Today, I want to share my big list of 34 amazing art exercises, ideas, games, holiday drawings and school art projects for students.
I’ve taught art in classrooms for 25 years and know that teachers need fun, simple exercises, and art activities to get students going.
Don’t forget that you can get my free Teacher Packs. You get super simple and intermediate classroom drawings sent to your inbox every holiday.
#1 Find the Monkey – a Simple Art Game
How many monkeys can you find? For adults, it’s simple. But it’s hard and fun if you are five, six, or seven years old!
- This is a coordination game
- Great for K-2 students
- Simple and my students love it
How to play
Simply fill your page with Round and Round with a Dot in the middle. Once you get going, monkeys will start to appear. How many can you find? Use big Round and Rounds and smaller ones. Fill up that paper and start adding color to the ones you find. Leave the rest white. Did I find them all? There’s always a monkey or two hiding somewhere!
#2 Bend Your Art Perception!
With my 6 universal lines of art, you can draw anything in the world. This fun art exercise helps your students develop control and variation.
- Perfect imagination game for K-6 students
- Excellent prep for 3D drawing
- Adds extra fun to your elementary classroom art projects
How to play
Follow the sequence of drawings below and try to ‘SEE’ where it is going. This is a Level 1 Drawing Game that prepares the elementary student for seeing eventually in 3D. Let’s create some art designs with this ‘Perceptual’ art game! Start the zig zag and wiggle lines and keep them moving right to the end. A line starts … it flows …and it ends.
Practice the above lines making sure you vary the amplitude from big to small … variation is the spice of drawing.
#3 Zig Zag In Front and Behind
Begin with the red zig zag shape that is at the center and is out in front. Add the orange shape behind the bottom of the red shape then the light green shape that is behind the top of the red shape.
Now you have established one in front and two behind. Continue adding shapes in front and behind.
I have yet to find a beginner art student who used this principal. Most students who have been drawing up to grade 9 or 10 draw something and it stands alone without any artistic principals. We need to draw a story and create interest, drama, variation, and expression.
These exercises are the beginning of a creative journey for you and your students.
Keep your paper size small or at least keep your drawing small. The examples are done on 8.5 in by 11in. paper. Half sheets would be fine. Big areas take too much time to colour. If your students are doing a finished product that would be for display use card stock paper.
#4 Wiggle Puzzle
As things move away from us they appear smaller. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a full-size Mega Truck on a mountain that is twenty miles away across the lake. Kids do it all the time and it’s refreshing for a while. It’s not wrong. There are no mistakes in art.
There are however artistic principals and concepts that young students are eager to adopt that will develop their imaginative renderings and eventually lead them into higher forms of expression.
The drawing below demonstrates a principal discovered during the Renaissance and recorded in a journal by none other than Leonardo the great Italian artist. I have given you the first part which is,”as things move away from us they appear smaller.” The other part is that they also appear lighter and bluer.
For simplicity, I have just made the Wiggle Puzzle use the first part of the discovery. As you can see below the small blue wiggle puzzle piece at the bottom right appears to be farther away than the ones in front of it.
When you can grasp what this drawing is teaching you the next step would be to make each successive wiggle puzzle piece a lighter color which is the second part of the discovery. I use this principle all the time when painting landscapes. It is called Aerial Perspective.
#5 ‘Shish Kaballs’- How to move from 2-D into 3-D
A great intro to how simple it is to see ‘DIMENSION’. How high, how wide, and how deep. This is a ‘seeing’ game suitable for all ages.
How to play
Draw two ‘balls’, one larger than the other, as demonstrated in the picture below. The top left shows a two-dimensional ‘model’. Notice how the sticks do not ‘penetrate’ the balls but stop at the front edge and continue out the back.
This model on the left is perfect for K-2. Let them master it and then move on to the model on the right. Now take notice of the top right ‘model’ and see how the sticks do ‘penetrate’ the middle of each ball and continue out the back as they do in the 2-D model on the left. One little difference will put us into a 3-D perception … The secret is ‘PERCEPTION’. Don’t just copy it, understand the principle and then apply it.
This model is perfect for Grades 3 to 6, providing you warm up with the 2-D model first. I played around with the ‘Shish Kaballs’ and then saw how they were starting to come out towards me and then dive back down away from me.
The idea of a ‘spherical’ shape underneath it all was added, making sure I hopped over all the lines ‘in front’. Let’s apply this idea to a mobile or with real objects that we can ‘assemble’ a piece of classroom sculpture and hang it from a wall or ceiling or a tree outside.
The French call this type of ‘found objects art’ – Assemblage. Look around the classroom, the schoolyard or a green space outdoors and make some assembled art using the ‘Shish Kaball’ 3D Developmental Exercise.
The ‘Shish Kaballs’ on the top left and middle left are 2-D. The ones on the right are 3-D. Study them and then teach both models.
#6 Cut Outs
Strong Shapes Make Captivating Cut Outs. They have been with us as far back as Byzantine days when tiles were cut and fashioned into artistic designs that are still marveled at today.
Matisse, one of our first ‘modern artists’ had to express his artistic impulses using paper and scissors since a physical infirmity prevented him from painting. Cut outs really make us think ‘SHAPE.’
Crafting can be a very artistic activity in your classroom providing you use sound artistic principles. I spent several hours this summer researching crafts in the classroom and found some incredible sites that were highly creative and imaginative.I have included below, a cut out project from Crawford Bay School using little ‘Heartwing’ from my free Teacher Packs.
The simplicity of the characters used in The Artabet makes it easy to use them as cut outs. One BC school I regularly teach at called Winlaw Elementary made a 16-foot mural using Artabet cut outs. Get snipping!!!
#7 Artabet Color Experience
Color must be experienced. This is a very exciting classroom art activity. It requires some patience and a real concentrated focus with a beholding attitude.
How to play
You do nothing but concentrate on the small white circle inside the large colored circle. Focus all your attention on the small white circle, gaze at it for at least 10 seconds.
Don’t let your eyes wander. Focus and then quickly shift your focus to the small colored circle adjacent to the large colored circle. Now, his is where it happens, you will have a color experience! You should start to see a glow around the small colored circle.
It won’t be dark but it will definitely be visible like a halo of pastel colored light. If it doesn’t happen, repeat the process until it works for you. This is a great way to teach color families.
The color you see will be a different color than the big colored circle, but it will be a color that goes very well with it. There is a name for it but I’ll let you research that if you want. An easy and simple classroom project would be to make your own color experience cards with paint, colored pencils, or felts. It is an exciting discovery for students when they have a real color experience.
Let your students draw their own Color Circles with felts. It is easier to focus when there is one color circle on a page. Don’t teach them color theory let them ‘experience it.’
If you want to augment this game,t try looking at a RED object for ten seconds and then close your eyes and see what color you see. The after image behind your eyes will show up if you relax and it will have the same effect as the ARTABET COLOR EXPERIENCE. This Color Exercise is used by artists when painting. Green objects cast red hues in their shadows. Clouds have violet undertones from the yellow hues of the sun.
Bending is a 3D trick that is simple and effective. It makes a simple drawing into a more exciting drawing. You will need an eraser to assist you with the bend. Watch the video below and then try these bends.
How to play
#9 Artabet Concept Game Symmetry
Symmetry is a fundamental ARTABET principle that cannot be ignored and must be developed.
I asked a class of 23 students between the ages of 5 and 13 at a Redfish Elementary School in British Columbia if anyone knew what symmetry meant. A bright little 5 year-old responded with an assurance beyond her tender age,” Symmetry is even and balanced.”
She accompanied her definition with a slow vertical passage of her hand down the center of her face as she spoke. Yes, Virgina, there’s symmetry all around us. In nature, in everyday things, and most definitely in art. It is the first Artabet Concept that all young art students need to understand, and if a 5-year-old Artabet student has a grip on it let’s get going and play the Symmetry Game.
How to play
Of course, young art students are going to draw a Sun. Since pencils were invented the sun has been immortalized by generations of beginner drawers.
It looks easy to draw, it’s a simple drawing, and best of all they want to draw it. Let’s not miss the opportunity to teach a fundamental artistic concept while their interest is engaged. The typical first attempts to draw the sun defy the laws of spectral light.
The light rays, symbolized by lines shooting outwards are anything but symmetrical as they head off in all directions. It takes an awareness of which muscles to use as you draw your Sun, pushing and pulling lines always from the center outwards. The following examples will get your students drawing with Symmetry.
We will start with “Owl O’clock and then move into our ‘Draw the Sun’ and finish with ‘Bright spots’. Think even … Think balance … Think equal.
The symmetry drawings activate a mental awareness in the beginner art student. Through many repetitions, the student will gain a feeling for symmetry and muscle memory will take over and open the way to more skillful drawing.
I took this page right from the Artabet First Steps in Drawing. We have made 4 editions and I believe this is from the 2nd edition back in 2003. The students love to draw “Bright Spots”. I have seen them turn it into creepy crawlies, flowers, and lots of imaginative applications. Understand it … Master it … Apply it.
#8 Drawing Pads and Overheads
There is a new horizon in the field of graphic design, fine art, engineering, architecture, music composition, invention and a host of other artistic disciplines. Where there is a creative need there always is a way available to express it.
A stone wall inside a cave is transformed with bits of charred sticks and ground earthy pigments. Pablo Picasso’s Bull’s Head is assemblage at it’s most whimsical for it takes a bicycle seat and some handlebars and transforms them into a bull with horns.
As you can see even a very sparse technology can produce great art. How can we use cutting edge technology as a teaching tool in our elementary school classroom?
Here are a few art tips on using overheads ‘tech pads’,t ablets, and drawing boards. You can see in the picture below that the students are following an overhead image that shows the steps for drawing ‘Beaker’, an excitable little chicken from the Artabet ‘First Steps in Drawing’ ebook.
Project the image, give a few instructions, provide the traditional pencil and paper or pull out the tablets. A great technical resource is the free Artabet’s ‘Teacher’s Pack’. It’s free. so your students can download it and everyone is ready to go. Nothing to get ready, no mess to clean up and it’s easy to follow.
If you want to provide some creative art instruction for your K to 6 students and feel that you really can’t draw a straight line or that you are just a beginner drawer and would feel silly or embarrassed teaching art,’fear not’, technology is here to buffer the storm until you gain some confidence.
Set up the overhead or use your ‘smartboard’, and follow the steps. I have put up an Artabet worksheet file on an overhead and simply said,’Draw what you see.” They take the simple model from the Artabet and personalize and accessorize it to make it their own.
Get them started and then let them finish! Technology and art can be a great team as an indoor classroom activity. Next Holiday download one of the free ‘Teacher’s Holiday Packs’ set it up an overhead or download it into your personal tablet, sit back and let art and technology do their magic in your classroom.
How to draw and paint on your iPad, Drawing Tablet
Technology is seriously involved with art. Here is an easy way to get some of your students up an drawing using the latest technology.
Setting Up your Tech / Art Workspace
- Option #1 You can get free downloads for your students i Pad to be used as a drawing tablet. Recommended/ Draw Free for iPad or Drawing Box Free. Both are free versions of more complicated software computer drawing programs.
- Option #2 You can download a program into some of the computers in your Lab. If you are using a PC, I would choose Paint.NET, which is simple and straightforward.
- Option #3 Use an existing program that is already installed.
Getting Started / Method 1
There are 3 steps in this method.The goal is to produce a finished piece of Tech Art.
- Take a piece of art by a student and scan it into your drawing program, or take a photo of the artwork and download into a thumb drive. Pop it into the computer.
- Convert your file to TIFF or PNG. Don’t leave it in JPEG. You start losing file memory every time you close and open a JPEG. Keep the files as TIFF’s or PNG’s as you work on them. Convert back to JPEG when a small file size is needed such as an email or Facebook post. Work at 300dpi as a resolution. These are basic operating procedures.
- Bring image up into your program and start with some simple enhancements. When satisfied you can print it out.
Which Functions Should I Use First?
- Learn how to make the image larger or smaller
- Learn how to crop the image
- Learn how to shift or move the image
- Learn how to flip and turn the image
- Learn how to clean up the image from scan marks, smudges and little black marks.
- Learn how to use the drawing and painting tools before exploring the effect tools.
- Learn how to close, open and save files.
- Especially learn how to see what you want and then make it happen!
#9 Dimensional Development Game – Linking Thinking!
Linking is when you draw shapes and patterns in repetitive sequence. One square joins another square, one triangle joins another triangle, one joins one and another joins two and very soon you have linked up a pattern, a design, an animal or something else.
How to play
What you need to see is Dimension. See through! See into! See under! See in front and See behind! Start at the top left of the picture and keep adding what you see.
There is no right or wrong sequence to drawing. Some would draw the end result and ignore the wisdom in the little steps. The breakdown of each step makes the concept easier to understand. Remember, Something is always In Front or Behind.
Here is another page of linking. The top left is a whimsical collection of shapes randomly linked. The other two are variations of ‘lace linking’.
We have used this ‘lace linking’ trick for Fairy clothing, shoe or boot laces, hair adornments, and other creative accessorizing with ARTABET characters.
Once a student learns a concept and makes it their own you have given them a piece of the great artistic puzzle. The Artabet is all about giving young artists what they need to take their first step and keep on going.
#10 Warm Ups Using The Artabet’s 6 Universal Lines
- The very best activity to improve your DRAWINGS SKILLS
- Easy,fun and fast-paced
‘Repetition is Our Mission’ when it comes to the 6 lines of the ARTABET.
Since we only need the 6 universal lines of the ARTABET to draw everything that we see, feel and know, it makes perfect sense to practice drawing these 6 lines.
You can do them individually or draw them all on one paper. I combine arm and body movements to demonstrate the direction of each line before we draw it. Remember it’s an Artabet workout so use lots of energy and keep it moving.
With these 6 lines we have every movement in line described. In all the Universe there are only these 6 lines and an infinite number of variations.
This is the basic knowledge we start with and build upon. A number of Artabet students have gone on to forge careers in animation and design and they still report back to me with,’Hi Mr. Mulvey, we still do the Warm ups”.
How do I hold my pencil or pen?
I have observed 3 ways that students hold a pencil or pen over the last 25 years. There are of course a few unorthodox ways to get the job done but we will consider only three.
#1 Index and middle fingers on the side of the pen. Thumb is extended and touching index finger.
#2 Index and thumb working together to create downward pressure while the middle finger is curled on the underside of the pen for balance.
#3 All three fingers and maybe even the fourth on the side of the pen with the thumb on top. This grip is used by the student so that they can see what they are drawing. Pressure directed downwards by the thumb.
Is one grip better than the other?
I would think that the middle grip is the most demonstrated model for young students. I will re-form a students grip when i feel that the middle grip would help the student draw with more facility than their present grip.
Think of the technique needed to glide a violin bow, execute a pirouette, cut a diamond, shoot par golf, garden and thousands of other endeavors.
The artist needs to make their mark and there are dozens of ways to make that mark just as there are many different ways to move the violin bow or swing a golf club so it is with the artist’s tools.The pencil and pen should be used with strength, softness, vitality and energy.
Lines should have great crescendos and fading diminuendos with a smattering of staccato.We should be able to carve strong lines or suggest a flight of birds with the flick of the wrist.
If you start these Warm Ups and keep at them, you will develop a real facility for drawing. Combine them with the Artabet character drawings and Draw a Story and you will have a confidence that will release your creative imagination every time you draw.
#11 In Front and Behind – Depth Design Game
It’s amazing how such a little idea can make such a profound difference.
- Opens the artist’s eye
- Excellent game for discovering depth
- Learn how to draw behind what you draw and create layers.
Let’s switch it up and have you look at the drawing below. Study it and find the principal that is being expressed. What’s happening?
How to play
You can make your drawing simple and easy if you start with just two triangles. What is important is that you can see the application of this concept game.
I see forests and great shining pyramids with sailing boats all tangled together in an ancient harbor. Many things use the triangle for their basic shape.
Start with this simple art game and develop your own approach to it. Watch your students do it and you will see how many variations they can make.
#12 Paper Chase – Artabet Depth Game
Do one over and over and you will produce something different from one every time! One leaf in a tree is behind another is behind another, over and over the sequence is repeated until it forms a pattern.
The artist is aware of these patterns and knows the principles behind them. In front and behind is one of the Artabet principles. Let’s draw ‘Paper Chase’.
How to play
Draw one rectangle or square. Draw the next one behind the first one, being aware that part of it is hidden from sight.
Continue the pattern making them smaller and smaller. Understand the principle and then create your own variations.
Remember to walk around and see what your students are doing with this game … I have got some of ‘my’ best ideas from students.
#13 Sevens, Seventy- Seven, and Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven
You can find art, even in a seven. When you know a ‘Drawing Principal’ and learn how to apply it creatively, the world of the imagination is yours to discover in the most common places.
- Your first 3-D exercise
- Perfect challenge for Gr. 2 and up
- Students love these
#14 Parallel – The first secret you need to know for drawing 3-D
Parallel is a key concept in the study of oblique linear perspective and parallel perspective.
The ARTABET games and exercises will develop an awareness of sound artistic principals that will provide a springboard for artistic expression.I never use big words or a long complicated ‘how to’ explanation. We just play a game or do an exercise … the students love it!
- Perfect for all ages
- Develops ability for 3-D
- Encourages sure, bold, confident line quality
#15 Simply Felting – A Crafty Idea for your classroom
The word craft has always implied well done and skilled. Expert craftsmanship and well crafted are accepted requirements for many trades and professions.
Yet we think of ‘arts and crafts’ as a simple minded activity to keep kids busy. Not so! I have met many skilled crafters that are dedicated and passionate about their particular discipline.
Let’s take a look at a crafty idea for your classroom.Just admire the ‘craftsmanship’ as you look at Danielle Linn’s felting. Danielle is our oldest daughter and lives in the West Kootenay area of BC. If you a teacher in that area and want to have her come and do some super felting with your elementary school students, just drop me an email at Ron.firstname.lastname@example.org.
#16 Outdoor Art
I’ve taught art outside every summer. Here are the materials you need to keep students happy, safe, and creative.
- One Tarp that serves as the ‘outdoor classroom’.
- One 10in. by 12in. rigid support for every student ( to serve as a drawing board ).
- One # 9 synthetic round brush for each student.
- One Black Sharpie fine point pen or other suitable permanent black pen.
- One pencil ( I use the Dixon PrimaryDixon since it needs less sharpening.
- Sketch book ( make your own or get pocket folders with paper.
- Two half sheets of cardstock paper or similar sized 90lb watercolor paper for each student.
- Azo or Hansa yellow acrylic paint / one tube / 90ml / 3 ounces.
- Thalo blue acrylic paint / one tube / 90ml / 3 ounces.
- Alizarin crimson acrylic paint / one tube / 90ml / 3 ounces
- One Paint tray for every 4 students.
- One large yogurt container for every 4 students.
- One Paint rag for every 4 students.
- One or two milk jugs of water.
How to Run Effective Outdoor Art Classes
Find your ‘spot’ and roll out the tarp. I immediately get everyone sitting around the tarp making sure the middle is left open so we can all see each other.
Think of it as an art picnic. Let’s see what we all get. The picture below shows a single set up for painting. If there were four students on the edge of the tarp and you put the paint and rinse water in front of the two middle students, then all four could reach.
As you can see the paper is small. Small painting tools are great for painting outdoors as our time is limited and we want to get our drawing and painting finished.
Outdoor Mural Project
Here are a few outdoor murals I’ve helped students paint.
Nelson Christian Community School Mural 2012/13
The students below started out with very few painting skills. To develop the needed skills we explored different artistic techniques.
Some of those techniques included scumbling, dash and dab, controlled stroke, rapid back and forth strokes, glazing and veiling in white. Confidence was gained and a new language was put into practice. The colors and ideas from their preliminary efforts led us to establish a color dominance and style for the finished murals.
Below is one of our ‘technique experiments’. This is a section of an 8ft. by 2ft. piece of 3/8th. good one side plyboard. As you can see we have a paint stroke pattern and a colour harmony of green, orange, warm pink and yellow.
Our rule was ‘no strokes longer than a finger.’ Although 20 students contributed to this experiment, the picture plane has the most important quality that a group art project should demonstrate and that is unity. All work as a team and follow the technical guidelines.
The Nelson Waldorf Mural 2013
An Outdoor Mural is not simply some house paint slapped onto a wall or some wood. It must be made with sound weather resistant products so that it will last. Water and sunlight will certainly damage an Outdoor Mural unless sound materials and protection are provided.
The picture below shows us a well protected north east exposure with roof overhang. It is visible from 300m and is the first thing you see as you enter this natural learning environment.
Take a close look at the ‘POP’ colors. Red, Yellow, and Blue. Why do they look so intensely pure and vibrant? Now take a close look at the background and you will notice that there are a lot of green grays and yellow grays and blue grays.
If you want your colors to ‘POP’ you need lots of neutral grays and that does not mean black and white. I love that ‘zippy red’.
The Great Wall of St. Joseph Elementary
We call this an Acrylic Fresco as it simulates the Italian Fresco Technique as used by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
This mural has withstood the howling winters, thousands of soccer balls, torrents of rain and a good blast of the south-west sunshine a few hours a day in the summer. Except for some fading and a few dings, it has kept its dignity and charm for 11 years. Good materials and sound painting principals will give your school mural a long fruitful life.
Apply UV protective coat each year and a few touch ups and it will last for centuries. Ignore it and you will lose it! Such a pity!
Painting on concrete is hard, of course. Here are a few things I’ve learned when creating murals with your student.s
- Make sure the concrete is free off water drainage, check for moss, cracks and surface chipping. If your wall is in poor condition I would look for another site.
- The wall is cleaned and then a coat of acrylic emulsion is mixed with a special coating product that is then trowelled onto the surface. If you would like to start an outdoor school project like this, email me at Ron.Mulvey@yahoo.ca
- When the surface is cured it becomes very ‘thirsty’. This is where the fresco feeling comes out for as soon as the paint meets the wall there is a big ‘slurp’ and the paint disappears.Many hands are needed for the initial paint skin. This is where the PAC comes to the rescue and lines up the ‘Handy Dandy Helpers’. Community and parental support is number one for a Big Outdoor Mural Project like this one.
- Each painting session builds layer upon layer and the fresco feeling disappears giving way to a slicker surface that starts to show a sheen with full-color saturation.
- Big spaces need big tools. We used lots of donated rollers and large paint brushes to get the big areas filled with paint.
- Use only acrylic art quality paints.When mixed with extenders and mediums you will get quality and economy.House paints are for houses! Employ a competent artist to facilitate, a volunteer tradesperson/contractor to estimate and a team leader to investigate.
- Do it well … enjoy it … take care of it.
#17 Go on a Great Outdoor Adventure with Your Class
Bug, Bugs, Bugs, they certainly are our dear little friends. Some from a distance and some up close, we search and we find them and become engrossed.
Take a trip outside your classroom and study and draw some bugs. Gather your information and Draw a Story back in the classroom.
We have many flocks of Canada Geese in our area. The plan for me would be to study them in class make a few sketches with the students and then head down to Lakeside Park and start sketching them live.
Then we go back and maybe a few days later make a finished rendering of our flightworthy subject …maybe even give it a name or Draw a Story.
#18 Tips for Drawing Things Outside
If you are in an urban landscape you will have countless things to draw: such as cars, digger machines, boats, planes, buildings, and bridges, take advantage of it and make a point of drawing what you see. A ten-minute sketch is just that. You can accomplish a lot in ten minutes. Keep your Artabet Tool Kit ready to go at any time and break out for a quick sketch in your schoolyard.
The sketch below is done with a black sharpie on card stock / full sheet. Identify the 6 Artabet lines. Observe how the lines are strong and bold, and how it looks effortless. Simple, done well, is great.
#19 Ribbon of Light and Dark – Shading Game
Shading is ‘Light’. Shading is ‘Dark. Shading is everything in between.
- Key concept for 3-D Artwork
- Activates Muscle awareness and memory
- Builds confidence and technique
How to play
Start at the bottom and practice dark to light and then light to dark. More pencil pressure produces dark and less pressure produces light.
This is a muscle awareness game so the more times you do it the better you get. If you remember the ARTABET Warm Ups and practice them you will find this game to be an extension of Up and Down and Back and Forth.
You can see the Artabet principle of ‘symmetry’ at work in the flower shape. The principle of In Front and Behind is also evident. Learn the principles, develop muscle awareness, broaden your technique, add some artistic imagination and you have a recipe for a successful art class.
#20 Artabet Game – One Two Tree
Draw a tree the way it grows. Leading your students into inquiry will always produce an awareness of why and how we do something.
How To Play
Start with one line and then add the zig zag which is two lines. finish with the ‘leader’ to make three. Continue adding this growth pattern; 3, 9. 27 etc.
You can then use this for a model when drawing trees.Find specific trees that fit this model and add specific details that describe the type. Trees are all around us and yet we know so little about them. With One Two Tree that can change.
This page is from the Artabet’s free Teacher Packs. This Pack gives you tons of Holiday drawing fun and lots of great ideas like the one above.
#21 Play the Cluster Game
Almost all the students I have taught are facing the same hurdles in getting to the next level.The principles and concepts are always missing.
That is why we have hungry artists. The Artabet is designed and built with solutions that have come from inquiry-based learning.
What do they need to know and how can we present it with engagement. Clustering is an easy way to feed them. Ask your class to draw some balloons. You will be surprised how few will be aware of the concept of clustering.
- Develop the ability to see ‘behind’
- Promotes 3-D awareness
- Teaches the power of repetition in art
How To Play
Start with the example on the top left. Practice 5 or 6 and then move to some of the easier clusters. Now do the balloons. By this time they should be able to work on their own clusters.
#22 Clustering and Linking Get You Thinking
This is an IDEA PAGE. Simply put it up on an overhead and let your class run with it. I would suggest that you do the linking and clustering games first and then let them at this one. I have found that this mode of teaching really works well in the classroom.
Get them started and let them go!
#23 Dimensional Discovery Game – If You Can See It
It’s not a matter of seeing it … It’s all about drawing it!
- Learn some important 3-D magic
- Learn the power of ‘oblique’ lines
- Why we build shape upon shape
An artistic concept must be understood if it is to be utilized as a creative tool. We cannot just copy … we must express!
How to Play
Three Dimensional Art is one step higher than Two-Dimensional Art. One very big step! Students who are well prepared in 2-D will take the next step with a confident ‘jump’.
The preparatory 3-D exercises and games are essential for a confident entry into this type of drawing.Let’s take a look at the 3-D drawing below and use some inquiry based learning to figure out how it creates its magic.
- How does it look ‘DEEP’?
- Which lines are ‘PARALLEL’ to the edges of the paper?
- Are there any ‘PARALLEL’ lines at all?
- Where do some of the lines seem to be ‘CONVERGING’?
- Are all the lines ‘CONVERGING’ somewhere?
- What is the ‘BASIC SHAPE’?
- Is there ‘FORM’?
- How are we going to draw this and where do we start?
Let’s take a look at some drawings that will demonstrate what we are doing without knowing why. The head knowledge comes after we have mastered the games and exercises.
How to Play
Now that I have turned the image right side up you can see that it reads easier.We respond to right side up better than upside down.
As you can see there isn’t a wrong way only different ways. Artists like to see different ways.
So game rule #1 – There are no mistakes in art. After you have drawn this image I would like you to turn it around and look at it from different viewpoints. It might look like a spacecraft or a tall building or perhaps an ocean liner. This is the next part of the game. Play with it and make it your own. There are no mistakes in art!
#24 THE GREAT NUMBER GAME
I chose the number eight since it is one of those special numbers for me.I was #8 when I played hockey as a kid and young teen. All the numbers will work for this game, although some may require a little more ‘thinking’ than others.
How to Play
This game uses clustering and some 3-D slanting. Think – top, sides, and bottom. Identify the tops. Identify the sides. Identify the bottoms. We call these planes in 3-D Drawing. As you look at the drawing you will notice that you really can’t see the bottom. This is called your viewpoint. What do you see?
- How many 8’s can you see?
- How many 8’s have holes that you can see?
- How many colors are there in the picture?
- Are black and white colors? ( watch out when you answer this )
- Which primary color is missing?
- What is the color scheme?
If you remember the Wiggle Game a few posts back you will find this game to be one ‘notch higher’. I find that students rise to the challenge of ‘the next level’, especially if they are confident with the first level. Here is the drawing order I use when playing The Great Number Game.
I have included some Warm up shapes in 3-D to help you get to the next level and give you some confidence when playing the game. Remember you can use an overhead and sit back and discover what to do with your students.
- Warm up with some wiggles from the six lines of the Artabet.
- Draw a wiggle shape similar to the top one on the right.
- Now you come to the 3-D part where you add the straight lines to the left bottom and top.
- To finish add the curved lines on the left side.
- Move to the bottom left for a more slanted line image. Draw the wiggle shape first.
- Add the converging lines that slope downwards and upwards.
- Last to draw is the actual 8 on the bottom right. Sides slope inwards and the bottom is rounded.
Congrats!! You made It. Let the Great Number Game Begin!
- Start with the top 8, add sides, add the rounded bottom and finish with the two elliptical shapes on the top.
- There are two 8’s under the first 8. Draw the one directly underneath the first one.
- Now add the 8 on the 2nd row to the right. Notice that the back left side line is hidden from view.
- Draw the 3rd level 8 on the right.
- Finish with the bottom 8.
Make as many variations as you want. Finish up with shading.
Knowing how to 3-Dimensionalize shapes is a skill that many professions use to develop new products, design buildings, create fashions, and of course a host of ‘tech’ based inventions.
Drawing is the beginning stage of all we invent and imagine. Try this little ‘Keychain’ below and see if you can come up with your own design using what you learned from the Great Number Game.
#25 It’s Spring Holidays – Let’s Draw a Story
Set the scene and introduce the characters.
Flowers and bugs are a perfect team! Let’s Draw a story about one lonely flower, a big, bright, blue sky, some spiky, green grass and of course 3 bright, red bugs. Ladybugs, friendly bugs, and most certainly helpful bugs.
Never think that something is too simple in art. Simple done well is extraordinary. Change your language when presenting simple material to older children but keep the drawing simple.
Let them accessorize and add detail. I have presented this simple flower model to Grade 9 students and they ran with it all the way. This is perfectly suited to younger Artabet students and my story changes every time I draw it!
Hop Over Horizon Line – Don’t Leave Art Class Without It
This is the fundamental Artabet concept. To progress through the levels of artistic drawing in 2-D and then 3-D certain concepts must be brought forward that will liberate the creative impulse and keep students drawing. Let’s discover how to use the Hop Over Horizon Line.
The Hop Over Horizon Line simply divides the picture plane into two sections. It is best to place it above center or below center.
Now we draw this reference line after we have drawn the flower and the ladybugs. As we are drawing the line we say stop and hop every time we come to some other drawn form. The grass introduces texture.
If this was for older students I would have flowers and bugs in front and behind, petals would use the bending principal, a storm would rise up from the West and an overblown drama of epic proportions would ensue.
Yet it would be simple to draw and extraordinary. Learn all the Artabet concepts and principles and you will be able to Draw a Story too.
This page is taken from my free Teacher Packs.
#26 Artabet Coordination Exercises
- Suitable for Grade1 and up
- Excellent line development exercise
- Teaches hand eye coordination
A Line begins, it flows, and it ends. Use strong, continuous lines when you draw. Think ‘8’. I always go around to each student to see if they are getting it. If a student is having trouble getting it I will demonstrate it slowly for them and encourage them to keep at it.
I have found that about 80% of the students get it right away and are eager to try the next level which is called Rock Snake Jake.
Rock Snake Jake: the ultimate coordination exercise!
Study the drawing below at the top left. It follows the first variation of round and round found in the Artabet First Steps In Drawing – we call this variation the Curly ‘Q’.
Start at the middle and work your wiggle outwards. Continue around to the right side and then backtrack to where you started. This is a variation of a sine wave or curve that folds back on itself. What is the secret to this intriguing little puzzle is – once you start the line keep it moving until you get back to where you started.
The Artabet will give you the basic art concept and then it is up to us to find variations, creative applications, and personal discovery. There is a lot more to Jake than we can observe from this drawing. When you master this particular version you will be led to discover so much more.
Artabet Arithmetic – Random and Ordered Patterns
Our world is full of ordered and random patterns. What may look ‘chaotic’ is really what we now call a fractal pattern. What appears as ordered in nature is the demonstration of a Law of Nature.
The spectral light of the sun is ordered according to the nature of its light rays.This is why we use the principal of symmetry when drawing the sun. The rocks on a beach have an order that appears to be random and yet we feel it is right and it is because it has order … random order. Art always uses random and ordered patterns.
You may do the exercise below as separate units or do them all on one page. Count 10 draw 10, count 9 draw nine etc. Do this with both patterns. Make up new patterns. Point out random and ordered patterns in the classroom and in nature. Become aware by observing and then drawing.
Kids always draw in Symbol at the beginning stages of drawing. The world of 3-D comes after the world of 2-D symbolic drawing has been expressed.
Below are some ‘handy’ symbolic designs that can be used for a variety purposes when drawing. The brick pattern at the bottom is the most challenging.
Notice the braids on the left use the coordination exercise you just completed. The ordered line pattern at the top right is great for a basket pattern. Remember repetition is our mission!
#27 Drawing With Shapes
The tear drop is a variation of one of the 6 universal lines of the Artabet. Which one? Round and round of course.
How to Play
The first drawing sequence below shows you how to draw a tear drop shape. The second line demonstrates how some of your younger art students may draw the tear drop shape. As you can see we start with the 6 shape and as we turn the line inwards it must change direction and begin to curve in the other direction back to where we started.
The younger student will stop at the point where the line direction changes and then shoot straight up to the starting point. The line flow has been interrupted and the fluid roundness of the shape has been lost. Encourage them to not stop the line once it starts.
Practice this shape from right to left and from left to right. Make them short and squat, long and lean, right side up and upside down.
Add the artistic concept of in front and behind and your tear drops will start to create patterns that will spark your artistic imagination.
I have found that the art games and exercises change the way elementary art students draw. We all know the little fish symbol that beginner art students draw.
Look at the fish below and you will see that an improved model has been adopted as a result of the tear drop shape development exercise. The viewpoint is now looking down instead of looking at.
The fish have two eyes showing instead of just one. The fish are interacting instead of just posing. Depth is evident simply by applying the artistic principal of in front and behind.
Line Ups Make Super Shapes
I found this work page in among hundreds of ‘potential ideas’ and tried it with some students at a nearby elementary school. They loved it and drew their own variations.
Look at the figure on the top right. Find the straight line in the middle. Notice that the lines above it curve downwards and the lines below it curve upwards. Now as you look all over this figure you will see that most all the lineups are curved. Straight lineups and curved lineups get us ready for 3-D drawing.
The Power of the ‘S’ Line
The gentle curve of the ‘S’ line has been recognized and used by countless artists over the centuries. Think of taking an ‘S’ and stretching it, pulling it from both ends and changing its profile or squishing it to accent its plumpness. Practice these ‘S’ lines and then start twisting and turning them. Use in front and behind to create drawing depth.
The Curly ‘Q’
This is the very first line variation of round and round from the 6 universal lines of the Artabet. It’s best to start at the middle and work your way outwards.
Try these open and closed Curly ‘Q’s.
#28 Imagination Exercise / Spark creativity with a ‘model’
An ARTABET MODEL is a simple representation of something. A cat a dog a ship a ballerina a hockey player an anything. I am always amazed at how interested art students are in the classic drawings we all know and love.
The castle on the hill with a moat and a dragon, the shy ballerina and her kitten, the space ship or the puppy curled up on a rug by the fireplace … so many endearing artistic icons of childhood. It is a rare occasion when a student asks me to draw a contemporary image from the media.The Artabet does not teach the student to copy … it encourages the student to express their own ideas. The model drawings provide a springboard for their artistic creativity.
Below is a simple drawing of a little space cruiser. We used this for one of our Draw a Story projects in my free Teacher Packs Winter Holiday. If you look at the drawing by a student underneath the model drawing you will see how it has been personalized and accessorized. Even the Ladybug has been morphed into a flying machine. Curly ‘Q’s have assumed epic cosmic proportions with dark to light shading.
This is a perfectly proportioned image.Three Curly’Q’s, one large one medium and one small.we call this Pappa bear, Momma bear, and Baby bear.The pink watercolor wash in the background is a graded wash meaning dark to light. Amazing and refreshing to see this happen so naturally and with only a little help from an Artabet Model.
#29 Four Art Classes You Can Do Anytime
Printing and writing are very good training activities for drawing. As a matter of fact, the 6 universal lines of the Artabet are present in our Alphabet and our Number system.
This short classroom activity combines the best of two creative activities – drawing and text. It would be an excellent introduction to our first Tech Art Activity. Draw and paint a picture, then scan or photograph it and send it to the computer drawing tablet. Insert the text and print it out on cardstock paper.
1. Text and Graphics
2. Baby Dino
Every Elementary and Middle School Art student loves Baby Dino. The image below was a black sharpie drawing that was computer enhanced with Paint.NET on my Wacom drawing pad. Lots of shading and highlights give it a glow and tangible roundness.
Practice the simple line drawing below this more advanced rendering and keep in mind that ‘simple, done well, is great.
3. Go Go Ogo
Ogo, the Great Sea Creature that pops up once and a while to let us know that It’s still around. Learn how to draw Ogo first and then take a look at what a 5-year-old can draw.
Always Draw a Story when time permits. We added the Castle and Sun with the mountain line and hop over horizon line. You can see the struggle with the Sun’s symmetry. She has since moved into an understanding of symmetry.
I have to say it’s so charming to see the Sun all askew and I would never mention anything or say anything that would lead the young student into thinking they are doing something wrong.
There are no mistakes in art! We just continue doing the art games, warm-ups, and exercises and everybody grows and changes as they move to the next level of discovery.
4. Monkey Mambo is Round Round and Round
Many of the art students I teach have their own copy of the Artabet: First Steps in Drawing. If I come to their Elementary School and say,” What would you like to draw ?”, someone will usually say, “The monkey the monkey.”
So here it is. Lots of round and rounds, a few dot dot dots throw in a zig zag zig zag and you have it … The Monkey!
This is Mambo Monkey holding a ‘green banana’ and swinging on some vines. Oh yes, there is also a very long snake moving closer.
Perhaps Mambo should have left the green banana alone. You can see the brush in the picture as it ‘softly’ washes some warm orange-brown over the monkey. The vines were done with colored sharpies. Picture size is about 6in. by 8in. on 90lb watercolor paper.
The green painter’s tape is removed when the picture is finished.It leaves a crisp clean edge and is display ready. Work in progress below is a Kindergarten student.
#30 Three Lines That ‘Draw a Story’
The most important step you can take with your students is to show them the secret of the THREE LINES.
- Enables the student to Draw a Story.
- Frees the imagination to create depth.
- Gives a sense of place and design.
Big broad washes with a swiping motion and a big brush.
As you look at these ‘rough and ready’ salty folk, you will see that all have the basic 3 line composition. Horizon line, Mountain line, and beach line are all there and yet they are all different.
The model of ‘The Three Lines’ gives a sense of place and depth to the young artist. It is one of the most important pictorial devices that we can use as beginning artists.
#31 Sketching With Kids and Teens
Do not start thinking that all these art games. exercises and warm-ups are just for Elementary School art students. I teach pre-teens and teens all the time and find that they are as eager to draw all the material you have seen on this blog as the younger students are. Of course, they eat it up so fast that you have to supplement their discovery with drawing and painting outside as well as in the classroom.
We had an outdoor art class from 2000 to 2006 in Nelson B.C. that was always keen to go painting and drawing outside. The ages were from 6 to 14 and everyone did the art games, exercises, and warm ups for twenty minutes every week. They were ready for anything.
This was one of our favorite spots since it was next to one of the original 1960’s Dairy Queens. The heaving sidewalk, leaning sign, weathered bench and gesturing Maple tree were all there looking like they had all missed the bus.We had to draw them and take them back to the classroom and color them up.
#32 The Perfect Colour Game
My eyes were opened to color when I started teaching art to kids. Many young art students have a wonderful color sense. When you ask them why they used certain colors they always pipe up with a cheery,”I like that color.”
Red, blue and green make for powerful allies when it comes to color harmony. The small acrylic sketch below was done quickly with a class of Gr.4 to Gr.6 down by the Kootenay Lake. Surrounded by so many color experts I exclaimed, ” I see red!” and so I painted red.. very red …and it was fun.
Take your students outside and find some color. Then exaggerate it. Give it a real presence. This does not mean slapping a whack of paint all over the place. Choose one part of the subject you are painting and make it shine as the star. I mean just look at that red cliff below. It’s the star of the show.
#33 Visual Memory Game
How does the artist create from memory? How can an artist remember the shapes, colors, and lighting of the place where they experienced them. The answer is – develop a visual memory.
Being able to recall the memory of the ‘feeling’ you had is your starting point. Then all the observations of shape and form are called to memory. Last, is the dance and play of the light bouncing around and influencing perception. The point is this; it is through observation, study, and feeling that visual memory is developed.
A short story about Turner, a landscape painter of epic stature in the new age of the railroad and steam engines, will show you the impact and importance of visual memory.
Turner was aboard a floundering ship and all hopes were lost. He commanded the first mate to lash him to the mast and when asked why he replied, ‘If I die so be it but if I live, what a picture I will paint!
He painted many thrilling seascapes after this experience. Turner would close his eyes, get the feeling and he was there. Visual memory – Don’t paint without it.
The magic of light can always be brought forward in your memory once you have experienced it.The cool rich greens and warm soothing reds of this scene above can be called forward at any time that I need them for a studio painting.
I don’t need a photograph or a video as a reference tool … just the feeling of the place and the time. Encourage your students to work on an outdoor drawing in the classroom. Take the ‘sketch’ and build it up with what artists call sustained effort using their visual memory as a guiding principle.
We tend to think that making Elementary School Art is a twenty to thirty-minute activity that offers a creative break to the rigors and mental demands of other subjects. Not so, not so at all! The creative impulse lies dormant in many students until it is awakened by the ‘sense of wonderment’ that is brought forward by the artistic experience. Make time to engage your students in observation and follow it with an artistic interpretation of a drawing in the classroom or a sketch outside.
#34 Holiday Art
First up is that brave little Turkey who lives with a vegetarian farmer and is ever so helpful. Please meet ‘Cranberry”. The Artabet characters fill the pages of my free Teacher Packs so here are a few of their adventures through the Holidays. Just follow the step by step and enjoy your Holiday Art.
This benign little ‘stuffy’ below, was a real hit last Thanksgiving.
First up is an advanced and enhanced Paint.NET rendition of ‘Our Pirate Kitty’ and her first ‘Trick or Treat’. You can see the picture that was scanned into my drawing tablet after you practice drawing Pirate Kitty which is up next.
Here is the original ink and wash from a class at Blewett Elementary.The students were really excited when we all drew a Hallowe’en Adventure. Compare this with the digitally enhanced picture you saw up above.
This is another version done one year after the previous one. Variations on a theme are food for the young artist.
Create Variety With Crossover Themes
Here is the ‘Little Guardian’ turned ‘Scarecrow’. The names I chose for these new characters were ‘Straw Heart’ and ‘Grey Guardian.’
Encourage your students to name their characters and sign their picture on the front. A name on the back is fine for identification but real artists sign the front.It is saying,”I approve, I did my best”.
Crossover with a new theme. Do not think that you need a new thing to draw every time you have an Artabet Drawing Class. Let the characters change roles.
A fairy in one scene becomes a little sister in another scene.The spaceship becomes Santa’s sled. Change a few ‘props’ and it will be fresh and new for your students. When you hear, “We did this before”, you know you need to crossover.
Title page from the Winter Holiday free Teacher Packs. The mighty ‘Kane’ is featured full center on this page with some of the Artabet Characters gathered around him. I spent quite a while on this installment and I know your students will love it. Lots for K-3 and some real challenges for Gr.4-6.
All the drawings are provided with step by step instructions. You can’t fall down teaching art to elementary school or middle school students when you go step by step with the Artabet.
Valentine All the Time
Heart shaped trees, heart shaped sun, heart-shaped smoke, heart-shaped door … Repetition is Our mission! Notice the orange walkway as it flares out at the bottom.
St. Patrick’s Day
Everyone in a class of Gr.3-7 was given the ‘Three Trees Model’ and the ‘Three Landscape Lines’, to build their spring picture. All were different, all had depth all had artistic composition.
Below is a bunny based on ‘Pouncer’ the Artabet model for a 3-D crouching cat. As you can see at the top left we jump right into the drawing of ‘Pouncers’ head.
You can follow the complete drawing sequence, step by step, in a previous blog …look for Learn to draw ‘Pouncer’.
Paints, Brushes, Water and Paper / What you need to know about them.
This is an ‘Acrylic Watercolour’ done on 90lb paper with a 1inch flat brush and a medium Chinese brush. Notice one thing above everything else; the colors are clean and transparent. Watercolour is water plus color.A beginner artist should start painting on dry watercolor paper and use lots of water when mixing the paint.
Think of painting on butterfly wings … nice and easy … the soft touch …flowing and floating across the rough dry paper and allowing it to drink deeply of the hues and water you are administering… maybe a little too much blarney but not so far from the truth… go easy!
Your brush is magic … if you know it’s secret!
The secret of your brush is your watercolor paper. Your brush is of no use to you if you are using inferior paper. Start with a small sized 90lb. watercolour paper / 6in.by 8in. Watercolor paper is readily available but watch which one you buy. You want a big pack with about 12 sheets that can be cut into lots of 6in. by 8in. pieces. Do not buy paper that has a mechanically pressed surface. Buy a real acid-free professional product. Good materials make ‘Great Art’.
The pure watercolor below was completed with E.Whitney’s words of wisdom,”Think more and paint less”. This little gem was done on a 10in. / 12in./ 140lb. Acid-free watercolor paper with only 11 brushstrokes.
The paper was saturated with water and then the paint was loaded onto a medium Chinese brush and plunged into the wet paper.This wet technique is a matter of letting the water in the paper distribute the paint.
Time to go … but not without a plan!
Painting in the classroom or outdoors in the school yard is an exciting art activity for young art students. Most Elementary school teachers do not have a great knowledge of how to set up for painting.
Well, good news is coming your way. The Artabet is going to be providing some step by step videos on how to set up and paint in the classroom and outside. I’m getting a new camera this week and there will be a bit of a learning curve, but I hope to have the first installment ready for you on this blog post soon. Feedback would be appreciated. What would you like to see? Thanks, Ron.
Get Your Free Teacher Packs
Super simple art lessons to use in your K-6 classroom
Enter your email below and I’ll send you my free 2014 Classroom Content Packs. These are ready-to-use lesson plans that are sent every holiday in the school year.
What You'll Get for Free
You’ll get holiday-themed content packs sent to your email. These free lesson plans are filled with fun character and simple art warm-ups to use in your classroom.
New Lesson Plans Every Holiday
I send out new art activities for every holiday including Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day.
Print & iPad Ready
Just open your teacher pack, print it out, or read on your iPad. Always ready for classroom use and specially designed for K-6 teachers.
Draw Lonely Gwen Some Friends!
You’ll also get characters to draw like Gwen, the lost little penguin I created below. Each character includes step-by-step directions and is designed to get your students creating with my 6 universal lines.
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Email me at Ron.Mulvey@yahoo.ca if you have any questions.