Giant Crayons


There are few things in this world as appealing as a new box of crayons. They are just splendid in their neat little paper jackets all lined up and sharp. That waxy smell, color points, perfect like a sharpened set of rainbow teeth. ( ok, that’s sounding strange….) I saw this great project on a fabulous teacher website:

IMG_0237I could not help myself. We just had to try it.

I worked this project with my fifth and 6th grade classes. The focus of the project is a discussion of the principle of unity in artwork. “What elements unify an artwork? Is it color, shape, size…what things bring the artwork together as a cohesive unit?” We looked at the American flag hanging in my classroom. ” What elements draw this design together?” As a side product of this discussion, a debate about what elements unify the people of this country developed. The very phrase ” United States” was discussed. Good stuff.

We moved to discussing everyday objects that we use but don’t really look at. Like crayons. “The packaging and function unify the crayons in the box, but what about scale? Does scale unify the crayons? What if we change the scale?” Hooked.

I created a stencil earlier this month and had students who were finished early duplicate thirty stencils. I used large sheets of black bulletin board paper for my work surface. Not as expensive as using 12 x 18 sheets of black construction paper and it works just as well. Here was my set up:


Then it was a matter of going step by step teaching the method on the first crayon. We used pastel for these for the richness of color. We discussed highlights and how to position them.

I challenged my students to do at least two crayons and that the second one should overlap the first in some way. They loved the idea and I can’t wait to get these up on the wall.

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Front and Center

group 2Every 4th grade child wants to draw whatever it is we are drawing (excuse the Texan phrase here) smack dab in the middle of the paper. So, in this simple 4th grade exercise, the goal was to place half our main subject, in this case a snowman, off the plane of the picture. Asymmetry vs. Symmetry.

We watched a clip of Olaf, from Frozen, (Please don’t stop reading, I know, I know…that song!) and talked about how he MOVED around in the frame. We talked about the phrase “dead center” and how that placement for your main subject can be kind of…well…can be…..frozen. Sorry.

duoWe talked about the mystery of what is off the edge of the page, but is implied to be there. The undiscovered country. An invisible world that is just around the corner, out of sight. That implied part of the image can be so intriguing and make your composition much more interesting to look at.

big group

Another highlight for my 4th graders was to use oil pastel on this artwork on a blue background. Lovely, messy pastels used on their side for the black border and large areas. Pastel on point for the outline and fine details of the snowman. Swirling snowflakes and a snowbank finished our composition. More fun than a snowball fight on the playground…well ok maybe not. But fun was had by all.

Banyan Tree


A lesson on color schemes took on a vibrant life for my 5th graders this fall. Warm colors (reds, oranges and yellows), cool colors (blues greens and purples) and neutrals, (browns, blacks and greys). A great lesson I found on Artipelago offered a wonderful opportunity to play with color schemes.

The Banyan Tree lesson was presented in three steps.

  1. Observe and draw the Banyan Tree in pencil. The branches go up, the roots (if you draw them), go down. Your choice as to whether or not to draw the root system to the ground. Caution should be used here as to not make the branch system too small or delicate.
  2. Paint the pencil lines with thick lines of black tempera paint.
  3. Color the negative spaces in between the branches and the background with oil pastel. Choose a color scheme for your artwork and write it on the back of your artwork. Some students chose to do a warm color scheme on the tree branches and a cool color scheme on the background and roots.

My students really enjoyed working with the oil pastels and used a 12 x 18 sheet of paper for maximum effect. Here’s some of our results: