Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers is a monthly roundup of advice and wisdom
from fellow art teachers, put together by the intrepid Glenda Lubiner.
Color is a Gift
“Sketching is almost everything. It is the painter’s identity, his style, his conviction, and then color is just a gift to the drawing.” — Fernando Botero
I hope now you have all had a little R & R and are ready for the home stretch. April brings to us Child Abuse Prevention Month, Autism Awareness Month, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Passover and Easter. We also have great painting tips and a little insight as to what we have learned from our students!
PRACTICE PAINTING. Toni Ratzlaff from Summit Elementary School in Divide, Colorado, has her primary students practice painting with water—directly on the table. To introduce painting, she shows them how to hold the brush, how to dip into water and to brush across the top of the water container to get rid of extra water, then paint. They talk about not tapping, since it splatters onto everything in the area!
Then they practice using only water right on the table. They love it! They draw big lines and write their name and whatever other things they can fit in their workspace. When it is time to clean up, the tables are amazingly clean! While they never remember everything about painting, they always remember painting with water. A continuation to this practice could be painting with water on newsprint.
H2O COLOR EXPERIMENTSs. This tip can be used with students in fourth grade and up. When teaching about watercolor, have your students divide their paper in thirds. They can do this in three equal sections vertically, horizontally, diagonally, or by making a circle or square/rectangle in the middle and adding two more concentric ones. Students can start by sketching their drawing lightly on their paper.
One section should be painted realistically. The next section could be painted using neutral or complementary colors and different watercolor techniques. The third section could be colorful and again using different watercolor techniques.
There are the usual techniques of wet on wet, splattering, washes, and dry brush, but you can have your students try techniques like using a masking tape or rubber cement block, salt, sponging, crunched paper towels or plastic wrap. There are also different techniques to scrape and scratch.
SUNSET SILHOUETTES. A fun way to teach warm and cool colors to elementary students is to have them look at sunrises and sunsets. When I taught elementary school, I would show photos and have my students discuss the colors and objects they saw. I also started to teach them about composition, incorporating the words “foreground” and “background.” Most of the time the objects were in silhouette.
I would split the class in half and some kids would use warm colors— pink and orange tempera paint, and the other half of the class would use turquoise and purple tempera. This was a 2-day project. The first day they would paint “messy,” alternating stripes with their two colors, blending the colors just a bit. They loved the fact that their painting could be messy.
The second day they would paint their silhouette in black tempera paint. Because we live in Florida, I showed the kids how to make a palm tree. They had to paint at least one palm tree and anything else they wanted. The finished products ranged from only trees, to trees, islands, fish, buildings, and an assortment of other non-distinguishable items.
BOY DID I LEARN A LOT. With all her experience teaching high school, Victoria Eichler from Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia, has learned some tricks to make her life just a bit easier.
She uses Avery 5960 address labels for all the students work and types them up early in the year. Name, grade, and the school year on the labels. She never has to translate a signature and hence knows what class drawer to put the art in. When it’s time for the school art show, she has ready-made labels.
Since Victoria teaches high school, she uses a sharps container to dispose of any sharp materials. It takes years to fill up and she doesn’t have to worry about sharp items in the garbage. Sharps containers can be purchased at most pharmacies.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Max Ernst (April 2, 1891), Raphael (April 6, 1483), Eadweard Muybridge (April 9, 1830), James Ensor (April 12, 1860), Fernando Botero (April 19, 1932), and Cy Twombly (April 15, 1928).
Thank you Victoria and Toni for your helpful tips.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.
If you would like to share some of your teaching tips, email them to: