Tag Archives: painting

Art Contests for Kids


There are a lot of art contests for kids online, and homeschoolers are encouraged to enter them as well.  Our school days at home are fairly relaxed, so contests provide some healthy structure to our work. By participating in a contest, children have a definite goal a deadline to meet. They also recognize the need to present their very best work, even if it means re-doing something that’s already completed. If they win, they experience the thrill of victory, and if they don’t, they learn how to take defeat in stride to try again another day. They learn, as Henry Ford stated, that “failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”  (Love those “failure/success” quotes!)

If you’d like to encourage your child to enter an art contest, here are a few to check out:

  • Constitution Day Poster Contest – This contest for ages 3 -12 celebrates the U.S. Consitution. Children are to create an 8 ½” x 11” poster showing how they have benefited from the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. A fun and creative contest, but you have to hurry – the deadline for submitting entries is October 1.
  • Teachers Against Prejudice is sponsoring an art contest for students in grades 1-4. The theme for the artwork this year is “Sharing Cultures.” Entries must be submitted by October 15.
  • This is My Math Art Contest sponsored by McGraw-Hill is for students in grades K-5. Young artists are to illustrate “What math means to me” and enter their work by October 29.
  • NRA Youth Wildlife Art Contest – Have a wildlife artist in your family? If she’s 18 or under, she can enter this contest with her best drawing or painting of an animal. The deadline is November 1.
  • Smilemakers Pearcasso Art Contest – If your child likes to play with his food at mealtime, this may be the perfect contest for him! Artists ages 5-18 are to create their artwork with pears! Entries must be sent by November 15.
  • Decide to Drive Poster Contest – For students in grades 5-8, this contest focuses on the importance of driving without distractions. Entries must be sent by November 15.
  • Frogs are Green Art Contest – Kids ages 3 – 12 are invited to enter this contest focusing on green living. The deadline for submissions is November 30.

How to Read a Painting

Yesterday, we took a field trip to an art museum for a special class on “How to Read a Painting.” The program, which lasted just under an hour, went very well; I learned a lot, and apparently, my children did too. Even my shy six-year-old raised his hand and answered questions correctly.

The class focused on two of the main elements in art: line and color. The teacher presented some good ways to remember what each one symbolized. As she spoke, examples of several famous paintings were presented and discussed.

Wide, vertical lines, the children learned, are like a tall, straight soldier; they demonstrate strength and stability.

  • Horizontal lines remind us of someone sleeping or laying down; they represent peace or rest.
  • Diagonal lines are the lines formed by a body moving quickly, such as when someone is running. Diagonal lines, then, represent action.
  • Curved lines are similar to those formed by a ballerina when she dances, so those lines show movement and warmth.
  • The instructor then told the children about another line they can’t see — an implied line that is formed when a person in the painting is looking at something or when light is streaming down on an object.

After discussing lines and figuring out what the artists were trying to express, the instructor then told the children about color and what the colors often represent. She pointed out that the meanings of some colors have changed over time, even to the point of representing complete opposites. Yellow, for example, used to convey betrayal; today, however, it depicts friendship. Some of the others discussed included:

  • Blue – for loyalty or sadness
  • White – for purity or mourning
  • Red – for strong emotions
  • Green – for growth

The instructor also made a point of stating that not every artist follows these painting “clues” — some depict things exactly as they see them, some choose lines and colors just because they like them, while still others make up their own meanings for line and color.

The talk concluded with a self-portrait a student had created using only lines and color — a piece that, though it didn’t look like her, represented who she was and how she viewed herself. It was a fun way to apply what we learned, so I know what we’ll be working on today… 🙂

That’s So Beautiful!

A couple of weeks ago, I taught an art class at a local craft store. The class involved step-by-step painting in acrylics on canvas; first I would paint something on my canvas (the sky, the grass, etc.), and each person in the class would paint the same thing on their own. The class consisted of both children and adults.

One student in particular, a fourth or fifth-grader, made quite an impression on me. It wasn’t because of his skill or finished product, but the comments he made throughout the class time. Every so often, I would go around from person to person, look at their work, and see if they needed any help. Every time I came to where he was sitting, he would say, “That’s so beautiful!” Then he would paint something else, and say it again.

His painting didn’t quite follow the one I was doing. I had a bright blue sky; he made his a night sky with yellow dots for starts. Mine had three flowers; his had three flowers of another color and a berry bush. And every time he took a step back to look at it, he would say, “That’s so beautiful!”

A few days later, I told my friend about this student. “Wouldn’t it be neat,” she said, “if we all encouraged ourselves in that way? What if we said, ‘Good job washing those dishes!’ or ‘What a great job you did with the laundry!'” We laughed, but we both agreed — that would certainly change not only the atmosphere in the home, but our attitudes as well.

I’m not sure exactly what the student’s parents did to foster such a sense of accomplishment and appreciation in their son; perhaps it’s just his personality. But one thing’s for sure: he was a joy to teach and have in class. And his painting really was “so beautiful!”

As I Watch

As I Watch is another picture book I’ve had the privilege of illustrating. Written by Chitra Sounder and published by Guardian Angel Publishing, this simple yet beautiful book describes the life-cycle of a butterfly.

Designed especially for the youngest readers, As I Watch follows the development of the insect from egg, to larva, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly and back to egg again. It’s a great starting point for a unit study about butterflies or insects in general. The illustrations are done in oils and realistically depict the tiger swallowtail butterfly.

If you have young children and are interested in doing a unit study on butterflies, here are some other online resources you might find helpful:

EnchantedLearning.com – This site has so much information for young butterfly enthusiasts! While you may need to pay a small membership fee to access all of the worksheets, it’s well-worth it. They’ve even organized all of the information into a hypertext book, covering topics such as butterflies and moths, defense mechanisms, classification, butterfly gardens, and butterfly anatomy. You’ll also find printouts featuring the lifecycle.

ParentingOurKids.com – Among many other resources, this site also offers butterfly lesson plans. Some of these are complete lessons in themselves, while others are links to worksheets and puzzles. All would be good additions to your unit study!

TheHealthyHomeschool.com – Here you’ll find all you need to know about how to plant your own butterfly garden.

Glorious-Butterfly.com –  – While this site isn’t particularly a schooling site, you’ll find some great ideas for butterfly study here as well. The lesson plans focus on the monarch butterfly, its development, and migration.

InsectLore.com –  This site sells the life cycle kits for various insects, including butterflies. For about $20.00 you can get a kit with a coupon for live caterpillars.

Enjoy a butterfly study with your children — and watch the wonder of nature together!

Beautiful Covers

This week, I worked at a local art camp teaching a writing class and helping with the crafts. Because we were working on stories in the writing class, the children spent time making books during art. These were conventional-looking books — with very unconventional covers.

The books themselves were small, about 4″ x 5″, though you could make them any size. The covers were made out of pieces of mat board, and for this project, a light color would work best — either white or cream. After cutting the paper to size, the art teacher then place a cover on either end of the paper stack and drilled two holes all the way through using a small bit. String was then threaded through the holes to hold the pieces together.

What made the covers so pretty, however, was the way in which the kids decorated them using tissue paper. We did this before putting the books together.

First, we mixed up a small amount of white glue with water. Each child then took a paintbrush and “painted” the mat board cover of their book with the mixture. Next, they chose from the colorful scraps of tissue paper we had on hand and placed them on the now sticky surface of their covers. They went over the tissue paper again with a little more of the glue/water mixture, making sure the tissue paper was lying flat. Overlapping the paper was fine — it created even more colors.

The mat board worked really well with this technique, as it was strong enough not to bend or warp when the glue mixture was applied. If you don’t have a drill, however, you can still use this technique to make an accordion-style book that you just put together with glue instead of string. To do this, have your child fold the paper like a fan, then glue each end to a rectangular piece of mat board that the child has decorated.

Whatever method you use, try making one of these beautiful books this summer. It will be a keepsake to last a lifetime!

Shaving Cream Art

As we wind down with another school year of art classes (I teach in my home), I like to surprise the students with a different type of art project for the final session. Last year they created some abstract art by spattering paint using several different methods; this year, we’re making marbled paper using…shaving cream!

I have three classes that meet every other week — one of the classes finished up a week ago, while the others will conclude on Wednesday. I tried the project with the first class, made up of boys ages 9 – 13, and it went great!  I figured it would, though; after all, we were using shaving cream.

There are some good sites online explaining the history of marbling, which we talked about before getting to work. Here’s how we did it:


  • Cardstock
  • Shaving Cream
  • 9″ x 13″ Pan
  • Tempra paints or food coloring
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpicks, combs, skewers

 To prepare, I purchased one can of shaving cream and a disposable 9″ x 13″ foil pan for each student. After reading more about it online, I probably had way too much shaving cream. One teacher recommended using only a few cans for a class of 20. I saved our extra for my next class, though.

 Then I had each student squirt out a layer of shaving cream about one inch thick in the bottom of their pan (Fun!).

 Next, the students painted the top of the shaving cream with tempra paints. Food coloring worked just as well but was more expensive. We also tried watercolors, but the finished pieces didn’t seem as bright as those with the tempra paints. Craft acrylics didn’t work at all.

 Before painting, we added water to the paints to make them more fluid. As the students painted, they tried to cover most of the surface of the shaving cream with color. This usually results in a more interesting final product.

Using a toothpick, comb, or skewer,  the students  then ran the object through the color, creating swirls and other patterns in the shaving cream.

Next, they carefully placed the paper directly on top of the shaving cream. We patted it down gently so that the entire sheet came in contact with the shaving cream. Then we pulled it up gently again.

I wiped off the paper using a paper towel (a bit of a mess). Even though the shaving cream surface was smudged, the design had transferred nicely to the paper.

 We then set the paper aside to dry, and the students tried again. To do so, we simply mixed the used paint into the shaving cream until there was a “clean” surface again.  We were able to use the same shaving cream for all of their projects that day — about four to five pieces of art each.

Craft: Outside My Window


We did this craft to go along with the picture book by Patricia Polacco entitled Mrs. Katz and Tush. In one of the illustrations, the artist included a view of the buildings outside of Mrs. Katz’s window. For our project, then, the children drew pictures of what they might see from a window of their own house.

You’ll need:

  • Rectangular piece of cardboard, cut out like a picture frame
  • Brown watercolors
  • Paint Brush
  • Container with Water
  • Paper towel
  • Heavy piece of paper, such as construction paper, cardstock, or watercolor paper
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Masking tape
  • Hot glue and a glue gun
  • Two small pieces of fabric, about 3″ wide and as long as the width of your cardboard. We used patterned pieces, as Polacco includes a lot of patterns in her illustrations in this book. I purchased multiple pieces from the fabric store so the children could choose which pattern they liked best. By purchasing only 1/4 of a yard of fabric that was on sale, I spent 25 cents – 30 cents for each piece.
  • Two small pieces of yarn, long enough to tie into a knot

1. To begin, have your child paint the cardboard with some brown watercolors — either darker or lighter or a variety of brown shades. This will be the frame for the window. They can wipe off any excess water that may be on the cardboard with the paper towel.

2. While the cardboard is drying, give your student the sheet of paper. Have them draw something they might see out a window. He might draw a cityscape with buildings and roads, other houses in the neighborhood, trees and flowers in the backyard, or even the moon and stars at night. Give him time to color in his drawing with makers or crayons.

3. Next, tape his drawing to the back of the cardboard so that his drawing can be seen through the opening.

4. To make it look even more like a window, add some curtains. With your hot glue gun, glue a piece of fabric to each side of the window. For our project, we glued the top of the curtain to the top of the back side of the cardboard, then flipped the curtain over to the front of the cardboard.

5. Finally, tie back the curtains with the yarn.

What’s outside your window?

Okay, Kids – Express Yourself!

img-0136A couple of months ago, we rearranged almost all of the rooms in our house, changing two of our upstairs rooms into bedrooms. My husband no longer has a study (he’s okay with that — he doesn’t bring much work home with him), and each child now has their own room to clean, maintain, and house their treasures.

As soon as she moved in, my 9-year-old, Lillie, loved her new room, and she had some big plans. The room (my husband’s former study) was a neutral beige color with white trim. “Can we paint some shapes on the walls?”

We looked up some ideas online, and we decided large geometric shapes would look really good on those walls. Plus, I wouldn’t have to paint the entire wall again. “Okay,” I said, “but we’ll have to wait until we have a free day.” After spending a couple of weeks on the house, I had a lot of catching up to do on other things.

“Can I do it?” she asked. I thought for a moment. Why not? After all, it would save me some time. We’ve painted enough together that she knew just what to do. And it was just paint — we could repaint the walls again whenever she was ready.

“Sure,” I said. “Use the craft acrylics, and clean up when you’re done.”

Later that day, she called me upstairs to see her masterpiece. But instead of the large geometric shapes I had envisioned, the walls were covered in red, green, yellow, blue, and purple 1″-3″ polka dots. And Lillie couldn’t have been more proud.

“There are a couple of hidden shapes,” she said. “Can you find them? A purple triangle, a green triangle, a blue square…” Her bedroom walls were not only much more lively, but they were a puzzle she could share with friends as well.

As we raise our kids, we’ll probably question a lot of our decisions (I do!). But letting Lillie paint her own room is one I’m glad I made — the results have only been positive. She has a room she enjoys, and she built up her self-confidence in the process. What’s more, she inspired her younger brother who also moved into his own room — now his walls showcase stick figures having adventures! 🙂

Springtime and Flower Pots

aflowerOur part of the country (the southeast) has had an unusually cold winter this year. Temperatures have dipped below the normal range almost every week since the first of January; we’ve had three snow/ice storms in the past two months when we usually only see one during the season. Is it any wonder that everyone in our home is looking forward to spring?

This past week we did a fun activity that helped put us in the mood even more. This simple craft is great for all ages, even moms.

Painted Flower Pots

What you’ll need:

  • Small clay pots
  • Potting soil
  • Acrylic Craft Paints
  • Smocks or Paint shirts
  • Containers filled with water
  • Paint Brushes
  • Styrofoam plates
  • Paper Towels
  • Newspaper
  • Seeds

Before you begin, cover your table top or painting area with newspaper, allowing for easy clean up. Have each student put on a paint smock or shirt; acrylic paints usually don’t come out of clothing.

Provide each student with a pot, a Styrofoam plate to use as a palette, paintbrushes, a container of water to clean the brushes, and a paper towel to dab the brushes on after they’ve been cleaned.

Tell the students that they will be painting their own designs on the pots. Before beginning, though, have them think about what they want to paint. Do they want to paint spots and stripes? Butterflies? Rainbows? Geometric shapes? Solid colors?

Now instruct the children to begin painting. Have them wash their brushes out when changing colors.

After the students have finished decorating the pots, allow the pots to dry for a few minutes. These acrylic paints dry quickly, so they won’t have to wait too long.

When the pots are dry, show the children how to fill them with potting soil. Provide them with two or three seeds (we used sunflower seeds), and show them how to plant them. A perfect opportunity to learn about the life cycle of plants!

Now add a little water and place the pot in a sunny location. Watch for the new life to push through — and enjoy the first signs of spring!

Easy Lesson in Perspective

perspectiveThis week, our kindergarten/first grade co-op class worked on lessons based on the book Three Names by Patricia Maclachlan. The watercolor illustrations offer a lot of art lesson possibilities. Our class chose to work on project about perspective, and it turned out to be a fun exercise that can be adapted for students of various ages.

For this lesson, you’ll need:

  • One sheet of watercolor paper
  • Masking Tape
  • Piece of cardboard (a little larger than the paper)
  • Watercolors: green, blue, brown, grey or black, and yellow ochre (golden yellow)
  • Watercolor brushes
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Paper Towel

To begin, tape the piece of watercolor paper onto the cardboard backing. When your student paints on the paper, it will tend to buckle; by taping it to the cardboard and allowing it to dry completely, it should flatten out again.

Next, have the student draw a straight HORIZON LINE using a pencil and a ruler. The horizon is the line where the land meets the sky.

Now, instruct your student to choose a point on the line to be the VANISHING POINT. The vanishing point will just be a dot on the horizon line; it’s the place on the horizon where the road will seem to disappear.

Next, have your student draw two diagonal lines from the bottom of the page to the vanishing point. The resulting figure will look like a triangle. This is the road going far away into the distance.

Your child might choose to add other objects to his picture, such as trees or animals. Remember, though, that the closer the objects are, the bigger they will appear to be; the further away they are, the smaller they will appear.

To finish the picture, paint in the sky above the horizon line, and the land on either side of the road green and/or brown. The road could be golden yellow if it’s a dirt path or grey if it’s a highway.

Once your student has finished, be sure to hang up the painting or put it in a portfolio. A job well-done needs to be displayed! 🙂