Welcome to Art School!

A New Column

by , posted on April 24th, 2012 in Art School, Arts & Crafts

Hey guys, Jen here with a brief introduction to today’s post. Folks, I’m super excited. Why, you ask? Because today, Deborah of My Life at Playtime is here with a new bi-weekly column on Classic Play: Art School!

You may remember Deborah from our very first creative family feature. While she wants me to tell you that she’s not ‘technically’ an artist, I’m going to tell you that when her kids’ school had to cut art class from their budget, she volunteered to go in and teach it. She studied, created lesson plans, tested them out and has hands-on, real world, art teaching experience. So, um, heck yeah, she’s qualified!

Like me, you’ve probably read that many schools across the country have cut art programs. And many parents are wondering what to do. We can’t let arts education die. Am I right?! [feel free to insert a fist pump with me here].

I thought, hey, I have this here blog, and a bunch of readers who are looking for things to do with their kids. Let’s create our own art class!

So I went out and found a great teacher to help. Everyone, please help me in extending a warm welcome to Deborah who is starting off with a great art project for elementary grades: A Wild Thing of Your Own

Supplies: watercolor paper, water, watercolor paints, brushes, pencil, black sharpie/permanent black fine tip marker

This lesson links literacy and art, two of my most favorite things.

Maurice Sendak, illustrator and author of Where the Wild Things Are, is a huge inspiration in our house. This project is a great one for all grades and can be tweaked slightly depending on your children’s age.

For upper grades, this would be a great opportunity to learn what an illustrator means, and explore the life of Maurice Sendak. I highly recommend The Art of Maurice Sendak by Selma G. Lanes which chronicles his journey as author and illustrator of some of the most beloved children’s stories of all time. Particularly his first picture book in 1963, Where the Wild Things Are.

One of my favorite quotes from the book, “If I have an unusual gift, it’s not that I draw particularly better or write particularly better than other people…it’s that I remember things other people don’t recall, the sounds and feelings and images…the emotional quality of particular moments of childhood.” Use this quote to engage your older children, grades 2-5, in a discussion about what this means to them. How art is not about hard and fast rules, about being the best or the most qualified. But instead, this quote is about transferring feelings and images onto paper.

For lower grades, I recommend reading Where the Wild Things Are before you begin this lesson.

Point out the pages without words that focus on the images of the Wild Things, how they make Max feel in the story and how they make us feel. Take the opportunity to study and explore what the characters in the story look like, their similarities, differences. I always like to take note of their large heads, interesting eyes, and varied hair and horns.

Have the children begin with their paper vertical and eyeball the center of their paper with their finger(easiest to use the hand they don’t normally write with). With their writing hand, use the pencil to begin from that center point and make a circle for the head covering the top half of the page.

Once they have a nice large head the children can begin to envision what their own wild thing would look like. How many eyes will it have, will it have horns, hair, teeth showing, only one nose, a smile?

Once the details in the face are completed with pencil the children can move on to add other details to a body, arms, legs, hands. Will there be claws, one leg or five, scales or fur, have a tail?

Once the pencil drawing of their wild thing is complete, have the children trace over their pencil lines with a black sharpie or permanent marker. This skill is great for younger kids’ fine motor skills, be sure to stress that you will only see the black lines, and the pencil markings will disappear, so every line needs to be traced.

They can go back with a pencil eraser and erase their pencil lines.

Now it’s time to watercolors. I love having the kids be able to do whatever they want with the paints, the only rule I give is there can be no white showing of the paper when they are finished. This will ensure the picture is vibrant and full.

And there you have an easy and fun way for each child to create their own wild thing.

Here’s an example of a kindergartener’s wild thing.

And a 7 year old’s.

Lastly, a 10 year old’s creation.

Deborah will be back in two weeks with another art lesson. Can’t wait!

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5 Responses to “Welcome to Art School!”

  1. Sandra Says:

    April 24th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Great, great idea – I’ll be doing this with the girl! And how inspiring that Deborah volunteered to teach kids’ art classes at school too.

    I take for granted all the music and art that I had almost daily in public school growing up. It is so needed just as daily play in the playground and math and english – a necessity!

  2. Terri Says:

    April 25th, 2012 at 11:52 am

    What a fun project and a great column! I look forward to more!

  3. Caroline Says:

    April 25th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Oh I LOVE, LOVE LOVE this! I would love to start some kind of volunteer art teaching at Lizzie’s Elkridge school too…but right now my little peanuts at home keep me busy. One day!

    THIS just MADE my day.

  4. Alisa Says:

    September 11th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I did this today with four 5 year olds. They loved it! Their Wild Things were great and they really took time creating them. Thank you! We are starting a weekly art class after kindergarden and looking forward to using your site for ideas.

  5. Natalie Says:

    June 23rd, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I’m still growing as a teacher, but if you want to take this project one step further. It’s a great time to introduce visual texture. As they look at the wild things you can ask questions, how do you think his skin would feel? How can you tell? What lines did they use to create that texture. I even had students practice on a seperate page different kinds of texture they could use for their wild thing. Kindergarten is not too young.

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