Thursday, December 1, 2011

Circle Paintings on a Windy Day

This was definitely "one of those days!!" Winds up to 100 miles an hour in Southern California, although we did not have the high winds that were predicted in our little corner of the land! That being said, on a day when I had about 125 drippy, wet, painted pieces (some large like these and some smaller projects) that needed drying space, a little breeze was welcome. I ran out of drying racks before lunch, so I strung some rope on the patio and hoped the winds would not kick up too much. (I was in luck!)

4th graders worked cooperatively in groups of 4 on circle paintings. They then took their color of paint and traded tables, so that each piece of work had 8 colors of paint. After a while I had them return to their original work to finish it up. Our focus was BALANCE (dark/light, primary/secondary, warm color, complementary colors).

We are displaying all the panels together as one, large mural. I told the kids that ultimately I would cut each work in fourths and they would each get one fourth of their original piece (they all put their names and room number on the back of "their" panel). Everyone seemed fine with that concept:)

There were a few considerations that helped the in the project's success:
1) Pre-mix enough paint to last through the day.

2)Set tables up without chairs so movement doesn't result in spilled paint. Having a meat tray under the portion cups of paint provided a resting spot for the brush that would support its weight.

3) Have sponges handy when brushes drop or paint spills ( have a carpeted room, so this is something I think about).
4) Model the process first, before kids get started. We had the rule that each person puts down their color once in the center before all 4 start to paint simultaneously. We also had the rule that you kept your own color throughout the painting time. Our third rule was that we worked from the center out, touching a color someone else had made.

5) Students discovered it was smarter to paint solid areas first and then add dots, designs, etc.
6) Really reinforce how much you value the kids' meaningful conversation about how color and design elements support making a balanced piece of art. We actually had groups of parents touring the school today for a visitation day, so in addition to the 30+ kids in the room there were 4 groups of between 10 and 15 adults coming through as we were painting. I was SO proud of the "art talks" kids were having in their groups. That, actually, is the most rewarding part of doing this lesson. I am so grateful to Barbara's Thought of the Day (here) where I first learned of Circle Painting sometime last year.
7) I showed my class some of the photos at before we started working.
I'll add the rest of the circle paintings (that are currently drying) as soon as I have them up in our hallway display case.


  1. As much as I have wanted to do this with my students, I was really hesitant because I wasn't sure how to make it work. After reading your post, I now feel like I can do this! And thanks for the reminder that the kids need to have meaningful conversations about the work before, during, and after!

  2. Pat - Three of the 4 groups I did this with went really well. For the 4th group, if I were to do it again, I would add the rule that we don't paint completely over another's color, thus changing the color. Designs, motifs, dots, etc. are fine, smearing the colors to a not so attractive brown is NOT!! Didn't think it was necessary to say, but, oh well, live and learn!!!

  3. Oh! They are GORGEOUS,Christie!!! Love the colors - is it acrylic or tempera?

    A carpeted art room? CRAZY!!! We're always spilling stuff.

    Oh, but I love your patio. I have a roof out my window, and wish that I was allowed to go out there. It's usually hot and sunny out there, even on snowy cold days, so stuff would dry nice and fast.

  4. Thanks, Phyl. I forgot to mention that we used acrylic paint that I had added quite a bit of water to. It was still thick and had good coverage.

    I cautioned the kids to let me know right away if a paint brush dropped. I LITERALLY was walking around with a wet sponge in my hand, ready to attack the spots immediately!! I am afraid the carpet now has 5 or 6 polka dot additions. I may try Woolite Heavy Duty carpet cleaner on it next week!!!!

  5. I have seen a lot of projects based on circle paintings, but
    these compositions are breath taking.

    I love the boldness of colors and patterns to say nothing of the rendering of lines.

    Thanks for sharing

  6. These are so beautiful and full of energy! Glad the big winds missed you. My parents live in Sierra Madre and are still without power.
    Great co-op project!

  7. Thanks for the tips and tricks with this painting project. The colours are so vibrant-may I ask what brand(s) of paint you used?

  8. I'm so glad you tried this project and enjoyed it, and also so pleased that you thought to mention the way children engage and converse during the activity. I have noticed this same phenomenon when we circle many thoughtful observations and encouraging comments shared as kids collaborate. It's the best part of the activity in my book.
    Your paintings are beautiful!

  9. Miss - I know that some of the acrylic was OLD Crayola brand and some was newer (and cheaper) True Flow from Sax. I love the smoothness of the Crayola, but for this project, honestly, they were both fine. I think tempera would be fine, too, as long as you choose good "true" colors:))

  10. What a great lesson! The results are just beautiful!