First Day in Haiti

These are cosmetology graduates with their models, at a ceremony in front of our hotel today. Just amazing!
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My Favorite Art Supplies

I’ve often been asked what my favorite art supplies are, so I thought this might be a good time to make a list. For now, these are some of the supplies I use over and over again. I’ve included the brand names just because they seem to make a difference for me.

Ticonderoga Pencils
Cheap pencils are not worth it. They tend to be too light and lopsided so they never sharpen correctly. Staples brand in particular tend to have a large percentage that have to be trashed simply because they were not made with the lead in the center. Such a waste!

Black Sharpie Markers
You can draw, color or paint over them and they never bleed. Sweet.

Sharpie Multi Pack
Love these too as they come in great colors and also never bleed.
Try coloring with them on a coated paper and it’s hard to stop.

BIC Multi Pack
I found these invaluable last year when I had students use them for self portraits. There are many great skin tones in this pack: a yellow peach, pink peach, golden tans and more, all those lovely shades needed for my diverse school. Not a single student felt compromised in finding a match for their skin color. Wish I could say that for all my supplies.

Crayola Construction Paper Crayons
Work great on colored paper, a good replacement for oil pastels for kinder and 1st grade.

Portfolio Oil Pastels
You can get them in 12, 24-pack or a classpack. They absolutely make the best colors and students love how they seem to glide over their paper.

Dick Blick Colored Pencils
These pencils can make amazing dense colors if students really take the time to press hard while they color. Prismacolor pencils are OK – Rose brand are not as they just have no color to them. Don’t get swayed by their cheap price.

Crayola Watercolor Paint
I pop out the color tablets, dissolve them in water, and use them as liquid paint. So much better than dealing with dirty trays. About 2 – 3 tablets per spillproof cup of water seems to work the best. Tip: Store extra paint in open cups. Closed containers seem to make them age, and thus smell, faster. The paint keeps in open cups for one to two weeks.

Popsicle Sticks
They come in different brand names these days, and in multiple sizes, but I’ve found them to great for more craft projects than I can mention.

Black Construction Paper
I’ve used various brands, the point is just to make sure your paper is black and not dark gray. My public school sanctioned stuff is just charcoal and fades in a New York minute. It pays to buy the good black paper so your art has some punch to it.

Silver Sharpie Markers
These are a treat, if you can afford them at about $1.50 each. Drawing with them on black paper was such a hit for my students last year that I’m determined to find ways to create with them again.

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City Block One-Point Perspective Drawing

One of the CA Arts Standards for 5th graders is one-point perspective drawing. To be honest, I’ve struggled with covering this concept in the past with just one 50-minute class. After discussing what it means to have a “vanishing point” in their drawing, I once had students make their own guidelines to follow, only to have much of the class not get past this point. And I once tried pre-printed guides, only to find they get confusing and end up being too much information that can’t be erased. This year I’m going to try starting with this series of squares, which you can download here. I think it will give students the angles they can see to follow their own vanishing point, without overwhelming them with too many lines.
1. Just the fronts of their buildings are drawn in each square, leaving room for the rest of the building.
2. A vanishing point can be inside a picture or outside, which is true for this guide. The students should visually follow where all the angled lines on their guide would intersect off the paper so they can picture where their vanishing point is. The sides of each building are drawn, making sure that they all point to this imagined vanishing point. The sides of the city blocks will help guide them.
3. The ends of the buildings are connected to finish the buildings. It’s best, of course, to start with just simple cube-shaped buildings before more complex ones are taken on. Some blocks may just have trees, if desired.
4. All of the drawing is traced with an ultra fine point marker, and colored in with pencil crayons.

CA Visual Arts Standard: Grade Five
2.1 Use one-point perspective to create the illusion of space.
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Andy Warhol Soup Cans

Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can painting has come to symbolize the pop art movement.
WEEK 1: Give the students a 9" x 12" sheet of paper, along with a 5" wide oval template that is the shape of the top of a can (in perspective). Show them how to trace one oval at near the top of the paper, slide the oval down about 7" and trace again. Connect the outside edges, erase the curve that will not show, and add the same curve to the middle of the can. After this, it is helpful for them to look at a Campbell's label to add details in their own style. I encouraged students to make up their own “flavor” and to cover all their pencil lines with a thin black marker.
WEEK 2: Prep work is needed here. Each student’s art needs to be xeroxed down 50%, and then duplicated 4 times. The students will then take all 4 copies of their original art, paste them down in a grid, and colored them in with colored pencils.
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Another Popsicle House

I’m still loving these little popsicle sticks, and made a variation of my other house project I posted here. This one has a more vertical, paneled look instead of the horizontal, log cabin look.
1. These little popsicle sticks I found at JoAnn Fabric’s, and are about 2 1/2" long. I started by lining up six sticks, and cut the ends off of two more so they could be glued to the back without showing as shown in diagram 1.
2. The roof starts with a frame as shown in diagram 2. Let dry.
3. Cut progressive ends off three more sticks so they can fill in the roof as shown. Let dry.
4. Glue and attach roof to house as shown and let dry.
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Dubuffet Self Portrait

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) was a French painter and sculptor who preferred what he called “raw art”. This came from non-professionals who worked in very primitive ways. He routinely added sand, tar and straw to his paintings to give them an unusual texture. His playful style is fun to imitate and can encourage some very creative portraiture.
1. Start by sketching a large simple drawing of yourself on a sturdy piece of paper. No tiny details, just outline of hair, eyes, nose, shoulders, etc. Draw a few horizontal and vertical lines on the body, hair and face to divide up the areas into smaller parts. Keep in mind that the lines will be traced with a glue bottle so tiny details are not necessary.
2. Make a mixture of 50/50 white glue and black acrylic paint in a squirt bottle, and shake to blend. Trace over all the pencil lines with the black glue. Remember that Dubuffet liked rough looking images so wiggly black lines that are sometimes thin and sometimes thick are what you are trying for. Let the glue dry overnight.
3. A lot of Dubuffet’s paintings were done with just red, white and black colors, so I limited myself to a red and black Sharpie, and randomly added stripes in some areas, and solid colors in others. Some spaces may also just be left white.
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Bandage Halloween Head

Halloween can offer lots of creative drawing opportunities, some even with valuable art principals. I got this drawing idea from a piece of clip art, and found that it helped to teach students how to make a round head look more dimensional, simply by adding curves instead of flat straight lines.
1. I made cardboard head templates to help my students get started. After they traced it in the middle of their paper, they drew one large eye, two circle dots for the nose, and a mouth. For the bandages, they made several curvy lines across the face. I demonstrated on the board how curvy lines would add roundness to the head, and how straight ones would simple make it look flat. To finish, any “unbandaged” area could have a few lines added, going in other directions. The goal was to have the face look like it was completely covered, without too many lines that would be hard to color in.
2. When the drawing was complete, all the pencil lines were traced with a fat black Sharpie.
3. All the areas of the face were then colored in with Crayola Construction Crayons. These work great on colored paper and almost give the look of pastels without the mess.
4. The face was cut out and glued onto a different color piece of construction paper.

CA Visual Arts Standard: Grade Four
2.1 Use shading (value) to transform a two-dimensional shape into what appears to be a three-dimensional form (e.g., circle to sphere).
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Oil Pastel Klee Portrait

Paul Klee was a Swiss artist from the early 1900’s who liked to turn things into simple geometric shapes. This sample is based on his “Head of A Man” a classic example of his philosophy.
1. Make a 7" round cardboard template for the students to trace in pencil in the center of a brown or tan 9" x 12" paper. Then have them add the neck and shoulders using straight lines and angles, only.
2. To draw evenly spaced eyes that touch, I often have the students first draw three evenly spaced dots that they connect with curves. Circles are added inside. Using a ruler, show the students how to draw about 5 intersecting lines across the face that “jump” over the eyes. The body may have 2 or 3 lines added also. The mouth is just a simple rectangle with a horizontal line through it.
3. When the drawing is complete, all the pencil lines are traced with a thick black Sharpie marker.
4. All of the closed shapes are now colored in with oil pastels. The goal is to have lots of different colors without any of the same touching each other.

CA Visual Arts Standard: Creative Expression, Kindergarten
2.6 Use geometric shapes/forms (circle, triangle, square) in a work of art.
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My Summer Self Portrait

I'd been exploring ideas for a back-to-school project combining art with story telling much like a popular art journal technique, in larger scale. This project which combines a self portrait with a composition about the students summer experience has become wildly popular with the kids and their teachers as a great kick-off to the school year.
1. Click HERE to download a blank letter-size body template. If you can Xerox on tabloid paper, copy the template at 125%.
The larger sized paper is always easier for students to work with.
2. Have the students add all of their personal details including facial features, hair and clothing and their names, in pencil. When complete they're to trace over all pencil lines in black Sharpie marker.
3. Next, have the students use ballpoint pens to write their compositions in the background. In the interest of time, advise the students that neatness is not essential and to cross out or overwrite any errors.
4. Lastly, give the students liquid watercolors to complete their pictures.
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Watercolor Resist Patterns

Kindergarteners learn about patterning, and this is a colorful way of reinforcing the concept.
1. I recommend watercolor paper be used, if possible, as it really does make a difference in the color brightness. Prep 9" x 12" sheets by drawing marks on the top and bottom every 2 inches across. Ask the student to connect the marks with a pencil so that they have 5 panels on their page. Trade the pencil for a crayon and ask them to trace the pencil lines.
2. Show some examples of line drawing patterns that they can choose from (circles, squares, hearts, stars, etc.) The students are to choose one type of pattern for each panel, and then draw each directly with a crayon.
3. I like to dilute watercolor tablets in water and give students liquid paint to fill each panel. They students are to paint each panel a different color, or a pattern of colors.

CA Visual Art Standard: Creative Expression 2.1
Use lines, shapes/forms, and colors to make patterns.
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Birch Trees

Variations of this project are often posted on, but I like the subtle colors that come out in this version by painting with a toothbrush.
1. Each student starts with a 9" x 12" sheet of watercolor or heavy paper. They are to tear off six strips of 1 1/2" wide painter's masking tape at various lengths from 6" to 7" long. Then, carefully tear each piece of tape down the middle and attach each joining the straight edges so that the outer edges are rough. Note: Overlapping the shorter lengths will create narrower trees for enhanced depth of field, as shown. Place the pairs randomly on the watercolor paper with top ends touching the top of the page. Press all of these “trees” down firmly.2. Using acrylic paint, dip a toothbrush in green paint and hold over the paper. Rub a thumb over the bristles so that paint splatters onto the paper. Don't worry about smudges as they will look like clumps of grass. Repeat until the bottom grass area is filled. Wash the brush and repeat with blue for the sky above.
3. After the paint has dryed, carefully peel away tape to reveal white trees. Water down black paint until it is very thin. With a brush, paint a gray vertical stripe on the white tree to represent the shadow. Repeat on all the trees, always keeping the shadow on the same side of the tree.
4. With thick black paint, paint small horizontal marks randomly on the trees.
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Louise Nevelson Found Sculpture

Louise Nevelson was a creator of wood assemblages made from found objects doused in paint. She worked hard to get recognition in the mostly male art world, but wished to be seen as more than just a ‘woman artist’.
1. I glued the basic square as shown ahead of time for the young students to keep things sturdy. Give each student white glue and enough sticks to fill in the box as shown to make a flat board.
2. Collect a bunch of small items (like buttons, paper clips, puzzle pieces, etc.) that have different shapes and textures and have the students glue them down with generous amounts of white glue. Let dry overnight.
3. If you have the budget, paint heavily with white or black acrylic paint so the art has a shine when complete. If not, tempera paint will work too, you just may need more coats to block out color below.
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