Aaaah!! Peacocks in Pastel

Grade 3/4: Making Observations and Drawing Peacocks 

Whenever I walk through the door into this class, I am greeted with gasps of “Mrs. Godwin!”, big broad smiles, and even a few hugs here and there. They LOVE art!

So, I am always pleased to bring them a fresh new challenge, especially when it involves colour.

Day One.

This time it was – of course, peacocks! My intro to the project included a discussion of what the female and the male peacocks look like, why they fan out their tail feathers, the kids’ own experiences of seeing peacocks, finishing up with my loud vocal impression of a peacock.

Right! Time to get to it.  Each student got two sheets of white paper: a large one for the tail feathers and a regular 8 1/2 x 11 for the torso. I reviewed the basic how-to’s of drawing each, identifying the geometric shapes to start with.

Peacock drawing

This was done in pencil, working it all out. They followed up with black paint over the lines, and that was pretty much as we could get to on that day.

Day Two.

We had a bonus this day because my daughter had finished her exams the week before, and was able to come in as my assistant. The kids had already heard about her from me previously, so they were very happy to have her there as well. She proved invaluable in helping one boy who missed the previous class to get caught up.  That left me and Mrs. Burton free to carry on with the rest of the class. Thanks, Leah!

The black paint now dried, it was time to go on with the oil pastels. We had photographs of peacocks up on the screen at the front of the class, and so we talked about the colours and features and details we could see.  I also brought in some tail feathers I had at home. They were fascinated with them! Several students kept coming up to look at the feathers over the course of the class period, because they wanted to make sure they made their drawn eyes just like them.

I had them colour their bodies first, and then move on to the feathers. It was at this point I had them draw the eye circles, 3 or 4 per section – going from large to progressively smaller. They filled in around the circles, chatting happily and encouraging one another when they visited each other’s desk to see what they were doing – “Oooh, that looks nice!’. (What a great class.)

They cut out both parts, mounting them on the black paper (with white glue) which really made those luscious colours pop. I had to remind a few students to place the torso of their peacock right at the bottom of the page, since it already had a horizontal cutoff.  In a couple of instances that – um – didn’t quite happen.  No matter, they were so proud of the results.  And well they all should be!

The final coup de gras was for them to place a sequin on each their feather eyes AND one on the eye of the peacock.  Love that!

BTW, these masterpieces are the talk of the school now that they are hung in the hallway. Yes, sir.

Winter 2015 / Ferndale Elementary School

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Positive & Negative

Grade 5/6:  What is Positive Space and What is Negative?

I was quite taken with some images I saw of this project, and so was looking forward to working on it with the class.  I attempted to do so with a class that was a one-time visit, which I think was a mistake.  In retrospect, this would have worked better with a class that I was more familiar with; one that would have patience with the process and even take their compositions further.  The experience with this class was somewhat problematic.  As visiting artist, I encountered a class that had some individuals who were very disruptive, and the class as a whole was rather poorly supervised by the teacher.  This was eventually checked by the intervention of the principal, so those who were willing to engage in the project were finally free to do just that.

Sooo, I started by talking about positive and negative space: what are they, what are dome examples of, and I stressed the importance of having both in artistry, be it visual or vocal.

The process I put forward was this:  2 parts.  The negative space would be made by taking narrow strips of magazines I pre-cut and glueing alongside each other, entirely covering a piece of 8 1/2 x 11″ paper.  They could chose to gang like colours or to mix them up.

The second part of the process would be for the negative space.  Each student was given a piece of white card stock.  The idea now was to cut out various shapes across the whole (more than one) and lay this overtop of the colourful first part.  This would have worked better if they could have used exacto knives to cut, but there was no way we could put knives in the hands of this class.  I did, however, offer to do some cutting of the more difficult shapes with the knife I had on hand.  For the most part they worked with scissors.  I showed them my example, and encouraged them to think about the composition of those shapes, to push beyond just a couple of cursory cut-outs, and to think about the relationship between the shapes.  What would make it an interesting arrangement?

Once the cut-outs were completed, it was time to attach the white card stock on top of the magazine strip page.  To give it some depth, I made available some small pieces of foam I pre-cut from cleaned styrofoam trays, which they could attach to the back of the card stock.  That was then applied onto the colour page, appearing to ‘float’ above it.

The results don’t go quite far enough.  I would say the painstaking process of selecting and glueing down the magazine strips took too long for the desired effect, and they ran out of enthusiasm (as we were running out of time in the double period) when it came time to cut out the shapes in the card stock.  Perhaps a quicker way of achieving the colour – say, painting the paper, or using oil pastel (you would want the results to be bold) – this would achieve the desired effect much better.

Will I try it again?  Not sure.  Do I like mine?   Yeah, I still do.

When you look at them, which is the positive and which is the negative space?  Does that change from piece to piece?


Spring 2014 / Prince of Wales School



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Sunflowers From Vincent

Grade 3:  Sunflowers in Pastel

This lesson drew from three sources:  Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting, the ideas of symmetry and asymmetry, and close observation – drawing from a still life.  Seems like a lot for grade 3?  Not when they are motivated.  This is the group who always say when I walk into the classroom “Mrs. Godwin!!  Do we have ART today?”  (Sometimes attended by a few hugs or excited snatches of personal ‘updates’ since I saw them last.)

I started with showing them a print of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.  Some of the students recognized the image – one even from a print (or was it a mug?) they have at home.

Winter 2014 / Ferndale Elementary School

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Squiggle and Draw

Grade 1 – 3:  An Imagination Drawing Game

I have such an enthusiastic bunch in my Tuesday Art Club – they loved this one! In fact, a couple of them have been asking for us to do it again. Or to start with a dot. I think we will, in the last week of school.

Here’s how it works. I gave everyone a sheet of paper, with directions to draw from their imagination. But first, I went around with my Sharpie marker and put a squiggle on each page. This was their starting point.  What did the squiggle suggest? How might they complete the drawing? I made markers and pencil crayons available – and they were off to the races! It was fun to see their drawings come to life, and to see their enthusiasm. “Mrs. Godwin, look at what I am drawing!”

Fall 2013 / Parliament Oak Elementary School

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Drawing Ribbon Letters


Grade 6/7/8:  Letters / Drawing Light and Shadow For 3D

Winter 2014 / Parliament Oak School

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More Selfies, Salvador Dali Style

Grade 4/5:  Drawing Self-Portraits, with a Twist     (literally)

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Salvador Dali. How much fun can one have with one’s face? Long before we had goofy IPhone twisting photographs, he was doin’ it with his moustache. Ha!

It is hard enough to draw oneself and be satisfied with the result. For a class that was relatively new to me, I know it is pushing it to ask this of them. So, we took it to a slightly more fun level. I showed them some examples of Dali’s paintings (ones they might recognize and not get too hung up on the content …), briefly explaining Surrealism. I quickly went on to describing how Salvador took that onto his own face with a not-so-seriously waxed moustache. Awesome!

I had each of them start to rough out their portrait in pencil, with directions just to do a head and shoulders view. I counselled them not to make that drawing too small, because we wanted a good amount of detail AND we would need room for the later – uh- addition. Think of the geometrics of the head and facial features, and the placement of those in relation to one another. Once they got the basics down, I switched them to continue with charcoal sticks. Small and delicate they were, and the renderings that resulted reflect that. Some students were resistant to using the charcoal – it’s a new thing. It even has to be held differently.

Eventually, all but one tried it and worked on shading and bringing up the details. I could be heard saying things like “Draw what you see in the mirror, not just you think a nose should be like” or “These are not cartoon drawings – look for the lights and the darks – the highlights and the shadows. Dark makes it go back, light comes forward.  This helps to make it look more three-dimensional.” I worked through the class, responding one-on-one to questions and concerns. Their reactions to their drawings was overall good, though mixed. The next step was to give the background (only the background) colour. They could choose two or three chalk pastels to fill in, leaving their portrait drawings in blacks/greys and whites.

The final step at the end of the class was the moustache. I gave them each a pipe cleaner, and they were to twist a Dali moustache for their portrait (and wear it themselves until we got it attached, of course). I hot glued them on at the end, to save time. C’est fini. Double Ha!

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Spring 2014 / Prince of Wales Elementary School

One more.  I can’t resist.

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3 Cheers for Cupcakes

Grade 1:  Inspiration; Wayne Thibaud

Wayne Thibaud

Wayne Thibaud

Wayne Thibaud poster







This was one of the lessons I did at this school for an art blitz in preparation for their annual Arts Show.  I was new to the kids, but cupcakes were not.

“Who likes cupcakes?”  Most of the students put up their hands, so I went on to showing them some of Wayne Thibaud’s paintings of – you guessed it.  Then they were raring to go, to ‘build’ their own.  Paper and paint, smocks required.  So, here’s what you do:

1.  Give each student a base strip to build their cupcake on.  Then, give each student their choice of 1/2 page of coloured construction paper.  I drew the shape needed on the board, and then had them cut that out of their choice of coloured construction paper for the cupcake base.

2.  Time for paint!  Working in pairs, they told me their choices of 3 colours they’d like to decorate their cupcake bases (just like those fun paper liners you can get).  No water, just a medium brush or two.  Stripes, dots, wiggly lines:  make it fun!  To keep things moving, I dried the results with my hair dryer while they started on the next part.

3.  I had pages preprepared with dots of paint, then ripped into strips.  Give each student 3 strips for them to rip into different lengths to build the triangle shape of the frosted cupcake top.  Get them to start with the longest, and rip successively smaller strips as they go.  Now it was time to build the cupcake on the base strip that is attached to the decorated cupcake liner.  Starting with the longest; they glued the remaining strips in order of length, slightly overlapping each other.  They were amazed as their cupcakes ’emerged’.

4.  Finally, I had them finish by gluing on my preprepared red circles (and stems) for (of course) the cherry on top.  Ta da!!  (I think they were pleased with it all).  The only thing better would have been to have actual cupcakes to eat.    Yum.

Guess I like ’em too.

Spring 2014 / Prince of Wales Elementary School


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Retro Rockets … Away!

Grade 3/4:  Fun With Paper Collage

It’s hard to go wrong with space ships.  Kids’ eyes light up at the mere mention of them.  So, there was no lack of enthusiasm when I showed them that they were going to get to make their own …

I brought out different retro style rocket shapes I prepared as templates for them to trace and cut out of squares of boxboard (scrounged from Costco cardboard).  I had also brought my box of special scrap paper from home (the one that never seems to be anything but stuffed full).  Even more exciting!

Now it was time for them to decorate their rockets, using more than one paper and covering the cardboard completely.  I encouraged them to think about the different parts or markings they might see on a rocket, and use those ideas while they make choices cutting paper.

When they finished covering their rockets, they chose from the boxes of streamers, ribbons and vegetable/fruit netting and the teacher helped them to staple them on  -fiery rocket blasts.  We finished the rockets with outlining the edges and any other details with black paint.

As a side, I set up a couple of pizza boxes as a makeshift spray booth.  The kids enjoyed taking turns with it to ‘spray’ large pieces of blue paper with watered-down white and silver paint, using … toothbrushes.  They’d never done that before.

Later, I attached the rockets to their blue pages, using foam pieces between to make the rockets ‘hover’.  I think they look great!

Spring 2014 / Prince of Wales Elementary School

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Grade 1/2:  Drawing Sunflowers

This was a high energy class where I found myself riffing as it went.  The previous class was finishing up with another project that required paint, but I hadn’t had time to clean up the trays, so they ended up being used in the second half of this one.

I had a big bunch of (silk) sunflowers in a vase in the Art Room, so I gave the class the task of drawing from that still life, pointing out how the flowers look different from one another, depending on their size and position (one behind the other, facing different directions).  We talked about the size of the centre portions, and the shape and colours of the petals.

No pencils – I gave them the oil pastels to draw with directly.  They really got into it! You can see the energy in the drawings.  That exercise went fairly quickly, so (thinking on my feet) I hauled out the still-wet trays of paint and gave them each a brush, with a directive to fill in all round their pastel flower drawing with the paint, mixing right on the page as they went.   I liked what I was seeing before, but this made me even happier … the colours popped, and that great energy I saw before went just a little bit further.  At this age they did not worry about getting things ‘just right’ so that freedom carries through.  Love that.

It was a lot more cleanup afterward, but well worth it.  Bravo, grade 1/2’s!


Spring 2014 / Parliament Oak School

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Grade 3:  Self-Portraits in Chalk 

This was one of my favourite experiences in the classroom this year.  They are such a delightful group of children, right from the moment I walk into the classroom.  True to form, even though they may not always have the skill level, they approached the lesson with enthusiasm and a willingness to try.  Awesome!  I realized as I was introducing it, that they were just doing selfies.  When I mentioned that word, the lights went on and they were all over it.  Don’t have a camera?  No problem.

We gave each student a small hand mirror and a large piece of paper.  We talked about observing the particulars of their faces – the shape of their head, the colour and shape of their eyes and mouth, even the colour of their skin. This was to be a ‘head shot’, with only the shoulders in the picture frame.  We started with a line drawing in pencil, and then they could go over those lines in  – you got it – Sharpie marker.

I showed them how to mix the colours of chalk right on the page, starting with themselves, and then finishing with background.

I love the individuality of each drawing, and the personalities that result!   This was a great project with a very special class.

Winter 2014 / Ferndale Elementary School


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