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Fourth Grade Abstract Trees in Oil Pastel

Updated: 1 day ago

This was SUCH a fun and successful project. I introduced my fourth graders to the abstract art of Wassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky is most well known for his abstract paintings that were inspired by music, and less well known for his colorful landscapes.

I love to show my students this painting "Landscape with a Green House," painted by Wassily Kandinsky in 1909. We talk about the way the bright colors turn into shapes and make the painting somewhat abstract. We talk about how there are different degrees of abstract. Sometimes you can make out what is in an image, but sometimes the artwork becomes more about color, shape, line or another element of art.

Day 1: The first thing I do is explain positive and negative space to my students. Then I take them outside to draw a tree from direct observation. I remind them to focus on the negative space when they are drawing the tree. I have large wooden drawing boards, 9x12 white paper, pencils and erasers. I put all the supplies all on a cart and roll it outside with my students. I tell them to make the tree go off the page on all sides if possible. Focus on the trunk and branches, and the negative space between them, no leaves.

Day 2-3: Back in the classroom. I instruct them to color the tree black using an oil pastel. They should go over it twice to get full coverage.

Next I show my students how to blend with oil pastels. Put down one color lightly, leaving some white paper showing through, then go over it with another color, then go back in with the first. They can also blend and create tints by going over a color with white. I don't encourage blending with fingers with oil pastels because it's not easy to do, and they will all end up with very dirty fingers and only one sink.

Next break the background into shapes and color each one a different color. Encourage them to mix as many colors as possible in their background colors. The painting will become more interesting the more they mix colors. Show them how to create tints with oil pastels, put down a color, then go over it with white. If they have another idea, let them try it! It's all about creativity and getting experience with a new medium.

This is one of the overall most successful projects I have ever done in Elementary School. This is also a great project for high school! I would do it with Fourth grade and up! Have fun and let me know what you think in the comments.

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