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Old Bear: Leaf Print and Bear Painting

While looking through the library one afternoon, I stumbled across Kevin Henkes’s picture book, Old Bear. The illustrations inspired me to create a combination bear painting and leaf print art lesson for my fourth graders.

We used one 50-minute period to draw and paint the bear and another period to print the leaves. This lesson was a huge hit with the kids.

Inspired by the book Old Bear by Kevin Henkes, kids create a background of leaf prints and then add their painted bear. Great Fall or winter art and craft project for kids.What you’ll need for the bear:

  • Old Bear Board Book
  • 12″ x 18″ white sulphite paper
  • Brown and black tempera paint
  • Black oil pastel
  • Scissors/glue

Inspired by the book Old Bear by Kevin Henkes, kids create a background of leaf prints and then add their painted bear. Great Fall or winter art and craft project for kids.

I don’t have any easy way to tell you how to teach children how to draw a bear. I demonstrated two ways: the contour method (drawing the outside line first and then filling in the details) and the shape method (using shapes to identify different parts of the bear). Ultimately, I let the kids chose which method they preferred and gave them some photocopies of the book pages for inspirations.

Using a black oil pastel, the kids went at it, crossing out the lines they didn’t like and moving on with the ones they did. Most kids found it helpful to start with the nose, then put in the eyes and then draw the head around that.

Painting the bear is super easy. Pour some brown liquid tempera paint into a small tub and place a few brushes inside the tub. Instruct the kids to paint a thick layer (this helps with covering mistake lines) over the bear.

With a small brush and black paint, make small fur brush strokes close to the oil pastel line of the bear. It’s really helpful to look at the illustrations from the book.

After the paint dries, cut around the bear, leaving a small amount of white paper showing.
Inspired by the book Old Bear by Kevin Henkes, kids create a background of leaf prints and then add their painted bear. Great Fall or winter art and craft project for kids.

To make the leaf background, you’ll need:

  • 12″ x 18″ Black paper
  • Fresh leaves snipped from trees
  • White, orange, gold and bronze tempera paint
  • Smooth, flat brushes
  • Scratch paper

I place a variety of leaves found around the school yard on each table. Start by painting the underbelly (the vein side) of the leaf with white paint. Then, place the leaf, paint side down onto the sheet of black paper. Place a piece of scratch paper over the leaf and rub gently. Sometimes it’s helpful to press down as well. Carefully peel away the scratch paper and leaf to reveal the white painted leaf print.

It’s okay to use the same leaf more than once. Now that the leaf has a white base coat, paint some color on top of the white paint and press onto the black paper. The creaminess of the white combined with an orange works really well on the black paper. Just using orange for instance, doesn’t produce as pleasing of a result. Continue to make leaf prints on the entire paper especially around the edges.

Its fun to use the back end of a brush dipped in white paint to create snowflakes. Some children painted snow and others, stems for their leaves.

Glue the bear onto the leaf printed paper and enjoy! I love this art…so beautiful. My fourth graders were very impressed with themselves!

Fantastic Fourth Grade Bears…

Inspired by the book Old Bear by Kevin Henkes, kids create a background of leaf prints and then add their painted bear. Great Fall or winter art and craft project for kids.

What do you think?

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  • stacey

    This is so adorable! You have a knack for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary! Thank you for your blog…I LOVE it!

  • Jessica

    This is wonderful. The kids all did such a nice job drawing and painting their bears. I love how each bear has a unique personality. And the combination of the bears and the leaf print is fantastic. No wonder they were impressed with themselves!

  • Kathy

    Your 4th graders did such a fabulous job on your new lesson with the leaf prints and bear painting. Thank you for posting all the details. I am anxious to try this lesson very soon with my eager bunch in gr 4. I know it will be a hit!

  • Confessions of a Homeschooler

    Just found your blog, these ideas are great, thanks so much for sharing!

  • Patty P

    Thanks everyone! As far as lessons goes, this was one of my favorites. You can easily change it as well: paint colors for leaves, a fox instead of a bear, etc.
    I need to set up some sort of share file…maybe flicker…where we can all share our interpretations of the same lessons.

  • spadazzle

    Wow! I like how these turned out! They look great. I like how the bear was cut out and then placed on the background paper.

  • Tisha Smith

    Super-duper Love these bears! Great lesson.

  • Mary

    They are FANTASTIC! I love it and plan to do this project as well.

  • Janine Lapertosa

    Hello Patty,
    I just want to let you know how cute this project is. I did this as my first elementary project with the 1st graders, and they loved it!!! I did change it up a bit with the leaves. I had them paint red, yellow, and green on the leaves and then print them. They LOVED it, and that is what counts most!! Thank you

  • Chrissy

    Adorable, and great use of drawing, painting, cutting, and printmaking! I just did a project with leaves with 4th graders last week so this project will be perfect to do this week with our left overs! I think I’ll give them the choice of drawing a bear or fox. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Meera

    This is just so wonderful!!

  • Ellen Dumas

    I’m definitely going to try this with my Primary classes at the art gallery. Fall leaves are the greatest! Thanks for another wonderful idea. I appreciate all that goes into your site. Lucky students!

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