Vortex Swirls- Pastel

Another art idea inspired by the internet! I completed this art activity with a Year 2-8 group, and displayed the finished product near the entrance to our school admin area.


Oil Pastels
A3 Cartridge Paper

Begin by using a pencil to rule the sections. You need around 10-15 sections- too many and it is difficult to colour effectively, and too few and the vortex effect is not realised.

Add curved lines to each section. Within a section, the curves should all be in the same direction, touching the beginning of the curves in the following section. Curved lines should alternate direction from one section to the next.

Next, plan out your colour scheme- we found it helped to put a dot of colour in the appropriate segment so we wouldn’t get muddled up. Using pastels, shade darker on the straight edges on the segments and lighter in the middle to give a rounded effect. Finally, go over the pencil lines with black pastel to add a bold graphic style.

Add in a photo- we had fun taking lots of silly jumping photos pretending to be sucked into a vortex. We used black and white photos to contrast the bright background, but colour would look good too. I suggest using hot glue to attach the photo- we used a glue stick and it just didn’t stick very well to the oil pastel.


Ngā Ika o Matariki- Fish of Matariki

Each year our school is invited to create a piece of art for the local museum’s Matariki Exhibition. This year we were given the theme ‘snapper’ or ‘tāmure’, and we wanted to create art that showcased the colour-changing nature of a snapper’s scales. This activity would work well with the Part 1, Number 3, 1992 School Journal story “The Star Fishes”, which gives an explanation for how the stars of Matariki came to be in the sky.

Baking Tray
Shaving Foam
Food Colouring
Toothpicks/iceblock sticks
Rulers/protractors (to spread foam)
Scrap card
A4 Watercolour paper (wet strength)
Sharpies/black ink pens
Glitter pens/paint


First, apply shaving foam to the old baking tray. Use a protractor/ruler/anything you have handy to spread the foam out into an even layer that is roughly A4 sized. Next, dot on some food colouring as desired.

Next, use toothpicks/ice block sticks to drag marbling patterns into the foam. You might also want to use your foam spreading tools to help you create designs. When you are happy with the pattern, gently press a piece of watercolour paper into the foam and wait 30 seconds. After lifting the paper out, use a piece of scrap card to scrape off any foam that is on the page before allowing the paper to dry.

The next step is to begin drawing your fish. We looked closely at photographs of snapper and practised drawing on scrap paper before beginning our good copies. Pencil the outline of your design onto the marbled paper before outlining with a sharpie. Next, add the finer details- such as spots, scales and lines. We filled some areas of our snapper with zentangle-style designs to add interest. Finally, use glitter paints and pens as well as foiled paper to add tiny details to your creation!

Our tāmure are displayed on a large board with stick-on crystals for air bubbles, but they would look amazing swimming along a classroom wall!


Anzac Silhouettes

Another idea that has been popular on Education Facebook Pages- Anzac Day Silhouettes. This approach could be used for other topics, not just Anzac Day, but it does create a very poignant and effective tribute to those who served our country.

A4 Cartridge Paper
A4 Black Paper
Water colour paints

Before beginning, explain to students what a silhouette is and have them draw a plan in their workbooks. We completed this artwork as part of an Anzac unit, so they had lots of ideas.

Use water colour paints to create a gradient effect that resembles the dawn sky. While drying, draw and cut out the desired silhouette. When the paint is dry, carefully glue on the silhouette and you are done! We backed our artwork onto black card to make it stand out on the wall.


Coloured Vases- Upcyling Craft

An art attack challenge we completed was to make a vase out of an old plastic bottle. Here’s how we did it!

Plastic bottle (clean, with label removed)
PVA Glue
Clear coat


  1. Cut the top off the bottle off, using a craft knife/scissors.
  2. Choose a colour theme. Begin tearing magazine pieces that match your colour scheme, and gluing them coloured side down onto the bottle. Use a 1:1 mix of PVA and water to adhere the pieces. The first layer is placed coloured side down to give the inside of the vase an even/cohesive colouring. Allow this layer to dry.

  3. Cover the bottle with strips of newsprint, covering the entire surface. Again, allow this to dry.

  4. Next is another layer of colour- this time facing outwards. I tried to use darker shades of pink towards the bottom, fading into lighter shades near the top.

  5. Next, sponge on paint in the colour you chose. This should be a light layer that blends the colours of magazine bits together, not a thick layer that covers them up. Finally, apply a clear coat to protect it. You can use PVA for this as well. Allow the vase to dry completely before using it.2016-09-08 09.30.04

Portrait Manipulation- Inspired by Andy Warhol

After we completed our Tom Fedro inspired portraits, the students were really interested in the pop art style. This lead us to our next art activity- digital photo manipulation in the style of Andy Warhol!

We began by looking at some of Warhol’s famous work- such as the iconic Campbell’s Soup or Marilyn Monroe pieces. After observing the way in which colour had been manipulated in each image, the students used Pixlr Editor (on their Chromebooks) to manipulate their own image and create a quad of digitally altered photographs. Pixlr is very similar to other manipulation programmes such as GIMP or Photoshop. I really wanted the students to experiment and come up with their own creations, so after a brief crash course in using the Adjustment and Filter tabs I left them to it. Their favourite four images were collated in a Google Doc before being printed. They are now displayed on primary-coloured card alongside our Tom Fedro-style self portraits!

Self Portraits in the style of Tom Fedro

This is an art activity that we completed at the start of the year- I took inspiration from a post I had seen on the “NZ Teacher Primary” Facebook page. Students learnt about blending colours, different art styles, and a little about the artists Tom Fedro and Andy Warhol.

A3 Cartridge paper
Photos of students
Scrap paper (for planning)
Coloured Pencils

Before beginning the art, we explored what self portraits are and looked at a few famous examples (Van Gogh, Picasso, Frieda Kahlo).  Subsequently I introduced the artist Tom Fedro, and explained that he uses a fusion of cubism and pop art styles in his work. After the students had researched these art styles and examined many pieces of Tom Fedro’s work, they used pencil to plan their self portraits (using their photos as a guide). Attention was paid to the way that Fedro uses lines and shapes, and drawing on features that are unique to that student. Once their outline was complete, students used coloured pencils to experiment with and plan colour choice, blending/gradients and contrast.

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Once the planning was complete, students pencilled their new designs onto the A3 paper and filled with pastel. the finishing touch was go back over the lines with black pastel to add emphasise the pop art/cubism style.


We are very proud of how our artwork turned out, and the interest in pop art lead us to another art project- check it out in the next post!


Maui and the Sun- Art

This artwork was completed with a Year 1 & 2 class as part of a Māori Myths and Legends unit. We read “How Maui Slowed the Sun” by Peter Gossage and did some drama activities before beginning this project.

You Will Need
Black A4 Paper
A4 Cartridge Paper
Hot glue/PVA


Before beginning our ‘good copy’, we looked closely at the images in Peter Gossage’s book and practised drawing the details on mini whiteboards. I took the time to draw the students attention to various details in the image, and we practised drawing koru shapes. When we started our artwork proper, each step was modelled on the whiteboard as a reminder.

  1. On A4 cartridge paper, students use pencil to draw a circle and surround it with flames (the ‘sun’s hair’). Next we added in the big features- mouth, eyes, nose- before beginning to draw in the details.
  2. Discuss/demonstrate/practise the ways in which pastels can be blended together to make a more interesting effect (and fill in any white gaps that might be peaking through).
  3. Begin pastel work. Encourage use of blending techniques as practised.
  4. Cut out sun and glue to black paper.
  5. Cut lengths of string (approximately 30cm) and give bundles of 8-12 to each student. Knot/plait the string to make the ropes that caught the sun. The majority of my students knotted the string rather than plaiting as they found that easier.
  6. Rub brown or green pastel over the ropes to make them look more like harakeke/flax. We used our fingers to rub the pastel into the ropes to make it look aged.
  7. The students positioned their ropes over the sun as desired, and I used hot glue to attach them. We were really happy with the finished pieces and they look great displayed on the classroom wall!

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