Tag Archives: Wayne Thiebaud

Wayne Thiebaud: Geometric Desserts

21 Apr

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) :)

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?

Wayne Thiebaud Ice Cream Cones Roundup

27 May

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?

Kindergarten Birthday Cake

26 Oct

We all know kindergarteners love birthday parties. Cake, presents, decorations – what’s not to love? So it was no surprise that this  birthday cake art project was super-popular with the kinders.

Day 1:

Kindergartens started by viewing my birthday cake powerpoint  (note: if art class is before lunch your students will say they are hungry!). We discussed the lines and shapes we saw on the cakes, and in the frosting and decorations.

Cake drawing emphasizes lines and shapes.

Kinders drew the cakes with crayon. I emphasized that they didn’t have to color the large areas with crayon because we would paint the cakes next week. However, they should use crayon to color in the small areas such as candles, flames, balloons, numbers, etc.

Day 2:

We added cut paper birthday gifts with glue stick, then painted with regular and metallic pan watercolors.

Kindergarteners painted their crayon drawings with regular and metallic pan watercolors. Allow two 40-minute sessions.

Completed birthday cakes:

This would be a great end-of-the-year lesson to celebrate all the ‘summer’ birthdays that occur when school is out of session. This could also be a nice project for a Wayne Thiebaud lesson.

How about adding a book to the project? When I was little, Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday to You! was one of my favorite books and I still remember reading it on my 6th birthday (I also remember Baskin-Robbins clown cones plopping all over the back yard at the birthday party, but that is another story).

I’d love your suggestions on a book to read along with this project.

Do you have a special birthday-themed book for primary students?


Thiebaud “Cakes” Mural (and more!)

8 Apr

This is a universal truth:  kids love dessert.  Second grade recently completed their Wayne Thiebaud group art mural based on Thiebaud’s famous artwork, “Cakes”.

We began with my Wayne Thiebaud Powerpoint. We discussed repetition of simple shapes, variety, use of thick paint, horizon line and shadow. This year we also discussed halation – the vibrant lines of color Thiebaud uses to outline his work. If you are unfamiliar with halation read this excellent Thiebaud post on Art for Small Hands.

Next we watched a great 7-minute long Thiebaud video from CBS this Morning.  Here is the link.


  • Drawing paper, 9″x12″
  • pencil and eraser
  • oil pastels
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • bulletin board paper (allow 5 foot length for 22 students)
  • tempera

Students drew the basic cylinder cake first in pencil, then in oil pastel. We outlined in bright colors.  Because we were making a mural, for consistency students added purple shadows on the right side of their art.

The kids had a fabulous time ‘decorating’ their cakes, again with oil pastel. We had a ‘no words’ rule, but numbers were OK.

Students outline their cakes with vibrant colors

Students cut out their cakes and covered the backs with glue stick.  I arranged the cakes on painted bulletin board roll paper.

Assembling the mural

I made two murals: a 9 foot mural for 45 cakes, and a 5 foot mural for 22 cakes.  Next year I will make one 5-foot mural per class as the big one was beautiful but too unwieldy.

After the art show I will cut apart the mural. The second graders will trim and mount their cakes onto 12″x18″construction paper.

The perfect jewelry for any Thiebaud lesson :)

Have fun!

P.S. Want to try a digital Thibaud art activity? Try the National Gallery of Art’s

Thiebaud ‘cake maker’ interactive


Tasty Cakes: Scratch Foam Printing with Watercolor Markers

9 Jan

Maybe you have used scratch foam for printmaking in the art room. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful art work using scratch foam and printer’s ink applied with brayers. But did you know scratch foam prints can look like this?

This set of four cupcake prints were all made from the same scratch foam plate during a single 40-minute class.

3rd graders used watercolor marker and scratch foam to create multiple prints. We did an easy directed drawing of a cupcake onto scratch foam, colored the foam with watercolor markers, and then printed the cards onto damp paper.


  • Scratch foam, cut to desired size
  • sketch paper, cut to same size as foam
  • dull pencil
  • masking tape
  • watercolor markers in assorted colors (I use Mr. Sketch markers)
  • oil pastels or other embellishments (optional)
  • shallow tub (dishpan) of water
  • beach towel (several if you are teaching multiple or large classes)
  • plastic sleeve protectors for printing station
  • white construction paper for printing – cut larger than scratch foam


Set up a printing station. Fill tub with water depth of 2-3 inches. Set out a folded towel. Tape a sleeve protector to the table. Slide in an alignment sample (see below).  Cut a stack of printing papers, enough for each student to make at least 3 prints. Think about drying space (always an issue when printing multiples). Drying rack? Clothes line?



  • draw cupcake onto sketch paper.  Click here for my step-by-step  how to draw a cupcake instructions.
  • Remind students: NO LETTERS, NO WORDS, NO NUMBERS.
  • tape sketch paper on top of scratch foam.
  • go over cupcake sketch with a dull pencil.  The lines should transfer to the scratch foam below.
  • pull up the paper.  Drawing directly on the foam, go over any lines you missed with the pencil.  You can also add sprinkles or other small lines at this time.
  • discard the sketch paper and tape.

Tape sketch on top of scratch foam. Go over lines with dull pencil to incise foam below.


  • use the watercolor markers to ink the scratch foam.  Students should use multiple colors.  Fill the scratch foam completely with color.

Color in the scratch foam with watercolor markers.



  • take your foam to the printing station.
  • write your name in small letters on white construction paper. Use pencil.
  • dip white construction paper in water
  • put wet paper in folded towel to blot
  • align inked scratch foam on sleeve protector INK SIDE UP
  • put damp white paper on scratch foam NAME SIDE UP (align using the sleeve protector)
  • rub paper firmly without wiggling

Printing station. Students align foam with white rectangle, damp paper with blue rectangle.


The third graders were amazed!!!! Vibrant colored cupcakes for their beautiful birthday cards.



  • Students re-ink the scratch foam plates using a different color scheme.  It doesn’t matter if the plate still has a little color on it – go right over the plate with a different color.

Print again!

Students should carefully sign their name on the back of the foam plate WITH PENCIL. Write small.


A word of caution: as always, test this project out yourself before attempting with your students.

1) The degree of dampness of the printing paper is critical.  Too dry and the ink won’t transfer to the paper.  Too wet and the ink will bleed and blur as the paper dries. For blotting, a fresh beach towel is ideal. My towel was too damp by the third class of the day. I wish I had a couple of fresh dry ones with me. Next year!

2) Size of drawing matters. Tiny drawings the size of a thumbnail just won’t look good.

Day 2: Embellish Prints with Oil Pastels

Students have the option of embellishing their dry prints.  These cupcakes are decorated with oil pastel. This is a great way to rescue students less-than-perfect prints. Can you imagine these with a little clear glitter and/or a sequin?

Next we trim our cupcake prints and glue them onto colored construction paper. What fabulous birthday cards for all our family and friends.


Fun – colorful – successful – easy to clean up!

This would be a great Wayne Thiebaud lesson plan – it relates to his dessert paintings in terms of subject matter and repetition.

Wayne Thiebaud. Cakes. 1963


A huge thank you to Carol Catelano Webb, master art teacher, who taught this printing process at a San Diego Art Educators workshop back in 2005.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...