Today in art class I introduced the children to the Tree of Life image, which is prevelant in many cultures and societies around the world. It means lots of different things, which we didn't go into, but we did talk about how sometimes you see similar symbols appear in different cultures, religions, etc. I showed the kids some examples. There are tons but I wanted them to see some tree designs inside rings where the roots reach the bottom and the branches reach to the top. We looked at how the trunks can be thin or fat, bent or straight. It is important to stress there is not a RIGHT or a WRONG. Each tree will be individual.
1st step: Drawing the tree
I believe in going right to Sharpie. I tell the kids they can use light pencil marks but I only give them a few minutes to do that or they will get way too detailed with that pencil! I outlined a butter tub I had in the artroom for holding water in on the center of my paper. Starting at the bottom I drew continuous lines from the bottom of the circle (roots) up through the trunk and reaching ALL THE WAY to the top of the circle. This was really hard for my younger students to grasp. They wanted to stop and draw the shape of the tree. Try to get them to make at least 5 main lines from the bottom, twist together at the trunk and then out to the circle again before they go back and make branches and roots forking off of the main lines. Add a few lines to shape your trunks and to separate the design into shapes. I told the kids to think of it as puzzle pieces. To look at the spaces between branches and see if they could pick up that piece or if it would be too small. Try not to make your pieces get too small but try to make the picture in pieces. We don't want a space to reach all the way from the top down into the trunk too far. Close off those spaces!
We also traced around a small plastic cup for our moon behind the branches. Find something the right size and round so they can trace easily a nice round moon. Make sure everything is drawn in black or dark sharpie before you move on to step 2!
Just a note about mistakes. I had to reinforce during this lesson that artists USE their mistakes. Natalie felt like her moon was too big. She wanted to scrap the whole thing and start over because it was already in Sharpie. NO! I suggested she draw a smaller moon within the larger one. It's now one of our favorite parts of her picture. Samantha accidentally splattered some watercolor paint around her drawing. Possible solutions? Paint a solid color around the drawing, Cut out the circle and mount it on a colored paper. Splatter MORE paint! Splatter like you mean it! She did. The "on-purpose" splatter looks awesome! Besides, problem solving in art makes you smarter at everything.
2nd step: Watercolor paint
Get out your watercolor palettes and demonstrate how to use them. My younger students had to be shown how to make the color darker by stirring on the paint cake longer. Kids just don't do art at home anymore! This is a great time to pull out the color wheel and review cool and warm colors. We want to paint the shapes (Puzzle pieces) in cool colors and the moon in warm colors. Each shape should be slightly different from the pieces right next to them. It looks like stained glass! The pictures already look GORGEOUS, right? Use varying colors of brown in the trunk of your tree if you left shapes there.
3rd step: Border and Creative "Extras"
Everyone has trees now, painted in watercolor. Now I asked the students "You're ARTISTS! How can you make this your own? What is going to be different about your tree?" Although they were all very different. We had weeping willows, we had lots of branches, a few branches, and curly branches. I told them to draw a circle around the tree circle and create a border. Fill the paper. Move on from here. A few of my students wanted leaves so we brainstormed how we could put a few leaves on our tree without losing the beautiful design they had made. We got out Q-tips and some orange acrylic paint. They even made some stamps with foam beads on the end of chopsticks, the ingenious little artists! I love to see their creativity EXPLODE when I stop instructing and stand back to let art happen.
So I would say the leaves stamped on are optional. The artwork by the older artists is so beautiful none of them wanted to stamp over top of it. But it would be a great project to draw the Tree of Life on colored paper and then stamp leaves. Or draw some leaves as part of our original drawing. Hmmmm... my creativity is EXPLODING! I hope you let me know how your lessons go!
Flowerstone Art School
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