Communicating Visually: The Emoji Pillow Project

While we all may not speak the same language, we all can understand visual images. The emoji is defined as a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion as a form of electronic communication. We use these images to communicate message, happy, sad, frustrated, mad and even love. This project is designed to show students how powerful one image can be and how images can easily communicate ideas, emotions and feelings. Are images more powerful than words? I’ll let you decide.


We began this project by planning and practicing using shapes to draw emojis. Each student folded a paper to create 4 equal sections then drew 3 emojis of their choice and created one original emoji. Then we painted paper yellow!


Each student looked at their work and decided which two emojis were their favorite. Their final choices were drawn on their yellow paper then colored with Sharpies and oil pastels.


Colorful Abstract Art Self Portraits

It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with these colorful self portraits! This collage lesson gave students important practice with cutting and gluing as they used their imagination to construct a colorful (somewhat proportionate) facial composition.  Using bright colors allowed students to use their imagination and pushed them to think more abstractly/ outside the box. This project was also a continuation of our Abstract Art Unit!

We Learned to….

  • Use shapes and color to create art from imagination
  • Use 2D & 3D Techniques
  • Use scissors and glue to develop motor skills in a safe & responsible manner
  • Understand expression
  • Use art vocabulary to discuss art work
  • Show how facial expressions can communicate emotions (visually)

Art & Literacy: 100 Days of Monsters

With Halloween quickly approaching, I was inspired by all the creativity and surrounds this holiday. To me, Halloween is about creating! Homemade costumes, props, decorations…Halloween really provides an opportunity for everyone to create. While I am typically opposed to holiday themed art, this project is more about the process than the subject or holiday. This project allows art to happen, and teaches students to realize that the materials can begin the creative process, instead of an idea.

Prior to starting the art making process we looked at the pictures from the book, 100 Days of Monsters by Stefan Bucher. We also watched a few of the monsters being created on Bucher’s YouTube Channel!

Step 1: Using a straw, students used a forceful breath of air to move a small amount of drawing ink around their paper.

Step 2: Each student rotated their paper looking for an idea or inspiration!

Step 3: Sharpies were used to bring their creations to life!

Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all….



Watercolor Resist Orange Slices

A watercolor resist is a painting technique that repels paint. In this project we accomplished this in two ways, black glue (around each of the orange slices) and oil pastels (inside the orange slices). Students also had an opportunity to create visual textures using salt and rubbing alcohol.

Step 1: We used old rolls of masking tape and created a composition of repeating circles, by tracing the interior circle and exterior circle of the making tape.

Step 2:  We added the lines and a donut shape inside each circle. All the lines were traced in Sharpie. Black glue was used to trace the exterior circle so the background paint color would RESIST spreading into the orange. Finally, white oil pastel was added!


Step 3: Using orange and blue liquid watercolors we painted the oranges and background. We added salt to the oranges and rubbing alcohol to the background…resulting in some amazing masterpieces!


Recycled Magazine Bowls

I love recycled art projects, and this one is no different. These beautiful bowls will soon be created by my 5th and 6th graders. As I wrote in a previous post…teaching students how to successfully use recycled materials in the art room is important for numerous reasons. One of the most important reasons is that teaching applications for recycled materials empowers students. By showing students art can be created using materials they have access to on a daily basis; suddenly the world becomes a giant art store, full of possibilities, instead of limitations. Another reason recycled art lessons are important is that it creates environmental awareness and fosters an atmosphere where students are more responsible consumers. There are so many contemporary artists creating beautiful art that communicate powerful messages today, these artists show how powerful any material can be.

Here’s a quick “how to” for creating these beautiful recycled bowls…

Begin with a magazine, you want to make sure all the pages are the same size and paper weight if you are using more than one. Tear our the pages.

Fold the paper in half length wise (also, known in class as hot dog style). Open then fold each half to the center line.

Fold closed, then fold in half again. You should have a 1″ folded sheet of paper.

Continue until you have 30 folded pieces of paper (small bowl). Remember, the more paper, the bigger the bowl. Tape 3 pieces of paper together (end to end), using clear tape. Roll the paper (like a sleeping bag).

Tape the roll closed. Repeat with another 3 strips, tape the beginning to the end of the last strip (on the roll). When the desired diameter pull the sides up to create your bowl. Modge Podge bowl to secure! Finally, admire your recycled art handy work!


Watch the video tutorial by clicking here: Recycled Magazine Bowls 

6th Grade Charcoal Project

As an artist, charcoal is my medium of choice, but as a teacher I usually opt for materials with greater vibrancy…but not this time! Later this year, all 6th graders get to take a field trip to Kennedy Space Center. This week we started working on space themed art for Space Week. Two students will be selected to represent Columbia Elementary and have their work on display during Space Week at KSC. What is even cooler is that the two students receive an award signed by an astronaut AND every 6th grader in the county will see their work (that makes them pretty much art famous)!

Today, we worked on creating a ground, which is the base of our drawing. Instead of drawing in pencil, we used a ground, and covered the entire paper with charcoal (creating a gray color). Students then used an eraser instead of a pencil to draw. I am blown away by how quickly students were able to adapt to this subtractive process.


Next, we used charcoal pencils to add in the dark areas (additive process) and used the eraser again to create the lighter areas (subtractive process).  This project gives students the opportunity to work with materials that real artist use and explore different art making processes.

Alexander Calder Lesson

American sculptor, Alexander Calder is the inspiration for this (amazing) lesson. Calder is known for his kinetic sculptures and is the creator of the mobile! One of the most fascinating things about Calder is he kept a roll of wire in his pocket and would sculpt instead of draw what he saw. I put him in the creative genius category in my brain. Had Calder and I had lived during the same time, I like to think we would have been friends because of our like-minded view of art.

Calder Quotes Worth Reading

“Above all art should be fun.”  
“To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there’s no such thing as perfect.” 

Calder’s wire sculptures are so interesting and are very similar to contour line drawings, so it was a natural starting point. Contour drawing is drawing in one continuous line (without picking up your pencil/pen). Blind Contour drawing is drawing without looking at your paper and picking up your pencil!

Why is learning contour drawing important? Contour drawing strengths your power of observation by forcing your eye to really look at what you are drawing (instead of drawing what you think something looks like). Contour drawing also increase hand-eye coordination (not to mention, it’s really fun).

Excise 1: 5th Grade Blind Contour Drawings of Your Partner 


Exercise 2: Contour Drawing of Supplies 


Exercise 3: The Contour Self Portrait 


Exercise 4: The Wire! 

Using wire is not easy and creating something as personal as a self portrait can be frustrating, but these 5th graders are really working hard and diligently problem solving. Wire does not flow as easily as drawing a pencil line, the important part is that students are creating with different materials and trying different ways to achieve the end result!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison



Kandinsky & Abstract Art


One of the facets of art education I am the most passionate about is art appreciation. Art appreciation teaches students how to think, communicate and evaluate visually. Unlike language, images are universal. I feel that it is vitally important to get students to not only look at a variety of images but get them to describe, analyze, interpret and evaluate what they are seeing (Feldman Model). According to the Artful Citizen, Three Year Report, studies prove that students achieve greater academic success when they have a better understanding of visual images. Students also exhibit greater growth in core subjects, math and reading, while also showing increased social-emotional awareness (2005).

Abstract art is difficult for many adults to understand but today we tackled one of the greats, Kandinsky. Kandinsky, the great Russian abstract painter, is the subject of the children’s book, The Noisy Paint Box. The book is amazing, and explains how Kandinsky saw colors, shapes and lines when he listened to music. In true Kandinsky fashion, we listened to sounds different instruments make, then created the lines and shapes that reflected those sounds. It was a lot of fun to see the what each student created.

Students created these masterpieces while listening to Richard Wagner’s, Lohengrin (Prelude).