Article

Let's Get Messy!

When the warm weather hits, head outdoors and try one of these creative art projects.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2

Splatter Painting

What you need: One canvas for each student, tempera paint, old pie tins (or other containers to hold paints), brushes in a variety of sizes
First: Introduce students to the work of American painter Jackson Pollock. Show them prints of his splatter art. Next, read Jackson Pollock by Mike Venezia.
Then: Fill pans with undiluted paint. Allot at least one paintbrush per color. Spread the canvases out on the grass, a driveway, or a drop cloth far away from the school building and any cars or other personal property. Encourage the students to "paint like Jackson" and watch the paint fly! (Be sure to label each canvas. Splatter paintings are difficult to tell apart.)
 

Sand & Glue Art

What you need: Posterboard in various colors, cut in half (plan at least one half per student); washable glue; sand (plain and colored, if desired); empty squirt bottles (old ketchup bottles or dish soap bottles work just fine)
First: Discuss materials used by artists. Ask students to name as many things as they possibly can that can be used to make art. Answers will likely include paper, paint, and clay, but encourage students to think more broadly. Emphasize the fact that artists have always created art with whatever materials are at hand.
Then: Fill squirt bottles with washable glue. Place posterboard on the ground and encourage students to use the squirt bottles to create a design with the glue. They can write their names, draw pictures, or experiment with shapes — there's no limit but their imagination. While the glue is still wet, have students use their hands to sprinkle sand over the glue. Let the pictures dry about 10 minutes, then show the students how to blow or dump the excess sand off their creations. (If you try to remove the extra sand too soon, the glue will drip and destroy the picture.) Allow glue and sand to dry completely.
 

Found Object Painting

What you need: Large sheets of paper (newspaper offices are often willing to donate this to schools), tempera paint, pie tins, everyday objects (e.g., shoelaces, toy cars, pot scrubbers, bubble wrap, balls)
First: Ask students what they think when they hear the word art. Do they think of paintings? Sculptures? Do they picture works of art in a museum, or the masterpieces they create at home and school? How do they think art is made?
Then: Tape the paper to the driveway or playground. Fill tins with various colors of paint and place the everyday objects nearby. Tell the students that they're going to create a painting-without using brushes. Encourage them to use the objects — or other items they find — in lieu of paintbrushes. Don't be surprised to see students dipping their hands and feet in the paint!
 

Mixed Media

What you need: Large sheets of watercolor paper, empty spray bottles, water, tempera paint, poster putty, glue, small objects (e.g., puzzle pieces, sticks, leaves, pencils, plastic lids)
First: Most students are familiar with single-media art: a painting made solely with paint or a sculpture made only with clay. But many artists incorporate a variety of materials into their work. Introduce students to Jim Dine, an American pop artist. Show them a picture of Five Feet of Colorful Tools at moma.org. Ask students how they think the artist created this picture. (Answer: He first placed the objects against the background, then spray-painted around them. He then removed the objects, painted them separately, and, after they dried, mounted them.)
Then: Invite students to create a Jim Dine-style masterpiece. Encourage each student to select a variety of small objects, and then show them how to use the poster putty to affix each object to the paper. Hang the papers from a fence or low clothesline. Fill the spray bottles with a diluted mixture of paint and water; it should be the consistency of water. Show students how to spray around the objects, then allow objects to remain in place for a few minutes while the paint dries. (Drying time will depend on weather conditions.) When the paint has dried, let students remove the objects and glue them on elsewhere.
 

Paintable Chalk

What you need: Cornstarch, food coloring, water, containers to mix chalk, several medium to large paintbrushes
First: Sometimes, art pops up in surprising places. UK-based artist Julian Beever is called the "Pavement Picasso," because he creates stunning works of art on sidewalks all over the world, many of which appear 3-D from certain angles. See photographs of Beever's work on his official website. You can also see Beever at work by searching for "Julian Beever Chalk Art" on YouTube.
Then: Have students help you mix equal amounts of cornstarch and water to create the chalk base. Add food coloring to make different colors. If desired, add more water to thin the chalk for easier painting. Assign each child a section of sidewalk or portion of the playground as their artistic canvas and encourage them to use their creativity. They probably won't create any 3-D drawings like Beever's, but they'll have a lot of fun trying!

 

Artsy Read-Alouds

When you're done creating, settle in for story!

Palazzo Inverso By D. B. Johnson. An Escher-inspired adventure about an architect's apprentice.

Bridget's Beret By Tom Lichtenheld. Bridget discovers creativity isn't tied to her lucky beret.

Paris in the Spring With Picasso By Joan Yolleck, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. A peek at a
gathering of legendary artists.

Signed, Abiah Rose By Diane Browning. The tale of a 19th-century girl who aspires to be an Americana painter.

 

top
Instructor Cover

Instructor Magazine

Six issues per year filled with practical, fun, teacher-tested ideas for your classroom. Keep up with classroom trends, get expert teaching tips, and find dozens of resources in every issue.