Contour Line Self Portraits

Our first project of the year is underway! We are starting with all the grade levels doing the same thing, self portraits.

We began by looking at a drawing by Henri Matisse called Magnolia. magnolia

Students noticed that there was no color and it looked like a coloring book drawing. These lines are called contour lines. They define the edge of something or an outline. They also noticed some lines were thicker, some were thinner, some lighter and some darker. The differences in the lines is called line quality. Students were encouraged to use different line qualities with their contour line self portraits as well.


Students started by drawing with pencils first. They learned to use light, sketchy lines from this interview with Mr. Pencil so they could trace their lines with Sharpie and erase their pencil marks later. Then they brainstormed words about themselves to use for the background of their drawings.




IMG_2908Here is the finished project!


MMSD Art Standards:

Designs: Identify and use color, shapes, line, texture, and space in works of art. Identify and use contrast, repetition, emphasis (center of interest).

Creates:  Use different media, processes, and techniques to communicate ideas, Take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance their art experiences, and stories. Drawing with contour line. The techniques and processes of color mixing which include secondary colors.

Reflecting:  Understand that there are various purposes for creating works of visual art. Understands that there are different responses to specific artworks.

Interpreting: Understand that different subject matter and ideas communicate meaning. Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning. Create artwork with various subject matter, symbols, and emotional content.


MMSD Social Emotional Standards:

Positive Self Identity: Students will identify and explore values. Students will reflect on their personal values.

Glue and oil pastels – portraits

This art project was inspired by MCPS Art News.

Students first studied the proportions if the face drawing guidelines where facial features should go. Then they practiced sketching their portraits. After students became comfortable drawing their portraits, the drew them onto black paper and outlined the pencil marks in glue. We then waited until the next day when they were dry.

The next day, students used oil pastels to fill in the areas of the black paper not covered by glue. This gave it a sort of batik look.

Some students opted for a more realistic look and others wanted their portraits to be very different or abstract even.

I love all the colors in this one!


5th graders wrapped up their Pop Art unit with Roy Lichtenstein. Marked by his dotted figures and comic book tongue-in-cheek humor, Lichtenstein is a well known leader in the pop art movement.

5th graders created their own self portrait in the style of Lichtenstein. Some of the self portraits my not be recognizable as the student because they chose to portray themselves as an animal or other figure.

Wisconsin Art Ed Conference Day 1

I love connecting with my art teacher colleagues but I can’t always afford to go to the conference every year. This year, my school generously covered it. I was so excited! I didn’t get to go last year but I went the year before. I had forgotten how much I really got out of this conference every year!

My first session was Digital Storytelling with Tracey Hunter-Doniger who also teachers at UW-Madison. I already understand the value of digital storytelling (mostly because of Tricia Fuglestad) but now I know more about how to do digital storytelling with my students! Last year, Randall earned 10 digital cameras thanks to donors from I am so excited to start digital storytelling with my students but I don’t have memory cards for the cameras yet. Hoping to remedy that situation soon!

I’d also like to make a quick note about my friend, Ms. Granzow, who recently moved from Wisconsin to Alabama to embark on her first full time high school art position. The program doesn’t have much. Read here to find out more and how you can help.

My second session as Mural Making in a School Setting with Cyndee  Kaiser. She is an artist who presented her methods for working with a large number of students to create a mural. She gave me some out of the box ideas. I would love to create banners that hang in the library showing different genres of books or our favorite books. Her banner example was fruits and vegetables in the lunch room. A mural would also go well in the blank wall in the library. Our principal asked me to paint a raccoon (because we are the Randall Raccoons) on a wall last year and I never got that off the ground either. Too many ideas, so little time!

My next session, Recycled T-shirt Fashion, was led by a high school freshman who is passionate about creating her own fashion and upcycling. We made our own bags from t-shirts. This would be a great fundraiser for Student Council!

Super simple. Cut off the sleeves and the neck. Cut an inch off the bottom. Cut slits across the bottom and tie. Done! For more ideas check out Generation T: Beyond Fashion and Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a Shirt by Megan Nicolay.

My next session was called Pop Art Portraits with Julie Davis from Blick Art Materials. It was a little weird to see her demo in person after watching her demo videos online for so long. We transferred an image to clay using a printed photograph and water soluble marker.

Then we painted directly onto the wet (air-dry) clay using acrylic paint.

The last session was Easy Mosaic Tile with Carol Rokicki. I have always wanted to learn how to do mosaics and it’s so much more simple than I ever thought.

Glue on the pieces..

smoosh the grout in the cracks and clean it off! Now I’m addicted.

We had a little time between the last session and the keynote and went to explore the sculpture walk in downtown Eau Claire. Here are some of my favorites!

After an amazing meal at Obsession Chocolates, it was time for our keynote speaker. Barbara Lawton was Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2011. (Side note: I miss her and wish her luck in coming back after we recall Kleefisch when we start recalling Walker on Nov 15). She is known as a strong arts advocate. I enjoyed much of her presentation such as her call to action for art educators to get involved with local politics. School Board (FYI: One position opening on the MMSD BOE soon. Any community members interested in running?) elections as well as County Board elections are VERY important in our new political climate in Wisconsin. We (art teachers) always complain how ‘they’ are taking funding from art education. While it’s a very valid complaint, when do WE step up and take charge? When do WE start to run for office and change things for ourselves? Are we going to resist change or accept change? I was very nervous when she talked about measuring creativity in schools. She argued that measuring creativity would hold the arts on the same level as math and literacy. I’m wondering how much we give up to try to gain the same notoriety as math and literacy. I believe there is way too much testing as it is. Why add more? Last month, my students participated in MAP testing. This took weeks. Now they are starting with WKCE testing, which will take another couple weeks. When do kids learn anymore? When do they create? When do they play? When do they daydream? When do they get the chance to be kids?

“If we aren’t prepared to be wrong, we will never come up with something original.” -Sir Ken Robinson

And I’ll end on that note.

Repousse Coins

3rd graders are focusing on identity this year.  We just finished creating plaster sculptures inspired by Degas.  They each posed their sculpture in a way to show what they like to do best.

For this project, students designed a commemorative coin.  A coin to commemorate themselves!  They needed to think about what they most want to be remembered for.  Some were really silly like best video gamer and some were a bit more thoughtful and wanted to be remembered for being a good friend.

We began by talking about what a metal smith was and what it was like to work with metals.  It takes a patient person!  Metal is not a good listener, you have to tell it again and again how you want it to look.  (Unlike clay, which moves right when you tell it to).

Students learned that repousse meant to push the metal to create a design.  We looked at many different examples of repousse together including sculptures and jewelry. Each student created a couple sketches to practice drawing a profile.  Then details of what they wanted to be remembered for were added along the side.

After taping them to their metal and tracing their lines, they were ready to begin repousse.

This one has a football helmet on.  What do you think he wants to be remembered for?

And the final results:

100th Post!

Over the last 6 months, I have learned more from other art bloggers than my whole last three years of college.  I’m so grateful to have discovered the blogging world (with help from my friend Heather).

My hope is that my students start using this blog as a resource and it becomes as important to them as it is to me!  Coincidentally, the 100th day of school is this Friday.

In celebration of my 100th post and the 100th day of school, K/1 students created self portraits of what they look like now AND in 100 years!  I’ve seen this in quite a few places around the Art Ed blog world but the one that comes to mind is Teach Kids Art.

Me:  Why does your ‘in 100 years’ portrait look so bored?

Becky:  Because all old people are bored and sad.

Madison:  I’m going to have whiskers when I’m old!

Me:  What’s in your ‘100 year old’ portrait’s mouth?

Brock:  A thermometer.  All old people are sick.

2/3 Picasso

Second and third graders have been working very hard sketching facial features.  We learned about Pablo Picasso and how he painted and drew faces so we could see the front and the side at the same time!  After watching a video about Picasso, we studied his painting of Dora Marr.

Isn’t it crazy how we can see the front of her face and the side at the same time?  Check out those colors!

We began by drawing sketches of our portraits.

They got a little crazy.

Then we drew our final drawings on nice, heaving drawing paper.

Picasso used some crazy colors so we added that in too.

And the finished art!

We learned that Pablo Picasso is really famous for an abstract art called cubism.  One feature of cubism is that you can see all sides of something at the same time.   Ask your child to point out the front, back and side of their faces in their artwork.  We also learned about craftsmanship (really doing your best work).  If we hold our pencils lower, we have more control when we draw.  We need to be careful not to press too hard and to color gently.  We also need to be white spot inspectors!  Ask your child to show you how to blend colors using colored pencils.

First Year – in photos

Do any of these beautiful works of art look familiar to you?

5th grade - Color Wheel Spiderweb - mixed media

5th grade - Tints and Shades Cubist Picasso - tempera

5th grade - Terrace Town - mixed media

5th grade - Metal Tooling - mixed media

5th grade - Optical Illusions - crayons

3/4/5 grade - Perspective - graphiteK/1 - Self Portrait - paper

K/1 - What Makes Me Different - paper

3/4 grade - Aboriginal - tempera

3rd grade - Madison Landscape - mixed media

2/3 grade - Masks - mixed media

3/4 grade - Claude Monet - tempera

2/3 grade - Name Color Wheel - Watercolor Resist

2/3/4 grade - Romare Bearden Collage

3/4 grade - Handmade paper and book

K/1 - Color Wheel Portrait

K/1 - Georgia O'Keefe - chalk

K/1 - Shape Flowers - mixed media