My Favorite Meal


My 4th grade art students always seem to have fewer barriers between their art and their imagination than my 5th and 6th graders. I’m not sure why that is, but is delightful to watch and listen to them as they open up to a project. I revisited an old classic recently when I asked my 4th grade artists to draw their favorite meal.

The set up for the project is a discussion about going on a picnic. Students get to pick their favorite foods to have at the picnic, which must include a main course, sides, drink and dessert. They must also include silverware and a napkin and a tablecloth under the plate.

I have three goals for this project.

  1. They must have their food shown from a bird’s-eye point of view, which involves a demonstration and discussion of how shapes change when they are shown from different perspectives.
  2. They must show a place setting, which involved a discussion and pictures of how you set a table. Social skills in art class. I wonder how many families sit down at a common table for dinner these days, so I hope I filled in a gap for some of my students who have not ever set a table.
  3. They must show a pattern of some kind on the tablecloth, which reinforces the definition of a pattern in art as a repeated shape or color series.

Students have a large sheet of paper as their format, 12 x 18 inches, and draw first in pencil, then outline in sharpie and color with crayon. I give them a paper plate to draw around to make sure we don’t have miniature plates.

And oh the stories about what food my students like the best!

And the extras! Ants on the tablecloth. Butterflies flying over the picnic.  Good memories about family. Great fun.

Bad Hair Day


Repetition of shapes, lines and colors is one of the strongest organizing principles in art and it takes practice to see it and create it.

A simple and fun drawing exercise called Bad Hair Day on The Incredible Art Department website helps bring this concept into focus.

Fun, because everyone can relate to “bad hair day” and useful because it emphasizes the use of a repeated shape as a pattern. The “hair” is divided into at least five sections. Each section must have a different pattern in it.

This started out as a sub project, but my 5th and 6th grade students enjoyed it so much we continued the project over several says. Here are the results.

Foil Embossing


IMG_0210Tooling foil is such a lovely material. Students familiar with the baked potato version of foil are always curious how this material reacts to a tool. My simplest project using tooling foil is just a straight emboss from a photo.IMG_0229




Students select a calendar photo that has a subject they like. I always have a collection of discarded calendars from teachers.


Tape the photo to the back of the cut sheet of tooling foil. I caution them to only put only one piece of tape at the top of the photo. That way you can lift up photo every once in a while to see how the foil is taking the embossed lines, or if you missed any lines.

  1. Lay the foil with the photo attached on a thick pad of newspaper. This is important. The give of the pad of newspaper is what allows the foil to accept the embossed line.
  2. Select the most important lines in the photo and trace them with a pencil. Press hard enough that you can feel the foil give a little, but not so hard that you punch through the foil. As they work, they view their progress by lifting up the photo. Here’s where they can add textural elments that are not in the original photo.
  3. Color with sharpies! Sixth graders LOVE working with sharpies. Mistakes can be corrected with Germ-X and a tissue.

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