Matisse Goldfish

11 Apr

I love to create Matisse-inspired art projects with kids. Matisse’s paintings are full of color, pattern and energy. Here is a project that combines features of two of his famous paintings, Woman in a Purple Coat and Goldfish.
Day 1: pattern hunt

We begin with a ‘pattern hunt.’ I look around the room and find kids wearing patterned clothing. They stand up and we discuss their patterns. Then we take a very close look at Matisse’s Woman in a Purple a Coat, and tally up all the patterns one by one. I can’t tell you how excited those first graders became when they identified the patterned curtains and wallpaper in the painting. They tallied up 13 patterns, including the fruit on the table.

Day 2: create patterned paper
White paper 12″x18″
Tempera cakes
Water cups, brushes
Oil pastels or construction paper

Here is a fast way to create four patterns. Fold the white paper into quarters and open. Using tempera cakes, paint one quarter a solid color. Paint the remaining quarters with patterned lines (wavy, zig zag, etc.). Now take oil pastels and create a pattern on the solid quarter. The tempera cake dries so quickly you can draw on it in just a few minutes. Add oil pastel patterns to the remaining quarters. Place on drying rack.

Day 3: create a goldfish bowl


Blue paper, 6″x10″
Oil pastels (or construction paper crayons)
Glue sticks
Turn blue paper vertically and draw a ‘rainbow’ at the top using a black oil pastel. Draw a ‘smile’ under the rainbow. Cut along the top line to remove the corners and create the look of a round vase edge.
Add goldfish or other aquarium creatures. Glue to patterned background paper with glue stick.

First Grade Results:


Do you have a favorite Matisse lesson?


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Flipped Art Room – What I Learned at NAEA14

6 Apr

One of the best sessions I attended at NAEA14 had to be Meranda Dawkins ‘Flipping the Art Classroom’. Not familiar with flipped classrooms? Essentially, the teacher creates a video lesson which is viewed by the students at home. The next day, students come to school and do the assignment.

Meranda creates her own instructional videos and  does a ‘modified’ flipped art room: although she sends the lesson link home, she shows the videos at the beginning of class. After viewing, Meranda puts the video on mute and loops it during the rest of class.

This is great way to catch up a kid who was absent, or to help kids who don’t pay attention very well. It also benefits the art teacher who teaches the same lesson to multiple classes: you won’t leave anything out no matter how many classes you teach.

flipping the art classroom by meranda dawkins

Slide from Meranda Dawkins NAEA14 session. Scan the QR code at lower right to see all of Meranda’s lessons on

The big eye-opener for me was Meranda’s use of Smore to organize and send out her lessons. is an online flyer design website.  I thought Smores were just a way to put out cute classroom newsletters. Not true! Meranda embedded images of Degas, a vocabulary check list and two instructional videos in this Smore.


Have you ever flipped a lesson?

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What I learned at NAEA14 part 1

3 Apr

I just spent four wonderful days at NAEA 14, here in my hometown of San Diego.  I attended a ton of sessions, including a pre-conference tour and a hands-on workshop. Here’s a peek at what I saw and learned.

Friday, March 28: Pre-Conference Tour of Art Program and Murals and Zamorano Fine Arts Academyzamorano mural tour NAEA14 Art teacher/art ed blogger Don Masse led this tour of his public elementary school’s remarkable art program. Zamarano Fine Arts Academy employs five (!) visual art educators for 1400 (!) students from transitional kindergarten-grade 5. The school has a clay program, photography, fashion design, and much more. Don’s 5th graders create an annual ‘legacy’ mural…in addition, we saw many other outdoor artworks, including painted windows. See lots more of Don’s contemporary-art inspired projects at his blog, shite brite zamorano.


Monday, March 31 Shadow Puppets workshop with Grace Hulse

I have wanted to teach a shadow puppet unit for years, but never really knew how. Grace Hulse’s workshop was a great intro. Her Baltimore second graders put on a shadow puppet play every year.

We cut black tagboard into interesting animal shapes. Ms. Hulse encouraged us to create openings in the puppets using craft knives and decorative punches. We taped lace doilies or colored vellum over the openings to add interest. We could create articulated limbs with small brads.

We also learned about inexpensive materials to make a small theater.

shadow puppets collageIf you want to learn more, Ms. Hulse highly recommends the book Worlds of Shadow: Teaching with Shadow Puppetry by David and Donna Wiesniewski (Note: you can get a good preview of this book on Amazon).

In addition, Ms. Hulse’s students created an iMovie trailer using photos of shadow puppet illustrations. Check out the Odyssey of Homer trailer on Vimeo.

Lucky you – Ms. Hulse has a public Prezi of her shadow puppet presentation.

More NAEA14 awesomeness coming up soon!


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Video Lesson: Flower Fields in One-Point Perspective

1 Apr

flower fields in one point perspective

Spring is here. This month the beautiful Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California burst into bloom.

Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA. Photo sources:;

Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA. Photo sources:;

The fields are filled with colorful ranunculus flowers. Each spring families throughout San Diego trek to the Flower Fields to admire their beauty. This outing is very popular – a show of hands revealed almost all my 5th and 6th graders had visited the Flower Fields.

We drew the flower fields in one-point perspective to create an illusion of depth. We used colored 9″x12″ construction paper, rulers, pencils and erasers and oil pastels. In this 13 minute video, I demonstrate drawing the horizon line, vanishing point, and orthogonals to create the illusion of depth.

Thanks to Hope Knight at Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artists for this lesson. For similar lessons using markers check out this post on A Faithful Attempt and this post on Kids Artists.


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Reeves Wax Pastels Giveaway!

26 Mar


GIVEAWAY! I have six sets Reeves Wax Pastels to give away, courtesy of the nice people at ColArt. If you are going to NAEA ’14 in San Diego, please be sure to stop by booth 537 and check out all of their wonderful art supplies.

I use my Reeves Watersoluble Wax Pastel Sets and Shrinky Dinks Shrinkable Plastic – 8 x 10 inches – Frostedcreate these terrific and fun prints. After mono printing, you can shrink your plate in a home oven!

You'll need wax pastels, frosted Shrinky Dinks, watercolor paper, and an oven.

You’ll need wax pastels, frosted Shrinky Dinks, watercolor paper, and an oven.

mono printing with shrinkable plastic pin


Reeves wax pastels can be used wet or dry. They have a nice, rich color. Find out for yourself: enter the giveaway!

To enter, leave a comment with your name and email adress. Six winners will be chosen randomly. Giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only.



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