Dia de los Muertos: Calavera Prints

Block printing is very much like a handmade stamp. You carve a design into the material of your choice and you can use it over and over again. Block printing have been around for centuries. Creatives from throughout art history used carving tools, ink and paint to make beautiful and detailed works of art. There are several ways to introduce block printing in the classroom: foam printing, linocut and woodblock. I recently learned how to carve on a rubber carving block and it was really easy!

I made some fun calavera designs for Dia de los Muertos, in the grand tradition of Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852 – 1913).

What you'll need:
Sketch a skull design on a piece of paper. Once you are comfortable with the design, draw it on the Speedy-Carve block with a black marker. Now you can start the carving process. Remember that you will carve away the negative space of the design, which will essentially be the mirror image on the carving block.

Pro tip: Color in the negative space with the black marker so you'll know what to carve away.

Direct students to carve away from the body when using the carving tools for basic safety. Shallow cuts are all that’s necessary. If the students cut down to the base of the carving block, they’ve cut too far. Once the basic design is in place, be creative! Add more lines and shapes to make your calavera unique and interesting.

Once you're ready to start printing, pour some block printing ink onto the inking plate. Roll out the ink with the brayer tool until it's smooth. Next, apply the ink onto the carving block with the inked brayer. Lay a piece of cardstock on the block and do a test print. Reapply ink with the inked brayer and you're ready for a real print. Press paper down firmly with your hands. Use a clean brayer over the design to make sure the print comes out evenly. Pull your design off of the paper.

Once the prints are dry, students can also add color with markers. This project is better suited for older students because of the carving tools.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

Collage project: Favorite Food Collage

Check out this Favorite Food Collage project on Pearmama.com!

Stella Sculpture Project

Check out this Frank Stella Sculpture on Pearmama.com!

DIY Sugar Skull with Free Printable

Hello, fellow art lovers. It's that time of year again--time to enjoy the dancing calacas, taste the pan de muerto, feast on the beauty of la catrina, smell the copal and listen to the shells shake on the Aztec dancers. Yes, that's right! It's time for Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd.

This year at Modern Art 4 Kids, we have a new sugar skull printable for you to use in your classroom. And guess what?

It's free. Gratis.

That's right--free for you to download and share in your classroom. It has plenty of interesting shapes and lines for your students to color and enjoy. My kids love them and have been spending all of their free time printing them out and coloring them!

Some ideas to try with your cool new sugar skull printable:
  • Make the mask extra colorful by letting your students color it with markers, crayons, color pencils and/or oil pastels.
  • Bling them out and embellish with Crafty Chica chunky glitter, yarn, ribbons and rhinestones.
  • You can fashion a few flowers from colored tissue paper and glue to the top of the sugar skull to make it extra fancy.
  • String your sugar skulls onto a jute string and create your own banner in the classroom.
  • Découpage your sugar skull onto a pumpkin using Collage Pauge (we like Sparkle!) to decorate your space.
  • Cut out your mask, glue it on to a piece of colored construction paper and cut it out again. Heat glue to a popsicle stick and you’re ready to celebrate!

Click here for your free sugar skull printable.

As always, you are free to use my artwork in the classroom and for collective projects at your school but PLEASE do not use my artwork for resale. If I see my sugar skull on a print at Ikea I'm so totally coming after you. Heh. Thank you!

The sugar skull masks above were created by my daughters, a first grader and a third grader.

This sugar skull printable was originally posted at Mamiverse. com.

Happy 150th birthday, Gustav Klimt

I love, love, love when Google pays homage to artists on their home page. Gustav Klimt's 150th birthday is no different.

Klimt has long been one of my favorite artists. Check out some Klimt-inspired projects that we've done in the past here and here. And here.

Happy birthday, Mr. Klimt. Thank you for blessing the world with your beautiful gift.

MoMA's new Art Lab iPad App

I'm always out to discover new ways to entertain my kids during the summer months. Now that we don't have sports, music lessons and homestudy work to complete day in and day out and I don't feel the insatiable to need to pull all of my hair out, we have the freedom to work on art projects that can take over the entire school room. And kitchen. And driveway. Yes, this happens. When you have six kids, any sort of project tends to take over your house.

But honestly, I'm down for anything that keeps them entertained and not lounging in front of the TV, watching Nickelodeon or the Disney channel.

Alas, sometimes you don't want to make a big mess in your house but you still want their young minds to be engaged in some sort of activity. This is where your computer/iPad comes in. I just heard about this really cool app from the Museum of Modern Art, called: MoMA's Art Lab iPad App for kids ages seven and up.

A few features:
  • Create and save your own artwork
  • Play with shapes, lines, and colors
  • Create a sound composition
  • Draw with scissors
  • Collaborate on a group drawing
  • Create a shape poem
  • Make a chance collage
  • Creative prompts for extra inspiration
  • Audio for pre-readers
  • Learn about works of art at MoMA. Artists include Henri Matisse, Elizabeth Murray, Jean (Hans) Arp, Jim Lambie, Brice Marden, and others.
  • Share your artwork with others 
I'm the first one who says, create something with your hands! But we can't deny that our children have become accustomed this type of interface for pretty much everything. And if your kids are anything like mine, then they are constantly asking if they can play with your phone/computer/iPad!

Looks like a lot of fun, if I do say so myself! You find find this app for $4.99 at the App store. Have you tried this app yet?

Our Pumpkin Book Project: Dogzilla

During the last two weeks of October, my son's third grade class was assigned The Pumpkin Book Project, which is project that transforms a pumpkin into a literary character from the Clutter-Free Classroom. At first, I was slightly annoyed that we had to use the pumpkin theme. I mean, I understand it's October and all but why not just be creative and work from the original book? But, my son was into the idea of working with a pumpkin so I thought, ok, this is his project and not mine. Let's see what we can do.  In the end, I really liked it and our project turned out really cool. My son was so happy with it!

When both your mom and Dad are artists, projects like these can take a life of their own. I say, oh oh ooooh we can do this! and then my husband chimes in and says, yeah yeah yeeeeeah and we can do this, too! And before you know it, we are really into it and our child is fast asleep on the sofa.


In all seriousness, they do help with their own project. I usually let them brainstorm and take part in the planning, they paint backgrounds, help cut out shapes and they are handy with the glue. So I can't totally claim this entire project. Ahem.

Cyan decided that Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey would be his literary character. We love Dog Breath and Dragon Gets By, and Dogzilla is no different! Pilkey's books are age appropriate, funny and really creative. His book choice was a no-brainer for us.

We decided right away that we didn't want to use a foam pumpkin. My idea was for a relief sculpture in cardboard, with each piece mounted on top of each other so it had a 3-D effect much like our Frank Stella project. Luckily, all we had to do was go into the studio and pull elements from past projects that we could recycle. We used a large piece of cardboard (about three feet high and two feet wide) that once served as our display boards for open house, pieces of felt, acrylic paint, paper and a hot glue gun.

We wanted to feature the part of the book when Dogzilla comes out from the cityscape because he lured by the tasty bbq smell that the mice are preparing. My son decided that Dogzilla wasn't being bad, terrorizing the mice. He was just being a dog. The green plume is his toxic dog breath wafting in the breeze. The background is painted, so are the buildings, the pumpkin and the green breath. Everything else is felt (LOVED the wagging pink tongue!) and cut out letters. My only regret is that we should have completely covered the pumpkin shape in grey felt. Then I think it would've looked more like Dogzilla. Also, I think a few mice scattered about would have been really cute!

The cover of the book. We didn't want to use the cover idea, that would be too easy!

That white stuff behind Dogzilla is a plume of smoke. We achieved this by pulling apart a piece of white felt.
How do you think we did?

Día de los Muertos Calavera Collage

Dia de los Muertos season is here.

With so many Day of the Dead festivities happening, I thought I would create a collage that incorporates two things I love: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and Dia de los Muertos. If you don't know what a collage is, it is simply a cut paper assemblage. What I love about collage is, you can do anything with some colored paper and scissors. No wonder Henri Matisse called it painting with scissors!

I have bins and bins filled with multi-colored cardstock, paper and tissue paper. Most of it is scraps from other collages I've done. I just hate to throw anything away. But really, any cut paper that is left over is perfect to be used again in another collage.

I decided to try this collage with my 11-year-old  son. It started out as a couple of skeletons, or calaveras, but somewhere down the line it changed to Frida Kahlo (my muse) and her beloved Diego Rivera. Frida is easily recognizable in almost any art medium but Diego was a bit more of a challenge since his most recognizable trait, his large body, can't really be duplicated on a skeleton!

What you need:

A pack cardstocks in several different sizes and colors will work best for this project. I bought a large set from Dick Blick and it came with round shapes, foils and patterned paper. Larger pieces will be needed for the background. A piece of poster board works because it is sturdier than paper.

Be sure to use a glue stick. Anything else will cause a huge mess because liquid glue takes forever to dry. More experienced students can use rubber cement, but make sure you have proper ventilation. That stuff stinks! If you have older students, consider using tweezers to help shape the smaller details. My son was frustrated by some of the small cut pieces of paper sticking to his fingers, which got lots of glue stuck on them.

When working on a collage, start with your large, basic pieces as your foundation and build as you go. Have your students lightly trace their skeleton shape with a pencil before cutting it out. If they feel comfortable tracing all of their pieces out, have them do that. All the little details of this collage can be added accordingly. Be creative!

I helped my son with the finer details of this collage, such as Frida's hair, dress and jewelry. You can also use a black marker to add a few accents, such as sugar skulls designs on the face.

If you give your students consistent guidance while they are working, their finished projects will turn out amazing! I say "consistent guidance" because there are always students who want to rush through the project. Or there are those who "don't know what to do".  If you take your students through the steps of laying down their foundation shape, then they are more likely willing to continue working on building their skeletons. Sometimes, a blank piece of paper is just too daunting.

Hope you have a blast creating this Día de los Muertos collage. We certainly did!

The artwork above was created by my eleven year old son (with a little help from mom).

Free Día de los Muertos Printable

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!


The day has finally come. Today, we will be painting our skeleton faces, complete with decorative flowers and swirl designs, putting flowers in our hair and we'll be heading downtown to our local Day of the Dead celebration.

What about you? Do you have anything exciting and/or creative planned for you and your students?

In honor of Day of the Dead, I thought I'd share a very cool sugar skull printable for my readers to download for free! Yep, that's right, it is one of the coloring pages that I'm offering in my Dia de los Muertos Lesson Plan with Printables. And it's all yours to use in the classroom. Free. Gratis. For a limited time, folks!

Some fun things to do with this template:
  • You can color the sugar skulls and embellish them with glitter, puffy paint, marker, crayon or oil pastels, whatever you'd like.
  • Maybe you can add some bling to your sugar skull and glue rhinestones onto it.
  • Or you can fashion a few flowers from colored tissue paper and glue to the top of the sugar skull. Oh, you fancy huh?
  • Cut out your mask and glue to a popsicle stick.
  • String your sugar skulls onto a jute string and create your own banner!
  • Mod Podge onto a pumpkin to decorate your home.

Please don't use my free printable for resale because that would totally suck.



Also, follow our Modern Art 4 Kids board on Pinterest.

Day of the Dead in the classroom

I did one of my first Day of the Dead art workshops of the season last week. It was so much fun! Sometimes I forget how amazing it is to teach art to children.

Some of you may be thinking, really? Are you trying to pull my leg?

No, I'm being totally serious.

There is something about creating art and working with children who have uninhibited creativity. They are very free, unafraid to take risks--they really lose themselves in their art! All that energy is contagious.

Sadly, adults aren't like that at first. It really takes a while for people to let go of themselves.

Anyhow, I was reminded of this fact this week. I taught a simple Day of the Dead art lesson to a group of awesome third graders, one of which was my son Cyan. I shared a brief history on how they celebrate this day in Mexico, we read a really cool children's book about the subject (which really made me have a thought--more on this later) and then we got to work creating our own sugar skulls with oil pastels. My son's amazing teacher even let us listen to the Lila Downs Pandora station, so we could really get the whole Dia de los Muertos vibe going.

The kids drew, colored, were very inquisitive and I got the chance to road test my Day of the Dead Activity pages that I posted about a couple weeks ago. They loved all of the cool shapes. The punk rocker was a fave, so was the large sugar skull. As a thank you, the teacher gave me some really pretty jade-ite skull earrings. So sweet.

Each one was so unique!

Love the bright blue around the eyes.

Markers on the Sugar Skull template looked like so much fun, I wanted to join in!

The punk rocker was in high demand.

Working hard at creating art.

The school girl calavera coloring sheet.
The teacher hung all of our creations on the classroom wall and it looked amazing!

Everyone used the same template yet they all came out very distinct and colorful.

Still wondering what to do with your students on Day of the Dead? Grab your Day of the Dead Activity book or come back on November 2nd when I'll have a really cool Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera calavera collage for you to share with your classroom!

Day of the Dead Lesson Plan with Printables

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is quickly approaching on November 2nd.

Of course, as a Mexican folk artist and teacher, this is my favorite time of the year! I love everything about it--the cool night air that Fall brings, the smell of copal (incense) burning,  the sweet sound of rattling shells on the ankles of the Aztec dancers and the colorful sights of the altars, the sugar skulls, the face painting....and of course, the artwork.

My friends and family are so excited about this day because I usually have an art activity planned for them, in addition to the other activities of the night. There are so many interesting and exciting aspects about this day, culturally and artistically -- it's so much more than "Mexican Halloween".  It's a holiday steeped in tradition and every year its influence spans wider and wider.

In response to the demand, I've decided to create an activity plan to share Day of the Dead on the interwebz. It is perfect for the classroom--whether it be a traditional public school classroom, the charter school hybrid,  private school or a group of homeschoolers. It's suitable for all ages, and it's supported by twelve quality links for you to explore.

What makes this activity plan different from others you've seen is that I've created six custom coloring pages for teachers to share with their classroom. That's right, I've infused my own Day of the Dead style of art into these coloring sheets and they can be used in a variety of ways and incorporated into several art lessons for your students.

When you order this 10-page activity plan, you'll receive:
  • Summary of the origins of Day of the Dead
  • Vocabulary words
  • Six unique black and white calavera coloring sheets that you are free to reproduce as many times as you wish*
  • You can choose from a Frida Kahlo calavera, a dancing couple, a punk rocker, skulls with roses, a school girl and a large sugar skull (which you can use as a template to create a mask).
  • In addition to several other ideas for you to celebrate this holiday with your students, there are 16 interesting and educational links for you to explore.
I can't wait for you check out my coloring pages! My own children have been coloring them with markers for days now and they are really enjoying all of the organic designs, especially the punk rocker and the Frida Kahlo calavera.

    Modern Art 4 Kids will email a printable pdf file for a Day of the Dead 10-page activity plan for just $25. Click the “Buy Now” button below to access PayPal for same day delivery to your inbox.

      *All images on the activity pages are meant solely for personal use and use in the classroom. Do not reproduce for sale in any form.

      3-D Papier Mache Sculptures

      Hello, fellow lovers of modern art. Long time no see.

      Where have you been?  
      Me? Where have I been?


      I've been around, brewing up some crazy art projects. Hopefully, I'll get to share them with you soon! A while ago, I posted this really cool Claes Oldenburg project we did creating papier mache sculptures of letters in the alphabet. Here are a few of the images from the project.

      My far, this was the most time consuming aspect of this project. Constructing the letters out of cardboard, styrofoam cups, paper and tape. Making sure everyone's letter was just so. It was fun but you need several hands for this if your students are in the younger grade bracket.

      The start of the papier mache process. It usually starts off so nice and civilized.

      My husband and son, trying to show the students the proper way to apply their papier mache strips onto their sculpted letters so they don't end up with a starchy mess.
      I love the fact that every time I introduce a new project, I hold my breath for any glitches. I've had plenty of moments where the tape didn't stick right, a print didn't even come out, or the you could barely see the paint or the students finished their piece in under fifteen minutes. LOL Even though I make samples and try techniques out at home, stuff happens.  In this case, I was really hoping the cardboard base would stand up to the papier mache liquid, especially with the students and their overzealous papier mache techniques, slopping it on and whatnot.
      A little soggy, but nothing a few hours in the sun couldn't dry out.
      All of the letters turned out so cool!
      Some could even used as weapons. :)
      Once they were dry, I thought it would be easier if I took them all home and painted a coat of primer on them myself. Until it was almost midnight and my hands were covered with white primer and I still had a huge pile to finish. Why do I always get myself into this mess? Story of my life!

      So creative and so fun! And the hard work is always worth it in the end.
      If you want a step-by-step instructions on how to complete this project, you can check out my Pablo Picasso papier mache project for papier mache basics. This project was adapted from the 3-D Papier Mache Letter project from Art Projects For Kids.
      @Modern Art 4 Kids 2016. Powered by Blogger.