Blind Contour Drawings

First, allow me to share some exciting news with you, this year, A Messy Art Room, graduated from the Elementary  (probably due so extensive mess making) to MIDDLE SCHOOL! Therefore, now, on this site you’ll have a chance to see all the creative adventures of 7th and 8th graders.

Speaking of creative adventures, we have already embarked on our first (and it’s only the third day of school). Visual Art I students created blind contour drawings and they came out amazing. For those of you who do not know what blind contour drawing is, it is when you draw (in this case the person across from them) without looking at your paper or picking up your pencil/Sharpie. The results delight everyone, it’s a wonderful thing to take away the pressure of perfectionism. For this project, students drew multiple blind contours, sometimes they overlapped, sometimes they did not. The results are unpredictable but the exercise is meaningful because it forces students to really look at what they are drawing and notice all the small features of the face while also improving hand-eye coordination.

As a finishing touch, students added details within their drawing….



Sumi Ink Collaboration

I have long been a fan of Sumi Ink Clubs, started in 2005, these clubs promote collaborative art making for all skill levels and ages. Their website, Sumi Ink Club, gives a broader view of the organization if you’re interested in learning more. As a first day of school activity, students explored and experimented with Sumi Ink. Sumi Ink is a opaque permanent black ink often used in Japanese Calligraphy.  Using similar rules as the Sumi Ink Club students created, abiding by the following:

  1. Draw, doodle, experiment with brush strokes or even add to the work of others.
  2. Move around, draw in different areas.
  3. No name or words
  4. Draw slowly, make marks thoughtfully
  5. (And…please, please try not to spill any ink)

As a bonus, as students worked, they gained experience in brush handling and discovered how variations in line work affected the final product.



Artists Who Persevere Series: Laurel Burch


Summer is just around the corner, but we are far from finished creating in the art room. To conclude this school year we are studying artists who PERSEVERE. Working and creating through difficulties is an attribute we should all emulate. Laurel Burch is an American, designer, businesswoman, and self taught artist who is best known for her colorful cats and positive attitude. Burch was born with a rare bone disease which caused her bones to be very brittle, resulting in over a hundred fractures in her lifetime. This painful condition did not stop Burch from creating beautiful and brightly colored masterpieces that were designed to bring joy to the viewer.

How to Draw a Laurel Burch Inspired Cat: Click Here



Art & Literacy: Footloose

This month we discussed careers in the arts. We looked at the work of many illustrators, defined the term illustration, and analyzed how images can communicate emotions to support text. Tim Bowers has illustrated a number of books, including Footloose (by Kenny Loggins). Bower’s animal illustrations in the book, Footloose, are bold and animated (and difficult not to love).

In class, we experimented altering facial features to communicate different feelings and created our own illustrations.

Creative Clay Solving

Creative problem solving is an important skill that is not only useful in the art room but in every area in life. For this project, students were given a ball of clay and were told they could create anything they wanted, ANYTHING…as long as it could hold a pencil. The process of creating without defined guidelines is challenging and requires a great deal of planning, problem solving, and designing. Here is how the pencil problem was solved by 5th & 6th graders…




Pre-K & Kindergarten Batik

Batik is a style of painting which involves pouring hot wax on cloth (creating a resist), then painting. This process of batik is very popular in Japan and Indonesia. For those parents reading this, don’t panic, while we did use wax it was in the much safer crayon form!

Using 100% cotton fabric, I cut it into long rectangle then glued one end to extra long wooden sticks. The wooden stick provides a handle to hold so students are not carrying wet fabric around the room with paint colored hands (it is also a great place to put their name). In class, we watched a video of a batik artist who used hot wax and discussed designs.

Each student drew on their cloth using a white construction paper crayon (these crayons work the best because they are a little waxier than normal crayons). It was difficult for students to see their design, but it was amazing to watch their faces when the paint was applied, revealing their drawing! We kept the design simple, primarily focuses on shapes and line.

Once their designs were complete they moved from table to table painting with 6 different colors of liquid watercolor. If you try this had home, make sure the paint is not too thick (thick paint will hide their work).

The results were beautiful…



STEAM & Sustainability: Plant Based Dyes

Did you know that the fashion industry is the second leading cause of pollution globally, after oil? Producing fabric, specifically cotton, requires a massive amount of water. The chemical dyes used to change the color of natural cotton is often dumped in our waterways effecting the entire ecosystem. In our art we looked at the devastating impact azo dyes have on the environment and brainstormed what we can do to limit consumption by recycling clothing. We are extremely fortunate to have an amazing art room volunteer, Mr. Rich, who so kindly donated a garbage bag full of old 100% cotton shirts. We began this project by cutting the shirts in long rectangles…

Click here to watch the TedX Talk: The Lifecycle of the T-Shirt


Once the shirts were cut into a different shape we explored natural dyes and experimented with red cabbage and turmeric. Both red cabbage and turmeric are excellent natural dyes and can give new life to any old t-shirt, dress or skirt (non-synthetic fiber)! Students also learned about the Japanese art of Shibori by binding and folding their fabric to create patterns. Once the natural dyeing process was complete students used the fabric to make travel pillows!

Clay Owls

Lower primary grade levels explored texture and created these amazing ceramic owls. As an introduction to clay students experimented, explored, and were exposed to new techniques. These owls were created using a ball of clay and a Crayola marker. The marker was used to create the texture and add details. For the first time in the art room, we used a marker without ever removing the cap!


Students painted their owls with liquid watercolor and sealed them with Mod Podge


Using the cap of a Crayola Marker students made semi-circles to look like feathers. The end of the marker was used to add eyes! This pair of owls are awaiting the addition of beaks!


1st grade added additional color using construction paper crayons!


Interested in making them at home with colored dough? Click the link for the video: Clay Owl Tutorial


Pasta Textured Pinch Pot Fish

Texture is an Element of Art that we review with different materials throughout the year. This week we used dry pasta to create a variety of interesting textures in a pinch pot. Students added features and details to create a unique fish.


Wet clay textured with a variety of different shaped pasta 


Swimming to the kiln….

After their sculptures were fired in our kiln, students used liquid water color and construction paper crayons to bring them to life!


See how we made them or try it at home with air dry clay or modeling dough… Pasta Textured Fish Demo Video

Andy Saczynski Inspired Florida Folk Art

As an art teacher I believe it is important to teach students that people are making art today, after all, many of the masters artist we come to admire are now on the other side (Van Gogh, Monet, da Vinci, etc.). There are so many artists creating amazing work this very minute, right here in the Sunshine State no less. Cue…Andy Saczynski!

Saczynski is a Florida based Folk Artist who uses a variety of materials to create bold works that are eye catching and student accessible. His work can also be found on Immaculate Baking products at your local grocery, further proof art is everywhere if you look! You can read more about Andy Saczynski and see his art by visiting,

Together we looked at Saczynski’s alligator assemblages, while he used a variety of materials (requiring several power tools) we opted for paint and paper. Students worked with different color paper and studied how shapes can be used to create simple images. Using a variety of patterns and colors students created breathtaking works while also reviewing the Elements of Art (line, color and shape).