Friday, October 28, 2011

Trees, Texture, & Van Gogh

My 3rd graders know everything there is to know about Vincent van Gogh!
They noticed that his swirls of paint looked thick and bumpy, and we reviewed the word "texture". We discussed how our paint is not thick enough to make a bumpy texture like van Gogh's, so we used glue and sand (an idea "borrowed" from Katie's and the wonderful artwork she posted here: Adventures of an Art Teacher). I posted about this briefly last week.

A word about the tree above on the left - I'm SO proud of this young artist. He does not have much fine motor skill, and after painting the tree and sky, it was an absolute mess. You couldn't find the tree anywhere. On the final work day, when we touched up colors and outlined with black as desired, I really encouraged him to locate his missing tree and sky. He went to work and in the end it's my favorite of all the paintings. I love the off-center placement of the tree; I think it looks pretty sophisticated, don't you?

The process - to begin, the kids drew their trees, added some bark texture, some ground texture, and some swirls in the sky (all with glue) and shook on some sand. When it was dry, in our next our class, they painted, beginning with warm colors in either the sky or tree. The following art class it was cool colors, in the parts not previously painted. The tree directly above on the right was done by a boy who was absent when we did the glue and sand. So he added glue and sand to his tree after he painted it, when the paint was still wet. It's totally different than the others, but still really cool! In the final art class, the kids added more color where needed and then used thinned black tempera to outline and highlight texture as desired. I'm in love with these paintings!
The tree on the right was done by a young gal who has been refusing to wear her art shirt (a fast rule in my room when there's 23 kids painting). But I wanted her to participate. I gave her markers and a wet paintbrush and this is her result - really interesting I think! And now she's back in her art shirt :)

Four of these were shown individually above, but not all so I thought I'd post as much of the board as I could fit in my lens. Each tree is SO unique!

Food for thought about drawing trees with kids-
Many of you post about drawing/painting trees, using the "V" or "Y" method. The problem is, when I look out my window here, every tree has a distinct trunk that continues, narrowing, to the top of the tree. Actually, with all the woods out my window, I only can see ONE tree that has a "Y" trunk, though there are plenty of "Y" branches. So unlike the rest of you, I generally don't teach tree drawing that way. It happens that THESE trees in this post all head right off the top of the paper, solving the problem of "how to end the tree". Maybe it's cheating, but they look pretty good, don't you agree?

Hopefully soon my 4th graders will be starting those charcoal trees that you all liked so much last year. Maybe we can try to include the tippy-tops!


  1. I love this lesson! I've been wanting to try mixing sand into paint for texture as well. How did you have the students shake it on? Did you have the sand in little shakers?
    Thanks so much!

  2. Hi Danielle, thanks for visiting. I set up one table for sand - covered with newspaper. I had sand already (playground sand - I bought it at Lowe's a year or two ago - a huge bagful for $5 - and have used it for other things as well). It was in a bucket with a scoop, and the kids came over to the table as they were ready. I then tossed a scoopful onto the kid's paper and he/she shook it around and shook it off back into the bucket or onto the newspaper. A few kids were sent back to their seats to add more glue before I gave them sand. The day we did the sand I had a college student observing and she helped out either at the sand or circulating the room if I was at the sand table.

  3. Hey Phyl,
    Love the trees! My overall impression when they are all grouped together in the display was that of MATISSE! Go figure! They are absolutely beautiful and I can relate to the little duffer with poor motor skills. There are always one or two who produce the most amazing work the minute you turn your back! Ha! Happy weekend-


  4. Thanks Pat, the comparison the Matisse is a HUGE compliment, since he's been my personal favorite FOREVER.

  5. oops I meant the comparison TO Matisse.

  6. Phyl
    These are just terrific! I love the rich colors. This was one of those times I wish we had the old Blogger back (where you could really zoom in to see close ups.) I can see the texture, but would love to get "right up close" to really appreciate all that sand!! Also, thanks for the snow pictures -- I'm jealous -- it was around 80° here today!!

  7. Christie, I agree 100% about the "old" blogger way of viewing photos. Weirdly, it was back for a couple of weeks and now we've returned to that awful black screen where it's like a little slide show and you can't further enlarge.

    Meanwhile, they are predicting snow for tomorrow, but we're at the northern edge of the snow zone. A little bit south of here they are expected to get socked with a whole bunch of accumulation of wet snow which will bring down branches since there are still leaves, and will cause power outages. I think we'll luck out and just get dusted again. I wouldn't mind 80 degrees - I'm bemoaning the fact that I didn't get in a last kayak run while there were autumn leaves floating on the lake.

  8. Phyl, these look great! Your process for applying sand was really similar to what I use. I just put a small container at each table and sweep up any that falls off the edge. It's not nearly as messy as most people think it would be!

  9. These are beautiful, Phyl! Love the bright colors. The sand/paint process is interesting - I will have to give it a try with my kiddos!

  10. Great lesson Phyl- so bold and colorful! And I do love that 1st piece the most as well. I will be pinning!

  11. These are fabulous!!! oh my goodness!!!