Autumn in Iowa is a gorgeous time. One big aspect of that is, of course, the beautiful trees and their bursts of color. Even after the trees lose all of those leaves, their silhouettes can still be quite lovely. In the fall, my 5th graders do a tree project that allows us to explore those interesting silhouettes and put our own spin on them.
This art project idea comes from a great elementary art book called “Dynamic Art Projects for Children” by Denise M. Logan. I changed it some to make it work for us, but the essential idea came from there.
Black tempera paint
Paper towels for blending
We start the project by spending one class time outside doing observational drawings of trees. At this point, we have some trees that still have their leaves and some that do not, so we draw both. The kids really enjoy spending this time outside and I love that we get to practice our “drawing from real life” skills.
Next class time we come back inside and talk about drawing large silhouettes (**discussing WHAT a silhouette is first...) of trees and then we use black tempera to paint them, running our branches off the page as much as possible to create little pockets of space in which to play with color.
Then the fun begins! I introduce oil pastels to the students by showing them how to overlap colors and blend them into each other, either with their finger or a small piece of paper towel. This is where we get creative. We don’t worry about making an accurate blend of sunset colors, we just start having fun blending from one color to another in each little area between the tree branches. The swirl and pattern of color changes varies from student to student (my favorite part!)
When finished, we touch up any area of the tree branch that got overcolored with a little black oil pastel. The students love the look of their finished trees and as long as they blend their colors well, this is one of those projects that makes everyone feel like an artist! Happy coloring!