Wayne Thiebaud: Geometric Desserts

Wayne Thiebaud Geometric Desserts

Who loves dessert? Everyone, including second graders. Each year I teach a Wayne Thiebaud-inspired dessert lesson. This year we created compositions focusing on repetition of geometric forms.

Dessert Geometry (and Common Core connections)

Studying Thiebaud's art is an opportunity to incorporate geometry into your lessons. Try and time your lessons to tie into to the math lesson in the general ed. classroom.

Studying Thiebaud’s art is an opportunity to incorporate geometry into your lessons. Try and time your lessons to tie into to the math lesson in the general ed. classroom.

We looked at images of Wayne Thiebaud’s dessert art, and identified shapes and forms. Here are some of the forms we identified:

  • Sphere: ¬†gum balls, scoops of ice cream
  • Right Triangular Prism: pie wedges, cake wedges
  • Square Prism: petit four (see above image)
  • Cylinder: layer cake
  • Rectangular Prism: Jolly Ranchers candy!!! (OK, Thiebaud didn’t paint Jolly Ranchers. A student came up with that one) ūüôā

The second grade was studying 3D forms, so I timed the art lesson just after this concept was introduced in the general ed classroom. Click here for the second grade common core geometry standards.  You can also review the first grade common core geometry standards.

Here is a one-minute video I made featuring the geometric forms in Thiebaud’s art:

The Art Project


  • light cardboard tracers: triangle, ellipse, circle, rectangle
  • pencils/erasers
  • white paper, 12″x18″
  • oil pastels
  • tempera cakes/water/brushes

Use teacher-made or student-made tracers (we used both). Students traced their templates with a pencil onto the paper. The composition were encouraged to fill the paper with a single type of dessert in a variety of flavors. It was OK to have the dessert coming off the page, and it was also OK to overlap.

(Note: I know some art teachers disapprove of tracers; I think the use of them in this project reinforces the tie-in to geometry and repetition).

Students then colored their desserts with oil pastels, adding details such as sprinkles, cherries, and chocolate swirls. They outlined the desserts with oil pastels. Finally, they painted the background with a single color of tempera cake.

Second Grade results:

Second graders used circle, triangle, and ellipse tracers as a starting point for these artworks.

Second graders used circle, triangle, and ellipse tracers as a starting point for these artworks.

If your administration asks if you incorporate math (or STEM/STEAM) in your lesson plans, teach this one and happily reply ‘yes’. After all, shape and form are elements of art. This art project reinforces¬†geometry¬†in a fun way.

Additional Resources:

I wrote about these other Thiebaud projects on the blog:

The lesson was inspired by this lesson from the Parent Art Docents website.




Have you ever incorporated math into an art lesson?

Matisse Goldfish

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?


Wayne Thiebaud Ice Cream Cones Roundup

wayne thiebaud ice cream cones


Summer is almost here. Why not try a warm-weather twist on Wayne Thiebaud with an ice cream art lesson? Check out these ice cream cone lessons using paint, collage, papier-mache and more.

thiebaud cones

cone collage

Directed Draw/Paint:

  • 1. I discovered an entire Wayne Thiebaud unit at the fabulous Danish Fru Billedkunst (“Mrs. Fine Art”) blog.¬†Click here¬†for her step-by-step ice cream cone drawing diagram.

Our second graders began by folding their paper into quarters. The horizontal fold became the table edge. Students drew two cones on each side of the vertical fold. We used crayons and tempera cakes. Students had the option of painting a background, or cutting out their art and gluing it to construction paper. They looked so beautiful at our school art show (see photo at top of post).

Here are some more interesting ideas for Thiebaud-inspired ice cream fun:


  • 2.¬†Miss Young’s Art Room¬†has a simple ice cream collage for kindergarten
  • 3.¬†ARTASTIC! has a torn paper collage that would be great for using up all those paper scraps at the end of the year


Group project:

  • 5.¬†Kids Artists¬†has a whole-class painted paper ice cream cone collage.

Papier Mache Sculpture:

  • 6. Phyl’s There’s a Dragon in My Art Room blog has an awesome papier-mache ice cream cone sculpture project using a paper water cone, newspaper, masking tape and art paste.

More resources

My Wayne Thiebaud Powerpoint includes repetition of simple shapes, variety, use of thick paint, horizon line and shadow.

I always show my ancient (circa 2000!)¬†Behind the Scenes with Wayne Thiebaud [VHS]¬†– it includes Mr. Thiebaud drawing an ice cream cone. Oh, why can’t I find a DVD or digital version??

Wayne Thiebaud video from CBS

Whatever project you choose, your students are bound to have fun!




Do you have a favorite ice cream cone project?

Laurel Burch Complementary Color Cats

complementary color laurel burch cats

This Laurel Burch-inspired cat art project covers complementary colors, pattern and negative space. Tempera cakes and construction paper crayons are all you need for this project – quick, easy and neat!

Second graders learn about the complementary colors, then draw and paint a cat in the style of Laurel Burch. When dry, they add pattern and detail with a variety of crayons. Allow two 40-minute classes.

Second graders learn about the complementary colors, then draw and paint a cat in the style of Laurel Burch. Allow two 40-minute classes.

Meet Laurel Burch

Laurel Burch. Photo source: laurelburch.com

Laurel Burch. Photo source:

Laurel Burch was a self-taught ¬†jewelry designer and painter. She was extremely successful despite serious illness. The¬†Laurel Burch website has every resource you could want, including a great biography video¬†and ‘fantastic feline’ slide show. We took a close look at the¬†cat illustrations, and noticed the simple shapes, lines and patterns.

complementary color wheel

The Complementary Colors

I displayed the color wheel and we discussed the complementary colors (see this post). The complementary colors are directly across from each other on the color wheel.

There are three complement pairs: red/green; purple/yellow; and orange/blue.¬†When two complements are displayed together, the colors contrast and ‘pop’.


The Art Project


  • white sulphite drawing paper, 9″ x 12″ (or other white paper strong enough for painting)
  • primary and secondary color tempera cakes
  • brushes
  • water
  • examples of Laurel Burch cat illustrations
  • construction paper crayons
  • optional: metallic crayons

(note: this post contains compensated affiliate links)

Day 1: Draw and Paint the Cat

  1. Choose a complementary color pair.
  2. Draw the cat using a single construction paper crayon.
  3. Add eyes and other facial features, but do not add pattern or other detail.
  4. Paint the inside of the cat one of the complementary colors.
  5. Paint the negative space (background) in the other complementary color.
  6. Let dry.

Day 2: Decorate the Cat

  1. Hand out examples of Laurel Burch cat illustrations and construction paper crayons.
  2. Look at the patterns and other details on the cats and in the negative space (background).
  3. Do a quick review of the complementary colors. ¬†Ask “What color is your cat? Find a crayon that is a complement of the cat color”.
  4. Retrace the cat’s original lines with that crayon.
  5. Use all the colors of construction paper crayons to color in the eyes, add designs and patterns. .
  6. Optional: add a little sparkle with metallic crayons.

color Laurel Burch paintings with crayons

 Second Grade Results:

Laurel Burch Complementary Color Cats gallery

I just love the way the complementary colors pop against each other. I also love how the opaque construction paper crayons pop atop the tempera paint!

I used tempera cakes and construction paper crayons because they were quick to set up and clean up. You could easily substitute regular tempera and oil pastels, or watercolor and regular crayons.

No matter what materials you use, this is a fun and successful project your students will really like.





Peter Max Statue of Liberty Round Up

I just finished up a Peter Max Statue of Liberty project with my first graders.  To plan this lesson, I took a look at a lot of elementary-level Peter Max lesson plans on the internet. All my research is contained in the Round Up collage above.

Do you like this collage? Click on the collage. Hover over each image and you will see an arrow.  Click on the arrow to link directly to the lesson.

I made this graphic using a free website called ThingLink.  It allows users to make images interactive. I learned about ThingLink on the Free Technology for Teachers blog.

Here are some more resources you can use for your lesson:

Meet Peter Max:

Wikipainting.org has a great selection of Peter Max artworks, including a Liberty Head, psychedelic artwork from the 1960s, and Warhol-like portraits of famous people.

Our students watched Peter Max prep his canvases this EXCELLENT 2008 video from CBS This Morning. (Requires flash. Reading this on an iPhone or iPad? Click here)

Our Art Project:¬†We ended up doing a two-day art project using ¬†tempera cakes¬†and black crayon on 12″x18″ sulphite and manila paper.

Day 1:Paint backgrounds in style of Peter Max. Students made patches of color, stripes or even polka dots.

Day 2: Use black crayon or oil pastel in directed draw of Statue of Liberty head. BE SURE TO TELL STUDENTS TO GO BACK OVER THEIR LINES SO THEY ARE THICK AND BLACK.

Here is one of our first grade artworks:

peter max statue of liberty



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...