Paul Klee Art Lesson

Paul Klee has quickly become one of my favorite artists to showcase in my art room. Purchasing The Cat and the Bird by Geraldine Elschner and Peggy Nille is a big reason for this excitement. It’s so much easier holding up an exquisitely illustrated picture book than coming up with my own powerpoint or dry explanation of an artist. Although the story is best for children ages 5-8 (and is the most perfect companion book to Klee’s Cat and Bird painting),I emphasized the warm and cool castle drawings in the book for my fifth grade students (10-11 years).

After thumbing through the illustrations (I didn’t read the story to this age group), I brought out some of Klee’s works and spoke about warm and cool colors. I passed out watercolor paints, scraps of watercolor paper and a waterproof marker. The students practiced drawing quick rectangular shapes and then painted warm or cool colors into those shapes. It’s tricky painting small areas and it takes a lot of practice to do well. I don’t often do a watercolor lesson with a pen drawing as it’s very hard to contain the watercolors. That’s why I use oil pastel in most lessons. It’s way easier for children to be “successful”.

After the practice session, the children were given a 9 x 12 sheet of 90 lb watercolor paper and a thin-tip waterproof black pen. Starting from the bottom of the paper, they drew tall structures topped with triangle roofs. I used cardboard templates to assist with drawing the rectangular shapes. I prefer templates to rulers as I don’t want the children measuring and getting to caught up in making things perfect. Once the structures were in place, the children drew a moon or sun freehand.

Using trays of watercolor paint, the children painted their structures with cool colors. Was this easy? No. My students still have a really hard time distinguishing warm and cool colors or at least they find it hard to stick with a color group. I don’t blame them. It takes discipline. I don’t see a problem with allowing the children to use their own color choices unless you needed to grade a child’s ability to distinguish between warm and cool colors.

It is important to note that after the watercolor application, I had hoped to be finished with this project but as the children were handing me back their “finished” artwork, I knew that the project needed one more step….

Although the students followed my project instructions, I sensed that they really didn’t enjoy this project or that they didn’t particularly like the outcome of their efforts. To remedy this, I decided that a stronger outline and a few patterns inside the structures would make the project more appealing. I set trays of Crayola Metallic crayons and thick waterproof Sharpie markers on each table and demonstrated how to trace over the marker lines and add interesting details with the crayons. After the children completed this last step, the project went from ho-hum to wow! I could see how this extra step made the art process fun for this group of kids.

Didn’t they do an amazing job?

Total class time: 2 1/2 50-minute classes.

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14 comments

  1. Brenna says:

    Gorgeous! Can’t wait to try this with my 5th graders!

  2. Megan says:

    What a great lesson-the results are stunning! Per your suggestion I purchased this book and was not disappointed! So many great illustrations to spring new ideas for projects! Cat and Bird is one of my favorites and last year when I showed the painting and taught the lesson to Kindergartners, I also read Lois Ehlert’s book, Feathers for Lunch. It goes perfectly with the painting!

  3. Rina says:

    Beautiful project. I love the metallic crayons. I have not tried those yet.

    It is interesting to see how you use art books aimed at younger children with older children. I have quite a few, but haven’t used them because I thought the older kids would be bored.

    I do have a document camera in the art room, which will help show those awesome (but tiny) illustrations to a large class.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Ashley says:

    I LOVE your site and use it for inspiration on a weekly basis! THANK YOU for sharing all of your amazing ideas!
    Question: What computer software program do you use to create your colorful lessons?

    • Patty says:

      Hi Ashley,
      Thanks! I use Photoshop for photo-editing and graphics. Sometimes I use iPiccy which is very user friendly and free! For my ebooks, I use Photoshop, Pages and Word.

  5. Jessica Saxton says:

    Hello! I love all of your project ideasI I teach art at a kindergarten enrichment school and I would like to do this Paul Klee project with them. How can I adapt this to suit the kinders? Each of our art lessons need to be started and finished in one block of time, usually one hour but can be stretched out over the morning. I recently found the book, “The Cat and the Bird” to be used with this lesson. Thank you!
    Jessica

  6. [...] Space Sparkle Art Lessons for Kids at http://www.deepspacesparkle.com/2012/09/26/paul-klee-art-lesson/ has a wonderful Paul Klee art lesson featuring The Cat and the Bird. Kids make gorgeous [...]

  7. Vera Lynn says:

    We also made mobiles of Paul Klee’s cat and bird, drawing a colouring a cat and bird horizontally on construction paper, glue streamers on the inside bottom, add feathers to the streamers, roll up and tape/glue and add a string at the top to hang the mobile. They were so colourful and the children loved them.

  8. [...] about The Cat and the Bird on a fantastic blog called Deep  Space Sparkle, art lessons for kids. Visit her blog and see how she used the picture book to teach warm and cool [...]

  9. Penny Duncan says:

    Wonderful projects! Love all the organize ideas.
    Replying later I am spending time with my first grandchild. Adalynn is 8months old and I have forgotten how much time babies takes.

  10. faye says:

    how can I subscribe to your site? I’m in love with it and can’t wait to try out some of your lessons with my new first graders this year!

    • Patty Palmer says:

      Hi Faye,
      For twice-monthly updates, sign up for the newsletter (click on box in bottom left of home page) and to get all posts in your favorite reader or inbox, click via the RSS feed (icon in lower left hand corner of home page).

  11. [...] Paul Klee Buildings in pen and watercolors for upper grades, Paul Klee’s Cat and Bird in chalk and oil pastel for younger [...]

  12. Birds says:

    [...] Deep Space Sparkle Art Lessons for Kids has a wonderful Paul Klee art lesson featuring The Cat and the Bird. Kids make gorgeous multicolored castles. [...]

  13. Annie Rod says:

    Hi there, I love this art! I developed a lesson plan, rubric and student communication piece. I have posted it on teachers pay teachers, but then remembered that this was not MY original idea. Please let me know if you would like a copy of the assignment or would like me to take it off of teachers pay teachers-thx

    • Patty Palmer says:

      I would love to see a copy. Of course, if you used my photos and text in any way, that would be a violation of my copyright, but it sounds as though you did your own version with your own explanations and resources. Thanks for reaching out.

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