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Painting to music, a fun and engaging elementary and high school art Project!

Updated: Feb 29

This art project is based on the art of Wassily Kandinsky and the children's book "The Noisy Paintbox." This is a fun project for grades three and up. I used to do it in my beginning art class in high school, and decided to try it with 3rd and 4th graders this week. It went surprisingly smooth, all of my students were engaged and it was a ton of fun. Read on for instructions on how to do this.

Here is the packet with 4 pages stapled together.

Day one: I stapled 4 pages of copy paper together and put one out for each student along with a bowl of crayons at each table. I made sure my speaker and pandora were working and picked out a variety of stations with very different, fun types of music: Classical, African, Mariachi, Hawaiian, Jazz, Cuban, Indian, etc.

This is the book about the artist Kandinsky

I decided to try this project with 3rd graders. I welcomed my students in and had them sit on the rug. I started by reviewing what abstract art is. Then I read "The Noisy Paint Box." This is a book about the artist Wassily Kandinsky who was believed to have sound-color synesthesia. This is a perceptual phenomenon where he would see colors when he listened to music. I actually have a few students this year who said they have this superpower!

After reading the book I put on music and demonstrated how to draw to music using crayons. I demonstrated two different types of music. I told my students to "feel" the music and just start putting down lines, shapes and colors. I explained that there was no right or wrong way to do this, it could be completely abstract, or they could put recognizable objects into the drawing.

Here are my students drawing to music!

I had students go to their desks and I started the first song. You can cut each song short if you don't have a lot of time or if it looks like most of the kids are done with their drawing. If they are really enjoying the song I will let it play to the end, otherwise I end it after 2-3 minutes. This is a fun time to expose students to different types of music: Classical, African, Mariachi, Hawaiian, Jazz, Cuban, Indian, Opera, French, etc. They will ask you to play Taylor Swift and other current music, I recommend not playing current music. When I did it half the class got excited and half was disappointed, they got riled up and chatty. They will end up enjoying hearing music they have never heard before, so stick with some of the above.

It was really a joy to see my students enjoying the variety of music. Many of them were moving in their seats. Some would dance on their way to get more colors.

We got through about five different types of music on the first day. At the end of class I collected their artwork and told them that we would draw to one or two more songs the following week, then they will pick their favorite and turn it into a painting. I anticipate this project being a 3 day project in total. Below are some student examples from when I taught high school.

Day 2-3: For the painting portion, I recommend using good painting paper and tempera paint. An alternative would be watercolor paper and watercolors. I use 9x12 size paper. Have students choose their favorite rough draft and then redraw it using pencil on the good painting paper. I use Blick student grade tempera paints. I typically give students turquoise, yellow, magenta and white. Each student gets their own paper plate with a little bit of each color on it, this allows them to practice mixing the primaries. I use disposable paper plates for pallets, and each child gets their own.

After this project I move on to creating a detailed color wheel with my fourth graders using tempera paint. We do a lot of painting in fourth grade! This project is so much fun for kids of all ages. Enjoy, and let me know how it goes for you!

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