by Kelsey Donegan, Bullis School Visual Art Teacher
With summer fast approaching, Art Teacher Kelsey Donegan offers 10 ideas to keep your middle school students’ creative juices flowing.
Idea 1: Watercolors
Do you love to paint but aren’t sure where to start? Consider embarking on an adventure in Watercolors.
- Watercolor paints & brushes (this MeiLiang Watercolor Paint Set is a little more expensive but is my favorite)
- Watercolor paper
Learn different watercolor techniques by watching and following along with the book Hello, Watercolor! Creative Techniques and Inspiring Projects for the Beginning Artist by Jeannie Dickson or YouTube videos like this one - Watercolor For Beginners.
Use your new watercolor skills to paint landscapes, animals, flowers, or anything!
Idea 2: Masking Tape Painting
Another fun painting project is masking tape painting.
Simply paint your canvas, use masking tape to draw a design, and paint each area. You can even do a second layer of masking tape and paint to get even more complicated!
Check out these YouTube videos to see someone making a masking tape painting.
Idea 3: Stop Motion Animation
Feel like exploring the technology side of art? It’s surprisingly easy to make a stop motion animation.
- Your phone or iPad
- A tripod to stabilize your phone
- Some objects to create your story
- A clean background
Idea 4: Optical Illusions and Zentangles
If drawing is your preference, look into optical illusions or Zentangles.
- A pencil (although you could also invest in some varied drawing pencils if you'd like.)
Simply follow along with the tutorials in this YouTube playlist How to Draw Optical Illusions to learn to draw these extraordinary images, or search online for “Optical Illusion Tutorials”.
Zentagles are yoga for your brain. It is a way of doodling with lines, shapes, and patterns, that make incredible artworks.
For inspiration, check out Zentangles online or use this book, The Great Zentangle Book: Learn to Tangle with 101 Favorite Patterns by Beate Winkler. Or watch some YouTube videos, and get doodling!
Idea 5: Bead Weaving
Do you want to combine your love of art and your passion for fashion? Bead weaving is a fun way to make unique fashion accessories that your friends will be envious of! It takes a little practice to get the hang of it, but once you get it down it’s easy. Watch this short intro video How to Bead Weave to see if it’s right for you.
- The Beadsmith Metal Bead Loom Kit includes Loom (12.5" x 2.5" x 3"), thread, needles, and glass beads. Gives you enough supplies to see if you like it.
- If you decide to commit you can purchase a greater variety of beads and thread.
There are tons of tutorials online to help you get started like Jewelery Fundamentals: How to Use a Bead Loom.
You can also weave beads without a loom! Check out how to do it in this tutorial Off-Loom Bead Weaving Two Minute Class.
Idea 6: Sculpey
If you are more interested in 3-D art, consider Sculpey. Sculpey is a type of polymer clay that can be baked in the oven. This type of clay works best for making small sculptures, like animals, foods, beads, and more.
- Sculpey kit
Idea 7: Origami
Another 3-D option is the ancient tradition of Origami. Origami is the art of folding paper, but it is so much more complex than that.
There are so many different tutorials out there to make origami, but I recommend using tutorials on YouTube. It’s easier to follow than books, in my opinion.
Idea 8: Wood Burning
A great option for parents and students to explore together is wood burning. Wood burning is a method of using a heated tool to burn designs into wood. Watch the video How To Wood Burn to see if it’s something you want to get into.
- Wood burning tool
- Some wood (pre-cut or raw edges) or you can also use leather
- Or you can buy a Wood Burning Starter Kit which includes everything, plus stencils to use.
Idea 9: Dream Catcher
Have you ever wanted to learn how to make a dream catcher? Summer is prime time to learn! Dream catchers are Native American weavings believed to catch bad dreams and dispose of them.
Dream catchers take patience and precision, so make sure you’re up to the task before getting started.
- Dream catcher kit (There are tons of varieties!)
Idea 10: Paint By Numbers
Want to wow your friends? Paint by numbers kits help anyone paint like a master. Kits come with a surface broken up into different areas, corresponding with a certain color of paint. Beware: these take a lot of patience and precision. Watch this video Paint by Numbers to see if it’s right for you.
- A Paint by Numbers Kit (any of the following are great!)
Kelsey Donegan teaches Middle School Art and Upper School Photography and Digital Art at Bullis School. Artistically, she is a jack of all trades, working on painting, sewing, digital collage, and photography. Her favorite things involve biking, reading, or going on adventures. She lives in Alexandria, VA with her dog Cameron and her partner Jarryd.
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