• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

• supporting creativity in the classroom and beyond •

Monday, November 24, 2014


Sometimes I work backward, like with this little color theory activity. One day on Facebook I came upon a free turkey-coloring page that was filled with pattern. Normally I avoid coloring pages like the plague, preferring students to be creating their own drawings. But there was just something about this one. I thought maybe I could give some color instructions, like use all warm colors or all cool colors.

But then I had another idea: use analogous colors.

Rather than just tell students what analogous colors were, we would make a color wheel!

I thought all this through on the drive to school (40 minutes, mountains to valley, a view to die for... but I digress....)

I started by having students draw a large, equilateral triangle on the top half of their paper. It had to be large, so I checked for size right away. If it seemed small, I had them turn it over and make it bigger. That triangle was superimposed by another triangle the same size, but "upside down" (which, of course, is a misnomer, since a triangle is a triangle no matter what direction it sits in, but I digress again....)

At the very top, I asked them to make a yellow circle and color it in, then do a red and blue on the other vertices of the first triangle. They knew what happened when red and yellow, blue and yellow, and red and blue are combined, so we drew and colored in circles of those colors in their appropriate vertices.

Under these triangles, I had them note "primary colors" and "secondary colors" and then we went on to the tertiaries. (I love that a box of crayons has all the colors one needs for this, but again, I digress...)

Finally, we were able to talk about those analogous colors... the ones next to each other. Once I felt confident that most of the students could identify three analogous colors using the color wheel (I had made a large one, along with them, as a model), I showed them the turkey page and gave directions to choose four analogous colors for coloring. The key was to have them show me their color choices before I gave them the coloring page. If they had an outlier, I asked them to look again.
As they finished coloring their turkeys, I had them write "This turkey is analogous." on their paper and then write on the back of the paper what analogous colors are.

They had a great color lesson, a relaxing coloring session, and got a little writing in to boot. I found something interesting to do with a plain old coloring sheet. Win-win for everybody!

The coloring sheet was found at http://doodle-art-alley.com.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

still life contour drawing

Drawing is all about seeing, and still life drawing lessons are particularly good for emphasizing the importance of careful observation. When teaching this still life lesson, I started by "thinking out loud" to show how I observe and define shapes and lines. With a quick model drawing, I showed how to overlap items, talked about how those items in front are a little further down the page than those behind, and talked just a little about shadows and shading. Then I turned the kids loose with colored pencils in secondary colors only.

The drawing subject matter is always simply a collection of random items I have lying around the house, plus a few gems from a box I keep in the garage labeled "candles and trinkets".... you know... those items you don't really want to throw away quite yet, but don't really want out, either.

In this case, I also brought in a selection of colorful gourds and a bouquet of autumn-colored chrysanthemums, so each of three tables had a bud vase with flowers. Each table had a slightly different selection of items and every student already had a mini pumpkin on their desk so I invited them to add those to their drawings. I also suggested that they did not need to draw every item, that they could draw only those items they wanted to draw. Other directions included not to color everything in, and to think about overlapping and shading.

And to look, look, look very carefully at the items they were drawing.

I love the vastly different results from different students. Some drew small, some drew large, some overlapped the items, some had them lined up across the center of the page. Some paid great attention to details, others drew in a more general, stylized way.

This drawing lesson followed a "looking at art" activity in which we looked at Norman Rockwell's "Freedom From Want"... an activity that included talking about what was going on in the painting, which turned into talking about main ideas and details. If someone said it looked like Thanksgiving, I asked how they knew, which turned into a discussion about details. I thought that would be a nice segue into a "harvest" type still life drawing, but realized pretty quickly that I had too many generic items in the set-ups and not enough "harvest" items. Something to remember for next time!
Still life drawing is a great way to add a little seasonal art to the classroom, and it's a great way to integrate science, too! It requires practically no prep, other than gathering the items, and it's amazing how much attention some students will give to their drawings. This art lesson is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store. Look for Still Life For Kids: