Elements of Art Introduction

Elements of Art Introduction

line elementSubmitted by: Kathrine Walker Schlageck, Education and Public Services Supervisor
Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University

Notes on the Elements of Art Curricula

While these activities are designed for a Museum setting, they can be done in a classroom or at home with art posters, postcards, etc. Each unit is designed to focus on one element from a variety of perspectives. Where possible, children’s books, movement activities and music have been included.  Edible alternatives  would also be a good addition.


Each session has been designed to last about 1 hour and 15 minutes, with five activities that keep students moving.  The activities could also cover the course of a week  - in that case, there would need to be a daily review of what had been covered so far before going on to the 15-20 minute activity.


The gallery activities will vary slightly depending on what is on exhibition.  An abbreviated form of the curricula is available as a museum tour - it includes a discussion/activity for each of the elements of art and lasts approximately ½ hour to 45 minutes.  The activities are determined by the exhibitions available.


Try to keep the activities in the order listed - they build on each other.  Additional art projects can be added at the end and  story books could be added each day as a starting point for activities ( I have not begun to cover all the books available on the elements of art or all of the possible art activities!).


Kathrine Schlageck
Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University
Spring 2000


"A Line is a Dot that Went for a Walk"

1.  Supplies: Flip pad., magic AquaMarkers., 8 ½x11" (21.5 x 28 cm) sheet of white Drawing Paper. for each child
Review of types of lines - start with a dot and make a dotted line, straight line, etc. See how many types of lines the children can come up with. Have the children draw each type of line with you.








zig zag









2.  Giving each child a chance to add their favorite line, create a composite picture or create a story using different types of lines (teacher does starting drawing and all words, children add lines.)   One idea is - a line is a dot that went for a walk in the snow… each set of subsequent lines can be different things - e.g. thin parallel are sled tracks, thin curvy is a bicycle, parallel zig zags could be car tires, spiral could be a snake.


3.  Line search in art in the galleries - using actual works of art have the students look for types of line. This can be done as a group in front of a single painting, or children can be given a card with a type of line and search the room for the best example of that type of line. Posters or art postcards can be used in the classroom.


4.  Line Dancing (with instruments) -  gather together a variety of instruments including rattles, drums bells, Kazoos., recorders,. etc. Have the student decide what type of line the instruments sound like - e.g.  a triangle = a dotted line, Kazoos = straight line, rattle = wavy or zig zag line.  Then decide what type of movement is appropriate - e.g. sliding step for a straight line, hopping on one foot for a dotted line, waving your arms for a wavy line,  etc. Practice the movements, play Simon Says, do a conga line, create a dance.

Magic Disappearing Line Drawings

Supplies: Hard Soap (the type from hotels works great) black Construction Paper., Crayons. or Cray-Pas., water, sink or large tub of water.  Note:  This project is messy - you may want rubber gloves and a newspaper covered drying area.

a)  Give each child a piece of black paper and have them do a line drawing with the soap. This should be like a drawing they would find in a coloring book - lots of outlined areas to color in. Caution them that the soap will not work for areas that they want to be white - they must use a white crayon.

b)  Color in the drawing Cray-Pas. give a more vibrant color, if you use crayons the brighter, lighter colors will work best.

c)  Rinse the drawing until the soap lines disappear and allow to dry. 
The children should see through this project how important lines are to a drawing. Some lines outline shapes or forms and these can still be "Seen."  But in many case the lines ARE the artwork and can’t be lost.

Other Line Art Projects

When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins, Rhonda Gowler Greene, illus. James Kaczman


Color Carousel
1.  Ask  each child what their favorite color is and why is it their favorite color. Discuss how colors make them feel - e.g. blue=sad, red=mad, yellow=happy. You can also discuss warm colors and cool colors. Tape up sheets of different colored construction paper and write down the words each child associates with the color.


2. Explain primary and secondary colors using Color Wheels.. Have the children experiment with creating secondary colors with finger-paints. After washing up give each child a color wheel and have them color it in.


3. While children are coloring read them a children’s storybook on color:
The Rainbow Goblins,. Ul De Rico
Mouse Paint,. Ellen Stoll Walsh
Hello, Red Fox,. Eric Carle
Color Dance,. Ann Jonas
(For the teacher) The Art of Colors: For Children and Adults,. Margaret Steele, ed.
Colors of the World. Series, Carolrhoda Books
Growing Colors,. Bruce McMillan


4. In the galleries - Give the children paint chips and have them try to find the color in a painting or sitting in one area have the children find their favorite color in one of the works.  You can also play color jack in the box…give each child a paint chip, have them all sit on the their knees.  Point to a picture - if their color is in the picture, they get to "pop up!"


5. Go back to the sheets of works that the children came up with - choose a color and create a poem with the words.  One way to do this is to have each child create a sentence using one word.  Another way is to group the words.  Write the poem down and photocopy for each child.

Art projects:

"Blue Period" collages, mixed media, etc. The collage color can correspond with the poem above and be used as a background to put the poem on. Have boxes sorted by color of collage materials.  Works can be free form or they can make representational pictures.


Stained glass windows - Tissue paper. decoupage on mylar or wax paper. Note that the areas where the tissue paper overlaps creates "new" colors.   Tissue can be torn or cut. Make church type window frames out of construction paper, glue on top and trim (Use one on front and back for a more finished piece). Hang these in the windows.


Pointillism - This is a more advanced project but would work really well with works by Kansas artist Birger Sandzen. Use posters of Pointillist or Impressionist works in the classroom.  Examine how the artist create areas of color such as sky, water, grass, leaves, etc. Have children look  carefully at the different colors that are used. Give them landscapes outlines that are very basic - land, sky, water, etc.  Have them create works using either small brush strokes or dots (use Q-tips). [See IAD's Pointillator]


Shape Changers
1.   We are made up of shapes. Have a student stand in front of the room and identify the shape  he/she is made of.  Using a flip pad, draw out the shapes for the students to make the human body. Identify geometric shapes and biomorphic shapes.


2.   Statues I /discussion of 3-D in the galleries - using artworks in the galleries discuss the idea of three-dimensionality.  Take a tape measure and use it to measure the children as "Human Sculptures."  Using portraits, have the students become sculpture (it is fun to photograph the student sculptures by the portraits.  (you can also have students imitate sculptures.)

Positive and Negative Space: 

The space an object takes up is positive space. The "air" around it is negative space. When we create a painting objects are positive space and are surrounded by negative space. In a painting does a negative space have color? How do we know which is positive and which is negative? 

Supplies:  brightly colored construction paper in two sizes (cut some pieces in half), Scissors., White Glue..

a)  have the children pick two colors (it works best if they are complimentary, one dark and one light, or one cool and one warm)

b)  cut two shapes from one edge of the smaller piece - they can be geometric or biomorphic.  Remember to start and finish on the same edge and to cut both pieces from the same edge!

c)  Glue the small sheet to the large sheet, matching corners on the uncut edge to the outer corners of the large sheet.

d)  lay the cut-out pieces in their original place and tip them over to the other side of the large piece of paper.  Glue them down.

e)  What  is positive space, what is negative space?  Normally we see the dark areas as positive, the light as negative.

1.   Statues II - Using a tape player and fun music, have the children play statues.  In their first statues point out positive and negative spaces when they freeze.  Then create a contest - who can make the most negative spaces, the least negative space, etc. Then have them work in teams.

Hand Sculptures

Supplies: Colored Tag board., Construction Paper., glue, Drawing Pencils. or markers, scissors

1.  Cut out a positive/negative space hand from the cardboard.  Use this as a base for the sculpture.  Have children try to figure out how to get it to stand up (bend in half, bend bottom pieces to make a  stand, use the cut out hand to support it.)

2.  Cut out other hands from the construction paper - you can use different "poses" - thumbs-up, peace sign, fist, etc.  Add these to the base.  Stress the idea of 3-D - you can even measure the sculptures.


Other Art projects:
Shape sculptures - shapes and wires/Pipe Cleaners., etc.

Clay sculpture projects
Mosaics - cut shapes in multi-colored construction paper. Glue down to
create pictures

Triangle, Square, Circle, William Wegman
Shapes, Sizes & More Surprises, Mary Tomczyk, illus. Loretta Trezzo Braren


1.  Texture Bags - fill  small bags with as many different textured objects as you can find.  Have the children stick in their hand and describe how the object feels.  Discuss the difference between words like soft and smooth. If you wish you can record the words for each object and use them later in a writing project.


2.   In the galleries, look for texture in paintings - discuss how the texture is created by the brush strokes.  Look for artwork that has implied texture - think about how the artist creates the implied texture (lines, color).

Texture Paintings

Supplies; cardboard squares, very thick paint or thick glue with powdered Tempera Paint. mixed in, brushes and other items that could be used to apply the "paint" or create texture in it (plastic forks, combs, things to dab with, bottle caps, etc.). Students can experiment with applying paint with the various tools to create textured paintings. The focus should be on pattern/texture rather than creating a drawing.  Patterns can also be added after the base dries using a different color paint and a "stamping" technique.


1.   Touchable art from the study collection - how does art feel?  You can create a touchable gallery with a wide variety of artworks, especially craft objects.


2.   Audible textures - have the children try to think of sound to match textures. Tapping = sharp, rubbing = smooth, humming =soft, scratching sound = something rough.  The children could also create a sign language for texture words - knocking for hard, patting for smooth, scratching for rough, pointing a finger for sharp.


Other Art Projects (collect recyclables!)
Natural looms
Texture landscapes
Shoe Rubbings
Shape rubbings (cut out a variety of shapes from textured paper - e.g.
corrugated cardboard, sandpaper, etc. lay the shapes under the paper and do rubbings with a crayon)
Plaster of Paris. casts
Nature collages
Shadow boxes


There are a million texture books for young children, starting with the classic, Pat the Bunny.. [Do a search from this link for "touch and feel" for more texture books you can buy.]


See the Introduction to the Principles of Design!



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