Color Meets Cake


Fourth graders re-familiarized themselves with the color wheel by creating their own wheels using collaged magazine pieces. These wheels feature the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Students then looked at the artwork of Wayne Thiebaud, who is is a west coast painter best known for his colorful images of sweet treats. He is a master colorist, who often uses complimentary colors to make his paintings pop. These same works utilize a technique called impasto, in which the paint is applied very thickly.

Using Thiebaud’s cake paintings as a guide, students learned how to draw a cake with a slice removed. Terms like parallel, perpendicular, and converging lines were introduced, as we discussed how to get the correct perspective. We also covered how to determine where shadows should appear based on the direction of the light, and how to blend with oil pastels.


Cubist Inspired Self-Portraits

Fifth graders learned about cubism and the artwork of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Cubism was an art movement begun in the early 20th century that sought to represent subjects from multiple perspectives, thus offering a more holistic interpretation. An artist might create a painting or drawing of a subject, then move to another location and recapture the subject on top of the previous image. Cubist artworks often have the feel of a collage with overlapping, geometric elements.

Students worked in pairs to take a series of seven pictures of each other from different angles. They printed these photos, cut them up, and reassembled the pieces to create one image of them self. This collage became the source photo, from which they created a larger drawing. The final artwork is a realistic rendering of an abstracted image.

Crazy for Cardboard!

Contemporary artists such as Mark Langan and Chris Gilmour are just two of the many artists that transform everyday materials, in this case cardboard, into high art. This project utilizes math, engineering, and lots of creativity, as eighth graders created a person, animal or everyday object from this humble material. In preparation for the main project, students worked in teams to create abstract cardboard structures using minimum adhesives. This challenge introduced students to many methods of attachment, which they later utilized when assembling their creations.  

Nichos by 6th

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Nichos are a form of Mexican folk art that act as miniature altars. They are effectively shadow boxes, containing both two and three-dimensional elements and are typically framed in tooled metal. Common nicho themes are the Virgin of Guadalupe, Frida Kahlo, and Dia de los Muertos. These colorful works of art are derived from the Roman Catholic retablo tradition of painting patron saints on wood or tin. Although rooted in Catholicism, the craft has since been widely adopted by mainstream culture, with works featuring everything from taco stands to mariachi.

Students began this project by constructing a shadow box from recycled mat board. They then learned to tool metal, creating a frame for their shadow box with designs that incorporated Mexican imagery and Spanish vocabulary. For the interior of their nichos, students pulled from Mexican pop culture in combination with their personal interests. They used buttons, beads, fabric, printed pictures, and re-purposed items, all the while experimenting with composition and various adhesives.

Self-Portrait Tessellations by the Class of 2019


I am a huge fan of this project, which I am borrowing from my time at Calvert School, and the wonderful Mrs. Kamp. Last year’s seventh graders created the first edition of tessellated self-portraits, and I returned to the project again this year.

In an effort to streamline and improve the quality of the self-portrait component, students traced themselves from a projected photograph instead of using Photoshop and transparency sheets. I added variety to the backgrounds by having one of the seventh grade sections tessellate with a hexagon, while the other used a square. I also relaxed the requirements of the photograph a bit, allowing students to pose any way they liked. This last change yielded some truly wonderful results, not only in the finished product, but in keeping the process fun and the students engaged.

Underwater Birthday Party

Third graders created these mixed media works based on a narrative I read aloud about an underwater birthday party.

For the background, students experimented with watercolors, creating a gradation from light to dark much like the filtering of light as it travels to the deepest depths of the ocean.

Using colored pencils and sharpies, students imagined a party filled with all kinds of interesting sea creatures. Some of these creatures were imagined, while others were inspired by nautical themed tattoos. Once all of the guests had been drawn, students cut them out and pasted them to their watercolor backgrounds.


Greek Vases with a Modern Twist

Seventh graders learned about the history of ancient Greek pottery, including the red on black and black on red glazing techniques. Students looked at a variety of vessel shapes and discussed how each served a particular purpose in ancient Greek life. We focused in particular on the Amphora, which is one of the most common vessels. It was typically filled with olive oil and given as a trophy during the first Olympics. As such, the painted figures that encircle this style of vessel can be seen participating in a number of sports.

Students used plaster gauze and cardboard to construct their amphoras, then painted them with acrylic. The figures that adorn these vessels feature both old and modern sports, ranging from track and field to cheese rolling.