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Leluja Paper Cutouts

20 May

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slideshow of Leluja cutout art

 This lesson was pulled from this awesome website (thank you for your perfect lesson!): Art for Small Hands


  • Learning about the art of Poland
  • Working with symmetry in design
  • Developing cutting skills

Click here, here, and here to see examples of Leluja paper cutouts.


  • Thin, brightly colored 9 x 12-inch paper (craft, origami, scrapbooking or Fadeless art paper)
  • Sharp scissors
  • Pencils/erasers
  • Spray adhesive or white glue/glue sticks
  • White paper for mounting
  • Stapler (optional)

Various forms of paper cutouts called wycinanki (vee-chee nun-key) originated in the 19th century in Poland. Each spring the people white-washed the walls of their homes and decorated them with the colorful cutouts. Two styles that developed in the northern area of Warsaw are gwiazdy (g-vee-azda), cut from a round piece of paper, and leluja (le-lu-ya), cut from paper folded lengthwise. In this lesson the children will learn about leluja cutouts which usually include a simplified, tree-like form in the center with a pair of birds or roosters near the bottom. These cutouts are often embellished with fanciful flowers, leaf shapes, and/or geometric patterns. When the papers are unfolded a symmetrical design is revealed.

Although these cutouts are still pasted to the walls of farmhouses in some rural villages, they are now mostly made for framing.


  • Set out colored paper, pencils, and scissors.
  • Have available examples and/or pictures of leluja paper cutouts.


  • Share the examples of  leluja paper cutouts, pointing out their traditional designs and symmetrical, or evenly balanced, patterns. Explain to the children that they will be making cutouts similar to those made by the Polish families.
  • Demonstrate how to make a leluja cutout by folding the paper lengthwise, making sure that the edge is even and the right side of the paper is folded in. Begin drawing from the folded edge of the paper which will become the center of the design. Explain that only half of the tree-like form in the center needs to be drawn because when the paper is opened it will reveal a mirror-image, or the other half. In order to keep the cutout in one piece, the line around the outer edge needs to be one continuous line that never intersects itself or cuts across the fold. Lightly shade the areas that will be cut away to ensure that the design will remain in one piece after cutting.
  • Cut the design in stages, first cutting out the lower part and then the outline of the tree. To make fringe, cut into or toward the tree-like form, removing small pieces of paper between the cuts so the design will show when the paper is laid flat. Finally, cut designs within the tree. (Extra folds within the designs can be made to cut patterns such as the veins in a leaf.)
  • When all cutting is completed, open the folded paper to reveal the symmetrical design.
  • Note: The children can use glue/glue sticks to mount the cutouts on the white paper, however spray adhesive (applied by an adult) is better for holding the edges flat. If needed, trim the white paper leaving a one- to two-inch border around the cutout.


  • It’s important for the children to see an example of leluja in order to understand the arrangement and abstract tree-like form.
  • Brightly colored art paper with one white side works especially well for these paper cutouts. Scrapbooking card stock works well since it comes in such a variety of colors and is easy to find in a larger size. Make sure the thickness is too thick.
  • The darker colors of paper make the strongest images when contrasted against the white background paper.
  • When working with younger children, it helps to staple the corners of the folded paper to keep it from slipping while they cut.
  • The fringe designs on the trees do not need to be drawn. Once the basic shape is cut out, add the fringe by cutting into the edges of the tree. Children often make a series of parallel cuts which close up when pressed flat. To avoid this problem, pieces of paper need to be removed by using either curved or v-shaped cuts.
  • If part of the design gets cut off, it can be saved and glued in place when mounting the cutout on the white paper.
  • The children are always excited when they open their papers and the symmetrical design is revealed. This project is a good confidence builder for children who may be unsure of their abilities in art.
  • When demonstrating the lesson in front of the class, spend a decent amount of time on scissor/paper cutting skills and technique. Do’s and Don’ts. Then proper mounting for display.


  • Discuss what happened to the original drawings when the folded papers were opened.
  • Point out how mirror-images create symmetrical designs.

What the children might say…

  • Do I have to put in a tree?
  • My paper keeps slipping when I try to cut two pieces together.
  • Uh oh…I cut off the chicken in my design.
  • What happened to the fancy fringe I made around my tree?
  • Do I need to use a farm animal? I was thinking of an elephant.

What you might say…

  • The center of your design should be related to a tree shape, but does not have to look like a real tree.
  • I can staple the corners of your paper together to keep it from slipping while you cut out your design.
  • If you accidentally cut off a part of your design, save it to attach later when we glue the cutouts to the white paper.
  • When cutting the decorative edge around the border of your tree, remember to cut out bits of paper from each cut so the design will show up when placed on the white paper.
  • You can decide which type of animals, plants, or flowers you’d like to use in your design.
Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie and Jim Bargfrede
Lesson Title: Mirror Image Cut Paper – Leluja
Room 7, 3rd Grade, Ms. Saltsman

Andy Goldsworthy – Art in Nature, using found and natural objects

24 Apr

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slideshow of kids nature art

Objective: To introduce the works of naturalist artist Andy Goldsworthy, and to create art using natural elements in and around the school, after which their art will be photographed


**MAKE SURE YOU’VE TOLD THE TEACHER THAT YOU’LL BE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM FOR THE ART EXPERIENCE. Maybe scope out with teacher a suitable outside area to scavenge/set up the art.

Ask the students if they have ever made a sand castle or drawn designs in the sand? Have they ever made a snowman or snow angel? Sometimes creating art is very much like playing and exploring. Many artists are inspired by the beauty in nature: the colors, lines, shapes, textures and compositions. Some artists use paint or clay as their medium to make art; others, like Andy Goldsworthy, use nature itself.

“I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and “found” tools – a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn.” -Andy Goldsworthy

This is also a great lesson to use to introduce a few elements of art: composition (the way the artist chooses to arrange his subject), balance, and color. Ask the kids, as you show the slides, what they notice about how Andy Goldsworthy uses color, composition, and balance. (Look for contrast in colors – compositions all seemed very balanced – lots of circles, or patterns that looked like they were inspired by nature).

Show power point slides of Andy Goldsworthy’s work.

If roaming the school grounds for materials: Have the students pair up in groups of three or four. Take the students outside. Have them gather natural materials that are visually appealing. Look for different colors and different size leaves, rocks, sticks, dirt, etc.

If AD’s have collected their own materials, go to a central area where kids can spread out enough to have a space that is their own.

Have the students create an arrangement out of the natural things they have found. Take close up pictures of their completed work, with written name on white strip of paper near piece for identification.

Element/Principles of Art: Texture, Color, Shape, Balance

Vocabulary: Environmental Art: site specific work in the landscape using nature itself as a “found object”, as both subject and raw material. Composition: the way an artist chooses to arrange subject.


Start early gathering a variety of materials to have on hand:

All colors of beans and dried green peas, Birdseed, Sand

Pea gravel or other larger amounts of small to medium rocks

Leaves – fall or evergreen

Colorful petals or flower heads (dandelions ok), Grass fronds (ornamental grass trimmings)

Seed heads from the fall, Twigs – any shape or size (cool mosses on them all the better)

clumps of moss, Beach glass, Shells, Small pinecones, Berries

• Bowls to carry their items

• White strips of paper for kid’s names – will put next to art piece before photo taken.

• Digital camera to take pictures of final finished pieces before clean-up

Print used:

Book on Andy Goldsworthy’s work, plus Scholastic Art April/May 2005 issue

Conclusion: This was the most fun I have had at a lesson. And I’ve had some fun over the years. The kids LOVED being outside, they connected with nature, found their own creative way to express their form of art and in the end understood that this style of art is temporary. They enjoyed what the created and were ok when it was swept up. Beautiful pictures were taken as memories of a fun afternoon.

Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie and Jim Bargfrede
Lesson Title: Andy Goldsworthy – Art in Nature
Room 7, 3rd Grade, Ms. Saltsman

The Nature of Emotions Color Wheel

2 Mar

I wanted to share this link that was passed on to me by fellow Art Docent, Jim Bargfrede. He used it as reference for a color lesson in room 7.

(click on pics for a closer look at the students work, and the written “emotion” they were painting.)

The kids were instructed to think of an event in their lives that stirred up emotions. Then asked to paint with watercolors their “emotions”. They were not to paint any sort of recognizable form or figure, but rather motions and movements with color that conveyed their emotion at the time of this event in their lives.

I loved this lesson, I love this special “emotion” color wheel. Thanks Jim for the lesson!

Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: color – showed various works of art that portrayed all types of emotions through color

Art Docents: Jim Bargfrede

Rm: 7, Ms. Saltsman, 3rd grade

Feb. 2012 lesson

Alexander Calder’s Mobiles

6 Jan

Mobile – a sculpture frequently of wire and sheet metal shapes with parts that can be set in motion by air currents

In our case, we will be making mobiles that will hang and use balance.

Stabile – an abstract sculpture or construction similar in appearance to a mobile but made to be stationary

• Calder invented a new type of sculpture. His new works were called mobiles because they move.
• Instead of anchoring these three-dimensional works to the ground, Calder usually suspended them from the ceiling to allow them to float freely in space.
• To make a mobile, he attached brightly painted metal shapes to wire, using trial and error to balance each one.
• He usually cut natural forms that looked like leaves and petals rather than hard-edge geometric shapes.
• His use of industrial materials—steel, aluminum, and wire—was new. When Calder’s mobiles move with the breeze, they change shape and cast interesting shadows.
• Some even “sing” as their movable parts rub against each other.

Calder still made regular sculpture, or “stabiles”, that sits firmly on the ground. Calder’s stabiles are huge, bright, sheet-metal sculptures that are designed to fill city plazas, parks, and sculpture gardens.


Gather some materials

Map out your idea first on your desk

Simplify your idea… focus on balance… with eye catching – free from – shapes

Start building

Be flexible with your design as you WILL need to tweak it to get it to balance properly

Start over if you need to

Know when to STOP and be done with your design
Wire Hangers
Wire (telephone wire, jewwlry wire, copper wire)
Colored wooden beads, metallic origami paper, cellophane, buttons, yarn, etc.
Wire cutters
**Cut paper for writing name to hang from hanger


Closing Comments: Once the kids figured out that they could bend and warp the wire hangers to make their mobiles “do” certain things for them, their creative juices really flowed at that point. SOme unraveled the hanger to create a completely unique design. Some children really built upon their designs to create the classic Calder cascading look of pieces flowing from one to the other.

Hang your name tag on the hanger when finished
Lesson Title: Alexander Calder’s Mobiles
Room#, Grade, Teacher: Rm. 7, 3rd, Saltsman
Docent/s: Marcie Guthrie, Jim Bargfrede

Name: Marcie Guthrie
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: Form, Alexander Calder

Charley Harper Shapes and Pattern

6 Nov

Charley Harper – 1922 – 2007
American Modern Artist
Felt restricted by “realism” – didn’t like to have to add shading, and make everything look 3D on paper. He felt limited.
Wildlife art was dominated by “realism”. He wanted to be different. He liked simple, flat, hard-edged shapes.

His favorite subjects of art was wildlife. Particularly birds. He observed them. Their environments. Their behavior.
His art was a combination of: SHAPES, COLOR COMBINATIONS, PATTERNS, TEXTURES that showed us, more about the animals in his art.
Where do you see shapes? Color combinations? etc.???
How do those elements of art (texture, shape and color) show the animal’s behavior, environment, or shape?

Ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
caterpillar on a leaf, a bird in a nest, an eagle with a fish in it’s claws, a bee on a flower, a sandpiper with it’s beak in the sand, birds on a wire, a robin with a worm in it’s mouth, blue jay on a branch, a woodpecker on a telephone pole…

The kids used cut paper and glue to layer their pieces of paper. They sketched their idea first to make sure that they were incorporating the chosen animal’s environment in to their design as well. The sketch was used to make sure that their animal was the right shape and fit well on the paper. The sketch also helped the children gauge how large to cut their paper pieces. Pattern was encouraged.

Closing Comments: I lead this lesson in both rm. 6/1st grade and rm. 7/3rd grade. The results were similar in ways and in other ways quite different. The 1st graders had a much more relaxed organic approach. Where the 3rd graders dove more in to the details and some struggled with just letting the piece come together even if it wasn’t “perfect” in their eyes.
Print used: Charley Harper 2012 Calendar
Room#, Grade, Teacher: Rm. 6, 1st, Wilson and Rm. 7, 3rd, Saltsman
Docent/s: Marcie Guthrie


Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: Texture, Shape and Color, Charley Harper