Friday, March 8, 2013

Scream! - grade 3/4

About a week ago, I found this project on Pinterest and was so inspired that I decided to do it the next day with my grade 3/4 class.

The idea for this art project was to do a quirky portrait using pastels, with a focus on shading the face using unusual colors (such as pinks, oranges, greens.) Students would make their person look frightened by blowing watercolor paint with a straw to make the hair appear as though it were standing on end.

When the class came in, I had my example up on the board. Immediate, the boys started cheering "EXPLODING BRAINS!!" and it caught on like wildfire. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I kept repeating, "It's NOT exploding brains. The person is SCARED and his HAIR is standing up!" My students would reply, "Ya, and then his BRAINS EXPLODED!!"

This worried me. I certainly don't want to send students home saying "look at the exploding brains we did with our art teacher!" Not really the impression I want to give parents. But on the other hand, I can't exactly tell students not to interpret art how they want to. They were totally excited about this project, the boys more so than I've ever seen them. But they weren't seeing the drawing how I wanted them to see it.

I wasn't prepared to just abandon the project, especially since I thought it was a great lesson in portrait drawing, and I was excited to see their finished projects. I finally decided that they could view this project however they wanted, but they must remember that my intentions were crazy hair. 

By the end of the class, we had it down:

Me: What are we working on today?
Kids: ...crazy hair...
Me: What do you THINK we're working on, in your HEAD?
Me: But what is it that we're working on??
Kids: Crazy hair.

In the end, I think the results are stunning, hair or brains or however you choose to see it. It's hard to relinquish that control and let students see their art how they want to, no matter how in counteracts my original plans.

If you're curious about the process, students spent the first class period drawing their portrait. They traced it in Sharpie, then colored it in in oil pastels. We talked a lot about the facial shading, about where the lines would typically be found on the face, and how to blend them into their face color. I encouraged students to pick crazy colors, not worrying about their picture looking "realistic."

During the second class, students finished up coloring with pastels, then used straws and paint to make the hair. I used acrylic pucks in single pallets, so that we could add a bunch of water. Students then scooped from the watery sides using a paintbrush, and dropped it onto their drawing.

The funniest thing about this picture is that this student is blatantly wearing a hat and I didn't even notice! I'm just the worst with that. My husband wears a hat all the time and I am just so used to them that they barely even register for me anymore. (I also find this boy's hat super cute!)

What do you guys think of this project? How do you interpret it - brains, or hair?



  1. OMG I am so in love with this! I honestly thought it was just a release of crazy emotions. Didn't interpret it as hair or brains. So glad you shared this.

    1. Thanks!! I had someone else say crazy emotions too.. works for me! :)

  2. this is so cute!!!! Absolutely love it!

  3. I was just Googling for an exploding brains art project and found this.... just kidding! That made me lol. LOVE kids' interpretations and what they get caught up with. Especially if that makes them excited to make art. I guess you'd better start working on a zombie project if they're that into brains.

    1. Hahah that made me laugh so much.. I love imagining someone googling exploding brains art project.

      zombie project, not a bad idea for that group!

  4. That is a hilarious story one you will never forget! I see a birds nest on top of their heads, LOL! Great job I will have to give it a try.


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