Monday, February 28, 2011


by Joan Waites

One of my favorite art classes to teach to children is a class called “Story Art.” Each week of the session, we discuss a different illustrator and the books they have worked on. We talk about what medium they used, the colors they chose, and what style the art was rendered in, (realistic, whimsical, cartoon or a combination).  We also discuss what the artists were like as children, and their path to becoming professional illustrators. Students always seem to be fascinated seeing photographs of the artist as a young child, and especially examples of artwork they created at an early age.

A few examples of books that contain information about well-known contemporary illustrators as well as photographs of the artists and examples of their art are the following:

Talking With Artists, (Volumes I, 2, and 3), Compiled and Edited by Pat Cummings, Clarion Books

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art 
Contributing editors: Patricia Lee Gauch, David Briggs, Courtenay Palmer and Kiffin Steurer, Philomel Books

Once we have discussed the featured artist, students then complete a project that uses the same medium or is based on a specific character from one of the illustrator’s books. The possibilities are limitless. Two examples of projects I have used are:

1.      Making a “Rainbow Fish” character from the book The Rainbow Fish by  Marcus Pfister

Using a piece of cardboard, cut out a simple “fish” pattern for each student.  Have students trace the pattern on two pieces of heavy weight aluminum foil. Cut out each foil tracing. Next, glue the foil to the front and back of the cardboard and trim the edges. Using a Popsicle stick or pencil, have students etch a design on the front (and back if they wish). Lastly, use colored permanent markers to add colorful fish scales or patterns.

2.      2.  Another project children really enjoy is making their own Eric Carle -like animal or creature. Begin by having students experiment with washes of watercolor, drips, and splatters on a piece of watercolor paper. After the paint dries, have students cut or tear shapes. Finally, have the students glue the shapes on a piece of colorful construction or tag board paper. A black marker can be used to add eyes or other smaller features.

Encourage your students to save some of their early art or stories they have written. Someday, they too may be featured in a book about their life and work!

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