Tuesday, September 20, 2011

M is for Matryoshka

In preparation for a trip to Russia, I have been teaching my kids about the language and culture. I've always been a huge fan of Russian folk art, so naturally we have been doing some exploration of the culture through art. Matryoshkas are the nesting dolls that have become a widely recognized symbol of Russia. Few little girls can resist these adorable dolls and this week my daughter and I went a little matryoshka crazy.

One of my daughter's projects: a mixed media painting with watercolor and oil pastel.
This is one of the books that inspired us. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about Russia. It has none of the cliches that most books about Russia have and is filled with interesting information in small chunks.

Step 1:  To draw a series of matryoskas, you need round objects in various sizes for each head and face. Finding these objects is a  great exercise for preschoolers in learning to distinguish sizes.  Trace the head first and then use a smaller circular object for the face. Repeat for as many dolls as you want to make. 

Step 2: Draw the body. This is a great way for child to practice symmetry in drawing, a skill that many adults lack.
Step 3: Draw the facial features and decorations with crayon or oil pastel.
Step 4: Paint the bodies and faces with watercolor. The pastel or crayon will
resist the watercolor and the design will show through. 
The look before my daughter added a background. 
I just had to join in the matryoshka fun, too, with this picture . . . 

 . . . and this one. Why should my kids have all the fun?

Our finished drawing led my daughter to do an impromptu "puppet show" on Saturday. 

Then on Sunday, we did matryoshka collages. You might recognize my daughter's
collage papers as being the tree rubbings from the summer.: )

Again, I had to join in on the fun. This is a matryoshka meeting up with a firebird,
one of my favorite Russian fairy tale figures. 
I will hopefully share more on our Russian (and also Buryat!) studies in upcoming posts!

and Monday Madness at Art 4 Little Hands


  1. These are beautiful, Sheila! I run a culture camp for kids in the U.S. who were adopted from Russia and am always looking for Russian inspired crafts, projects, etc. I'm sure they would love to do this. Thank you for sharing!


  2. I ditto Cheryl--these are beautiful Sheila! My girls would love to do these. I'll think I'll hold off until we get to Russia in our geography studies. We did use watercolor pencils for the first time last week, so I appreciate learning about using the oil pastels with them. Thanks!

  3. Oh how beautiful! Your daughters' work is wonderful - and I love your inspired approach to teaching about russia too.

  4. Thank you all for your encouraging comments!

  5. what a great project- I painted a Matryshka doll on a shirt and love to wear it- here is the post if you are interested:

  6. Thanks for sharing your link, Ren!

  7. Those came out great! What a wonderful study and activity! I am a new follower from Art for Little Hands. Vicky @ www.messforless.net

  8. Thanks, Vicky! I'm following your blog now, too.

  9. These are so beautiful. And how could you resist joinging in the fun? Thanks for linking up to Monday Madness.

  10. Very beautiful art work!! What a fun way to study about Russia- I enjoy matryoshka dolls too! ~April

  11. I absolutely love this project. So beautiful and the book is so nice to read along with it. So glad to have you join us at Monday Madness. Hope to see you again tomorrow.

  12. We are huge fan of Matroshkas and my kids have started collecting them. They are wonderful for teaching ordering and size (I teach my kids Russian and blog about it!) Your daughter did such a beautiful job painting. We have been to Russian several times as a family and my husband is from Izhevsk. I can only say wonderful things about the people and the place. Hope you have a wonderful time.