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Lively Leaf Watercolors

Explore warm and cool colors and glue drawing in these breathtaking leaf watercolor paintings.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Lead a class critique of the leaf paintings of various artists. Focus on media, style, color usage and compositions. Compare and contrast “Winter Maple Leaves” by Christina Meeusen with “Autumn Leaves-Lake George, N.Y.” by Georgia O’ Keefe and “Autumn Layers”, “Jean’s Leaves” by Dan Bacich.
    2. Have students begin to sketch leaves with Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils using real leaves, leaf books or electronic devices for leaf references. Encourage them to design a strong composition by drawing large, including a variety of leaf sizes and positions, overlapping objects, making some objects go off the page and leaving little background space. Encourage students to make two different compositions.
    3. Trace over the two drawings with Crayola® School Glue. Encourage students to squeeze bottle gently and move hands slowly. They can also put spirals of glue around the leaves to appear like wind blowing through the composition. If the glue is applied in a thick, even manner it will dry clear creating a dimensional drawing. This will allow students to paint within the shapes more easily and keep the watercolors in place. Place on a counter or drying rack to dry overnight.
    4. Students set up work area with recycled newspaper, paper towels, a container of water, brushes and Crayola Washable Watercolors. Students should paint the leaves on their paper with the warm (red, orange, yellow) or the cool colors (green, blue, purple) and the background with the opposite color scheme. This will create a strong contrast between the foreground and the background. Students should paint each drawing with an opposite color scheme so that they can decide which they prefer before they begin their final piece of art.
    5. Before beginning the final draft, students help tint the white glue with brown Crayola Tempera Paint. With recycled newspaper covering work areas, students put smocks on, get paper towels out and gather up half full bottles of glue. Twist caps off and carefully pour brown paint into the glue bottles. Have students work in teams. One student can hold the glue bottle while the other pours the paint. Stop about three quarters of the way up to the top and mix with a craft stick. Replace the cap to the glue bottle.
    6. Have students carefully transfer their favorite drawing to Crayola Marker & Watercolor paper using erasable colored pencils. Students draw lines that are as light as a whisper so that it is easy to erase if necessary. Once a strong composition is complete, trace with the brown glue. Students can use white glue to make the wind spirals around the leaves to appear as though wind is blowing through the painting and create motion. Let the glue drawings dry over night.
    7. The final process will be painting the leaves and background with watercolor. Demonstrate the wet on wet technique, by placing water on an area and then placing watercolor on top so that the color saturates the paper. Students should use the color scheme of their choice and carefully paint within the glue leaves first. Once the leaves are done paint the background with the opposing color scheme with long swirling brushstrokes to create the illusion of motion.
    8. Hold a group critique of the artwork upon completion. Encourage students to make positive comments and be specific when commenting about elements of their painting or their peers’ artwork. Students should discuss the process, their successes and struggles with the media. Also, have children compare their final piece to the original motivating artists’ paintings now that they have used the same medium.
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles.

    SCI: Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.

    VA: Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods, and approaches in making works of art and design.

    VA: Demonstrate quality craftsman- ship through care for and use of materials, tools, and equipment.

    VA: Compare responses to a work of art before and after working in similar media.

  • Adaptations

    En plein air is a French expression that means in the open air and is used to describe the act of painting outdoors. Bring students outside to make plein air paintings. Using Crayola® watercolor pencils students can make a contour drawing of an interesting landscape or natural object. Once the drawing is complete shade with a variety of colors. With a cup of water and a brush wet the drawing in select areas and spread the color to create the watercolor effect.

    Show students the subtle colors Andrew Wyeth uses in his watercolor paintings. Discuss neutral colors with the students and demonstrate how to make tints and shades using white and black. Students should make a painting with Crayola® tempera paint mixing tints and shades.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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