then on to come into my art class! One kid who was a self-proclaimed art hater, later told me it was now his favorite class! Go-figure.

I took all the photo's to Staples and had them printed on 8x10 in color. We hung them in the hall, and other students from other classes were jealous and asking the grade 4/5's if they really got to paint on their hands?! Parents loved these also, and I had a few tell me they were going to frame the art. Here are the beautiful finished results:

Cubist Music

Alright...onto some High School stuff.

I LOVE Cubism, and have explored it within my own art extensively. I introduced this project to grade 11 and 12's, so they too could explore Cubism. I began by showing the work of Pablo Picasso.

Girl with a Mandolin

The Accordionist

Ma Jolie (Woman with a Guitar)

We looked at how he broke up the plane with facets of light and shadow and color. We also noticed that music was a theme to a lot of pieces.

I set up a still life with a guitar and other instruments. Students were to use multi-media: pastels, pencil crayon, graphite, charcoal, etc., as well as a collage element. They could use any combination of media as long as they used 2-3 mediums and collage. We brainstormed collage elements, and some included music sheets, newspaper, guitar strings, etc.

Armed with a pencil and a ruler, students sat around the still life to get a good composition. From there they decided the mediums they wanted to work in and worked independently and the results were great.

These are some cubist drawings of my own, that I also showed my students:

Showing students your work may or may not be a good idea. Depending on the group of students it might really inspire them....or it may make them think more limited, and just make the kind of art you have shown them.

Edible Color Wheel

Are you ready for my all-time favorite art project ever?! I promise you your young elementary school kids will love you forever. What could be better than having fun while learning, making art and then eating your art project afterwards? 'Nuff said.

This project, while ridiculously fun for the kids, really needs planning and forethought on your part for things to move along smoothly. It's okay....I gotcha covered. It will take approximately 1 1/2 hours. I did it at the end of the day, so the last few minutes of class before the kids went home were spent munching on their creation.

You are going to want to purchase these:
  • - dixie cups
  • - fat popsicle sticks
  • - a box of arrowroot cookies
  • - 2 packages of food coloring
  • - Approximately 3-4 containers of vanilla icing (I used "whipped" and it worked well)
  • - small styrofoam plates
  • - A color wheel-cookie mat for each group
This is what the color wheel-cookie mat looks like, and you can whip it up on the computer in Paint in about 3 minutes:

Just print them off on 11x17 paper.

Choose partners for your kids beforehand. I did this project with 25 grade 2's and I didn't want fighting or whining or anything...just fun! So I wrote down a list of kids I thought would work well together in partners. I also needed to put these partners in a decide which groups of two can become a successful group of 4.

I then took 3 dixie cups for each group, and placed a substantial amount of white icing in the cup...I think I basically filled it up. They need enough icing to ice their cookies as well as mix to make other colors and ice those cookies. Take your food coloring and turn the white globs of icing into red, blue and yellow. Use quite a bit of coloring so you have true vibrant colors (not pink, instead of red). Place a popsicle stick in each cup. I had already arranged the desks into groups of 4, so while the kids are out of the classroom (recess, gym, or'll definitely need set up time) place a red, blue and yellow cup of icing into the middle of each group. Also place 10 dixie cups and 10 popsicle sticks in the middle as well. Take the arrowroot cookies, which should be shaped like ovals, and break them in half. Place 26 cookies on a paper plate and set that in the middle of the group as well (you could also make this easier and just buy vanilla wafers which are already round....the arrowroots are cheaper though). I covered this up, so once the kids got back in from recess they weren't tempted to stick their fingers in and start playing with it. I also wrote "DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING ON YOUR DESKS" on the board, so when they came in they knew the rules.

The kids came into the classroom with excitement and anticipation as to what could possibly be happening during our art class. They respected the rule on the board and no one touched anything.

I moved the kids into their partners and groups, so that everything was ready to go. Each set of partners needs a color wheel-cookie mat. The partners are working together to complete the color wheel, but sharing icing as a group.

Now for the instructions and rules. I explained that we were going to learn about the color wheel and what colors mixed together to make other colors. Every time we mix a color together, we are going to spread icing on a cookie (*the kids faces lit up!)

  • No eating until the very end. (I explained that if they ate a cookie then they wouldn't have enough to finish the project, and that I would be taking a picture of the completed wheel at the end so they needed all iced cookies present!)

  • No licking icing off your fingers. (This is meant to stop kids from dipping their fingers in and stealing icing. Their hands will get a little messy though, so if they licked to get rid of it I didn't mind. I was just trying to deter the icing stealers :)

  • You can only mix icing when I call your number (I'll get to that later).

  • You must take turns icing the cookies in your partners.
Once the kids understand the rules you are ready to proceed. Now for the number business...I wanted kids to take turns in an orderly fashion, and whenever I number kids off, inevitably I hear "I forget what number I am!" "She's going on 2 and her number is 4!!" To avoid this, I took a crayola washable marker and numbered everyone in the group 1 - 4 by writing the number on the back of their hand (They can't say they don't know what number they are!)

We are (finally) ready to begin! I asked if students knew the primary colors. Once the answers were offered I wrote it on the board. I told the students that one of the partners should take red and ice a cookie and place it at the top of the wheel. The other partner should ice a cookie yellow and place it at the bottom right hand corner of the triangle, and the person who iced red, should now ice a blue cookie and place it at the bottom left hand corner.

I had one of the paper color wheel-cookie mats taped to the board, and I was coloring in the appropriate circles with the appropriate colors to show the students where to place them. I continued to do this for the rest of the lesson.

Now we are onto secondary colors. These are made by mixing two primary colors together. I asked the students if anybody knew what color we would get if we mixed together red and yellow? It was funny because I had one eager kid put up his hand and say excitedly "GREEN!" I told all the #1's to take a clean dixie cup and place a large dollop of red into their cup and the same amount of yellow into the cup and mix it together with a clean popsicle stick. Once they saw what color it was turning when they started mixing, I heard a few excited "it's turning orange!"

Have the partner who iced the yellow cookie (the partners should be alternating back and forth who are icing the cookies) ice this one and place it in between the yellow and red cookie. The #2's should take a clean cup and a large dollop of yellow and a large dollop of blue (I had the students continue to predict what color we would end up with) mix it together and ice a cookie and place it in between yellow and blue. Once this is done and placed on the mat, the #3's should do the same with red and blue, and place it in the appropriate spot on the mat.

*I should note that I didn't let any of the partners or groups get ahead. The whole class mixed up colors, iced the cookie, and placed it on the mat at the same time. We didn't move forward until all the groups were ready.

Now we are onto tertiary colors. These are made by mixing together one primary color and one secondary color. All The #4's need to mix the same amount of red and orange together in a clean cup with a clean popsicle stick. What is this color called? (red-orange). Ice a cookie and place it between red and orange. From here the colors obviously get pretty predictable about what color they turn into and what goes where. Here is the order in which they should be iced:
#1's - orange + yellow
#2's - green + yellow
#3's - blue + green
#4's - blue + purple
#1's - purple + red

Now for the very last cookie. The #2's are going to take a little bit of icing from all the colors and mix it together in the last clean cup. What color do you think we will end up with??

It ends up being a brownish cream or gray (depending on how much of each color the student mixes together). We call this a NEUTRAL color. Browns, creams, grays, etc. fit into the category. This cookie should be iced and goes in the middle of the color wheel.

Now one last thing before the kids can dive in!! I went around to all the groups and took a picture of the partners and their completed color wheel. This is documentation and it's really cute to add the pictures to a class newsletter or add it to the students portfolio. Once the students pictures were taken they can split up their loot and enjoy the fruits of their labor. I swear the kids will be talking about this for weeks afterward!

I won't post any pictures of my students faces, but here is a completed color wheel.

Primary Pointillism

Whew. My first art project post. I'm so excited!

This project is great because the students have fun painting with an object not ordinarily used, they learned about perspective, color theory and art history...whew! That's a lot to cram in one elementary art lesson, but it can be done!

When teaching grade 2 art, I did an entire unit on color theory. It started with An Edible Colorwheel (more on that later), and continued with varying color theory projects. With this lesson, they were learning about the primary colors and how primary colors combine to make all the other colors of the rainbow.

To begin I asked students what two colors I would mix together to get green. Once I got the answer of yellow and blue, I asked a tricky question and said "Do I actually have to mix blue and yellow together to get green, or could I just place them side by side?" Everyone thought there was no way that you could get green if you didn't mix blue and yellow. So I did a little experiment. Before the class I had painted a piece of card with small dots of yellow, and small dots of light blue...bunches of them close together, random and side by side. I had the students stand at the back of the room while I was at the front holding my card of tiny blue and yellow dots, and asked the students what they their surprise they saw green! I also did this for purple (blue + red) and orange (yellow + red). The kids couldn't believe it. Then I showed them the work of Georges Seurat, and told them he never painted any lines, only small dots of color and your eye mixes the colors together to create the color they were supposed to be.

This is a close-up of Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte"

I told them we would be doing our very own painting just like this and the whole thing would be painted only in red, yellow and blue in tiny little dots.

To prepare, I moved the students desks into groups of 4 while they were at gym (I was lucky I always had a half an hour to set up before the students got there). I then took dixie cups and squirted red, blue and yellow tempera paint into a cup for each group. In another set of 3 cups for each group, I mixed the primary's with white to create a light yellow, light blue and light red (pink). In a third set of 3 cups for each group, I mixed the primary's with even more white than the last time, to create a very light yellow, very light blue, and very light red. Each group should have a set of dark, medium and light primary colors. Your colors should look something like this:

Give yourself plenty of time to mix up these colors. It takes a little while to get the right shade of each color. To save on paint, when you mix up the lighter colors, start with a blob of white paint first then slowly add small amounts of the primary. If you go the other way around, it will take a TON of white paint to get it to the right color and you will be frustrated and will have wasted a lot of paint. You really don't need that much paint in each cup.

Next I placed 4 Q-tips in each cup (this was the students paint brush). Surprisingly, cheap no-name q-tips work better for this...the name brand ones are quite plush and cotton-y so they got logged down with squishy paint easier. The only other thing you need for each student is a piece of white paper.

You can choose any image for your painting, but I chose the simplicity of a house with a tree. Because it was grade two, I thought I would also teach them a little bit about how to make something look 3-D. You can use a big sheet of paper with a felt marker, or the chalkboard to demonstrate. First I drew a typical house that the students might draw:

I told the students to draw along with me, and draw the same thing in the middle of the page. It should be pretty big so that it fills out the page, but not so big that you can't draw anything else. While I gave the students a couple minutes to do this, I would walk around and make sure someone wasn't making a too big, or too small house.

Then I showed the students how to make the house 3-D by adding some angled lines like this:

They should each be the same length and same angle. Then you join them together like this:

The kids were following along and were amazed that they now had a 3-D house! We also added a window on the side of the house. Make sure it is the same angle as all the other angles on that side of the house.

We then added our tree. We made it at the front bottom right corner of the page. I told the students it would make it look like the tree was close to us, and the house was further back. I told them if they made it big enough, it could overlap the house. This makes the tree look like it's in front of the house even more. Just erase your house lines where the tree overlaps.

Students tend to want to make a horizon line directly below an object, so I showed them what that would look like. I then showed them what the horizon line would look like if it ran through the middle of the house. The whole class agreed it looked much better in the middle, so we all drew our horizon line there. I then told them we needed a path up to the house. If we were standing and looking at the house, the path in front of us would be big....but as it goes further away toward the house, it would get smaller. So we added our path. Then a few clouds and a sun and our drawing was complete.

A grade 2 student is quite tickled pink when he/she see's the 3-D picture they've created! It's now time to paint.

We are going to have a pink house with a purple roof. The students all followed along with me, and each grabbed a q-tip from the medium red cup. I told them to put paint dots all over the front of the house (not the doors, windows or roof). Once we did that, we took the lightest red and put dots in all the white spaces on the front of the house. Like this:

Keep an eye on the kids while they are "dotting". Some will want try to paint with the q-tip instead of dots, and some will leave large gaps so you mostly see white space. Encourage them to dot and that the dots can overlap. It's very random.

Okay onto the roof. We used medium blue for the roof, and then medium red.

I then explained to the students that the sun was on the left side of the house. This meant that the right side couldn't see the sun, so it would be in shadow. So we were going to use the darker versions of the colors we had used on the front. The side of the house got dotted with medium red and dark red, while the roof was painted with dark red and dark blue.

The next order of business is your tree. Start with the leaves and use medium and dark yellow, and medium and dark blue.

Then we were on to the trunk. I asked the kids what happened when we made our color wheel and we mixed ALL the colors together? The students knew we had ended up with a brown-ish sort of color. So that was the plan for the tree trunk. Use all the colors we had.

From there the rest is as follows:

Sun - all yellows
Path - all colors
Front door - light and medium blue.
Grass - light and medium yellow, and light and medium blue (so it was a different shade than the tree).
Clouds - light and medium blue.

The finishing touches are to add a few little dots under the belly of the puffy clouds with dark blue. It's sort of like a shadow effect. You also want to use the edge of your q-tip and use dark blue to go around the windows, and down the right side of the door.

Because I was doing my own painting at the front of the room where everyone could see (the student's just followed along with me), I would periodically have a group go and stand at the back of the classroom. I would have them stand as far back as they could to see our progress and I would ask them if their eyes were making the colors they were supposed to. The students were excited to say "YES!" (It also helps if you squint a little.) I resized my image to show you the effect:

The students had so much fun with this project. It took approximately 2 1hour classes. I wish I had better pictures, but here is the student's final work:

One of the most rewarding things, was weeks later some students were drawing in free time, and they weren't drawing flat houses with a horizon line beneath...they were drawing 3-D houses!!