art · Crafting · Empowering Art · preschool

Pointillism with Preschoolers: Fall Trees


When teaching Pointillism within the canon of Art History, it’s common practice to focus on this painting:

George Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884

When I taught Post-Impressionism to college students, indeed, the Seurat painting above was discussed in depth — as was color theory and the science behind it. But for my active preschoolers, who value doing more than looking, Pointillism was explored using little more than cotton swabs and paint. For our penultimate class this semester, the kids created Pointillist fall trees, using bundles of cotton swabs as their paint brushes. fullsizeoutput_2148


One of my favorite things about this project was that we incorporated our unused wooden frame backs from our Stained Glass painting project a few weeks back. I simply cut card stock to fit the 4 x 6 frame backs, and attached it using a glue stick. It always gives me great joy to repurpose our old, tossed-aside materials!

Using a crayon of their choice (browns and oranges were popular selections), each kid drew a tree trunk and branches on their paper frames. This step was completed with some instruction — I encouraged them to make “Y”s on their pages, and then add mini diagonal lines off the top “V” shape to achieve basic tree skeletons.

Our cotton swab “brushes” were comprised of 8+ cotton swabs, bundled with a rubber band. Each kid got their own Pointillism “brush” and practiced dabbing on paper without paint. I held off on distributing the paint until the kids seemed comfortable with dipping and dabbing — the key to our Pointillist technique — rather than dipping and smearing or brushing. We discussed how painting like a Pointillist is sort of like stamping — you simply apply color and then touch it to the page without dragging the brush. Pointillist paintings are composed of countless tiny dots, and since our cotton swab bundles generate multiple side-by-side points with every application of paint, the kids didn’t tire of the potentially painstaking process of building a Pointillist composition.

The mini artists loved bringing their trees to life, and were quite fond of their cotton “brushes.” I made just a couple suggestions while they were hard at work: to concentrate on coloring the top half of their pages (focussing on where the leaves would be), and to use a single cotton swab to create falling leaves on the bottom half of their pages. Some ignored my suggestions entirely — coloring every inch of paper and smearing their paint — while others tried their best to make realistic representations. Each and every piece came out beautifully, and I hope the parents will display them proudly. fullsizeoutput_213ffullsizeoutput_2149fullsizeoutput_2148

Please, share your Art History-inspired projects below in the comments, and have a creative day!


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