George Rodrigue's Blue Dog Art Lesson

George Rodrigue was born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana.  What a colorful character he must be to produce such wonderful pieces of expressive art! His personal website is filled with his paintings and all the things he cares about, like the George Rodrigue Foundation in which he promotes and supports art education. He is famous for many paintings, but I think the most beloved is his series of Blue Dog paintings. I spent some time in the Santa Barbara Museum bookstore a little while ago. They have the most impressive collection of children’s art books. I picked up Rodrigue’s Are You Blue Dog’s Friend? It’s fantastic in color and concept.

Despite the picture book being meant for much younger children, I couldn’t help but show my fifth graders the beauty of Rodrigue’s artwork and the different ways he incorporated a theme into his paintings. We stopped at the pages of the various dogs painted in bright, expressive colors. I know the kids were imagining what colors they were going to use.

Drawing Blue Dog

The project was really quite simple for fifth grade students. It wasn’t necessary to do a directed line drawing with them as we all read the book, looked at the pictures and then went over various ways in which to draw blue dog. The kids used black oil pastel (they are very used to this medium by now!) and had fun drawing their own blue dog (1). I brought out egg cartons filled with lots and lots of metallic, florescent and regular tempera paints (2) and let the kids go at it! After the painting dried, the kids outlined their artwork with black tempera paint (mixed with a bit of water) and a small brush (3). You could use a black oil pastel but paint imparts a more painterly style.

Believe it or not, this lesson was a one-time deal. It took us 50-minutes to start and finish this project.

What fun they had! I guess kids are never too old to be inspired by picture books. I know I’m not!

15 comments

  1. Laura says:

    Oh Patty, These are FABULOUS! What a fun book to have in the art room. Pinning!

    • Missy says:

      I have been doing Blue Dog lessons with my K students for several years. I like to you his “Why is Blue Dog Blue” book which is all about color (because I use it with my color unit). The students love it and still talk about Blue Dog years later. Thanks for sharing your lessons this is my favorite Art Ed Blog!

  2. Renee Adams says:

    Patty, so excited to see your Blue Dog lesson!!! I just finished a Blue Dog project with my Second Graders! Turned out so well! We drew Blue Dog first. Out lined with a thick sharpie and then painted inside the lines, and cut him
    out. Next, students created a colorful background on heavy watercolor paper using tempera paints. We read “What Makes Blue Dog Blue,” and Are You Blue Dog’s Friend,” for inspiration. I picked up signed copies of his book while visiting his gallery in New Orleans! I also showed lots of pictures from the Internet and we visited the George Rodrigue website. They came up with such amazing ideas! Finally, students used a glue mixture to glue blue dog onto their backgrounds! They look fabulous!

    • Patty says:

      I love making the background separate from the main image. You project sounds amazing, and you’re right. Kid’s LOVE blue dog!!! I would love to visit Rodrigue’s studio. Must have been so fun!

  3. Ali says:

    We just studied George Rodrigue at my school!! The kids loved learning about him and their “blue dog” inspired animals came out amazing!!

  4. The kids love blue dog! I especially like Why is
    Blue Dog Blue? It makes a great color lesson and it gives them a chance to play with the background and dress the dog up. I like to use Mr. Sketch markers and Sharpies because the colors come out so beautiful. You can give them a sentence “What is Blue Dog when I ____________? The fill in all kinds of stuff like, drink a strawberry smoothie, have a cupcake party, etc. I teach in the after-school program and sometimes we get grants to go in the classroom. I went into one classroom and the teacher liked blue dog so much she bought like five of his books and started three or four projects from it. One was blue dog with the American flag (Jasper Johns style), a kind of flat Stanly project, there was a journal, and some others ones I can’t remember. There is something about blue dog that resonates with all kinds of people, kids and adults. It is really quite amazing!

    • Patty says:

      I have to admit, without seeing all the Blue Dog art projects out there, I wouldn’t have known about the artist. Thanks to art teachers, now I know!

  5. Tammy says:

    I LOVE George Rodrigue’s art, especially the Blue Dog series. I did this with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students using the “Why is Blue Dog Blue” book. I had them come up with why Blue was a different color ,and what made him that way. They incorporated that into the background as well. It’s a very fun lesson, and I still have students from previous years tell me it is one of their favorite projects!

  6. [...] Are You Blue Dog’s Friend?  by George Rodrigue.  Look at map to find artist’s hometown New Iberia, LA.  Draw a dog.  Art idea from Deep Space Sparkle. [...]

  7. Jessica says:

    I did this project with my students last week and the results were fantastic! I could tell they really connected with Rodrigue’s artwork and the beautiful work they did proved it! I’ve noticed that when my students really interact with me in learning about the artist, they work so much harder at the project. The hallway display has been praised by many and I know they are so proud of the results, as am I!

    • Patty says:

      I feel that way too, Jessica. I also think it’s empowering when the children finish their art and say, “Wow! I’m as good as a famous artist!”

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  9. Katie says:

    Love this project! Did you have your students go over the black oil pastels in paint afterwards? I was having a hard time seeing what step three was. Thanks for any help!

    • Patty Palmer says:

      Hi Katie,
      I just fixed my post so now the last step is included. Thanks! I type so fast sometimes. I really should edit more! And yes, black paint to outline.
      Have fun with this project and buy the book. It’s fab!

  10. Ann says:

    This looks like such a fun fun project! I’m an art docent parent (read novice in teaching art). We are going to try it with second graders and have approximately 50-55 minutes. I’m a little nervous about using the tempera paints and getting them dry in time to outline again in black. Any tips on this as well as how to best show this young age how to draw the dog? Thanks for your awesome website!!!

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