Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Abstract Acrylic Paintings on Cardboard: Lesson for Ages 2 through 6

While the my students (ages 2 through 6) have been learning about color pallets with acrylic paint, how to mix acrylic and utilize different brushes and pallet knifes, I have offered a variety of different projects to help them practice these techniques.  This was a fun 2-3 session project that my students worked on they for our annual art show.

If you want to give this a try with your little ones, this is a fun abstract art lesson that will need some prep time by a teacher.


  • Cardboard about the thickness of a typical large pizza box (and not so thin like a shoe box).  Actually, I collected the lids of pizza boxes to use for this project.  Cut some of it out into large rectangles or squares for work surface for the kids, along smaller pieces cut into shapes around 1 to 2 inches in diameter.
  • Scissors 
  • Paints.  We used acrylic, but tempera will do.  
  • Paint brushes for painting
  • Paint trays (we use plastic lids from containers like hummus and margarine)
  • Glue like tacky or modge podge for glueing the shapes. I'm sure regular school glue will be fine, too.
  • Q tips or old brushes for using glue
  • Cans for water and for glue.  I used old tuna cans.
  • A couple sheets of paper towels or one rag for each child to wipe access water and paint onto
  • Protective sheets to cover tables and protective smocks or t-shirts for kids to wear using acrylic paint 
  • Markers & Crayons (Optional.  My kids wanted to color on their cardboard as they waited for the glue to dry before painting on them)
I have all of the lessons, preparations, and steps typed out which I will gladly forward to you if you are interested in specifics on how to put this together for ages 2 through 6, but if you are just improvising, have fun with it and just get ideas from the photos below. 

After the shapes are glued on their work surface, the kids are offered acrylic paint to turn their work into a colorful abstract piece.

I show my kids how to clean their brushes and wipe off excess water before dipping into acrylics.

Here are a few of the finished products of the abstract shape art.  These pieces were on display for our annual art show.  To see more works from this show, click here: Photos of Wonderland Art Show

Thanks for visiting!
~Angelique Bowman

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lesson on Highlighting, Shading & Blending: Ages 2 through 6

 I had prepared a spot for each child at the table with these drawing tools: An artist graphite pencil, a writing pencil, a store bought blending stick, a handmade blending stick, a piece of white charcoal, grey paper which I taped to the table for stability, a folded up paper towel, and objects for my students to try to draw.  Scroll down for more images and techniques on giving this lesson.

This was an experimental lesson to teach my students a few drawing techniques that many artists use when creating different dimensions, especially in realism.  During my lesson, the kids were shown various graphite drawings and charcoal drawings by a number of artists.  I pointed out different levels of lightness and darkness throughout the work and talked about where the light source was coming from.  I also had some fake fruit handy (from the kids' play kitchen), and put a spotlight on the fruit to point out how it is much brighter on one side than the other.  They took note of where the shadows were made and many were able to point out where the light source was coming from in several pictures that were shown.  Finally, I showed them how to use some of the drawing tools that I offered and demonstrated how to use them on some grey art paper.  I would suggest any colored paper except for white, because the white charcoal will not show up so much on white paper.  If you are interested in trying out these things, I made a list towards the bottom of this post on how the material was presented.

Okay, so you might be thinking to yourself, how should we expect these kids to understand this stuff?  First off, you can't typically expect something "realistic" to come out of this age group.  However, you can expect that the kids will gain knowledge and a better understanding of how things are made.  This is the age where kids are consuming so much information, even if their little fingers aren't quite coordinated physically to create exactly what you are showing them.  Many children will experiment with some of the ideas that you show them, and they will likely do their own thing, too, which leads them to open new doors of creativity that perhaps they didn't know they had.  After most of my fine art lessons, I find that children think more about the dimensions they are drawing/painting/etc., as well as the meaning of the art.  In the moment, they feel that their work is special, regardless of what anyone else thinks it looks like.  And when they think it's special, they are proud of themselves!  That said, on many levels, art is an important subject for children as it can give them a sense of pride in their work and more importantly, in themselves.

When I offered the fake fruits and vegetables for the kids to draw, some of them tried to trace the shape in order to make it "life like."  This was not something I suggested, but I thought it was an interesting way for them to explore drawing from still life.

For you teachers out there, get creative and teach this in whatever manner you choose.  Here are some ways I showed my students how to work with the tools:

An Artist Graphite Pencil & a normal, Everyday Writing Pencil (led or graphite will do): My artist graphite pencil was a 4B and I would suggest this grade or anything darker, as long as it is more contrasting than the writing pencil.  I showed my students a grading scale from light to dark with each pencil to compare the densities.  I wanted them to recognize that there are special pencils out there specifically for drawing that can give them more variety in lightness and darkness.  You may want to point out that you are gently pressing your pencil down for the lighter areas (when making a grading scale) and you are pressing down harder with your pencil as you get darker.

Blending Sticks:  I offered both store-bought blending sticks from an art store, and then I made some larger ones to experiment with to.  To make your own blending sticks, first tear some news paper into a large triangular shape.  I suggest tearing over cutting as it will help create a softer tip once you've rolled it up.  Begin rolling from one of the points, and just try to keep it rolling tight, more so on one end, to create a long and narrow cone.  Tape the end of it, and if your point is a little too narrow or flimsy, it won't hurt to just snip it off and shorten it a little with some scissors.  Show the kids how the blending sticks can smudge or blend in pencil markings to create shades and shadows.

Folded Up Paper Towel:  I folded a paper towel up into a small square and showed the kids how this can also be used to blend pencil marks.  The kids can experiment with the different textures that each blending tool has to offer.

White Charcoal: A piece of chalk might also do as a substitute.  I mentioned to the kids how the light areas on the drawing could be blended with the charcoal.  I also showed them how the paper towel works best for blending the charcoal in.

I hope this was helpful!  Contact me with any questions!

Thanks for reading,
Angelique Bowman

©2013 Angelique Buman Studio Lessons with Little Wonders: All work offered on this blog is offered as lessons written by Angelique Buman.  If you are interested in purchasing more thorough lessons on fine art for kids, please contact Angelique Buman.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pre-Sewing Necklace Activity for Ages 2 through 6

This is a great activity for children ages 2 through 6 to start learning how to poke a needle through material.  I offered a variety of needles including plastic training needles, mostly with dull tips to avoid any accidents.  The eyes of these needles were large enough to thread yarn through, which is what we used to thread the craft foam shapes with on the necklaces.  The kids were really proud of the final result, and I ended up offering this project a second time with different shapes and colors of the craft foam, since the kids were so interested in making more necklaces.  Read on to learn how to present this lesson to your kids.

Depending on the size of your group of kids, you may want to prepare part of the project before presenting it to them as it is a little time consuming.  First, I cut out lots of shapes out of craft foam sheets (at least 10 shapes for each student).  They were all different sizes-- small enough to be charms on a necklace, but large enough for the kids to work with.  If you need a visual, you may want to make your shapes say, a little larger than a quarter.  Perhaps even larger for the younger ones who are still working on building those fine motor skills.  Have markers handy for the kids to decorate the shapes with before threading them with a needle to make a necklace.  I had the needles threaded in advance, making sure that the thread was large enough to fit over a child's head.  I threaded the needle first and wrapped it around my own head, adding a couple inches in length to make sure there was extra room for cutting the needle off later.  

I suggest having old pillows handy when presenting this work to show the kids how they can press into the center of the shape and push down into the pillow with the needle to poke a hole.  The pillow was a safe and fun alternative to prevent kids pricking their little fingers.

When the kids have finished decorating their shapes and threading them with the needles onto the yarn, cut the needle off and knot it together for each child.  I chose to use yarn, because you can show the kids how they can spread their shapes out, so that the shapes are not all clumped together once the necklace has been cut and tied.

This is a great pre-sewing activity to help build coordination for poking holes with a needle and thread.  I hope this was helpful!

Thanks for seeing what we've been up to in the Little Wonders Studio.

~Angelique Bowman

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Teaching Kids About the Figure: Fine Art Lesson 1- The Head.

This Lesson was Taught to Ages 3 through 6

Teaching kids about the figure is definitely an ongoing project as there is so much to explore.  I wanted my students to recognize that there are countless ways to approach the figure, from realistic to abstract to expressive, etc.  After showing the children various types of figure drawings, paintings, and sculptures done by a number of artists, we began focusing in on the head.  I showed them portrait paintings by people like Vango and Picasso to get a look at some abstract and expressive approaches, and I pointed out how they don't necessarily always use skin tone colors.  We covered symbolism a little bit and that there could be intentions behind intense colors used in many of the faces we saw.  We got into the whole discussion about how different colors can express a certain mood, and that perhaps some of the "blue faces" we were seeing meant that the artist was trying to convey a message of sadness and that the red ones by some artists seemed "hot" or "angry," and so forth.

After the lesson, the kids were given copies of faces that I had drawn up for them to explore different approaches to shading and coloring in a face.  I find that offering them drawings to color in gives them a chance to pay more attention to the face structure, before giving a lesson on drawing the face, but there is no right or wrong here.  Anyway, many of my students preferred the more abstract or expressive approach, where I drew obvious shapes to simplify the features on the head.  Some wanted to try something more "realistic" by adding shading with pencils and shading tools that we recently had a lesson on.  Nearly all of them loved the idea of coloring the faces in with intense colors to represent a mood.  This exercise ended up being a great outlet for the kids to express themselves.

There are countless lessons to be had on the figure, and we will certainly be coming back to this topic soon.  In the meantime, we are getting ready for an art show coming up at our school in April.  Stop by again in mid April, as we will definitely have photos up from the show.  

Please contact me personally for more information on the Little Wonders:
Angelique Bowman
Little Wonders Art Teacher