Saturday, May 11, 2013

Art Project: Spring Trees (Oil Pastel & Watercolor Resist)

Melinda and I recently had an opportunity to do an art project with inner-city children in another part of Berlin. We have a great relationship with a Children's Club there who provide after-school care and activities for the children in the neighborhood. Since the club is located next to a park and playground with lots of towering trees, we chose "Spring Trees" as our theme. 

This is a basic oil pastel and watercolor resist, but with the added challenge of drawing the trees from the perspective of looking upward. 

To prepare for drawing the trees, we first walked around with the children and took a closer look at some of the beautiful trees. What are the different parts of a tree? What color is the tree? How does the bark feel? When you look up, which parts of the tree appear large? Which ones appear small?

Then, we played a game in which each child picked a partner. The partner was then blindfolded and led to a tree by the other child. The blindfolded partner "explored" the tree by touch and was then led away again. After the blindfold was removed, the child had to find the tree again. The younger kids loved this game and begged to keep playing it.

And here is how we created our pictures:

Step 1: We talked about how to draw the tree, and started with the trunk. I told the children to decide how many trees would be in the picture and pick a point on the page to start. We also provided the children with some black and white photocopies of trees taken from the perspective of looking upward, so that they could visualize what to draw. 

This first step proved to be quite challenging for the children, and we were met with protests of "I can't do this!" Melinda and I calmly helped each child to keep going and repeated our mantra of "There are no mistakes in art - only changes to be made!"

Step 2: The children drew the crown of the tree using oil pastels. We told them they could use any colors they wanted. 

This part also proved challenging, because it requires a lot of patience to make the leaves. I demonstrated several techniques for making the leaves, but all of children decided on a dot/stipple effect. One child wanted to give up half-way through, but we encouraged her to stay with it.

Step 3: We added a watercolor wash over the oil pastels. Although I prepared several different colors of paint, most of the children settled on blue.

Here are a couple of the finished works:

From a second grader . . . 

From a fourth grader . . . 

This type of art project is so important for inner-city children, because it trains the child to observe intensely and to persevere with an activity. In short, it helps them to enter into the intense periods of concentration that Maria Montessori wrote are essential for healthy overall development. And the interaction with nature is also invaluable to their spiritual development. 

I really enjoyed being with these children and hope that we will have this opportunity again!

 . . . . . . 

Melinda und ich hatten neulich die Möglichkeit ein Kunstprojekt mit Kindern führen, die in einem "Sozialbrennpunkt" von Berlin wohnen. Die Zusammenarbeit war mit einem Kinderclub, die ein tolles
Nachmittagsprogramm für die Kinder im Kiez anbietet.

Da der Kinderclub gleich gegenüber von einem Park mit vielen Bäumen liegt, haben wir uns für das Thema, "Frühlingsbäume" entschieden. Als Vorbereitung fürs Zeichnen, haben wir mit den Kindern die große Bäume genauer angeguckt. Wir spielten auch ein Baumspiel aus der Naturpädagogik, damit die Kinder die Bäume mit den 5 Sinnen kennenlernen konnten. 

Danach fingen wir an die Bäume zu zeichnen, aber aus der Perspektive am Boden zu sein und nach oben zu schauen. Dann haben wir die Baumkrone, Stamm und Äste mit Ölkreide gemalt. Zuletzt haben wir den Hintergrund mit Wasserfarbe darüber gemalt. 

Die Technik war für die Kinder ziemlich herausfordernd und manche wollten mittendrin aufhören. Aber dies war genau, was sie gebraucht haben, denn so ein Projekt trainiert Wahrnehmungsfähigkeiten und Ausdauer. Am Ende waren die Kinder ganz stolz auf die schönen Bilder! 

Linked to Eco Kids' Tuesday at Like Mama-Like Daughter and Organic Aspirations

and Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions


  1. I like the perspective. What age do you think can work with oil pastels?

    Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope you stop by again!

    1. Thanks, Hannah!

      I think children can start working with pastels as soon as they are able to exercise self-control in not putting things in their mouth. So, many 3-year-olds could work with oil pastels. The vibrant colors and texture make them fun to work with. I always tell the kids that is it like "drawing with butter". : )

      The perspective aspect is for elementary school, though, although a few 5-year-olds might be game to try it.