… little bit of this, little bit of that, a whole lotta about the kids

Category Archives: Art Stuff (open ended art, stART, and Art Literacy)

Mark Rothko is an abstract expressionist, specifically known as the pioneer of color field painting.  He was chosen to represent abstract expressionists for our lesson because he spent a number of years here in Portland, OR, and some of his work is on display in the Portland Art Museum.


I had the classes of 4th graders choose a random emotion from a sack, and then write a line or two about what the emotion feels like.  Then they had to choose colors to represent the emotion and feeling.  We used bleeding art tissue paper on watercolor paper, and a tiny bit of water with foam brushes.

The colors aren’t as vibrant as they would be with paints, nor could we really work with shades and tints which I would have liked to do, but our fourth grade classrooms do not have any sinks and using actual paints in those rooms is a real challenge (I brought water in a pitcher with little Dixie cups to wet the tissue paper).  I’ve had to improvise with chalks, and pastels and now the tissue paper, even when other grades are using paint.

This was a challenging lesson for these 9-10 year olds.  The concrete operational stage of development from 7-11 or so is a period where children begin thinking logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts.

Still, the kids did seem to enjoy the art project, and the teachers both seemed pleased with the lesson and the students response to it.

We got to open ended art a little late this week. 

I put out a bag of feathers, air drying clay, clay tools, and wiggly eyes.   First he said “With feathers I can make Kevin!” (from the movie “Up”) but that quickly became generic feathered friends once he realized how hard Kevin would be 😉

He made balls with the clay, shaped them with the tools, stuck them full of feathers and stuck on googly eyes.

He kept working on them until he ran out of clay.  I guess it’s a good thing that I only pulled out a handful or so instead of letting him use all the clay in the bucket!

44 and feathers 010

Getting Started

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“Funny Bird”

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Prepping clay bits

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“For Daddy”

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The fleet of critters, drying on parchment paper.

Open Ended Art is hosted over at Mommies Wise Little Bookworms.  Be sure to check out the linkie to see all the other great projects!

This weeks open ended art project theme is “Matisse”.  It’s a new thing; Open Ended Art will feature a specific artist once a month.  We read “When Pig-Asso met Moo-Tisse” and “Drawing with Scissors” as well as checking out some Matisse art on the internet to get familiar with his work.

I really loved this project. I’ve always liked Matisse anyway (which is why we had those books on hand already!), and his collage work I always thought was especially stunning.


^^ THIS is how almost all of my progress shots came out this week.  Yay?


To get started, and show him a bit about the collage work, I first cut a bunch of “matisse inspired” shapes and let him do a collage with those. 


I realize that I am biased, but didn’t he do an amazing job?  I didn’t cut the pieces with any kind of picture in mind at all.  And here we have “Mommy Watches Two Baby Birds”.  I really love how this one came out.

After that, I handed over paper and scissors and asked him to make his own shapes for another collage work.  We discussed “organic” shapes, and how Matisse used very few straight lines. 


These are the *only* process shots that aren’t all screwed up, and you can’t see very much.  Sigh!  He cut a lot of long wavy strips, glued several together in bunches, and then attached the mini-collages to the paper.


For more great open ended art projects, check out the linkie at Mommies Wise Little Bookworms!

This weeks open ended art project was pumpkins.  I had a bunch of pumpkin stickers and die cuts left over from the bookmark activity we did at his harvest party, so I pulled those all out, added basic art supplies and let him at it.


First he started scribbling all over the page in multiple shades of green.  “Those are the pumpkin vines.”


He added pumpkin shapes to the patch.


Finally, he decided it needed embellishment.


The finished product:


He liked making pumpkin patches!


For more great open ended art projects, check out the linkie at Mommies Wise Little Bookworms!

The theme for this week’s Open Ended Art project was simply “black and white”.  Once again I wanted to go with the spirit of the challenge and provide only materials to him, without any specific project in mind, and without assisting or correcting in any way.  He is old enough that it works.  When he was younger I think he would have been at a loss on his own like that.

We started out upstairs in my office / the playroom and he was asking to “make a project”.  I said of course and hey, do you think we could make something cool if we only used black and white? and he said yes we can!  He started rummaging (my scrapbook stuff that isn’t packed up is all over the place), dug out some buttons and some patterned paper.  He asked for scissors and glue.  Then he went to work.

bento 27 and black and white 001

SEE, this is the dipped in dye thing I was talking about when I was complaining about my camera the other day.  Oh Honey, if you are reading this, I need a new camera!  All the in progress shots ended up like that or worse.  At least one of the finished pictures came out!

bento 27 and black and white 002

Once he had everything glued down the way he wanted, we set it aside to dry, but he very earnestly informed me that it wasn’t finished and he needed to “draw in the lines” when the glue was dry.  He had a very clear vision, apparently!

What is it?  It’s a “jungle at night” of course.  He even spelled out “jungle” with scrapbooking stickers all on his own!

I really have enjoyed these open ended art projects.  If you haven’t tried one with your kids, I highly recommend it!   The schedule posted at Mommies Wise Little Bookworms looks like:

  • Oct 21-27: Black and White:Glitter, Chalk, Paint anything goes
  • Oct 28-Nov 3: Pumpkins: Real, Collage anything goes
  • Nov 4- 10: Henri Matisse Collage (more in this in a week or so)
  • Nov11-17: Feather
  • Nov 18-24: Corn
  • Nov 25- Dec 1: NON Open Art: lets see those Turkeys!