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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Matariki Whetu- Stars For Matariki

With Matariki just around the corner again, my year 5-8 class has started learning more about the Māori New Year. This year we decided to make mixed media stars (whetū) as part of our learning.  Inspiration came from this image– and this one. Here’s how we did it!

You Will Need

Star Templates (we used this one)
A3 Coloured Card
A3 Cartridge Paper
A4 Cartridge Paper
Any art materials your heart desires! This one uses pastel, dye and a black fine liner pen.


  1. Print the star template. I printed this one on A3 at 220% and 170% to get the different sizes. Cut out the template and trace two large and two small stars onto your A3 and A4 cartridge paper.
  2. Design your stars! Before beginning this part of the process, we looked at different Maori art forms, such as carving and weaving. We found out about the symbolism in different shapes and designs, and practised drawing them in our books.
    It is helpful to take into account that the centre of all but the front star will be obscured, so it is not necessary to fill this area with design on every star. I did four different designs, but some of the students chose to do the same design on each one which also looks really effective.
  3. Colour your designs. I used pastel, dye and fine liner pen, but I let the kids make their own choices about the materials they wanted to use. Some have used coloured pencil, paint, and watercolours in addition to the materials I chose.
  4. Carefully cut out each of your stars.
  5. Layer the stars on top of each other- the points should alternate between big and little stars. When you have the desired arrangement, glue your stars down onto a piece of coloured card. Cut out your card, and you have a finished, fabulous, Matariki star!


Patterned Posts and Totem Poles

For our school gala this year, it was decided that each student would make a piece of artwork that could be sold as a fundraiser. We really wanted to create something that was 3 dimensional and eventually settled on creating patterns or totem poles on fenceposts. We are stoked with the results! Here’s how we did it. IMG_7728

You will need: 

  • Fence posts (ours were between 120cm and 150cm in height)
  • Poster paint
  • Paint brushes in various sizes
  • Masking tape
  • Water based sealant (we used a Cabot’s one we picked up at Bunnings)
  • Pencil and paper for creating designs
  • Lots of newspaper to protect your work surface



  1. Use masking tape to mark off 30cm from the base of the post. This will give you enough room to set the post in the ground when finished, should you decide to use it as a garden ornament.
  2. Apply a coat of white paint as a base. The post will absorb paint, so you might like to do more than one coat- I did three. Make sure you get the flat top of the post as well. Students will find it easiest to work in pairs, with one partner holding the post while the other paints.
  3. While your base coat is drying, begin creating your design. Use an A3 piece of paper, portrait. If you are creating a totem pole style design, with faces on top of each other, give consideration to what you can put on the opposite side of the pole to make it interesting from all angles. You can roll up your design page to get an idea of what it will look like on the post. Include notes about the colours you will use in your plan.
  4. When the base coat is dry, pencil on your designs. You might like to use more masking tape to create crisp lines and sections throughout the design.
  5. Paint on your design. You may find that you need to use more than one coat to build an opaque layer of paint. When the paint is dry, peel off any masking tape and make touch ups if necessary.
  6. Apply a coat of varnish. We used a water based sealant that dried to a matte finish. These artworks would look great in the home or garden. Enjoy! IMG_7716

Manu Tukutuku- Kites


Last year, all of the year five and six students made manu tukutuku to be shown at our annual Calf Club. The idea came from the book ‘Māori Art for Kids’ which you can find here. Here’s how we did it!

You will need: IMG_3397
Plastic bags
Coloured sharpies/vivids
Masking tape
Clear tape


  1. First, you need to make the frame for your kite. Tape two skewers together using masking tape. Overlap them to maintain strength. Repeat this so that you have three sets of taped skewers.
  2. Lay the skewers in a triangle, and use masking tape to secure them. Again, overlap the skewers to keep the structure strong.
  3. Cut a plastic bag open along the bottom seam and side. Lay your triangle on top. Use a ballpoint pen to draw around the triangle (allowing around 3cm) before cutting the shape from the plastic bag.
  4. Cut three lengths of string- no more than 40cm. Tie each of these onto the middle of each side of the triangle, then tie all three together. If you wish to fly your manu tukutuku, you will need to include string for the handle in this join (as we were making ours for display, we didn’t include this). You will also need to add a 60cm length to one side of the triangle for the kite tail.
  5. Tape feathers onto the corners of the kite using clear tape. Tie more feathers into the tail of the kite.
  6. Next, you will need to create the design for your kite. We looked at tukutuku panels, carvings, and other Māori art forms to gain inspiration. Use permanent markers to cover the plastic bag shape with your chosen design.
  7. Lay your plastic bag with the design facing down, and place the kite frame on top. At each string and corner, cut a notch from the plastic bag so that it is easier to wrap tightly to the frame. Use clear tape to secure the plastic around the frame.
  8. Display/play/enjoy!

Superhero Students

This year I decided to have a crack at having a mild superhero theme in my classroom. Problem is, I really believe that the classroom should be the students’ space, so I didn’t want to go all out creating a wall display that didn’t actually reflect any of their learning. After pondering for a few days, I decided on this idea- having my students reimagine themselves as superheroes. This formed the basis of our learning activities for the first week of school, and (I hope) helped to empower the students. This activity is actually a re-imagining of a Viking Ship art creation, which I wrote about here.

Before beginning their masterpieces, the students had already written a story about their superhero alter ego, and given themselves a cool hero name.

What You’ll Need:
A3 Cartridge Paper
A3 Copier Paper
A4 Copier Paper
Photos of student’s faces
Superhero template (optional, but I used this one)
Anything but paintbrushes (our learning goal was to create texture in different ways, and the challenge was to do this without conventional tools)


  1. The first step is to create the background for the image. We used coloured A3 cartridge paper, and sponged on the sky colours we liked. Some students had created heroes that lived in the sea, so their backgrounds reflected this.
  2. The next step is to create the two foreground layers. These will vary depending on where your superhero lives. I chose to create layers symbolising city and country. It is important that students create two pieces that are really different from the background and each other, so that they contrast. Each piece is A3 copier paper, cut in half lengthways.
  3. The last painting step will form the superhero itself. Fold an A4 page in half, and fill each half with contrasting designs and colours.
  4. Now the fun part- putting it all together! Take the two foreground designs, and tear or cut them in half lengthways. Experiment with shape to make the overlay interesting. I wanted mine to look like skyscrapers and hills. Glue each strip on to the background, starting from the top one. It is important to glue the lower and outer edges, but you may choose to leave the upper edge free to add interest.
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  5. Create your superhero! I gave the students the option of using a template to trace and cut around, or creating their own design. When the body is complete, cut the face out of your photograph and add that on too. Finally, position your superhero on the background, ready to save the day!