The Laughing Zebra

Wash Day with Grandma Moses

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Keep reading for more information about Grandma Moses, resources to teach about her, and a great watercolor art lesson!

Mother’s Day is right around the corner…May 10th to be exact. In honor of all the mothers out there who are getting some extra duty right now I wanted to put a lesson out on a mom who became a grandma and THEN a famous artist! You may have heard about Grandma Moses, but did you know that she didn’t start seriously painting until she was 70? 

One reason that Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was older was that she just didn’t have the time. As a young farm wife with kids to raise (she had 10, 5 of whom died at birth) she had her hands full. She also made and sold butter and potato chips to grocery stores and a nearby resort. When she was 67 her husband died which left her lonely and to fill the time she started stitching scenes out of yarn. She did this until it was too painful for her fingers due to arthritis. That is when she turned to painting. 

She was “discovered” when a man traveling through her town bought up all her paintings that she had on display at the local drugstore. He brought them home to New York City where he found an art dealer to represent her. He gave Grandma Moses a one-woman show. After that she became more and more popular. By the time she died in 1961 at the age of 101, people all over the world knew about her artwork.

Resources for teaching about Grandma Moses

When I teach an art lesson, I like to first tell my students about the artist we are studying before we start the actual art part. I try to find great videos, images, and slideshows that have already been created and are easy to access to help educate my students. Here are a few resources for teaching your kids a little bit more about the artist we are studying in this lesson, Grandma Moses!

Who is Grandma Moses

Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses) was born on September 7, 1860 in Washington County, New York. There she spent the first twelve years of her life on the family farm with her father, mother, and nine brothers and sisters. Because her father enjoyed seeing his children draw, he bought them large sheets of blank newspaper. Anna Mary loved drawing happy, colorful scenes. Most of Grandma Moses' works were painted on cardboard. The scenes she painted were happy scenes of herself as a child or rural home life. Other paintings are of people in eighteenth-century costumes, the way they might have dressed in the country. Her most popular paintings include The Old Oaken Bucket, Sugaring Off, Over the River to Grandma's House, and Catching the Turkey. Grandma Moses died on December 13, 1961.

Books

Grandma Moses - Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists

I love love love this series. It is my go-to for teaching kids about artists. They are fun, illustrated and informative.

Grandma Moses

This is a nice story on her life, but no actual Grandma Moses pics in the book.

The Essential: Grandma Moses

This is a nice introduction to the life and work of Grandma Moses. It features reproductions of many excellent paintings and some of their details .

The Year with Grandma Moses

This book brings together 13 of her classic paintings, along with brief excerpts from the artist's own autobiographical writings. It follows the different seasons.

Videos
Photos of her Artwork

Wash Day with Grandma Moses Art Lesson

This project has a subject matter that all moms can relate to…laundry day! Try this with your kids, they will have fun designing the clothes to hang on the line.

Supplies:

These are the supplies I used (but other products could be substituted): 

Step-by-Step:

  1. Using the clothes idea sheet, practice drawing the clothes you think you might want to have on your clothesline on the computer paper.. Come up with some of your own ideas too. You can even pattern them after your clothes and those of your family. 
  2. On the watercolor paper draw a curved line ¼ from the top of  the paper for the clothesline. At the bottom of the paper add a jagged line for the grass.
  3. Add clothes to your line making sure to make them a good size. I was able to fit 9. Add some flowers in the grass.
  4. Mix a watery puddle of blue in the lid of your watercolor tray.
  5. With a brush dipped in water only wet the top of your paper above the clothesline.
  6. Add the watered down blue in places but leave some white paper showing too.
  7. Mix a watery puddle of green and fill in the grass area, and flowers. (I left mine white with a yellow center). The paper will buckle a bit at this point from all the water and paint. 
  8. Use the extra fine line Sharpie to outline all the clothes, flowers, and grass (add some little grass clumps in the grass area.
  9. Mix up some paint with water in your lid for your different clothes. Keep the colors light by adding quite a bit of water as this will look more natural. (you could also use colored pencils or fine line markers for the clothes)
  10. When the paint is completely dry put some books on top of your paper to flatten.
  11. Using the clothes idea sheet, practice drawing the clothes you think you might want to have on your clothesline on the computer paper.. Come up with some of your own ideas too. You can even pattern them after your clothes and those of your family. 
  12. On the watercolor paper draw a curved line ¼ from the top of  the paper for the clothesline. At the bottom of the paper add a jagged line for the grass.
  13. Add clothes to your line making sure to make them a good size. I was able to fit 9. Add some flowers in the grass.
  14. Mix a watery puddle of blue in the lid of your watercolor tray.
  15. With a brush dipped in water only wet the top of your paper above the clothesline.
  16. Add the watered down blue in places but leave some white paper showing too.
  17. Mix a watery puddle of green and fill in the grass area, and flowers. (I left mine white with a yellow center). The paper will buckle a bit at this point from all the water and paint. 
  18. Use the extra fine line Sharpie to outline all the clothes, flowers, and grass (add some little grass clumps in the grass area.
  19. Mix up some paint with water in your lid for your different clothes. Keep the colors light by adding quite a bit of water as this will look more natural. (you could also use colored pencils or fine line markers for the clothes)
  20. When the paint is completely dry put some books on top of your paper to flatten.

Clothing Ideas Sheet

Step-by-step photos

There will be a brand new Grandma Moses step-by-step art lesson in my new book! Subscribe below for more details.

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I'm writing a book!

I am excited to announce my latest project!  My daughter and I are working on a big, beautiful, creatively designed book on artist related lessons (similar to the ones on this website but with more details, step by step instructions and photos). The book will be for anyone who wants concise, detailed, well laid out lessons that are ready to teach, in a format that is fun to look at as well.

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