Sunday, June 30, 2013

Value Landscape Study for Older Grades


 I am taking an online e-course on how to teach art to kids with Patty Palmer at Deep Space Sparkle. Last year I took her amazing course Teaching Art 101 and this year I am taking the next course Beyond the Basics. Patty's blog, her instruction, her's all amazing. I highly recommend taking a course from her or purchasing one of her many lesson plans. Our homework for the second week of her Beyond the Basics course is to create and post a lesson based on one of the lessons she taught us in her first or second week of class, BUT to make that lesson into one that can be taught to a different grade/age level than the one she showed us.


12X18 White Sulphite Paper
Paper Plate for Large Palette
Paint Brushes
Tempera Paints - White, Black, Blue (or color you will be using)
Paper Towels
Black Permanent Marker
Color Wheel with tints, tones, shades (optional)


Grades 4-6
2 Class Periods
Learning how to make color values, landscapes, and include pattern design


 Line, contour, organic, shape, color, warm colors, cool colors, tints, tones, shades, gradient, value, hue, horizon, landscape, foreground, middle ground, background, perspective, depth of field, pattern

Contour  line drawing of landscape

 First, have the students design their landscape contour line drawing, with at least 5 "layers" of landscape features. Show examples of different landscape formation shapes and discuss the concepts of landscape drawing using foreground, middle ground and background and horizon line.  This is also a great lesson to show the students how things get lighter in color as they are farther away.  A color wheel (with tints, shades and tones) to show overhead or pass around the class would be a great addition.

My Blue Value Palette

One the students have their simple line drawing complete, have them choose their main tempera color. They will count how many "layers" there are in their design and make that many different tints and shades and tones, including their original paint color.

Demonstrate this part first - starting in the center of their plate have them make a quarter sized dollop of original paint. Then have them make the corresponding amount of dollops around their plate. The original paint color will be one of their middle layers on their drawing. However many layers they have above the original color will become tints and the students will add white to those dollops - more white equals a lighter tint. However many layers they have below the original color layer will be shades (or tones if you'd like to delve into grays). Those dollops will have SMALL drops of black paint added to them.

Caution the students on how quickly black can "GO WRONG" if added with a heavy hand. That is why we start with small dollops of paint, the dollops will increase in size as we add the black and white. They can start mixing their paint, starting with the tints. Each student should have a paper towel to dry wipe their brush in between color mixing and painting. No need to have water at the tables. It should only be needed for clean-up.

Painting from darkest tones to lightest tints

The students can start at either end of their drawing, working from tints to shades or vice versa, just encourage good brush wiping. Tempera paint is fairly forgiving with it's blending, but they want to keep definite contrast between their mixed tints and shades. They will complete the painting of each layer before wiping their brush and moving on to the next layer.

Value Close-up

If they would like to add some clouds or some top layer element with white, they may do so.

Completed value painting portion

The paintings will dry quickly and next session they can add the permanent marker.


The first step will be to outline each landscape layer. It is fine for some layers to be the same shade but have a line dividing the "mountains" or "hills" in that particular layer. It will make for more fun patterns to be able to include in the next step.

First pattern drawn in

Again, you could show some simple design pattern examples or have the kids generate their own pattern ideas and share some of them on a white board. Some zentangles, though more detailed than desired for this lesson, would be fun to show the students. However, you do want to stress that the color value layers still need to show through the pattern design, or they will lose the effect of the value range of their landscape. So simple designs with less solid lines and shapes are the most desired patterns for this lesson.

 Several patterns together Adding some bubble pattern

When they get to the sky and/or clouds, encourage then to continue with their patterns, still making sure not to overwhelm the lightest part of their painting.

Working on the sky

And there we have it - our value landscape study with added pattern design for older grades!

Finished! More patterns

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Smith Rock Inspired Mixed Media Lesson

Finished art with photo inspiration

I am taking an online e-course on how to teach art to kids with Patty Palmer at Deep Space Sparkle. Last year I took her amazing course Teaching Art 101 and this year I am taking the next course Beyond the Basics. Patty's blog, her instruction, her's all amazing. I highly recommend taking a course from her or purchasing one of her many lesson plans. Our homework for the first week of her Beyond the Basics course is to create and post a lesson based on one of the lessons she taught us in her first week of class. So here it is...  

Smith Rock Inspired Mixed Media

  Foreground painted in 


9x12 watercolor paper, 90lb
Skinny Black Permanent Marker
Watercolor Pan Set
Bigger wash brush
Smaller detail brush


4th-8th Grade
Landscape contour drawing and various watercolor/mixed media techniques


Line, contour, geometric, organic, shape, realistic, abstract, texture, contrast, color, warm colors, cool colors, earth tones, gradient, value, hue, movement, rhythm, horizon, landscape, foreground, middle ground, background, perspective

Let's Begin....
We are focusing on a famous, local landmark that truly defines our natural beauty here in Central Oregon. Smith Rock is famous for rock climbing and the beautiful cliffs made of tuff and basalt rock seem to just pop out of the nearby farming and ranching fields. The Crooked River trails through the canyon walls and makes for a beautiful and unique state park. Above are several photographs that I recently took to share the interesting shapes and colors with the students.

First have the students make a contour line drawing of the canyon with a river bed, focusing on the geometric and organic shapes of the canyon walls. We also talk a bit about landscapes and perspective and how to create areas of foreground and middle ground and background. This design has nice simple shapes that the students could easily manipulate for first experiments with landscape perspective yet not so distinct of shapes that the proportions stressed out the students. Make sure to encourage the students to LIGHTLY sketch and be sure to check on them. I usually give a time limit on pencil usage and let the students know when it is time to put pencils away. Next, with a permanent marker go over your sketch lines to outline. With the skinny permanent markers the students can still achieve a "sketchy" quality to their lines and they do not turn out as heavy as with the regular tip.

First line drawing of Smith Rock

Talk to the students about adding in more details as they go, possibly vegetation, rock striations in the cliffs.
 Smith Rock Line Drawing

 I even throw in the term, "slightly abstract", when I am talking about the sketchy lines I make so that the students don't freeze up over trying to make their drawing too realistic.

Adding more details

 Here I even show the students how I changed my mind while using the permanent marker - I decided the plateau tops of my cliffs, while very typical of the area, are not typical of the formations around Smith Rock. So I made the tops more jagged and peaked - but it will be okay. I notice that when I make mistakes in class and then show the students how I fix them or incorporate them into my artwork, that they are much more able to attempt that same skill on their own.

Adding crayon accents

Now we'll talk about color. Obviously our high desert environment is rich in earth tones - browns and yellows and sage greens. But we also have beautiful clear water and brilliantly blue skies. So I have the kids start first with picking crayons that will create realistic color values. And we are going to go with warm colors for the canyon walls and cool colors for the sky. The fun part is that I had a few metallic crayons in gold and brown mixed in and the look is very subtle but you can see some of them on the drawing. As I want the art to maintain it's lightly abstract qualities, I encourage the kids to trace over or next to their black lines with the crayon and think about the crayon lines creating texture and movement in the artwork.

Close-up of crayon over line drawing

Rather than coloring in, the crayon accents the black pen lines.


Next we will move on to the watercolor. We will do the river first. I wanted to make sure not to get my brush too terribly wet so my river did not expand past it's banks as I did not create a wax border for it. But I am using the bigger wash brush to get a nice even coverage of color. The wax in the crayon is creating a resist effect and helps simulate the movement of the river. And while it is wet we will throw on a bit of salt - one of my absolute favorite watercolor techniques that never fails to amaze students!

 Close-up of salt just being applied to watercolor

 We will let that dry for a bit while we move on to the sky. We are going to try a wet on wet technique to get the colors of the sky to blend together more seamlessly. Make sure to tell the kids to really clean their brush so that when they wet the areas of their sky only - that it doesn't have color bleeding onto it.

 First gradient wash of color for the sky

We decided to make this a picture of Smith Rock in the morning, with the sky still a deep blue within the canyon walls and the horizon lightening and turning the horizon a pinkish hue. Point out to the students the difference of how the paint moves on the wet paper versus the dry paper of the river. Show them how easy it is to blend the colors together on wet paper without muddying them up.

Sky completed

Next paint the canyon walls with a wash of yellow. Then using wet on wet technique again (but this time with a color wash as the base) add in some orange and red and brown to mimic the canyon wall striations of different rocks. You can use your crayon lines as guidelines or as contrast.

Foreground painted in

Now if your river is about dry you can shake off the salt. However, be sure to carefully shake it off the bottom of the paper. Or you can again, be like me, and create a little boo-boo and let some of the salt get onto the sky. Thankfully one of my "students" (this time my six year old daughter) said it looked just fine, "like the stars that are sometimes still out in the morning". There 'ya go. Art is all about interpretation, folks! Finally paint the foreground and vegetation areas. Students choice whether they want to do a wet on wet technique or just paint away. And then their Smith Rock inspired masterpiece is ready for wowing the parents and hanging up in the living room!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wise Frog?

S's Wise Frog?

S helped me out with my wise owl lesson by contributing an owl. But he's actually really obsessed with drawing frogs right now. Hence his cool "Wise Frog" above. I had to share.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wise Owls

Wise Owls #1

 You might think I am having a bit of an owl obsession here. But they are a pretty fun (and popular) subject to create art with - plus it's Fall. Well if you recall, this is the first year I split S & R up in their own class. (They're twins, in case you didn't know.) Miss L, S's teacher has asked me to come in and teach art lesson twice a month in their class. Well Mrs. Z saw the Big, Messy , Fearless Owls in the 4th grade wing common area and asked if I could come in and teach R's class art lesson as well. Geesh! You don't have to ask this artsy craft geek twice! I got this cool idea from Artsy T here. Some of our family examples before I taught the class:

My wise owl sample #3 My wise owl sample #1 071S's Wise Owl Sample My wise owl sample #2 My wise owl sample #4 R's Wise Owl Sample M's Wise Owl Sample

Really easy lesson to teach. I bought an old dictionary at the library bookstore for $1. Then I pulled out about 40 pages to use in class.

Creating their wise owls #5

First the kids practiced drawing some owls in notebooks and on scratch paper. Then they took to the dictionary pages with the markers. Get it.....WISE owls...on DICTIONARY pages...get it??

Creating their wise owls #4 Creating their wise owls #3 Creating their wise owls #1

When they finished, the glued them to 9x13 black construction paper and hung them out for display. Many compliments from around school on them.

Wise Owls #2

Best $1 I've spent in a while!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Big, Messy, Fearless Owls - Part 2

ALL of the big, messy owls! #2

Here we go, teaching these awesome owls to 30 kiddos! And don't forget, this lesson was inspired by this post.

Big Messy Owls in Progress #1

Amazingly, this lesson went perfectly.  I think the kids were even more amazed than Miss L and I were at how wonderful these owls turned out.  Here's how it went:

12x18 white construction/drawing paper
Compressed Charcoal
Soft Pastels
Scratch paper
Owl drawing handouts

Big Messy Owls in Progress #2

This was my first time working with this class in total (although several kids had been in S & R's class last year when we made the dog art auction project).  So I went over my "Art Class Rules".
#1  Have Fun!
#2  No "I Can'ts"
#3  RESPECT (the art, the practicing, your classmates, yourself, the teachers, the supplies)

Big Messy Owls in Progress #3

I talked a bit about how none of them started kindergarten knowing how to read like they can now, or knowing their math facts.  That art is a skill that has to be learned and practiced and practiced and practiced some more.  And that practice really never makes perfect (because perfection is pretty darn hard to achieve).  But practice always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS makes better. (This has kind of become the art class motto now).

Big Messy Owls in Progress #4

Now I am by no means an "official" art teacher and I do not have to worry about visual arts standards, etc.  But I want the kids to learn something besides the art technique itself.  My way of doing that is throwing various art words out at them as I am working or talking to them.  Asking them questions about the art words and then continuing to use those art words as I help them work on a piece.

Big Messy Owls in Progress #5

Charcoal, Pastel Chalks, Medium, Cropping, Emphasis, Color, Value, Line, Shape, Form, Texture, Space, Pattern, Contrast, Balance, Depth, Proportion

Yes, that was a lot of art words.  But I was surprised that once I started using them, they came really easily to the kids and they understood what I meant when I would talk to them individually about their piece.

Big Messy Owls in Progress #6

Now here's how I went about teaching the lesson.....
1.  After we went over the rules and tools and used our beginning art words, I showed the samples that we had made.  I also passed out some owl drawing handouts (2 that I made up and 1 from kutchuk) for them to gather inspiration from, but not to copy from.

Big Messy Owls in Progress #7

2.  I gave them scratch sheets of paper and charcoal and I continued to talk to them about how we were going to use the charcoal as they experimented with it on their scratch paper.  We drew lines with a sharp edge, colored in space with the sides, smudged lines, made value scales...basically made a mess!  We talked about how to control this medium by lifting our hands off of the page and essentially drawing in big sweeping strokes from our shoulder and wrist without the side of our palms resting on the page.  But we also talked about how the nature of this medium is such that blurred lines and less defined images were totally okay.  And that we were all going to make BIG, MESSY, FEARLESS owls.  The FEARLESS part was from us letting ourselves go with this new medium and drawing BIG and being okay with the MESSY.  I must confess, this lesson could have gone totally wrong here as this was my first art lesson of the year with this class and we do not have elementary art teachers in our school district.  So for many kids, they have not had much art instruction and very few had ever worked with charcoal or pastel chalks.  But these kids rocked it!

Big Messy Owls in Progress #8

3.  Out came the big pieces of paper, and the pastel chalks. They were allowed earlier to have pencils to sketch an owl on their scratch paper, but they were not allowed to use pencil on their project paper.  They had to be fearless and start right away with the charcoal.  They were to start with their owl and figure out which areas they wanted to color and to try to keep those areas free of charcoal.  I told them they had to finish their owl in charcoal first and then bring the charcoal back to me and wash their hands before they could get  the pastel chalks.  They could of course use the charcoal again, but I was attempting to keep the surfaces and artwork as clean as possible and prevent smudging accidents.  I talked to them about creating emphasis and gave them the "project rules" (see below) and talked to them about adding in the pastel chalks, how to start with light colors first and how to blend with their fingers and how to color with the soft sides and keep the colors from getting muddy with the charcoal.  We added the color, but left a small outline of white and then blended with our fingers up to the charcoal lines. 

My second in-class sample...

4.  I really wanted them to work on small areas of color (hence the project rules) that really made an impact in the image, instead of too many colors or such big fields of colors that lessened the impact of the owl image as a whole. 

Big Messy Owls in Progress 

5.  I worked on a sample taped to the white board while I continued to talk to the kids.  Thankfully all that practice of mine ahead of time paid off and my sample came out really fast and easy.  I actually looked like I knew what I was doing! The kids at least were impressed with the speed of how fast I did it.  But I kept talking them up about being big and fearless and messy and the kids did just that!

My first in-class sample

Okay, here were my project rules.  By no means do I want cookie cutter artwork from the kids.  But I have decided that I do want them to have certain requirements that they achieve with each lesson,  using art elements & principles. I tell the kids they have to first know "art rules" in order to break them later on!

My second in-class sample

1.  Fill the whole page (go off the page if you like)
2.  Crop your owl image (try to focus on the head)
3.  Your owls must be made up of different values of charcoal (meaning no white)
4.  Only two areas may be colored in (eyes and background, beak and background, etc)
5.  No more than 3 different pastel colors

Not all the kids followed the project rules to a "T", but they tried hard, understood what the rules were for and most importantly, had a blast! And every one of the owls turned out amazing.  Check them out:

ALL of the big, messy owls! #1
ALL of the big, messy owls! #3

ALL of the big, messy owls! #4

And you know the best part - Miss L told me that several kids told her that this was the best art they had ever made in their life.