Contour Drawing

One of the most annoying myths about drawing is that people either have a gift or they don’t. The truth is drawing is a skill, and just like anything else, anyone can get better with practice.
1. With a journal or drawing paper, students to traced their hands in pencil. Unusual placement and cropping was encouraged.
2. Students use either a thin marker or pen and draw in as many line details as they can (nails, wrinkles, etc.)
3. Lastly they chose a line pattern and completely fill in the background. The goal is to have them get into a kind of “doodle” trance, which is a great place to be!

CA Visual Art Standard: Creative Expression, Grade Five
2.2 Create gesture and contour observational drawings.
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Ocean Collage Art Journal Page

 Save your nature magazines, or anything that has photos of water in it to make this fun collage page.
1. Students cut out enough swatches of water from magazines to fill the bottom of their journal page. The pieces were glued down with a glue stick.
2. A sailboat was drawn on top of the water, with just a simple boat, mast and sail. The lines were traced with a black permanent marker.
3. The boat was colored heavily with crayon.
Thanks to Kianna, a 1st grader, for letting me share her artwork from today!
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Up, Up and Away Hot Air Balloons

One of the first elements of learning perspective is noticing that things that are far away from you appear smaller than those that are near. Students use precut circles in this project to make hot air balloons that appear to be floating up, up and away...
1. I used circle punches to make three sizes of circles ranging from 1.5" to 3" circles. Students chose three, one in each size, and glued them onto their paper.
2. The rope lines were drawn with a pencil, starting with a curved one around the middle of the circle, a basket centered below, and then rope lines connecting the two. When complete, the pencil lines were traced with a thin black marker.
3. Clouds were drawn in the background, and the sky and basket were colored in with crayons.
Thanks to Tilee, a talented 3rd grader, for letting me share her beautiful drawing made today.
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Mixed Media Seahorse

This is my adapted Seahorse project for 1st graders, who were able to make a pretty frame for their art when their painting was finished. 
1. Students followed directions in my “How To Draw A Seahorse” post, but with a half sheet of watercolor paper instead of a full sheet. They also used plastic mesh under their seahorse when coloring with crayons to create some texture in the body.
2. Students colored in a “bubble” frame with oil pastels on a 9" x 12" sheet of black paper.
3. The painting was glued in the center with a glue stick. Pressing the final art under a heavy book for a day will smooth out any wrinkles.
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Abstract Tree

 This abstract tree makes a really bold image and also offers a lesson is using positive and negative space.
1. Starting with a square piece of paper, the students are to draw a tree trunk and lots of branches. I have a previous post titled “How to Draw a Fall Tree” which offers more tips on tree drawing. The ends of this tree need to extend to the edge of the paper to make closed shapes. I recommend students start with pencil lines, and then trace and thicken them with a black Sharpie marker.
2. When complete, the students are to fill in all the negative spaces around the tree with different colors of oil pastel. This projects could be done with a black crayon and watercolors too.

CA Visual Art Standard: Creative Expression, Grade Four
2.6 Use the interaction between positive and negative space expressively in a work of art.
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Aboriginal Lines and Dots

I read that the Aboriginal dot style of painting actually began in the 1970s when artists wanted to make symbols of some of their ancient ceremonial rituals. Soil would be cleared and smoothed over to use as a canvas. Designs were outlined with dancing circles and often surrounded with a mass of dots. Afterward the imprinted earth would be smoothed over, as if nothing had ever taken place.
1. Start with a square of watercolor paper and paint it with one color.
2. Using pencil crayons, draw a quick diamond somewhere on the page. Continue drawing more diamonds inside, smaller and smaller, until out of room. The smallest shape in the middle is filled in.
3. Continue to add attached diamonds, or if short on space, triangles. Start with the large shape first, and then work the smaller shapes inside until out of room. Fill up the paper as much as possible.
4. Make a row of dots to fill in each diamond, on both sides of the line. Use matching colors for each diamond as the Aborigines seemed to make very organized patterns, without a lot of random choices.

CA Visual Art Standard: Grade Two
3.3 Identify and discuss how art is used in events and celebrations in various cultures, past and present, including the use in their own lives.
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Art Journal: Circles of Color

I started this page with the idea of repeating circles, and just played around from there. I think it could be a good exercise in harmony as I tried to fill solid circles with colors that appeared in the cut out photos.
1. I used a spice jar lid to trace circles on my paper. I think it looks best when you can have at least 3 going across the page.
2. The same lid was used to trace some circles out of an art magazine I had. I wanted a lot of circles to color in so I cut and pasted only four photos.
3. The remaining circles I colored in with pencil crayon, trying to use only colors I saw in the photos.
4. The background was filled in with a color that was not already used.
5. The edges of the circles were retraced with a black marker, and color names written in the corresponding circles. I think I’d like to try this again with watercolor pencils to see if closer color matches could be made, but I do like the pattern.
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Graffiti Lettering Project

I wanted to introduce my afterschool kids to some very hip-looking lettering styles and new art supplies, so this was their project today.
1. Students were given a paper printout with bubble-style alphabet (about 2" high) that I found online, a sheet of acetate, and black Sharpie marker. They traced their name, overlapping the edges as shown.
2. The fun part? Bringing out the latest Sharpie markers – with brush tips! They are so great for coloring large and small areas. The kids loved them. They filled in their letters with one or more stripes as shown. An outer edge was added if desired (mine is blue).
3. I printed out a large wood grain image (thanks again internet!) on photo paper and taped it to the back. Next week I play to find a brick image for the background to really play up the graffiti look. Can’t wait!
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Summer Swimming

I was inspired by some swimming self-portraits over at “Use Your Coloured Pencils” and loved the floating hair. My students gave it a go today and made some of the cutest paintings in their journals, as they look forward to summer vacation.
1. I gave students a 2" circle to trace for the head, to give them a head start. Following my directions on the board, they drew outstretched arms, a body, and legs.
2. The drawing was traced with a permanent black marker.
3. Students used crayons to color in the hair, skin and swimsuit. Heavy coloring works best.
4. The drawing was painted over with liquid watercolor paint. A caption was added above, along with a date below.
Thanks to Spencer, grade 3, for letting me share his charming artwork.
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How to Draw a Flamingo

Flamingos are some pretty unique looking creatures. They have a lot of curves going on, but if you break them down into simple steps, the outcome may surprise you.
1. Draw a flamingo in pencil, following the diagram shown above. Erase pencil lines in places as shown.
2. Trace the drawing with a permanent black marker. Fill in the beak tip as shown.
3. Color the legs with yellow crayon, and draw some loose grass with a light green crayon.
4. Paint the flamingo with pink paint, the grass with dark green, and the sky blue. The paints used here are the liquid Dick Blick brand, featuring Magenta for the bird, Turquoise for the sky, and Yellow Green for the grass.
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Recycled Rooster

Save all those clean packing boxes, such as for cereal and pasta, and you can make some really colorful collage roosters. For a lead in story, “Farmyard Beat” is perfect and actually the inspiration for this project.
1. I guessed most kinder and 1st graders would have trouble drawing large sizes for this, so I made templates for them to trace. They just need three main shapes to get started: a half circle body, square head and curvy feather. Students traced the shapes on the back of opened boxes, and were surprised to see what colors showed up on the top when they were done. Small shapes like the beak, comb and wing were hand drawn and cut out.
2. After all the shapes were cut, they could be arranged as desired on a large sheet of paper and attached with a glue stick.
3. Lastly, the legs were drawn and colored with a marker, as was the inside of the eye.
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Picasso Tinted and Shaded Self-Portrait

Pablo Picasso's Blue Period, in which he painted only blue paintings of sad subject matter, is a good example of how an artist used color to reflect his feelings. Ask children to think of the different feelings associated with colors before they choose the main color for their self portrait.
1. Students draw a simple self-portrait with pencil on a heavy piece of paper. It's a good time to review the basic proportions of the face (eyes in middle of oval, nose halfway down, etc.) They trace the pencil lines with a black Sharpie marker.
2. Students choose one main color - red, blue, green or yellow are good.  Distribute this paint on a paper plate with a little black and white. Students can mix many variations of the main color by adding a little of each color together on the plates.
3. Students fill in each area of their drawing with a different color of paint. If some paint is watered down enough, they can paint over the black lines.
4. The entire face and background is painted and let dry. When complete, black lines may be traced again to make them stand out.

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Mosaic CD Coaster

I found this great idea over at Mini Matisse, who got it from an organization called ArtStart. I love how the plastic case makes a nice sturdy frame to work with, and the clear closure lets you just admire the colorful beans when you are done.
1. Several varieties of dried beans are needed, just test them first to see they are not thicker than the CD case before you start to glue. With a standard CD case open and the tray removed, I used a flat brush to spread a generous line of Mod Podge around the outside edge of the case. I lined up one row of beans on this, pushing them against the lip to make a straight line. The 1/2" or so where the spine used to be needs to be left clear though as the front of the case will not cover it up when closed.
2. After the outside row was complete, I painted another line of glue inside it, and lined up another row of beans. I found that this process of working from the outside in really seemed to help control all these wiggly little round shapes. I made a total of four rows or rectangles before I just filled in the remaining center with glue and the smallest beans.
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3D Paper Mache Letter

If you like those cool Pottery Barn letters but not the price, make your own.
1. My son's letter is about 9" tall. Start by drawing a big block letter on corrugated cardboard and cut out. Trace a second letter and cut it out also.
2. Get some styrofoam or similar cups and cut at least 5 to the same height and glue to one of the letters. When dry add glue to the edges of the cups, and in effect make a sandwich with the second letter. Make sure the letters are aligned so that it will stand and cover the edges with masking tape.
3. Mix up a batch of paper-mache and cover the entire letter with several layers of paper strips. If you really want a sturdy letter, have another mache session and let dry for at least a day.
4. Paint the letter with acrylic paint. I've found it best to paint the background first and then come back the following day to add details. When finished, paint with Mod Podge to add polish and protection for the paint.
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Pizza Anyone?

Sometimes I just get the greatest donations of supplies. Recently, yards and yards of felt appeared at my door. Then some white boxes were left over after the flowers inside were all used up. You couldn't buy a better combination to make the easiest and most fun pizza project ever.
1. Students need scissors that are sharp enough to cut through felt, but are still safe. I found some 99¢ Store ones that worked pretty well, but were not totally reliable – good art scissors might be best. Students were given a beige square that they cut into a circle, and then a smaller burgundy square they cut into the sauce. Gray, yellow and green felt squares were cut into shapes for mushrooms, cheese and green pepper. No glue is necessary, these felt shapes just like to stick together.
2. You can buy 12" white pizza boxes online, here is one example. Students may use Sharpie markers to write their pizza store name on front.
Thanks to Katharine, a 1st grader, for letting me share her yummy pizza!
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Kandinsky Colorweaver

Wassily Kandinsky made a beautiful painting called "Color Studies" back in the early 1900's that is fun to imitate with oil pastels instead of watercolor.
1. Distribute 9" x 12" pieces of art paper to students. Give them rulers to measure and draw pencil lines across the middle of the paper in both directions.
2. Ask the students to start in the center and with an oil pastel, draw an angle and fill in the triangle that is created. Continue around the center with drawing triangles, only changing colors each time.
3. Once a diamond is created, add bands of color around the diamond, always changing color on the pencil lines. Continue until the paper is filled with color.
This picture was made by a kindergartener in an afterschool class.
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How to Draw a Seahorse

If your students are ever learning about amazing animals, then a book from Eric Carle titled “Mr. Seahorse” is a great lead-in to this project.
1. Students draw a seahorse in pencil as shown in the diagram above.
2. They trace their drawing with a black permanent marker.
3. The seahorse is colored in with crayons, the more colors the better. White crayons may be used to add wave lines in the background.
4. Blue watercolor paint is brushed over the entire paper. I love the Turquoise Blue Liquid watercolor paint from Dick Blick, but I'm sure lots of other shades of blue will look great too.
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Pom Pom Yarn Balls

I’m in love with these pom poms! Save all those scraps of yarn – you can make these large or small with tons of different colors. I always thought I needed to buy a gadget to make them, but just found out (thank you internet!) that’s not true.
1. I used a square of matte board that was about 4" wide to make about a 2" ball. Wind yarn around it as shown in diagram 1.
2. Continue winding with either the same color or other yarn until it is a fairly thick band as shown in diagram 2. Bend the matte board to slide the yarn off the board.
3. Cut a long yarn for the string, place on a table, and center the band of yarn on top as in diagram 3.
4. Tie a knot that is very tight, and knot again. Cut all the loops as shown in diagram 4.
5. Give the yarn ball a fairly generous “haircut” to shape the ball. Then, use it to decorate whatever you want – or use as a really killer cat toy!
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Watercolor Collage

I love what torn edges do for a project, even though most students seem resistant to it. I think it maybe just takes time to trust that “happy accidents” sometimes happen with this process.
1. Give each student two sheets (I used 9" x 12") of watercolor paper and watercolors. One sheet is to be filled with one color, leaving a border around the edge (I used blue). The other sheet is painted with lots of large patterns and colors of paint. Let dry.
2. Have the students take their patterned painting and tear it into different size pieces of squares and rectangles and strips. Arrange them on the solid paper in a pleasing way and glue them in place with white glue.
3. Cut pieces of yarn and arrange on top of the artwork. I made a sun and rays and a few more lines. Glue in place and let dry.
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Mother’s Day Collage Card

This is a simple layout, but needs to be done neatly to make it look nice. My secret is to use glue sticks to make the tissue paper lay smooth and flat.
1. Students use scissors to cut out the flower and vase shapes from blue, green, pink and yellow tissue paper.
2. Glue is spread all over the front of a folded card and the tissue pieces are attached. Don’t worry about any excess glue as it will not be sticky when dry. To make all the edges lay flat, students gently rub a bit of glue over the top of each piece.
3. Messages are added in crayon on the front and inside the card.
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Metal Tooling Mother’s Day Card

Gold metal tooling is great material for making textured art. Add Sharpie markers and you have a very expensive looking Mother’s Day card.
1. Each student gets a 3" x 5" piece of gold tooling, and place it on a few layers of newspaper. They draw firmly with a dull pencil to engrave the image.
2. Sharpie markers are used to color it in.
3. The final art may be mounted on a 6" x 9" folded card using double-sided tape. I recommend a quality card stock because this card is a keeper.
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Draw Klimt’s Tree of Life

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Art Nouveau movement. His wonderfully abstract “Tree of Life” can be fun and relatively easy to draw when you break it down into steps.
1. Draw center tree trunk.
2. Add one curvy branch to the right and one to the left.
3. Center two more curvy branches on either side. Draw the ground line behind the tree.
4. Add small curvy branches wherever space allows.
5. Add small abstract triangle leaves and mushroom shapes.
6. Add abstract designs inside the tree and on the ground. Erase the lines where the the branches are added on.
7. Trace all the lines with a permanent black marker. Color the tree and background as desired. Gold and rich colors were often featured in Klimt’s work.
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Mother’s Day “Pancake Recipe”

This is a compilation of what my 1st and 2nd grade students wrote today, when I asked them how they would make pancakes, possibly for a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed.
1. Students glued a photo of pancakes to their paper (download here), and drew a fancy border around the outside.
2. The PANCAKE title was to be written in block letters. I drew a sample on the board for them to follow. The letters and border are colored in with pencil, preferably using colors already in the photo.
3. Following prompts such as “Mix _____ cups of ______. Add _________. Bake / cook for _____ minutes at __________ degrees”, students fill in their own answers. Or better yet, add some other steps. Be prepared to giggle at their responses!
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Tissue Paper Flowers for Mother’s Day

Need a pretty but inexpensive project for Mother’s Day? All you need is an old baby food jar, tissue paper, white glue and a couple of green pipe cleaners.
1. Tear blue tissue paper into small little strips. Make a 50/50 mix of white glue and water, brush on the outside of a baby food jar, and apply overlapping strips of tissue paper. Continue until the jar is covered. Brush a final layer of mixture over all to smooth the surface before it dries. Let dry.
2. My inspiration for the flowers comes from “Tissue Paper Flowers” by the editors of Klutz. Proportion of the flowers to the jar is important, so I’ve made a pattern that you can download HERE. You make a small green folded “nubs” on one ends of the pipecleaners, slide on two yellow circles, and two white star flowers. Use a small amount of clay or playdough inside the jar to support the stems.
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Mother’s Day Zig-Zag Card

I’ve used this card for kinders for several years and I'm still surprised at how nice they look, especially when colored with bright patterns.
1. Start with large white construction paper (12" x 18") and cut it in half to make panels of 6" x 18". Fold the panels into thirds to make a card that measures 6" x 6". Arrange folds so that the card makes a “Z”. Cut lots of posterboard “M” and “O” block letters for the students to trace. To save time, I left the “O” without the center cut out, and asked the students to just draw their own.
2. The students are to center the letters in each panel, trace with a pencil, and then with a black marker. The students colored in a different pattern in each letter, and then different colors for the background.
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Finish the Wolf Face

When students have a photo to refer to, I think they are often pleasantly surprised at what they can draw. I created this composite Wolf Photo Template to give teachers an easy way to share this project. 
1.  Students start by looking for the edges of the wolf head, nose and eyes and lightly sketch them in with a pencil.
2. Working in layers, students first create one that is medium gray, and fill in all areas except those that are white.
3. Students look for the darkest grays and add them on top, using more pressure from their pencil. Finally, they may try squinting at their picture to see if they need any final tweaks. White areas that got smudged may be cleaned up with a large erasure.

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Starry Night Collage

This amazing artwork comes for Linsay in Eugene, Oregon. She shared how her students (age 5-11) in the River Road Park and Recreation ASAP Program use donated magazine pictures, cut them into stamp sizes and glued them where they needed to go on my Starry Night template. Amazing! I never would have thought of such a creative use of one of my murals. Thanks so much for the inspiration Linsay!
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Paper Mache Bowl

Paper mache bowls don’t have to be made of one material. Newspaper + brown paper makes a really great earthy, recycled-looking bowl.
1. Students did a variation on my “Tissue Paper Bowl” project, but used newspaper and paper mache instead. The bowls were covered in one layer of paper and let to dry.
2. Thin brown paper was mached onto the newspaper and let dry. Several layers are best for a strong bowl.
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“Sweet” Mother’s Day Card

Cindy Littlefield posted this great cupcake card here first, but I needed to simplify it so it could be made in one class session. I also plan talk about contrast with students, so the background paper they choose has the most impact for their cupcake art.
1. I found all my paper supplies at Joann Fabrics. If you wait for sales, you can get some nice scrapbook paper without spending a ton of money. Students will start with three small rectangles of brown paper that they cut into identical cupcake bottoms.
2. Keeping the lesson about contrast in mind, they choose a background paper and fold it in half to make a card. The bottoms are centered and glued down.
3. Working with an array of scrapbook paper, they choose three swatches that look nice together. A top is cut from one, then traced and cut for the other two so all three look the same. All are glued down.
4. Small cherry circles are cut and glued on top of each.
5. A pencil crayon, crayon or gel pen may be used to write a message. I used my white Sharpie Poster paint marker.
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Hand-Colored Mother’s Day Card

If you would like to make a homemade Mothers Day card, I’ve collected a bunch of decorative letters from clipartETC.com and arranged them on a jpeg file that you can just print and color.
1. Click on the image above to download my prepared jpeg file. Print on a sheet of heavy 8.5" x 11" paper with the landscape setting and all footers removed.
2. Use colored pencils to fill in the letters.
3. If you would like to make it into a card, tape to another paper and write a message inside.
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Marker Picture on Popsicle Sticks

I’m not done with my popsicle obsession yet, and have tried a new combination. I wanted to try making a more realistic portrait to see how it would look on the wood.
1. I started by making a board of 8 jumbo sticks that were glued in the back with 2 parallel sticks (trimmed so that their ends would not show from the front).
2. Dry Wax paper is used for the drawing. This can be found at food supply stores and is generally used to wrap things like hot dogs. It should say “dry wax paper” somewhere on the package. Place a sheet over a picture that you like and trace in pencil. When complete, color with a large multipack of permanent markers. The Bic brand has the best skin tones.
3. When complete, cut out your picture right on the edge of the border. I traced and cut a second square so that I could have two layers. I needed the opacity for the dog to look white, but you may not need to if you have used color everywhere. Using a mixture of 50/50 glue and water, wet the board and the back of the art. Place together and brush another layer of mixture on top so that all the layers are thoroughly wet and smooth.
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Paper-Mache Buildings

This project came from a need for inexpensive “New York” table decorations for my school’s silent auction.
1. Prep the matte board by cutting the rectangles and squares with a large paper cutter ahead of class time. Each student will start with a set of 4 rectangle sides, and one square top.
2. Show the students how to tape the building sides and top together. Have them paper-mache with newspaper all around the outside, taking care to wrap the edges to keep the building smooth. The buildings then need to dry.
3. Follow up the newspaper layer with a layer of torn blank newsprint to cover up the letters. Dry again.
4. Using acrylic paint, cover the background in one color. After that is dry, have the students paint lots of randon squares to imitate rooms with lights on. Finally, give them fat permanent markers to trace around the windows.
5. Apply a layer of glossy Mod Podge to all to give it a nice shine.

My favorite paper-mache recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 cups cold water
8 cups boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
Mix the flour and cold water in a bowl. Add it to your saucepan of boiling water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let cool; it will thicken as it cools. This recipe makes about a gallon of mache.
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Pastel Cactus Drawing

One of my favorite combos is blending chalk pastels over dried glue. I’m always on the lookout for new subject matter, so when I saw this cactus illustration, I knew it would make a great image, and allow for some simple shading practice.
1. I used 9" x 12" black paper, but recommend something larger for 1st or 2nd grade students. I had to really be careful to keep my glue lines from touching each other, so a larger format would make it a lot easier.
2. My diagram shows the steps I took to make my drawing. When complete, I traced all the lines with white glue. It seems that the Rite Aid White glue dries clearer than others, which I prefer.
3. When the glue was dry, I used chalk pastel pencils to fill in the cactus. I decided that the light source was from the left, so I used a light green on all three left sides of the cactus, and a dark green on the right. I also had a medium green to fill in the middle, but you could just used two colors that meet in the middle.
4. After the cactus was colored, I filled in the sky, ground and rocks with single shades. To finish, a little white pencil made highlights on the cactus, and a little black made a ground shadow for it and some rocks. Spray with a sealer or hairspray when complete.

CA Visual Arts Standard: Grade Four
2.1 Use shading (value) to transform a two-dimensional shape into what appears to be a three-dimensional form (e.g., circle to sphere).
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“Moody” Self Portrait by Sarah

Today my art journal students made their own tissue paper + marker portraits (as per my “Moody” post two days ago), and once again I find their drawings so much more charming than mine. This art was made by Sarah, a 1st grader. I love how the metallic marker hair is so opaque, while the rest of the face is so transparent.
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Tissue Paper Bowls


As the school year starts winding down, my goal is to have students create a few dimensional projects, in this case with tissue paper and liquid starch.
1. Finding the perfect bowl for this is key. I found stacks like the green one above at my local CVS Drug Store for about 50¢ each. Cut lots of squares of tissue paper ahead of time.
2. Students brush liquid starch on the bowl, place squares of paper on top, and then brush again to make everything wet. They repeat this, overlapping all the squares until there is a general layer complete. Let dry overnight.
3. Squeeze the bowl to loosen the tissue, and carefully pry off. If sturdier bowls are desired, apply another layer.
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