Denise Logan's Amazing Art Projects for Children is a 105-page book for teaching art to children from about second grade and up, often by using multicultural themes. The back cover of the book says, “This book is the source that bridges the gap between the limited elementary art text books and the children's home craft books.” Art lessons are more challenging and use more variety in art media than do most books for the elementary grades. Because of that, these art projects are likely to be appropriate even for high school students. (And many projects will be too difficult for second and third graders.)
Many, but not all, lessons draw upon multicultural themes such as in “Adire Eleko Resist.” The book explains that this is a method of resist dyeing used by the Yoruba women of southwestern Nigeria. Often, the lesson explains how the authentic arts pieces are produced within their originating culture, and occasionally lessons include additional commentary on the religious and cultural meaning. For instance, the author explains the religious significance of “India's Painted Prayers” that are addressed to “Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of abundance, fertility, and prosperity” (p. 20).
Some projects, like “Trees in the Sunset,” “O'Keeffe Flowers,” “The Klee Tree,” and “Ceramic Sea Creatures” have no multicultural connections but are inspired by the work of great artists or by nature itself.
Rather than simple arts-and-crafts projects, these are serious art projects that use high quality media and teach many art techniques. The cover of the book as well as the publisher's website show images of completed art projects. The 23 projects in this book should each take at least 2 one-hour sessions to complete. Because of the time required, you are very unlikely to complete all of these projects in one year.
Projects are identified with one, two, or three stars to indicate level of difficulty, but even the easiest projects are complex. For example, “O'Keeffe Flowers” has students work with watercolors, squeeze tempera paint (made from a recipe that's included in the lesson), white tempera cake paints, and chalk pastels. Students begin by sketching a flower on a large sheet of paper. They then work with watercolors and tempera cakes using a few different techniques with the watercolors. Next they add chalk pastels over dry paint. Finally, they add texture and lines with the squeeze paints. They can then go back and work with all of their media to achieve their final results. There is no one right way to complete any of these projects. Full color images show a number of examples completed by teachers and students—but you can't tell which is which in most cases. Sometimes images of original art works also serve as inspiration for students.
The book is printed in full color on sturdy paper, and the comb binding allows it to lie flat. Every project has step-by-step, illustrated instructions. Black and white patterns are included when appropriate, so you can photocopy and distribute these as needed.
As I mentioned, many different art media are used for these projects. There is no comprehensive list of the required resources. Instead a list is included with each project. I already mentioned the four types of media for “O'Keeffe's Flowers.” A three-star project, “Wood and Ceramic Bowl,” requires ceramic clay, a clay roller, wood slats, fishing line, clay cutting tool, plant stakes, small dowels, watercolors, spray sealant, a miter saw, mat board, a mat knife, and contact paper in addition to other more common items. Many materials will be used for multiple projects, but quite a few are used only for one project. Most projects require one or more unique items.
While these lessons will take more work than other art projects, they are very creative and unusual—painting, sculpture, paper weaving, fiber art, and many others too unusual to describe briefly. The results should be beautiful if students' examples are a fair indication. If you plan to continue with multi-media art in the future or you have younger children who will soon be able to use the art media, it will be easier to justify purchasing all of the materials for one family. Otherwise, you might want to gather with other families or form a group class to complete these projects. Logan's website sells a PowerPoint presentation ($3.99) with the step-by-step instructions that can be projected and printable PDF files with instructions, patterns, and templates ($1.99). Both of these should be very helpful for group classes.