Portraits on Cardboard

How cool would it be to have an entire wall full of colorful portraits drawn on old pieces of cardboard? A group collage project from last year has me thinking about other possibilities...
1. This was made from a pizza box – I think I even like the rough cut edges, which are bound to happen if kids cut out their own.  The faces are drawn first with a skinny black marker.
2. To add a variety of line weight, a black Sharpie is used to trace some of the lines again so that there’s a mix of thick and thin.
3. Thr face is colored in with colored pencils. Don’t forget to add the whites to the eyes as that really makes them show up.
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Drawing a Shaded Swan

Here’s another drawing + shading project, this time with a dark background to make the white swan stand out from the water.
1. Fold the drawing paper twice to use as guidelines. Lightly sketch the outline of the round head, curved neck and body as shown.
2. Using a shading pencil, fill in the medium tones of the art by sketching a solid area of water, a filled in beak, and shadows in the body as shown.
3. Using a dark shading pencil and pressure to create a dark grey, fill in the beak, eye and shadows inside and out of the swan. The key to successful shading is having a wide range of gray in your art. A range of really light to really dark will a make a “ho-hum” drawing look much more interesting.
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Back to School Portrait, Rizzi Style

An American pop artist, James Rizzi, who achieved fame for his childlike style, vibrant colors and zany imagery. He accumulated quite a body of work over his lifetime, from album covers to airplane painting, so I find it easy to get inspired by his style.
1. A sheet of watercolor paper is filled with all the doodle shapes that students can think of. They can personalize their art by adding symbols of what they are interested in: musical instruments, sports equipment, etc. When the paper is really filled up, the lines are traced with a black Sharpie and small shapes are colored in heavily with crayons. The background is painted with watercolors. I opted to paint around the crayon so colors would stay bright.
2. A half-size piece of watercolor paper is used to draw the student’s self portrait. To steer the students away from making small heads, require that the top touch the top of the paper. The face is traced with a Sharpie and all but the skin is colored with crayons. Skin color is mixed and painted last. Let all art dry and press under heavy books overnight to flatten.
4. The head is carefully cut out with scissors. It is glued to the background with some small bits of foam core in between to make it look raised, or 3D.
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Cat Head Pencil Shading

I’ve yet to meet a student that doesn’t like to draw a cat, so this shading exercise should work well for most classrooms.
1. Fold an 8.5" x 11" paper in half twice and sketch the outline of the cat as shown.
2. Medium gray tones are added, with a few spots left white to highlight the cat’s face. The zig-zag lines should always point away from the face, just as they do with real cat fur.
3. Dark areas of the face are shaded last, colored heavily with a standard pencil to make the darkest gray possible.
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Drawing Animals Book


I’ve collected 25 of my favorite animals drawings in my second step-by-step Drawing Book. Included are easy diagrams on how to draw a Bear Face, Walking Bear, Snow Bear, Bunny, Long Ear Bunny, Ugly Bunny, Bush Baby, Scaredy Cat, Cat Face, Sitting Cat, Folk Art Cat, Dog, Close Up Cow, Dubuffet Cow, Stegasaurus, Giraffe, Peacock, Reindeer, Turkey, Alligator, Mother Hen and Chicks, Owl, Rooster, Caterpillar and Tessellation Bird.

To purchase and immediately download this pdf file, click the image above and you will be directed to my new PDF Shop.
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Gelarti Painted Bottle

Gelarti Activity Kits let kids makes their own peel-off stickers, but I opted to put aside the stencils and just make my own colorful Kandinsky bottle instead. It was super easy as I just painted right on my bottle and let it dry.
1. Five tubes of paint come in a kit. They have little nozzles which make it easy to squirt and draw your shapes. I started with blocking out the squares, and then filling them in with concentric circles. The paint takes awhile to dry so when one side is done, let it dry flat for several hours.
2. Rotate the bottle and fill up another side with stacked squares with circles inside. Having variety in the width of the circles will add interest. Continue until all the sides are complete. It makes a very pretty bottle that catches lots of light in a window. Go to www.gelartistickers.com for more info.
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O’Keeffe Pastel Flower


Georgia O'Keeffe had a long and varied career but is mostly famous for her oversized flower paintings.
1. Let each student choose from a collection of large flower photos, possibly from old calendars. Instruct them to first sketch their flower in pencil, large enough to go near or even off the edges of the paper.
2. Chalk pastels are colored and blended into the paper. Recommend that large areas be colored first, and fine details on top go last. The background looks nice when colored in with a contrasting or complementary color.

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Back to School Stick Portrait

Drawing stick people is usually a no-no for older students that are capable of doing more, but I’m thinking it might be fun to make them a starting point for this self-portrait, and level the playing field, so to speak, for the first art class of the year.
1. Students draw themselves in the simplest form, lines for arms and legs, simple shapes for clothes.
2. The lines are traced with a black Sharpie, and traced again to make them thick.
3. Students use a crayon to color in zig-zag format around the entire body. The process is repeated with a different color until the paper is filled up. The inside body is to remain white to create contrast with the background.
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Drawing Plants & Animals Book

I’ve collected 25 of my favorite plant and animals drawings in my first step-by-step Drawing Book. Included are easy diagrams on how to draw a Cactus, Tree of Life, Sunflowers, Flowers, Rose, Clover Leaf, Hand Tree, Dandelion, Teddy Bear,  Chameleon, Rooster, Flamingo, Koi Fish, Dragonfly, Fox, Duck, Coiled Snake, Snake in a Tree, Cow, Cow Head, Seahorse, Angel Cat, Pattern Cat, Crouching Cat and Clown Fish.

To purchase and immediately download this pdf file, click the image above and you will be directed to my new PDF Shop.
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How to Draw a Tap Tap

Tap Tap buses come in all shapes and sizes in Haiti, but one of my favorite from the SAKALA school had some very fun windows that I thought would be fun for students to draw. 
1. Fold the drawing paper into 4 x 4 rows as shown with the dotted lines.
2. Following the grid made by the fold lines, draw the bus in pencil.
3. Trace all the lines with a black Sharpie marker.
4. Color in as desired. The more color the better!
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Welcome Sign – Free Download

The countdown to a new school year is not far away. And since no self-respecting art teacher would buy a pre-made “Welcome” sign (just kidding!) I made one of my own that I am happy to share with you HERE. It’s a 4-page pdf file with large outlined letters that you can print and color any way you wish. I used my favorite Portfolio® pastels to overlap bands of orange and pink. The more color the better, if you ask me.

Here’s a French version of my sign that is free for downloading HERE. Happy coloring everyone!
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Chalk Board Angel Wing Portraits

This is what can happen when a good idea gets in the hands of a talented photographer. Melissa Schilling, founder of Project HOPE Art, took this angel wing series last week in a school in Cité Soliel, Haiti. All the students were urged to keep dreaming their dreams and “fly” to wherever they wanted to go. Click on the link above to see the amazing Facebook series.
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Back from Haiti

My second trip to Haiti with Project HOPE Art ended yesterday, and it was another amazing adventure. For two weeks we worked with four different orphanages and schools, two located in the one of the poorest communities, Cit̩ Soliel. We played and danced and made art that was sometimes mixed with lessons in literacy and nutrition. Our intention was to bring fun and play to these kids that deserve so much more, yet add some educational value Рespecially in the area of malnutrition. Project HOPE Art is currently working on a cookbook using Moringa Tree leaves, which have huge health benefits and grow easily in tropical areas. More info regarding this project will come in the next few months.

If you have a group that is interested in traveling to Haiti, there is a wonderful place to stay near the airport in Port-au-Prince. The Kay Lavi House is a large, clean home with an incredibly helpful and English fluent host Kilo, a cook named Marie who makes the best dinners, and 24 hour security guard to walk you to all your connecting travel needs. It was by far our favorite place to stay, and I encourage any potential travelers to check them out (groups only please).
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“Wild Thing” Watercolor Monster

Maurice Sendak's book "Where the Wild Things Are" is a natural intro to this project.
1. I recommend using large (15" x 22") watercolor paper as it helps the students make generous shapes that are really vivid when later painted. Drawing paper will look pale and curl up - trust me I found out the hard way! Have the students mark with a pencil the center of the paper, and then draw a circle from that which fills the top half of the paper. Explain that the students will be drawing a monster of their creation, but it must have a large head like those shown in the Sendak book.

2. Next, they should draw a body under the head. Legs and arms are to be added, along with a silly face. Lastly, details such as clothing lines and circles are drawn. Give each student a permanent black marker and ask them to trace all the pencil lines.

3. Distribute watercolor paint that is made from tablets that have been dissolved in spill-proof cups. Ask the students to paint in all the shapes they have drawn, including the background. This monster was created by a 1st grader.
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Monogrammed Stationery


I saw this idea in an old library book, and thought it was a really nice application of your basic crayon rubbing project.
1. I started with a lettersize piece of chipboard, but any heavy paper would do. I drew my initials in block form, and cut them out of the heaviest paper I could find. Card stock works well to make a definite edge.
2. Glue the letters down with a glue stick.
3. Place a regular sheet of paper on top and rub away with one or more crayons. Rotating the direction of the rubbing helps to make all the edges really appear.
4. Write a nice old-fashioned letter to someone you care about. Thank you notes are always appreciated!
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Magazine Color Study


I started this page with the idea of repeating circles, and just played around from there. I think it could be a good exercise in harmony as I tried to fill solid circles with colors that appeared in the cut out photos.
1. Use a small lid to trace circles on paper. I think it looks best when you can have at least 3 going across the page.
2. The same lid is used to trace and then cut circles out of old magazines. I wanted a lot of circles to color in so I cut and pasted only four photos.
3. The remaining circles I colored in with pencil crayon, trying to use only colors I saw in the photos.
4. The background was filled in with a color that was not already used.
5. The edges of the circles were retraced with a black marker, and color names written in the corresponding circles. I think I’d like to try this again with watercolor pencils to see if closer color matches could be made, but I do like the pattern.
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Giant Paper Mache Mask



Students finish their paper mache masks and I love the big, bold results! One of the joys of working with little kids is watching how they can paint without hesitation. No regrets, no worries... they just paint. 
Note: There is a fair amount of prep work for this, but it was all made from recycled products so it was cheap. I started by cutting the largest matching ovals I could from the two flat sides of a pizza box, approx: 17" x 14". This large size is important as it allows little ones to paint with big fat brushes and still get a clear face. Using box cutters, I cut out the eyes from one oval, traced them onto the other and cut again. You will need some kind of spacers to glue the two cardboard faces together, with about an inch of space between. I stacked about 5 layers of cardboard strips together on the chin, cheeks and forehead and glued them together with a tacky white glue. Let dry. With 2" wide masking tape, run a strip all around the outside to seal the edge. With thinner tape, also tape closed the inside of the eyes. This has to be repeated for each student.
1. Week One: Have the students paper mache the large areas of the face with 5" squares of paper towel. They should try to get near all the edges to make what looks like a generally white face.
2. Week Two: The students now work with narrower strips of paper towel, about 2" wide, and concentrate on wrapping the strips around the outside edge and the inside of the eyes. The mask should now be completely covered with towel, and there should be no tape showing anywhere.
3. Week Three: I had a lot of premixed acrylic paint from Michael’s, their store brand actually, and first limited the kids to one background color of paint. When the face was completely covered, they were allowed to choose their own colors to paint details. Let dry. Spray with a glossy spray sealer when complete.
This mask was made by a talented first grader, Sophie H.Thanks Sophie!

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Island Home


This is another oil pastel over tempera project that worked well for a multicultural theme recently. A teacher wanted an art project linked to the Bahamas, and this colorful house worked well. I’ve found that when students add oil pastel details over tempera paintings, they end up with a lot more color and detail in their art.
1. The students begin by drawing the angled roof shape in the middle of their paper.
2. The house side is drawn below.
3. The left side of the house is added. Younger students might be better off ignoring the little indents of the roof.
4. A base is added to the bottom house, and also a horizon line.
5. The house, sky and ground are all painted with colorful tempera paint. Let dry overnight.
6. A white pastel may be used to draw clouds, black to make edges on the house, and green to highlight some grass shapes.
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“My Favorite” Collage

This could be called “My Favorite” page, which could include food, pets, flowers, clothes ... anything that is easy to find in your average magazine.
1. I found my photo first, and glued it to the center of the page.
2. I wrote in curved lines, “My Favorite” on top and then “Oatmeal Cookies” below with a permanent marker.
3. Radiating lines were drawn with watercolor pencils. I started with pairs of dark orange, filled them in, and then filled the remaining areas with yellow. A little water turned the pencil into paint.
4. After drying, I used regular colored pencils to define the edges and the letters a little more. I think this would be cute also with a photo of a cat or dog – any subject matter that can be cut out of a magazine.
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Another Popsicle Stick 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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Garden Project at Neuf Beouf, Citi Soliel

Melissa, Sylwia and I went back to Citi Soliel today to work with another small school, Neuf Beouf, that does amazing work with children. We brought a coffee bag planter project made out of burlap bags and wire coat hangers so they could add to their huge garden out back. This boy is stringing his together and about to load it up with dirt.
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USA Map

Here’s a little more of a practical application for creating a large mural for a classroom. Many elementary students study the US states and their capitals so this template could be colored as a diagram, or with mountains and trees to show some topography.

My 30-page pdf file creates a mural that measures 60″ wide by 38″ tall when complete. You can see a preview of a blank template HERE. You can purchase and instantly download my pdf file for just $5 by clicking HERE.
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Painting and Posing in Citi Soliel, Haiti

Today, Melissa, Sylwia and I went to one of the most depressed parts of Haiti, Citi Soliel. The SAKALA program is trying to bring peace to this area by starting with the local children. We painted watercolor pictures of vegetables, made beaded necklaces, and took "angel" portraits of them in front of chalk drawn wings. It was so fun, watching them act out for the camera!
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Back in Haiti

I'm back in Haiti for two weeks with Project HOPE Art, making art and other fun for the kids in orphanages and schools. This first project was painting a map of Haiti. Our goal this trip is to mix some education in with our projects.
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Geometric to Organic


This is a fun and easy project that shows how you can turn geometric shapes into organic ones.
1. Students used cardboard templates to trace many  triangles, circles and squares on their paper. Shapes could overlap, but some space should be left open.
2. All the shapes are to be colored in with a NON-permanent, waterbase marker. This is the time to use those cheap, fat store markers as you actually will be wanting the colors to run in the next step.
3. Pass out small cups of water and show the students how to drop several puddles on their artwork with a brush or dropper. If they pick up the paper and roll the water around a bit, it should start to make lots of colored streaks and blobs. Repeat this until almost all of the artwork is filled with wiggly colored lines. Let dry overnight.
4. Now comes the fun part, taking a thin black Sharpie and tracing all the organic shapes that were made from the running water. The students need to work slowly to trace all the wonderful edges they see, both inside and outside the colored shapes. The more time they put into the tracing, and the more detail they see, the better their artwork will look.
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Layered Pipes


I often introduce 3rd and 4th graders to shading and tinting techniques with circles and spheres, but found that straight lines are another good option. The students could just concentrate on adding color in straight lines, instead of dealing with tricky curves.
1. Students started with a sheet of black paper, a ruler and pencil. Instead of planning their entire drawing first with a lot of pencil lines, they draw, color and shade each “pipe” first, before going on to the next. So, as shown in my diagram, they were to first draw two parallel lines on their paper, either horizontally or vertically – no diagonals allowed. When complete, they colored in this “pipe” a single main color, whichever they prefer.
2. When the “pipe” was filled with color, the students were to use a white pastel and add it on top of one side, and black pastel on the other. It was important that they go back and mix the main pastel color on top so that everything blended together and the colors didn’t look too striped. Soft gradations of color were the goal.
3. This step was repeated at least three times so that the students ended up with a picture that had one “pipe” in front, one in the middle, and one in the background. This project is packed with learning objectives (tinting and shading and layering) but brought some very amazing results from a group of talented kids I was fortunate enough to work with.

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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Textured Chicken Painting

This is a great project for beginners, say like kindergarten or so. Simple shapes to draw, yet easy to personalize with a crown or extra fancy feathers.
1. Students trace a small cup for a round head. A line is drawn to the right, and curve below to make a large half circle for the body. Two legs are added, curves for the tail, and details on the head. All these lines are traced with a crayon when complete.
2. My favorite way for young ones to paint is still with dissolved watercolor tablets. They can concentrate on filling the shapes, and not about getting the right amount of water mixed with the paint. Students paint the body first, and then sprinkle a bit of salt on it while the paint is still wet. The salt absorbs the water, makes a cool texture, and may be rubbed off when the entire painting is complete. After the body is filled, the background may be painted in with one or more colors.
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Fireworks Drawing


This is an exercise in radial drawing, but it makes a nice fireworks image when you fill up the page. It would look great on black paper too.
1. You can use either a journal page or similar 6" x 9" drawing paper. Ask the students to place about 5 dots random dots on the page with a crayon or pencil crayon. Starting with one dot, they are to draw a squiggle lines around it which radiate outwards. It should look like a small flower.
2. Next they switch colors and draw a squiggle band around that center flower. They repeat this process until they have their flower / firework fairly large. At some point they are to stop and start on the next dot, continuing until they bump into each other. This is repeated with all the dots until the shapes overlap each other and fill up the page.

CA Visual Art Standard: Creative Expression, Grade Two
2.5 Use bilateral or radial symmetry to create visual balance.
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Warm and Cool Collage


The very first color theory lesson that students as young as 1st grade can learn is which colors are considered “warm” and which are “cool”. Seeking examples in magazines and using repetition helps store these two categories to memory.
1. I used my computer and printer to make sheets with windows and outlined words, but this could be done by hand and and xeroxed as well. I folded an 11" x 17" paper, cut two 4" x 5.5" windows and wrote “cool” and “warm” just below them. I cut out the windows for the young students with an xacto knife. It helps to trace each window to the inside of the paper so that the students know how big of an area they need to cover with their collage.
2. Give each student a prepared folded sheet, several magazines, scissors and glue stick. Show them an example of warm colors (think of the sun) red, orange and yellow, and then cool colors (like the ocean) blue, green and purple. They are to look for swatches of each and glue them into the appropriate rectangle, overlapping them as they go. Once both rectangles are filled, the top can be closed down and taped together if desired. Having a clean window frame around the collage helps for students to see how the colors have a cohesive look to them when assembled as a group.
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Flag Mural from Dublin, GA


I am so happy to share this amazing creation, made recently by the residents of Southland Nursing Home, in Dublin, Georgia. Claire Livingston, a volunteer who works regularly with the seniors, planned this project that I hear was a huge success. In fact, here is what she wrote about the completion of the flag:

“When I went to Southland Nursing Home this morning to help hang the mural they painted, the activities director made an announcement over the loud speaker that we were putting it up and for everyone to come down.

We hung it in the large room that is used for a variety of functions. It was the only space we could find big enough to put it. Many of the residents came down to see us put it up, including the ones who worked on it. They all clapped when we put the last piece in place. Mr. “CJ” (lower right) said that “it makes me proud, so proud”...

If you look at it close up, you can see the shaky lines, the uneven paint, the blobs and smudges, made by hands that have done a lot in their 80+ years. But standing back and looking at it, the flag is absolutely breathtaking. Honestly, it brings tears to your eyes.”


I couldn’t put it better myself. Thank you Claire, and all the artists at Southland Nursing Home.

NOTE: Here’s an overview of Claire’s panel production. She printed them out large (10"x12") and traced them on to pre-cut illustration board with old-fashioned carbon paper. After determining how many colors were needed, she gave each color a number and wrote them in the appropriate places on the boards. The panels were hung on the wall with Command Strips.
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Draw the US Capitol Building

The upcoming holiday makes it a good time to draw some of the more famous buildings in our country. I used my computer printed 1/4" graph paper to help young students draw straight lines without struggling with a ruler.
1. You can download my graph paper here, and see a simplified Capitol drawing here. A horizontal ground line is drawn near the bottom of the paper. To get the students all on the same starting point, I gave them a 3" wide by 1" tall cardboard triangle, which was placed in the center of the paper and traced. Three to four pillars were drawn centered under the triangle. Three rows of steps were drawn, centered under the pillars. The dome was added above the triangle in sections as shown. The east and west wings were drawn on the right and left. Foliage, flags and clouds could be added as desired.
2. When the drawing was complete, the lines were traced with a medium-width marker.
3. The drawing was colored in with crayons. Shadows could be added in places, but the building was to stay white, like the original.
Thanks to Emil, a talented kinder artist who drew this lovely picture.
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Folk Art Flag



Given that folk art is created by untrained artists, everyday items are often used for it’s creation. I’ve had this wooden flag idea for awhile, and finally got to try it out.
1. I glued two sticks together with white glue to make a “flagpole”. I did this about 20 minutes prior to class so they could set up.
2. Students used liquid watercolor to paint 4 sticks red. They used a papertowel to dab them dry.
3. Two sticks were placed on paper, and I gave a squirt of white glue on each as shown.
4. Students started with red, and alternated 4 red sticks and 3 “white” across on the glue. Some stick overhung on both sides.
5. White punched paper stars were glued on navy blue rectangles of paper, 1.25" x 2". A glue stick works best because any extra dries clear.
6. The “flagpole” is glued on the bottom left stick with white glue. All is left to dry for about 20 minutes.
7. Before students left, I used a good adult scissors to trim off the extra stick on the right. I liked the homemade look to them – just in time for July 4th celebrations.
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Hundertwasser Flowers


This is another drawing inspired by the Austrian abstract artist,Friedensreich Hundertwasser. His philosophy about nature is very reflective in his artwork, so I used his quote and love of wavy lines to jump start this journal page.
1. Draw wavy horizontal line, and then five random circles for the flower centers above it. All the centers had a stem drawn down, then lots of concentric circles around them.
2. Draw lots of wavy horizontal lines that imitated the horizon line, and jumped around each flower.
3. Add block letters below spelling out a quote from Hundertwasser. Trace all the lines with a thin black marker.
4. Using colored pencils, fill in the drawing in the style of Hundertwasser with some dark shading next to marker lines. 
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