Wyland Ocean Mural

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 entry in the Wyland mural challenge

The completed kelp forest mural. Dimensions 5’x10′

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.

Eiffel Tower Line Drawings

marz paris pinable

Guess what? The Eiffel tower is not hard to draw. Our sixth graders drew the Eiffel tower, then created a Paris scene in the style of American artist Marz Jr.

The Art of Marz Jr.

We looked at the Marz Jr. website and noticed that many of his illustrations feature detailed black line drawings of famous architecture, such as the White House, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York Stock Exchange.

The focal point is often black line on white, contrasted against a simpler black line drawing on a brightly colored background.


Marz Jr.'s illustration of the New York Stock Exchange.

Marz Jr.’s illustration of the New York Stock Exchange.


  • white paper (we used copy paper)
  • Sharpies
  • construction paper, 12″x18″ – yellow, orange or light green
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • reference photos of the Eiffel Tower and Paris

Day 1: Drawing the Eiffel Tower:

We began by looking at this close-up photo of the Eiffel Tower. I asked the students to look closely at the metal work, beginning at the bottom of the tower. The entire tower is made of metal ‘X’s!

They lightly folded copy paper vertically (‘hot dog’) to create a line of symmetry, then used Sharpie for the directed draw. We drew from the bottom up, starting with the ‘rainbow’ arch, to the first viewing platform, to the ‘legs’, to the second viewing platform, and then up to the top. X, X, X, X……..


marz paris 4

Day 2: Create Paris Scene, Cut and Collage

Using iPads, students looked at Google images of Paris. They used Sharpie to draw simple background scenes on colored construction paper, then cut out their Eiffel Towers and glued them on with glue stick.

marz paris 2


marz paris 3

The project took two 40-minute classes. It was a very successful project with no prep and minimal clean up.

The project was inspired by Marz Jr. projects in this post on the shine brite zamorano blog and this post at Deep Space Sparkle.

If you are really into Paris, check out my series of Paris-themed art (and cooking!) projects from art camp last summer. And definitely check out Cassie Stephens’ Paris unit on her elementary art blog.


If the Dinosaurs Came Back for Kindergarten

If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most

Kindergarteners LOVE dinosaurs. Here’s a 100% successful project based on the book  If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most. I saw it on this post on the Elementary Art Room! blog.



  • White paper, 9″x12″
  • Sharpies
  • Colored construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks

 Day 1: Read the book, talk about lines, draw the background

If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most

Look at all those lines! I can see zig zag, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, wavy….

We read the book, noting the many rectangular buildings and windows. It was an opportunity to practice all the lines we have learned in kindergarten so far. We could see wavy, zig zag, diagonal, vertical, horizontal, dotted and dashed lines in the illustrations. Next we drew the background with Sharpie.

If the Dinosaurs Came Back - Day 1

Day 1: create a background city.


Day 2: Dinosaur Collage

I passed out colored paper scraps to each table. There were only two rules: the dinosaur had to be at least as big as your hand, and it had to be one color. The kids used glue stick to create the collage, then added more details (and more lines, shapes and patterns) with Sharpie.

if the dinosaurs came back 5 If the Dinosaurs Came Back 4

This year Common Core is creeping into our curriculum, even in the art room. We’re encouraged to incorporate literature into everything. I was thrilled to do 100% successful lesson that emphasized line and shape AND tied in to a book. Hurray!



Colorful Chameleons

colorful watercolor chameleons


Kids love chameleons! They change color almost like magic. Our second graders just finished a very successful watercolor chameleon project.


Day 1: Draw your chameleon

We watched the ‘Super Chameleon’ video on YouTube. The kids were amazed to see the chameleon change colors over and over. Then we took a close look at the chameleon books from our school’s media center. Next it was on to a directed draw. I modeled the basic contour of the chameleon’s head, body, tail and legs. Kids started in pencil, then outlined in Sharpie. They were free to use Sharpie to add their own details (stripes, patterns, dots, spikes) based on their reference photos.

chameleon drawing


Day 2: Color your chameleon

Kids used watercolor pencils dipped in water to color in the chameleons. The watercolor pencils were great for coloring in all the stripes and little spaces. The colors turned out really vibrant! The final step was to paint the background a single color using pan watercolors.

I encouraged everyone to stick to an analogous color scheme for their chameleons. Some kids did, some didn’t, but they all turned out beautiful.  After all, a chameleon can be any color.

blue and green chameleons

three watercolor chameleons

We tried a similar chameleon project last year using Crayola markers: click here to see more results.

Overall this was a popular, super successful project with minimal prep and clean up. It was my first watercolor pencil project, but it won’t be my last.


Here are two of the books we used for our lesson 

Happy Earth Day!


eyes on the table


Happy Earth Day!  Our fifth graders created this whole class artwork using recycled CD cases colored with Sharpie and oil pastel. For more art projects using CD cases, click here and here.

I just entered the piece in an online art contest offered by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) (P.S. MCASD is free to everyone 25 and under. It’s a great place for young people to discover contemporary art).

It feels great to make fun art projects and keep ‘trash’ out of the landfill!



Do you have a favorite recycled art project?

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