The Laughing Zebra


Montana Mona Lisa

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This Mona Lisa painting project is one I have done several times and it really helps my Montana students relate to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting. It is also a good mixed media project. You could change it up by relating it to your state or area.

How To:

  1. First I have the students paint about a 2 1/2″ border on their cardboard with the brown paint using a large brush and then using a small round brush paint in some lines and knot holes.
  2. While that is drying they work on coloring in the Mona Lisa (lightly) with the colored pencils. They can choose the hair and eye colors and her blouse color.
  3. Then using pattern pieces that I made in advance using poster board scraps they trace out a hat, cloak (from the scrapbook paper) and rectangular background piece (from the magazines). I used a map of Montana in my sample, but any large picture without a bunch of writing would work. (for example: a scenery picture, a herd of cows, a man on a horseback, close-up of a saddle or cowboy boots,etc.)
  4. Then they cut and assemble all the pieces.
  5. Next they find letters or words (mine came from the magazines or scrapbook papers) for the “Montana”, and letters (the ones in the sample came from a bag of random letters I got from Michaels) to spell out “Mona”, and lay them out on the frame.
  6. Now they are ready to Mod Podge all the pieces onto the framed board, being careful to center everything.
  7. Once they are done getting all the papers glued down, they do a final coat of Mod Podge over the whole piece.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions and please refer people back to this site if you use this lesson! 🙂

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.

Book Info

I love this print of Jim Dine’s titled The Handkerchief. I have done several Jim Dine projects over the years, but have never come across this particular print. I decided to experiment with some different art materials to see if I could create a lesson with a similar look and feel.

I have tried this with a preschool class and with K-6th grade students at one of the schools I teach at with great success!

*See my step by step instructions, supply list, and more photos in my upcoming book (click here for more information).

Please refer people back to this site if you use this lesson! 🙂

Jim Dine's The Handkerchief

Fun and easy Charles Demuth art project! I did this with a bunch of different ages and they all turned out great.

I’ve been buried in art classes and prep work and haven’t had time to sit and blog a lesson lately. This is one I did two weeks ago at one of the schools I work at. I have been captivated by this print by Charles Demuth for a long time, because I love the use of numbers and text in art. There are many lessons you could do based on this print — I came up with this one because I had just finished another project using black paper and cool colors and it turned out great (It was a portrait of Medusa). So, I thought why not the number 5? 

I did this project with grades K-5. For the Kindergartners I drew the number 5 on the poster board before class using the white pencil. The kids used a plastic cup to trace on 5 circles anywhere they wanted, and a ruler to draw 5 lines. For the older kids I let them do their own number 5.  Prior to the start of class I had mixed up some blues and greens with white (to make them more opaque and bright on the black background). The kids used these colors to fill in all the spaces they had made on their posters, being careful not to put the same color next to itself. This was not as easy as it sounds. They were challenged as they got farther along in their painting. For the Kindergartners I used some black paint to outline to re-discover their shapes and their number 5.

For the older kids we outlined with black chalk pastels and then went over it with a finger to smudge and add some shading in certain areas.

Please refer people back to this site if you use this lesson! 🙂


1/2 black 22in x 28in black posterboard


White colored pencil

Acrylic paint in cool colors, plus white

Cup (to trace for the circle shape)


I found this lesson on when searching around for something besides a heart project to do for Jim Dine. It is a great lesson that kids of all ages seem to love. The charcoal shading is a touch of magic as well as the puddles of color.

Have students trace around the brush they are sharing with the student sitting next to them and free hand in the details (then the other student will do the same).

Continue moving the brushes around the tables until each student has traced 5 different paint brushes (they can lay them out however they want but I would suggest the 2nd grade do them all one direction and no overlapping). After they trace the outside they will free hand in the details (caution them to do this slowly and carefully and to really observe the details on the brushes).

As the students are waiting for a new brush to get to them they can begin carefully going over the brush drawings they already have with Sharpie, being careful to erase lines where the brushes overlap before they Sharpie. Complete with all 5 brushes, then have students erase pencil lines.

Talk to them about the charcoal vines and carefully demonstrate how to hold them and to press gently with them (they are very fragile and will break easily).

Using the charcoal have them slowly draw a thick line touching the right side of each brush, making sure to not draw over the top of a brush. Move around  the computer paper to act as a shield for their fingers as they are doing the charcoal part.

Then have them gently smudge the charcoal pulling the charcoal away from the brush. Have them wipe their fingers often on a paper towel so as not to get charcoal fingerprints all over their paper.

Distribute the liquid watercolors and have them put one color on each brush tip, being careful to keep the paint on the brush bristles only. They should use the watercolor undiluted and put a “puddle” down then add some water if need to spread it. This is done by plopping the paint and patting the brush to the paper to make it look like a blob of paint. They should not “paint” the color on or they will not get the rounded edges of the paint puddle.

After they paint a color on a brush bristle, they will take that same color and add some water to their brush and paint some smaller puddles of paint in 3 or 4 places on their papers.

Repeat this process with all 5 colors.

Then with water on their brush they will add a little paint and very gently tap their brush over the picture to create dots. 2 or 3 taps for each color (make sure they don’t overdue this or there will be a mess).

When paint is completely dry quickly spray a light coating of workable fixative to “set” the charcoal.

*New Jim Dine step by step lessons, supply lists, and  photos in my upcoming book (click here for more information).

Please refer people back to this site if you use this lesson! 🙂