Art Lesson Plans: Storybook Art - MaryAnn Kohl

Storybook Art

Submitted by: MaryAnn Kohl
Storybook Art: Hands-On Art for Children
in the Styles of 100 Great Picture Book Illustrators



Harold and the Purple Crayon. - Crockett Johnson
(Life dates: October 20, 1906 - 1975)

Harold draws himself with his purple crayon, as well as everything he needs for going on a most unusual walk. His line drawing continues from page to page in a very purposeful shade of purple.

The illustrations in the book show Harold drawing one purple line. To experience the illustrator's representation, create a one-line design, but use more drawing tools than one purple crayon!

Referring to his hairless head, Johnson once remarked, "I draw people without hair because it's so much easier! Besides, to me, people with hair look funny." ~ Crockett Johnson

harold and the purple crayonAll in a Row, One-Line Design


Roll of adding machine tape
Newspaper to cover floor
Masking Tape.
Crayons., AquaMarkers.
Roller paint bottle or sponge bottle. (if paint bottles are not available, skip this step)
Yarn Assortment. (any color, one long piece)
White Glue.
Tape measure.


  1. Tape a long piece of adding machine paper tape to the floor. Unroll it so that it is very long, as long as possible! (It might be a good idea to put newspaper under the paper to protect the floor.)

  2. With Crayons. or marker, begin by drawing one line that wiggles and loops across the narrow paper. Try not to lift the crayon from the paper, making it one very long uninterrupted line. Rest a moment. (Keep marks on the paper and not on the floor!)

  3. Starting at the last point of the drawn line, continue with a new line of paint made with a roller ball bottle or sponge bottle. Keep going and going, trying not to lift the bottle tip from the paper, making one long uninterrupted line. Then rest again. (If you don't have the roller bottle of paint, skip this step and go on to the next.)

  4. Now begin working with yarn. Dip a long piece of yarn in glue and continue the one-line design, looping and squiggling the yarn.  Add another long piece of yarn in a different color, changing colors whenever desired. Then change back to crayon or paint, just so the line goes on and on.

  5. When the end of the design is reached (it's up to you!), sit back and look it over. For fun, measure the one-line design with a tape measure and see how long it is.


  • Start a second or third design that interweaves and crosses through the first design. Use a contrasting color or art material.

  • Experiment with other design additions continuing the one line design, such as ribbon, surveyor's tape, or Chalk..

  • Three sequels are: Harold's Trip to the Sky. (1957); Harold's Circus. (1959); A Picture for Harold's Room. (1960)- All by Crockett Johnson (More below).

  • Imitate the illustrator by drawing with purple crayon or marker, adding features with a black fine point marker, and then gluing a character's face (drawn on gray paper) into the picture.

Other Crockett Johnson Books


Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On. - Lois Ehlert, author & illustrator

A child imagines what she would see if she were a fish, through rhymes, counting, and bright colors. Count spectacular fish from one to ten as they swim through pages of deep blue. One fish cleverly predicts the next number in the counting sequence.

Imitate Lois Ehlert's dazzling fluorescent collage style. Cut and paste bright colored papers into shapes. Embellish the shapes with dots made with a Hole Paper Punch..



Lois Ehlert (Archive)
Born: November 9, 1934

I think being creative is a part of a person's makeup. It's something I feel very lucky about. I've worked hard to make this gift as fine as I can make it, but I still think I was born with certain ideas and feelings just waiting to burst out! ~ Lois Ehlert


(See interview below- The video may take a long time to load, so have patience.)




Brightly colored papers (Fluorescent Construction Paper. are perfect for this project)
Choice of drawing tools ­ Drawing Pencils., AquaMarkers., pen, or Crayons.
Scissors., White Glue., paper punch (Hole Paper Punch.) - Fiskars. has square squeeze-style punches with fancy punch shapes


  1. Think of a simple bold object to draw, such as a fish, mouse, bird, flower, bug, or a silvery snowflake! Draw it on the colored paper using no details other than shape. Cut it out with scissors.

  2. With the paper punch, add punched holes ­ or make paper punch dots to glue on the paper shape. This will embellish the work with color and design. Here are a few suggestions: two hole punches become a rabbit's round eyes, five hole punches become the seeds in a cut apple, ten hole punches become the freckles on someone's nose.

  3. Glue the object on a contrasting fluorescent color paper background. (The color of the background paper will show through any punched holes.)

  4. Continue to create and add more designs and details with cut-outs made from the colored paper scraps and hole punches.


To imitate the dazzling look of Ehlert's art -
  ­  paint with Liquid Watercolors on white paper
  ­  draw with bright pastel chalks on deep blue paper
  ­  draw with marking pens on water dampened glossy paper


Books by Lois Ehlert

Planting a Rainbow. - With her characteristically vibrant artwork, Ehlert depicts the planting of a family garden. Ages 3-7.

Snowballs. - Publisher's Weekly says: "With her signature masterfully designed cut-paper (and found-object) collages, Ehlert takes a time-worn topic - building a snowman and makes it as fresh as new-fallen snow." Ages 3-8.

Growing Vegetable Soup. - Using her characteristically vibrant palette, Ehlert details the raising of a vegetable garden to make "the best soup ever." A recipe is included in this book which Publishers' Weekly termed a "zesty introduction to vivid abstract art." Ages 2-7.




Clare Turlay Newberry
Life: April 10, 1903 - 1970

Marshmallow. - Clare Turlay Newberry, author
A baby rabbit named Marshmallow and an apartment cat named Oliver become close friends. Both the artwork and the story are gentle and charming.

"People often ask me where I get my ideas for books. To tell the truth, almost all my stories are drawn from my own experience. I have usually acquired a pet, made studies of it for several months in pencil, pen and ink, charcoal and pastel, and then thought up a story based on actual incidents. The story of Marshmallow and his friendship with Oliver the cat is all true and the drawings done from life. I recall wondering, as I sketched Oliver with the bunny in his arms, if anyone would really believe me."
~ Clare Turlay Newberry


Other Clare Turlay Newberry Books

Smudge. - This classic storybook, by author/illustrator Clare Turlay Newberry, was originally published in 1948 and was named one of the Fifty Books of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Barkis. - Originally published in 1938, Barkis was author/illustrator Clare Turlay Newberry's first Caldecott Honor Book.

"The Unexpected Surrogate" (House Rabbit Society) by Diana Murphy
Imitate the illustration style of Clare Turlay Newberry through exploration of charcoal sketching.

Charcoal Sketch


Charcoal. drawing sticks (from art, hobby, or school supply stores)
(Idea: An adult can make ­ or collect ­ pieces of charred wood from a campfire or fireplace, cool them, and place them in a cup for drawing use. If charcoal is not available, use black chalk or an extremely soft drawing pencil.)
White Drawing Paper. or blank Newsprint. (very large paper allows for large arm action)
Damp Sponges. for wiping fingers
Fixative. (optional, with adult help) or clear hobby sealer


  1. Though charcoal sticks break easily and are very messy, marks wash off hands, fingers, and clothing with soap and water, Keep an old towel and an apron on hand. Place a damp sponge on the drawing table for wiping messy fingers.

  2. First, practice making charcoal lines, marks, and drawings on scrap paper to find how charcoal acts on paper. Blend and smudge it with fingers or a tissue to see how it blends and shades. Charcoal has a soft look - not precise - so expect a simple light-handed drawing style to work best.

  3. When ready, think about a simple idea to draw, such as these ­
           • fluffy rabbit, single flower in a pot, trees in winter,  sleeping cat
    Use imagination to think up a unique idea.

  4. Hold a charcoal stick (or a broken smaller piece of charcoal) like a paintbrush (not like a pencil), and begin the drawing. Smudge and blend lines for shadows and shading with fingertips. Fewer lines drawn freely are more effective than drawing many lines or details, so work simply and lightly.

  5. When the drawing is complete, pin or tape it to a display wall. (Do beware of magically appearing fingerprints on walls and doors!)

  6. An adult can take the drawing outside or to a ventilated area and spray the drawing with hairspray or a clear hobby sealer to help protect it from further smudging. The drawing can also be rolled and stored, drawing side in facing inward.


  • Explore drawing with a very soft drawing pencil, using an art eraser for smudging and blending.

  • Explore painting with black watercolor paints, another technique used often by Clare Newberry.

Marie Hall Ets
Birth: December 16, 1895 - death: 1984


Imitate the drawing style of Marie Hall Ets, accenting the important elements of pencil drawings with brown and white chalk.

"The happiest memories of my childhood are of summers in the north woods of Wisconsin. I loved to run off by myself into the woods and watch for the deer with their fawns, and for porcupines, badgers, turtles, frogs and huge pine snakes and sometimes a bear or a copperhead or a skunk." ~ Marie Hall Ets.

Gilberto and the Wind. - Marie Hall Ets, author & illustrator
A young boy named Gilberto finds a playmate with many moods - the wind! Gilberto becomes involved in the wind's frolics and enjoys an adventure playing and pretending with his new friend.

Play with Me.- A little girl goes to the meadow to play, but each animal she tries to catch runs away from her -until she sits still by the pond, and they all come back.

In the Forest. - The animals join a young boy as he walks through the forest blowing his new horn.



Drawing Pencils.
Light green Construction Paper. (or another chosen color)
Brown and White Chalk.
Black Colored Pencils..


  1. Look at the illustrations by Marie Hall Ets. Notice that she uses only a very few colors to highlight her pencil drawings.

  2. Begin by sketching a drawing on the green paper with pencil. Make the drawing simple and large so it will be easy to color with chalk.

  3. Next, accent parts of the drawing with white and brown chalk. Accent means to make some parts of the drawing more colorful or special, while other parts remain the same. Brown is useful for accenting skin tones, and white for accenting clothing, or think of other ideas. Perhaps accent one of the following suggestions:
    - the petals of a flower with white and the grass with brown
    - a white cat with brown stripes, and a brown catnip mouse
    - white clouds in the sky, and a brown bird flying

  4. Draw and color lightly with the chalk, blending chalk marks with a cotton swab or fingertip.

  5. Add more accents with regular pencil, soft drawing pencil, or black colored pencil.

Accent colors with art materials other than chalk...

More Lessons can be found in Storybook Art, by MaryAnn Kohl, Brightring Publishing. See Online activity

Lessons are copyrighted © 2003 by MaryAnn Kohl, Brightring Publishing. Used here with permission. Teachers may use these lessons - adapt to their needs - but may not publish them elsewhere without permission. Contact MaryAnn Kohl.



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