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Symbolism – Mexican Huichol bead/yarn paintings

19 Mar
Tunuri and the Blue Deer

Tunuri and the Blue Deer

On a recent trip to Mexico we encountered the bead and yarn paintings of the Huichol. They live in the mountains of Mexico and have kept their traditional way of life for many generations. They still live the same way their great great grandparents did.

{read book: The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer: A Huichol Indian Story. Also discuss info on the “history” pages at the end}

show: photos of beaded art & yarn paintings
– briefly discuss methods, notice multi-colored patterns in the forms

The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer is a traditional Huichol story about a young child finding his path in life by connecting with the powers of nature – which are very important to the Huichol. The story tells of the experiences of young Tunuri, who becomes lost in the woods. He meets the magical Blue Deer who introduces Tunuri to who? Father Sun, Mother Earth, Brother Wind, Sister Water and Grandfather Fire while leading him back to his human family.

This story tells us about how the Huichol people relate to nature. How do we relate to nature?
Another thing we find in this story are *many* symbols. What is a symbol?

Huichol artist placing beads individually

Huichol artist placing beads individually

yarn painting

yarn painting

symbol: an image that represents something else – an idea or physical thing.

where do we encounter symbols?
– maps
– street signs (STOP, Hospital)
– uniforms – police, sports, super heroes

– stop sign (red octagon)
– tent drawing on a map means camping
– heart shape is symbol of love

What symbols did we see in Tunuri’s story? What do they mean?
– blue deer – messenger
– sun/rays – Father Sun who gives life and light
– lake – Sister Water
– cloud – Brother Wind
– garden/flowers – Mother Earth
– fire – Grandfather Fire who created everything, symbol of heat and strength

Each page is full of symbols – if there were no words would we be able to tell the basic story by looking at the symbols?

We are going to make “bead” paintings but instead of beads we are going to use stamps.  The Huichol artists individually place every bead in their creation so we are going to individually stamp each of our “beads” onto our paper.

Think of a symbol or scene you like from the book or from the images we looked at. Using the colors you have, create your own “bead” painting of a symbol.
**FILL THE WHOLE SQUARE WITH COLOR** Try not to leave any white
Place your “beads” carefully next to each other and not overlap
If you play Minecraft think of your drawing like you’re crafting it from blocks

one set per two students

one set per two students

 – pencils (preferably new and unsharpened)
– multi-colored ink stamp pads
– white paper

materials for the class

materials for the class

Write your name in pencil on the back

Using the eraser end of the pencil, *gently* tamp it into the colored ink (ONLY one color per pencil!!) and stamp it onto the paper to make your designs.

You can get 2-3 stamps on paper for each tamp on the ink pad

Start by making the main part of your image then fill in all the white with the time you have left.

if done early:
use scrap paper to make bookmarks using the same method but do any design you choose. If everyone finishes with time to spare we can share a few of our symbol “bead” paintings.IMG_6518 IMG_6524 IMG_6597


Poinsettia sponge paintings – Impressionism/Renoir

27 Nov

Impressionism is a style in which the artist paints an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. They use a lot of color and many of their pictures are outdoor scenes. Their pictures are also very bright and vibrant. The artists like to capture their images without outlines or detail but with bold colors. One of the most well-known impressionist artists was:

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French artist who lived a long time ago (1841-1919).
(show portraits)
Look at this comparison between a photograph of Renoir and an impressionist self-portrait he painted of himself.  Discuss differences between photograph and painting. He made many paintings in the Impressionist style and we will look at another one today:

Still Life with Roses
Does this look clear and precise like a photograph?
What do you notice about how it’s painted?
– he’s used color and strokes of his brush to give the idea of flowers and vase
– no outlines
Composition – the arrangement of parts in an image to form a pleasing whole

Our project
Poinsettia sponge paintings – holiday time is near and we see them around often this season
– we will use sponges to make paintings of poinsettia flowers in the impressionist style
– our sponge prints will suggest the shapes of the flowers without drawing lines and details

look at poinsettia (plant or photograph)
– what features do we notice?
*circular orientation of petals
* yellow center – clusters of dots
* red petals/green leaves

Get started
write your name in pencil on the back!
Use Q-tips to dip in yellow paint and make a few flower centers on your page.
– not too close to the edge or to each other so you have room for the petals
Use sponges dipped in paint to make petals all around your centers
– these flowers are traditionally red colored but you may use any color
– each flower should be a single color
– make a few green ones for leaves if you like (use sponge or paintbrush)
– don’t mix red and green!  It will turn muddy brown
Once you’re finished with your petal sponge prints choose one background color and carefully use a brush to fill in the white areas around your flowers
– select a different color than your flowers

– thick drawing paper
– sponges cut into petal shapes of varying size
– Q-tips
– paint brushes
– tempera paint (several colors thinned slightly)
– paint cups
– water cups
– desk protection paper
– drying rack
– wipes!  They will get messy 🙂

project inspired by:

Room 6 First Grade Ms. Wilson

Docent: Jen Clark
Assistants: Jen Dailey, Stephany Toche, Larcy Douglas


Art Elements Reviewed: composition, Renoir

Patterned Animal Illustrations

2 Oct


newsprint scratch paper (for practice and desk protection)
sharpie markers
thick white paper
colored construction paper
glue sticks

Pattern: is an element (or several elements) that is/are repeated over and over in a regular sequence
– identify patterns in classroom or on kids clothes
– draw a few on the board

Iain Macarthur Owl

© Iain Macarthur

Look at the art of Iain Macarthur – a young illustrator and painter from England

– he uses patterns in his drawings of animals
– repeating shapes in different areas of his drawings
– light and dark areas, thin lines and thick lines, many different shapes

We are going to create an animal illustration in this style
first decide on your animal and create a line drawing
– practice in pencil on your scratch paper
– use one of my examples as a guide or do a different animal of your choice
– make the animal very large on your piece of paper

Within your animal drawing add patterns in sections
– use lines to separate areas of your drawing for different patterns
*SUGGEST LEAVING FACE PLAIN* to help the viewer know what kind of animal you made
– but if you want to pattern it you may
– some patterns are big and some are small
– try to use a different pattern in each section
– for patterns with black areas fill them in all the way (no scribbling)

when your illustration is complete cut out your animal and glue it onto a colored piece of construction paper


– with younger students remind them of proper marker use (only on paper, not on skin, clothes or desks)
– after being inspired by Iain Macarthur’s work the idea for this project came from DeepSpaceSparkle here and here

Room 6 First Grade Ms. Wilson

Docent: Jen Clark


Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: line & pattern

Pointillism – George Seurat

20 May

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slideshow of art from students

Print used:

 A Sunday on La Grande Jatte



5×7 watercolor paper

Q-tips (cheap ones are best, less puffy cotton)

Small dixie cups or tray of primary colors plus black (small amount so they don’t use too much) and white

Each pair will share cups/tray of paint

Mounds of Q-tips (they go through a lot!)


(reminder WRITE NAME on back with pencil)

Speak of George “Sah-RAH” (lived from 1859-1891) and pointillism…

Have kids think about what they’d like to paint. Give ideas, especially ones that are simple in design with not a ton of detail. Fish, starfish, flower(s), clouds in the sky, abstract, boat in a lake, shooting star, planets, etc.

The students will be filling their ENTIRE piece of paper with color. So they will need to add a background as well.

Steps: (WRITE NAME on back with pencil)

1. Draw a simple outline with your pencil, don’t press too hard, **use ENTIRE paper, not just a small portion of the center

2. Use the TIP of your Q-tip to DOT your paper with color. Avoid sliding the tip. For a lighter color, layer with white.

3. Experiment with color. You can make all kinds of colors by placing different colored dots next to one another or on top of each other.

4. Cover the entire picture with dots. Look at your picture close up, then step back from it and take a look. Are the colors blending together?

5. Not too much black. Avoid outlining in black. Use black ONLY to darken a bit of color, a small amount goes a long way. Sometimes a darker color can be achieved by just layering colors.

Room 6, 1st grade, Ms. Wilson
May 2012 lesson
Docent: Marcie Guthrie
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: color, George Seurat, Pointillism

Primary Colors – Paul Klee

18 Mar

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Slideshow of student pieces

Discussion: Understanding color is important as an artist. If you learn the language of color, you can use it to convey a feeling, provoke emotion, highlight certain details, or even to give your picture a temperature.

Three colors – called primary colors – RED, YELLOW, BLUE – are the basis for the color wheel. These three colors can be mixed together (along with black and white) to create pretty much any color you can think of.

When you put opposite colors against each other, it makes the other color POP! Those are complementary colors. Warm colors are red, yellow, orange; Cool are blue, green, violet.

Warm colors feel like they are moving forward, while cool colors tend to make things look further away. (Have the kids think of the coldest place they can think of – and then have them describe the colors they see in this place; likewise with a hot place.) I also showed the students some of Paul Klee’s work where it was obvious that he was using certain primary colors to convey feelings or movement in his painting.

Artist: A modern artist who loved color was the great Paul Klee (1879 – 1940, born near Bern, Switzerland), a Swiss artist who painted in the 1900’s. He used color as a language, to create a sense of place in his pictures (the Tunisian watercolors) or of temperature (The Nile painting – the blue and white squares tell the story of a cool river – we know it’s water looking at it, even though we don’t see the shape of an ocean or stream). Some of his greatest paintings used just shapes and color. Paul Klee started off as a musician and an artist. When he started to pursue his art further, he started by using lines, then shapes, then color. It wasn’t until he learned about color that his paintings came alive with beauty and excitement. He painted what he saw, and what he felt using color.


Color Wheels for reference

Watercolor paper x2 (5×7 – grid lightly penciled in, about 12 squares, no need to measure or get grid exactly perfect, just eyeball it.)

Each set of desks (2 students per) has 4 containers (red, blue, yellow and gold)

Liquid watercolors in tubes – primary colors plus  a shimmery gold watercolor

A paintbrush for each color

Paper Towel for blotting


Take a second to have the child think about what he/she wants to say with their painting. Do they want to make a picture seem hot? Or seem cold? Or maybe both of those things? Or make a picture that feels happy, or serious?

Let the kids go to town painting. Guide them to try and use different colors in every square so they play around with mixing the colors right on their paper. When the colors touch each other and if their paintbrushes are wet enough, the colors will begin to mix right on their paper. Colors can be overlapped as well, the liquid watercolors are so vivid that it’s really interesting to see what you get when you layer them on top of each other. There was enough cut watercolor paper for two pieces each.

Tips: Paintbrushes stay with the paint color. One brush per paint color. 2 people share the set of colors. Keep your paintbrushes nice and moist. No dry paintbrushes. The more wet the brush, the more the colors will blend. Less blending with a drier brush. No recognizable shapes or images, just encourage the students to explore color on their paper.

Gold will go on LAST. As an accent. Keep to no more than half your paper. Don’t let the kids go overboard with the gold, it is meant to be an accent after the color has been applied. AND meant to be overlapped, not used just on it’s own.

Vocabulary: Primary colors – Any of a group of colors from which all other colors can be made by mixing.

Room 6, 1st grade, Ms. Wilson

March 2012 lesson

Docent: Marcie Guthrie

Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: color

Lines into Shapes

1 Jan

Objective:  Show common lines, then show what happens to those lines when they intersect and overlap.

Lines can have expression on their own. But when overlapped and intersected, they create shapes. Sometimes recognizable shapes, sometimes abstract shapes.

The 1st project:

Using their initials to draw lines creating shapes on the paper. Each initial is drawn large and overlapping on top of each other so that the shapes combined, creates even more shapes.

The kids practiced this on their blank newsprint. Then copied their favorite design on the final piece. Traced their pencil with BLACK oil pastel. Making sure to continue the lines and shapes to the outer edge of their paper. Then colored in the shapes. They had to repeat each color at least one time.

The 2nd project:
Same concept, except the student used free form lines to create shapes. Limiting the sheet to no more than 5 lines. Making sure to intersect and overlap their lines. And repeating colors at least one time for each color.

Closing Comments/Observations: Most kids couldn’t believe that just 2 letters overlapped could create such cool shapes. And were amazed that it most cases their initials seemed to almost “disappear” once they colored in all the shapes. Some children used just 2 colors, repeating them in a pattern, while others used as many colors as they could and repeating them at least once.

Room 6, 1st grade, Ms. Wilson
Docent/s: Marcie Guthrie
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: Line and Shape, Line creating Shape, intersecting lines, overlapping lines

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