Tag Archives: mural

Healthy Food Mural

11 Mar


Our second graders are studying healthy foods. We created this mural as part of the project. It was also an extension of our warm and cool color lesson.

watercolor paper, 7″x7″
oil pastels
baby oil
reference photos of fruits and vegetables (we used the weekly grocery store ads from the newspaper)

Draw one type of fruit or vegetable on the paper using oil pastel. Fill the square. Use and warm and cool color scheme – if you draw a warm color fruit, use a cool color background, and vice versa.

After drawing, blend the oil pastels with a q-tip dipped in a BIT of baby oil. Be sure to use two q-tips – one for blending warms, and one for blending cools.

Place completed artworks on a drying rack for a day or two so excess oil can absorb into the paper.

I laid out the artwork face down in a grid, and taped all the seams together with masking tape. If you use enough tape on the back you can hang it as a single piece.

If you ever decide to take down your masterpiece, you have the option of cutting on the seams and returning individual artworks to students.



Rainbow Footprint Tile Mural

16 Aug

rainbow footprint tile mural

Thinking about a mural project? If you want a mural that is engaging, beautiful and enduring, consider this rainbow footprint tile mural. I used Craig Hinshaw’s Rainbow Footprint Mural lesson from Pottery Making Illustrated July/August 2004.

Whole school mural project made from individual clay tiles, each imprinted with a shoe sole.

Whole school mural project made from individual clay tiles, each imprinted with a shoe sole.

Materials for the tiles:

  • Low fire white clay
  • square viewfinders
  • pin tool or opened paperclip
  • underglaze in colors of the rainbow
  • small brushes
  • clear glaze
  • your shoes!
  • optional – for lettering: magnetic letters (refrigerator magnets), alphabet pasta

Creating the footprint tiles

We followed all the directions in the magazine article. The students were THRILLED to stomp their foot down onto a ball of clay.

Cutting the tile though the viewfinder opening was a bit of the challenge for the younger students. Instead of neat squares, we had a lot of irregular shapes. These tiles had to be remade, but it only took a few extra minutes. I had extra sixth grade volunteers on hand to help cut out the tiles for the kindergarteners.

 Creating Text

We created text two ways: 1) large text was created by pressing magnetic letters into clay, and 2) small text was created by pressing alphabet pasta into clay.  (Don’t worry – the pasta burns out in firing).

For the large letters, we pressed magnetic letters into the clay tiles.

For the large letters, we pressed magnetic letters into the clay tiles.

For the small text, we pressed alphabet pasta into the clay tiles.

For the small text, we pressed alphabet pasta into the clay tiles.

I did this mural with the students of Solana Santa Fe School. We prepared all the tiles and had them professionally installed on an exterior stucco wall.  Eight years later, it is still standing and looking great!

Another school in our district did a twist on the same mural project. Artist (and parent) Christie Beniston create a rainbow footprint mural with the students of Skyline School. Click here to see this mural. Note the rectangular and circular tiles.

If you are planning a whole-school mural, consider this project. The kids LOVED making the tiles. Each tile is uniques, just like our students. They mural is beautiful to look it and fun to touch. After it is installed, kids will look for their shoe prints. It is a permanent reminder of unity in the school community.


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!


Wyland Ocean Mural

19 Jan

Inspired by aquatic artist Wyland, our fourth graders recently completed a great big ocean-themed mural. We recreated the California kelp forest for the Wyland Foundation’s ‘Water is Life’ Mural Challenge.

Our completed mural. Click the photo to see a larger image.

Who is Wyland?

Wyland Whaling Wall in Detroit.
Photo source: Wahkeenah via Wikimedia Commons

Wyland is an American artist best known for creating life-size whale murals. He painted 100 of these ‘whaling walls’ around the world, as well as many more paintings of  aquatic life. As seen in the whaling wall photo, Wyland often paints a ‘two worlds’ view of the ocean (both above and below the sea). Wyland’s art is very popular and he is commercially successful.


The Wyland Foundation provided us with a free kit, containing instructions, acrylic paints, brushes and a 5’x10′ Fredrix Paint It Yourself Classroom Mural Cotton Canvas Roll. We also used acrylic house paint and rollers. Blue painter’s tape was essential for getting a clean horizon line. We used Sharpies to sign the artwork and to add small details. We used soft-kut blocks and lino cutters to create fish stamps for our school of silvery fish. Tip: I matched our background paint to an undersea photo with the free Color Snap app.

The free Color Snap app is great for matching paint to a photo.

The free Color Snap app is great for matching paint to a photo.

Mural Process:


Students used their iPads to research the kelp forest and Wyland’s art. Students posted their  favorite images, plus  suggestions to an online board on Edmodo.


We painted the mural in stages. Day 1: background, days 2 and 3 were for sea life and details.  A maximum of eight kids painted at one time; the rest made sea creature drawings at the adjacent lunch tables while they waited their turn to paint. We used several tricks to create the illusion of space in our mural, including size, placement, value, warm/cool colors and (most especially) overlap. This video shows six tricks artists use to show illusion of space.

We also had small teams of students on special assignment: team seal, team sea otter, official photographers, and fish stamp carvers.

Fourth graders add marine life to the kelp forest mural.

Fourth graders add marine life to the kelp forest mural.
Each student stamped a fish on the mural, creating our own school of Pacific Jack Mackerel.

Each student stamped a fish on the mural, creating our own school of Pacific Jack Mackerel.

Although we didn’t win the Wyland Challenge, we created a beautiful mural.  Everyone is so proud of it! We learned about the kelp forest, and how to create depth in art.  Thanks so much to the Wyland Foundation for all the art materials, and to our parent volunteers for all their help.

Want to learn more about Wyland? Watch 2007 video from the CBS Early Show.


The mission of the Wyland Foundation is to help children and families around the nation rediscover the importance of healthy oceans and waterways through public art programs, classroom science education, and live events. Click here to see the winning 2013 murals and to find out about the 2014 Wyland ‘Water is Life’ Mural and Art challenge.

Kandinsky Circles Mural

3 Feb

kandinsky circles mural

Here is a twist on the popular Wassily Kandinsky circles project: a group art mural made from recycled CD case trays. This project is perfect for Earth Day, but it does require advance planning.

Kindergarteners use oil pastels to draw concentric circles in CD inserts. Allow one 40 minute class, plus time to assemble mural.

Kindergarteners use oil pastels to draw concentric circles in CD trays. Allow one 40 minute class, plus time to assemble mural.


  • CD Jewel Case insert trays, preferably donated, one per student
  • Oil Pastels (we used Crayola)
  • glue and backing for mounting (see below)


  • Source CD jewel cases. I got 250 CD jewel cases via the ‘for sale – free’ section on Craigslist. Like many others, the donor had switched from CDs to MP3s and didn’t want the old CD cases going to a landfill. Score!!!! Free art materials AND trash kept out of the landfill.
  • Pry off the colored plastic CD trays from the clear jewel cases (a parent volunteer helped me with this step). Save the clear cases for another project.

The Art Lesson:

I introduced Wassily Kandinsky to the kindergarteners. We looked at several of his famous artwork including Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles. We noticed Kandinsky liked to make paintings with bright colors and shapes – not landscapes or paintings of people. Here are two brief YouTube videos I showed the kinders.


kandinsky circles how to

The Art Project

The art project couldn’t be easier:

1. Pass out oil pastels and CD case insert trays. Flip trays so central ‘bump’ is up.

2. Students start by coloring a fat ring around the center bump. They trade colors with a neighbor, then color another concentric circle. Repeat until the entire plastic circle is colored. Finally, they color the edges.

3. Group completed insert trays and mount

So easy and fun!  100% of kindergarteners had success with this project.


I plan on using four glue dots per CD tray and mounting on foam core.

UPDATE: The glue dots failed immediately. I had better luck with strong spray glue (3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive – use it outside or in a well-ventilated area). One week after the art show, I was able to remove the plastic circles to hand back to the kids.

However, you may choose to use a different adhesive and base depending on the number of circles you have, and the length of time you want the mural on display. Because I have 45 circles and only want the mural on display for one week, I am creating a display that can be easily dissembled.

UPDATE:  If you want to a more powerful adhesive for long-term mounting, try 3M Scotch Heavy Duty Mounting Tape. I created CD case mural using the mounting tape, and sent it off to a museum show. The mounting tape worked beautifully.

 Another option: keep the plastic insert inside the jewel case. Color, then close and mount each case to display surface (I separated the insert tray from the jewel case because I needed the clear cases for another project).

This would be a great activity for an Earth Day event – each participant can make a square for the mural. The entire activity, including the videos and clean up, took only 40 minutes.  I also see this as a fun art activity booth at an art fair or school carnival.


Do you have a great resource for free art supplies?

 Do you have a favorite recycled art project?