Farm Perspective Art Lesson

Looking for a simple lesson to teach perspective to kinder and lower elementary kids? Here is an easily adaptable lesson on perspective.FarmChicks1

I’ve had this idea for quite a while and was looking for a good book to go with the lesson. Later I realised that I had the right book all along in my son’s book shelf.
Where Are My Chicks? by Sally Grindley and Jill Newton is a fun, farm based counting book with bright and beautiful illustrations and simple words. It features a bunch of farm animals helping mother hen find her lost chicks and in turn finding a surprising bunch of other babies. The simple plot and it’s surprising ending adds interest to the book and we were all inspired by the time we finished reading it.

What you need

      • Drawing sheet for creating the farm
      • Tempera paints
      • Yellow construction paper
      • Yellow, orange and brown oil pastels
      • Black oil pastel or grease pencil for drawing
      • Scissors and glue

Drawing and painting the farm

On day 1 the illustrations in the book were still fresh in our minds and we made a farm background for our surprise lesson. I demonstrated a few barns and fences on the white board and asked the kids to get started in their own way. Since this was not the final project (though I hadn’t told them what we will be doing next week because I wanted to keep it a surprise), I kept it pretty much an open ended work. Mountains and tractors and sign boards soon flowed in along with barns and fences.

Drawing the chicks

On day 2, I asked the kids to draw 4 chicks (going by the story) on the yellow paper. I provided each kid this handout and they could choose any chick they found comfortable drawing.

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Near or far? Here or there?

Since they were lost and were to be found around the farm, the chicks were to be all different sizes. I explained how things that are far away looks smaller than ones closer to us. I also had the opportunity to explain the concept of eye level, that the bigger chicks will be placed below eye level that is towards the bottom of the paper and the smaller ones near the horizon. It is all easier said than done. Honestly, I had to keep reminding them that the chicks had to be different sizes and even when they grabbed the concept, most of the time, they ended up drawing all 4 chicks in the same size.

Final roundup

Cutting out the smaller chicks were no easy task for the 5-6 year old group. It took a whole session to get the tedious job done. Then we added feathers using yellow, orange and brown oil pastels. At the end of the day, I had a handful of satisfactory farm perspective paintings.

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Teaching Art: The beginning

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Pablo Picasso

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Sometimes I think it necessary to write down the reason I teach. Not only does it help preparing myself, but I thought it would help others. Unlike schools and privately run enrichment centres, my students come to my class only because of me. They are comfortable with me and they enjoy what they get to do in my class, it makes the children keep coming back. But how about the parents? I wanted them to know why I teach and in turn what to expect from me.

Art is my joy. I always believed art is a process and not a product. So when it was time for me to introduce my child to the world of art, I was all set to give him art materials without adult intervention and allow him to explore. I wanted him to create what he would and see what he will in his creations. It was an amazing thing to do but little did I know that though I was right, I hadn’t figured out everything.

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I can’t tell how excited I was when I put my own little baby in front of a sheet of white paper and pots of non-toxic washable paint shortly after his first birthday. To say that I was excited would be an understatement. I felt like it was all I had ever wanted to do, the thing I had been waiting for! He was curious and wasn’t as excited as I was, but it was definitely a start. We didn’t stop there, we kept going and very soon, he had his own art station where he could have access to his art supplies without having to wait for mama’s help.

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I never stopped him when he was exploring or advise him on what he should be doing. I just let him go, do what he would, just like I thought it should be.

Drawings at 3 years old

Drawings at 3 years old

When he was around 4 years old, I sat with my son for a mom and me painting session and in the middle of the session, my son told me that he couldn’t draw as well as I did. That was a big shock for me, because I didn’t think that 4 year olds would ever criticise their art the way adults do. I thought they were confident about their own art and about what they created. And I really did appreciate my son’s bold unrealistic creations much more than my own subtle realistic paintings, not so much because he is my son as because I lack the sort of fearlessness that I’ve observed only children have.

For the first time, I reconsidered all I had discovered about art in early childhood. That was when I realised that useful intervention was definitely needed in a child’s art exploration. And then there was this question about when a child needs adult help, and how much. I enjoyed the process of exploration myself, as I set out paint palettes for children of my friends in my home. And I definitely learnt as much as or more than the kids did during those little art sessions. It helped tremendously when I decided to start my own classes for kids.

“Seven Blind Mice”

This was a book our volunteer reader had chosen to read on the first session of KidsREAD club. It is a simple yet powerful story and with brilliantly coloured pictures on black paper, it is captivating.

The story is an artistic twist to the classic fable “3 blind men” I’d heard from my grandfather long ago. As the title suggests, it is about seven blind but differently hued mice trying to find out about the strange ‘something’ by the pond, each coming up with a weird guess about what the ‘something’ was, drawn from the little they had explored. The story ends with a conclusion that it’s important to take your time to know the whole than jump into a quick decision.
It was our first story telling session but the kids were quite involved with the story, words and illustrations. To add interest to the reading, we had also created these props.

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A handmade Braille handout to show the kids how blind people ‘feel’ what they couldn’t see. Thanks to PBSKids’ Braille translator.

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Seven mice drawn and cut out from construction paper and pasted onto popsicle sticks. We used each one of these during the part of the coloured mice in the story.

My First Self-Portrait

I’d never taught a self-portrait before and thought it was time to try one. I say try, because I didn’t really set high expectations about the results. I wanted the kids to have a good experience though.

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I read the book “What is a Self-Portrait?” by Ruth Thomson to prepare the kids about what is expected. We didn’t have to go through the whole book. Since this was their first self-portrait, the information from the first 4 pages of the book was sufficient. After covering the basics of a self-portrait, the book goes to explain the different emotions and ways self-portraits are drawn. A good read, and I might definitely choose it again for our next version of portraits.

When we read the part where artists observe themselves in the mirror to draw, I handed a mirror to the kids and helped them observe themselves. I started demonstrating on the white board how different features can be drawn and prompted them to observe the particular shape of their own features. This took a bit of time but the kids found it amusing given the subject of the lesson. They had such fun analysing their own features before they got ready to draw and paint.

End of the day, I had these wonderful self portraits. What I love best about this project is that each art work has it’s own characteristics and I bet each of them closely resemble the artist themselves…

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My Little “Pictionary-Perfect” Artist

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So, how does your son do?

I hear this question very often. When they get to know me, people always wonder how well my son must have taken to art. Answering this question is very hard. I know that just because I am an artist doesn’t mean that my son should be. But I tried my best to provide him the opportunities. He always had art supplies at his disposal and even though he didn’t turn to it as often as I wished, I was happy with what he created.

I refrained from instructions and by the time he was 4, he would amaze me with his imagination. He brought his free time drawing sheet from school one day. He’d drawn a dragon attacking a flying castle. But instead of burning, the castle’s strength made the fire reflect back to dragon, hurting the dragon itself. Of course all of this was his words, because I didn’t even recognise the dragon and the flying castle looked more like a rocket. But his concept was pretty amazing.

If he were drawing fish, he would make them race around the paper and insist that he draws a finish line, which, done in my class room, confuses the other kids making them want to copy him without even understanding what he does. He is not really an ideal student in a classroom.

While drawing a landscape, he would draw both sun and moon, because it is that time of the day when the moon rises just as the sun sets, and later he would fill it all up with grey blue paint because it was raining and all you could see in the scene was greyish blur. He is spontaneous. He is a creative thinker, who draws to convey meaning but he is not someone who would relish creating a “picture-perfect” image.

So instead of controlling his creative-thinking soul, we got him a Pictionary for Christmas. It’s a game for 8+ years with at least 4 players. But that doesn’t stop my little artist. We customised it between the 2 of us so he has a perfect place for all his creative energy.

Here’s a few of his sketches that he thought, drew and conveyed the meaning to me in under 55 seconds each.

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    1. Telephone
    2. Nose (Note the arrow mark) and Pine apple (He was focussing on the crown and the spikes)
    3. Monkey: He drew the tree first, then scribbled the creature, but focused more on the tail
    4. Car Park: This one was really interesting. It is the way things are in our part of Singapore. A multi-storey carpark with lift near your apartment
    5. Postman: This is another interesting 55 second sketch especially because our postman (usually a woman) doesn’t wear a hat or bag like that and doesn’t give letters to people directly. But like my son has figured out during his limited time, he couldn’t have drawn any other way to convince me that it is indeed a postman

He has just learnt to read so that makes the game even more challenging when played with only your opponent. So far, there hasn’t been one word he couldn’t draw or I couldn’t guess!

An Appeal to the Tooth Fairy

My poor little son lost his first baby tooth after weeks of anxious tooth shaking and anticipation about his first Tooth Fairy visit. Unfortunately he swallowed the tooth along with his bite of sandwich. He rummaged through the remains of our lunch for the tiny tooth and when he couldn’t, broke down crying about having to go to school with a “broken tooth”.

That was couple of days ago. I really did feel bad so today I suggested that he appeal to tooth fairy and see if he would still get a chance. Of course, I had to spend the next several minutes explaining that he could ‘appeal for something when it doesn’t happen the way he wanted and it really wasn’t his fault’. He took to the idea and wrote the letter in the evening.

Dear Tooth Fairy 1

He was so eager to write that he was writing much faster than I’ve ever seen him do. And if I consciously made him add more words than necessary to his letter in the hope of giving writing practice, that wasn’t my fault at all.

Dear Tooth Fairy 2

His first, most legible letter was complete with a colon, full stops where needed, an exclamatory mark (he seems to have taken after my love for exclamatory marks) and his signature which deserved 5 stars and a smiley! (yeah, that’s what I meant)

Dear Tooth Fairy 3

He got the envelope ready and even though it was not going to be posted, he put a stamp on it out of respect for the Tooth Fairy. After all, this is not a normal request, it was an ‘appeal’.

Dear Tooth Fairy 4

He carried the letter around with him all evening and then casually forgot to put it under the pillow. There was a reason why I called him ‘my poor little son’. This might be the cutest thing he ever did and I’m sure the tooth fairy would visit him tonight with more than what he expects and probably a note asking him to remember things, or better, to listen to his mommy. Yeah, Tooth Fairies could be evil like that!

Edited: March 14, 2014

He did find the envelope under his pillow the following day, with 2 dollars and a note saying that the fairy found his letter anyway, because he had been a nice child. He thought about it for a while and then asked me whether I did it.
I replied with a question. “Why do you ask me such a question?
I don’t know. Something tells me that YOU did it.
I answered with the “I don’t wanna talk about it” like I always did when he asked about Santa. After this, he insisted that he leave a gift for tooth fairy, probably 3 dollars, thanking her for her kindness. It was getting beyond my control and finally we settled with a nice little drawing to tooth fairy in return!

“My Octopus Arms” Art Project

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I love collage projects. At 4 years old, the preschoolers are not too young to handle scissors and with a little practice, they stop complaining about having to cut too much (which did happen in some of the previous projects).

When I was looking for the right cutting project for this term, I found this book at the library.

My Octopus Arms by Keith Baker is a book about the different fun activities we can do in daily life. If the words and the fun activities discussed were not captivating enough, Keith Baker has done a wonderful job with the illustrations. The bright pink and flesh tint octopus is inspiration enough for anyone to get painting.

What you need

  • 2 sheets of B3/A3 paper
  • Black oil pastel or marker
  • Tempera paint: Red, Yellow and White (or Pink and Flesh Tint), Blue for sea
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Marker cap/anything else for stamping small circles

Drawing the Octopus

Start with the easiest and most obvious shape, the face, with an inverted ‘U’. Then add the arms one at a time, starting from one of the ends of the ‘U’ and counting up to 8 while reaching the other end. Given the the age of the child, it won’t be as easy as it sounds. But usually 4 arms on each side is quite easy to achieve.

Draw 2 eyes out of the octopus so that we can paste it in the end. Also draw any other small sea creatures you want to add in the end.

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Filling in the colours and adding suckers

I set pre-mixed pots of pink (red and white) and flesh tint (red, yellow and white) on the table and the kids shared the paint. They were asked to blend the colours irregularly to add texture and variety.

Then use a marker cap or any other small cylindrical object to stamp in the suckers.

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Prepare a blue background, cut and paste the octopus

We prepared the blue background for sea on another sheet of paper and waited for everything to dry.

In the next class, the kids cut out the octopus and the fish and pasted them on the blue sheet.

Warning! Cutting out thin strips of paper attached to the main body is not an easy task for 4 year olds. So before I knew what was going on, we had a huge pile of paper tentacles which needed to be sorted out, and some gone missing. It would have been a better idea to make some markings on the back of the paper so you would know where each tentacle belonged to.

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Finally Glue in the eyes and other sea creatures

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The quilt story

Being a private art teacher, I do not teach a fixed number of students or during a school year. I do have children joining in the middle of the term occasionally and I’m always looking for new colour and line lessons that need to be simple enough for the new kids and at the same time, add new concepts to the current students. In that way, here’s the latest colour and pattern lesson for my 4-5 year old group.

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Inspiration

I’ve had this idea in mind for quite long but I happened to change my plans at the last minute and didn’t have much time to look for a book to go with it. Instead I read Art by Patrick McDonnell and went on with the lesson. In fact, this lesson is one of the most forgiving and simplest in terms of planning involved.

I did, however, find Mooshka, A Quilt Story the day after the lesson and found it most suitable to have got the kids inspired before the lesson. In fact, each page is filled with beautiful colours and patterns of the special, talking quilt and each pattern has it’s own story to tell making it a perfect way for kids to understand the importance of making unique designs in their art. But that’s not what the book is all about. It talks about family history and and bonding, bringing the siblings together towards the end.

 

What you’ll need

  • A sheet of paper (I use an A3 sheet to provide enough space for the kids to explore)
  • Tempera or watercolour paint (I used crayola washable paint) - primary colours
  • Oil pastels or water resistant markers (sharpies would do great) – any colours + black

That’s all you need and you are good to go.

Patterns

To start the lesson, I quickly demonstrated a few lines and patterns and dropped some hints as to what they might want to fill their paper with. I instructed them to divide their paper into squares as evenly as they can using a black oil pastel and start making patterns with other colours. The only restriction I set was that each square should have a different pattern. I was teaching the 4-5 years old group and some kids need more help than others in deciding the patterns despite the hints given earlier. But there are also others who just gracefully move through the whole lesson occasionally stopping to get an affirmation from you. The picture below was done by a girl who is just 4 years old and she already has a way of combining more than one element in each pattern.

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Colours

And then it’s time to add paint. Being a lesson focusing on colours too, I provided only primary colours and encouraged the kids to mix their own colours. I didn’t insist what colours they mixed so at the end of the second lesson, I ended up with sheets filled with a rainbow of colours along with a variety of neutral browns.

Finishing Touch

The kids drew short strokes all along the edge of the paper to finish up their beautiful patchwork quilts.
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Monsters Paper Collage (video)

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Finding Inspiration

Monsters! One thing that gets every child in every art room excited. When I found this book at the library, it was all I could do not to jump in excitement. If You’re A Monster And You Know It by Rebecca Emberly and Ed Emberly is a catchy and engaging book with beautiful collage illustrations. As the name suggests, the whole book is a twist to the classic children’s song, “If you’re happy and you know it”. The kids can’t have enough of stomping and wiggling.
I kept pointing to the colours and shapes used in the illustration when I was reading and by the time I was done reading, the kids knew exactly what they were going to create. The book served as a perfect mood setter.
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Making of the monsters

This project is one of the simplest in terms of planning and cleaning up, but involved a good deal of skills to improve. All you need is coloured paper (I used cheap origami sheets), 1 sheet of construction paper (black works like magic), scissors and glue.
I placed the basket of paper on the table and the kids started cutting and pasting the shapes onto the black construction paper.

Since I was teaching a group of 4-5 year olds, I have to add that some kids need much more instructions that this. To these kids I had to give more specific hints like “what kind of head does your monster have?” or “what colour is your monster’s hand?” while the others just went through the steps like a breeze with their own ideas.

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Of course, what’s a monster project without Mike Wazowsky?

Finishing up

We finished the project in a single session with simple monsters but if time permits, you could make them more adventurous and attractive by adding more layers to them.
Here’s are the pretty creative monsters from my 4-5 year olds.
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Video

Toucan Toucan’t

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Toucan Toucan’t

Toucans are beautiful creatures. And those beautiful beaks have always been a source of inspiration for me. I’ve been looking for a book to get the kids inspired and found this at the library, Toucan Toucan’t by Peter Francis-Browne and Rita Gianetti. It’s a humorous story of 2 toucans explaining what “two can” and what “two can’t”. The book is very engaging and introduces the concept of simple word play to young readers along with beautiful illustrations.

What you need

  • A3 or B3 drawing sheets: I cut the sheets in half because the drawing is quite detailed.
  • Tempera paints: I prefer crayola washable paint. You’ll need black and various shades of green. I provide one shade of premixed green along with blue and yellow paints so that they can mix their own greens for variety.
  • Oil pastels: You’ll need at least 2 colours,  yellow, orange, red and green for the beak.
  • Black markers or oil pastels.
  • Reference picture: I used an oil pastel sketch of a toucan from my sketchbook but you can use any cut-out or print or just the book for reference.

Drawing the Toucan

I use directed drawing method and demonstrate the drawing on the white board. I teach a small group where I can guide each kid but if you have many kids, you might want to use this handout.

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Play with colours

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I started the background first, which is actually a little challenging because of the variety of colours. On the second day, we painted the beak and the tree branches with oil pastels and then painted the toucan black. As a last step, we went over the lines with a black oil pastel.

Amazing toucans!

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