Thursday, February 6, 2014

Discovering Great Artists

Hi! This is Carolyn from Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together.  This month I want to share some ideas that I use to teach my students about great artists. 

This is my go-to book to teach about artists.  I L.O.V.E. this book.  It introduces each artist and provides an idea for an activity for children to make to imitate that artist's work.
I started using this book WAY back with my own children when they were young.  At that time, we studied an artist and listened to different classical music as we did our project.

When I was teaching second grade, I taught about an artist, modeled the lesson, and then used the art lesson as an independent center. The children loved it and did such great work!  One of my favorite memories in second grade after studying the artists was when we went to a theater for a play at a University near our school.  The ceiling was of course very high. One of  my little boys said, "WOW- Michelangelo would LOVE this place!" 

Another time, a little boy described a friend from the playground (Let's forget the part where he was trying to get his 'friend' in trouble...), and he said, "His shirt looks like Stella."  WHO says that?!   The little friend's shirt was striped with different designs in each stripe, by the way.  In spite of the tattling, I was so proud. 

In Kindergarten, I introduce each artist, show different samples of his work, share our little poem or characteristic to help remember the artist, and demonstrate the lesson.  I have the children rotate through the art center during free choice time a couple days of the week. It usually takes two days, which is good, because if someone is absent they can make it up the next day. The children really do NOT like to miss the artist. Sometimes the art activity is an independent center.  The lesson is always a simple art activity to represent the style of each artist.

In my Discovering Great Artists book, I found this paper that I made when I was using it for my own kids.  I sketched out  my lessons and what I would need for each one .  I thought I would just include it here to show you that all the supplies are simple things, and the projects are easy to prepare ahead of time. (No- I am not THAT old... typewriters had been invented... I just love writing things out- still.  Plus, I wanted to remember that Botticelli painted in a circle, and that  Picasso was all over the place.)

Here is my art center box-just to show you how simple the preparation is for these projects.  I have all my supplies together for all the artists- ready to go- and it only takes up one bin. Each week, I  just change my artist and information, put up samples of his work, and pull out what I need for the center. 

Here are some of the ideas that I use for eight different artists, and some samples of the children's work for the artists that we study.

Vincent Van Gogh

This is the box for my VanGogh project- just so you can see what I used.
First, I introduce Vincent Van Gogh by reading  Camille and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt. The children love this story.
Then, I show and talk about some of Van Gogh's real artwork that was featured in the story, that I have up on my Prezi. I  have the "real" (fake) sunflowers as well as some pictures of real sunflowers up for the children to look at as they paint. 


When we study Rembrandt, the children look at themselves in mirrors and practice drawing their different expressions, similar to the way Rembrandt painted many different expressive faces. 

I found these magnetic locker mirrors at the end of summer at the Dollar Store.  I also use some small stand up mirrors and even the housekeeping dress-up mirror and table for the children to study their expressions as they draw themselves.

The beginnings of a great surprised portrait...

I  have out my Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces for Free Choice time the week that we study Rembrandt.  The children really love these drawing books.
Teacher Vision has a free, simple facial expressions chart that is fun to have out as a guide or to use as a feelings lesson before you have the children draw their expressions. My children love how just changing the eyebrows makes such a difference in the expression!


I do two activities for Michelangelo.  I tape paper to the bottom of the table, and the children lie on their backs under the table to paint, like Michelangelo painted on scaffolding when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They LOVE this! 

Fresco paintings are another wonderful way for children to remember Michelangelo.  This picture is from Domesticated Nomad. I have our fresco painting planned for next week as a Valentine gift for parents. This is a fun and easy activity for the children to do.  I make the Plaster of Paris right before we are going to use it, and cover it with a damp cloth to keep it moist, so it doesn't dry out before the children get to paint on it.


The children make pictures with ... dots to remember Seurat's pointillism.  They  can draw outlines of something- like a tree- and fill it in with dots using paint on cotton swabs.  Encourage the children to mix colors or have the dots close to each other, so they see how the primary colors blend to create secondary colors. 

This year, I found these pictures from Therapy Fun Zone  that worked perfectly for our Seurat paintings.  You can download the pdf  at the site.




I cut large construction paper into circles for the children to make their tondo (circular painting) artwork like Botticelli. I had the children use oil pastels for their pictures this year, but sometimes we paint them.


I teach the children the little saying, "Angelico liked gold halos." I cut lots of pieces of shiny paper and aluminum foil for the children to use to create artwork like Angelico. I have done two activities for a study of Angelico.  Sometimes, I have pictures of people cut out (from magazines or photographs of the children), and I have the children add shiny paper to make halos for the people.

After the children had their school photos taken, I got three sticker photographs of each child as well as the one for their permanent file.  I used one of these photo stickers to draw a halo on and attach to their Angelico paper as another reminder of his style of artwork. 

Another fun activity is to have the children draw whatever they want and then add shiny paper to their  drawing. 

 Rainbow Fish is a good book that could also be used to go along with a study of Angelico.


The children make lines with rulers on their paper and then fill each space in with different textures and designs for their Stella-like art project. I have out chalk, oil pastels, colored pencils, markers, and glitter crayons for the children to use.  Stella was associated with the American Precisionist Movement, where artists painted structures with very precise, defined geometrical forms- lots of lines and different textures.



I print out an 8X10  picture of each child and let him/her cut it up and glue it onto another paper for an original Picasso-like masterpiece. I tell the children to cut their picture into four pieces, and then glue the pieces into a funny, mixed up puzzle.  If they cut more than this, it gets sort of crazy confusing. 

You can also find pictures from magazines and have the children cut them up and rearrange the pieces.

I also just finished my new Great Artists Prezi that I am SO excited to share with you!  This Prezi features eleven different artists: Fra Angelico, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Georges Seurat, Joseph Stella, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh. 

I organized the artists by year, and included samples each artist's famous works with the title and year completed, a simple biography for each, links to other sites, and videos about the artist or artwork if available.

I included the eight artists that I will talk about here, as well as Leonardo DaVinci, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt.  I wanted to include Mary- because we needed to show the girls that there were actually some women artist as well as men! (Although not many famous ones back in the day...).    I have a few more I would like to add, like Grandma Moses, Matisse, Renoir, and Monet.  I wanted to get the Prezi done with the artists that we are studying, so that I could use it for my projects this year. If I add other artists, the additions will show up for you when you  open the Prezi. 

I still print out some paper copies of the artists' work for the children  to look at, but the Prezi is such a great way to have samples together in one place and easy to see on the Smartboard.

If you would like my Prezi, just click on the picture below, and it will take you to my TPT store.

I save all of the kids' artwork in a little portfolio for each of them, so I send it all home together after the eight weeks.  This way, we can go back and review the artists that we have studied, and when the children take home their work to show everyone, it is all in one place.  I just use a folder, but my friend Sandy, from Kinder-Gardening, has a very cute blog post about the great art portfolio that she makes for her students!  Here is a picture of her art portfolios.

I made  informational sheets for each artist with our little memory reminder on them, that I put in the children's portfolios with their artwork. If you would like a copy of each artist's cover sheet that I use, just click on this link. 
Another wonderful art resource that I love to use comes from Susanna, at Whimsy Workshop.  She bundled together all of her great art lessons, which include everything you need to teach about each artist, in her NO PREP Art History for Little Ones. 
NO PREP Art History for Little Ones K-3 (100 pages) *Top Seller!*NO PREP Art History for Little Ones K-3 (100 pages) *Top Seller!*NO PREP Art History for Little Ones K-3 (100 pages) *Top Seller!*NO PREP Art History for Little Ones K-3 (100 pages) *Top Seller!*
I love this packet.  She makes it so easy to teach art to children- everything you need to say and use for projects is RIGHT THERE!  It is fabulous. The artists that I am studying with my class fit right into this timeline so easily.  She compiled this packet over YEARS of teaching the artists, and it is very evident when you use it.  It is so complete and just wonderful.

Susanna's VanGogh Project if FREE at TPT so you can see how fabulous her unit is. 
No Prep Art History - Van Gogh Project (Whimsy Workshop Teaching)No Prep Art History - Van Gogh Project (Whimsy Workshop Teaching)No Prep Art History - Van Gogh Project (Whimsy Workshop Teaching)No Prep Art History - Van Gogh Project (Whimsy Workshop Teaching)

Children LOVE to learn something "grown-up."  When I tell them that they are learning something they can teach their parents, they are so proud.  When you hear them describing different things or comparing something to an artist you have studied, YOU will be so proud, too, because it expands their world and their thinking in such a creative way.   Have fun discovering great artists  and encouraging your new great artists!

I would love you to stop by my blog, Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together


  1. Yes, Yes, and Yes!!! Fantastic ideas for "sharing great Art with children", Marceau. Bravo…time to pin some of these images!

  2. I love love love this series! (I love that there are more books, too!) Great post with a lot of great ideas that go beyond what the book(s) suggest! :)

    Aster & Lilly

  3. I love sharing the great artists with children! I am bookmarking this post so I'll have it handy for more great ideas! Have you heard of the book "Linnea in Monet's Garden"? It is a FANTASTIC introduction to Monet ---the man, his works and his gardens!!! If you haven't heard of it, you should definitely check it out, as it sounds like it would be right in your wheelhouse. Thanks for sharing this, Carolyn!!!


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