Charley and potato birds

Charley Harper was an illustrator and a graphic designer. He grew up on a farm and though he didn’t like working there, he loved walking through the woods and looking for birds and other animals he could draw. And he drew, sketched and painted a lot of them and in quite a different way than anybody before him.


His style is called minimal realism. It is what happens when you simplify the birds (or other objects) as much as you can BUT people are still able to recognize what kind of a bird it is. Harper always said that he did not ‘count the feathers, only the wings.’ And you can clearly see it here:

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And how did Charley draw his birds? What technique did he use? A serigraph (or screen printing or silkscreen). What is it?


The result of this technique is a print made using a stencil, woven mesh and paint. It works like this: you use a mesh and a stencil to create your print. You keep adding layers, one stencil and one color at a time until you are done.

The project inspired by Charley is simple: we are printing birds and simplifying them even more. We use potato and carrot stamps to create the birds and a toilet-paper roll to make the tree. Just cut the potatoes in halves, quarters and eighths, use a brush to apply paint to them and stamp them to create your unique birds.

Here is an example of the project. As always, you can find more details, variations and ideas in February’s issue of arTree.


If you want to teach this lesson, you can download the power point presentation here:


Paper Birds of Diana

February issue of arTree magazine is out! Do you want to learn all there is to learn about birds, including Diana’s amazing paper sculptures?

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Why birds?

One day Diana was walking on the beach and for the first time in her life she saw a swan. It was fighting with a couple of ducks and its flight and expression was amazing. She was fascinated. As soon as she came home she picked up some paper and tried to capture it while it was fresh I her head. After that she just couldn’t stop.

Learn more about her amazing work and the inspiration behind it! Subscribe today:


See more of Diana’s work at her website!

Art Elements: Shape

Another art element the kids and I talked about was a shape. We discussed what it is and looked at the way different artists used geometric and organic shapes in their work. Kids especially liked Henri Matisse and his collages (even though most of them had a very hard time seeing the snail in The Snail).

Then we did a little creative exercise. I gave each child a page with 20 circles and told them to change them into whatever they want – in under 2 minutes. They could change one circle to a ball, eye, clock… or combine two of them together to make glasses. They loved this and most of them finished about 10 circles.


For our main project we did a collage out of colorful circles and their fractions. We talked about the way we can cut them and then use them to design mandala-like images. Kids made halves, quarters, and eighths or circles and made beautiful collages. And I must say that the 2-inch circle puncher made my life a whole lot easier!

I always prepare a filler activity for the kids who finish early (especially the lower grades tend to do that) and I gave each child a sheet with 3 shapes and asked them to made a picture incorporating all of them. We got some creative (and quite different) results – from paint spills and space exploration to germs and family picnics.

3shapes shape_worksheet

Pieter Bruegel’s Landscapes


January issue of arTree magazine is here! And art docents at many schools started teaching the kids about Pieter Bruegel and the atmospheric perspective in his landscapes.

Hunters in the Snow, Winter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

In a shortcut: Pieter was a Flemish Renaissance landscape artist. He loved painting ordinary people at work. So, often he dressed up as a peasant and walked among them to observe and sketch them. He sometimes even went to a wedding nobody invited him to – just to be able to paint it authentically.

He also loved mountains and sketched many of them in Italy. When he got back to Netherlands he added them to many of his paintings. And it was at that time when painters started using atmospheric perspective in their work (scattering of light that makes mountains in the distance appear lighter/bluer).

That’s January’s main project in arTree magazine – and is being used by art docents at different schools in different grades. These are examples from one of WA schools: Kindergarten and 3rd grade. Mt. Rainer has never been so colorful!


Mount Rainier by Kindergarteners (above) and St. Mary’s Lake by 3rd graders (below).


If you would like to teach this lesson at your school, you can download and use the Power point Presentation here:

Atmospheric perspective for K-3 (Mount Rainer National Park):

Atmospheric perspective for 3-6 (St. Mary’s Lake at Glacier National Park):

And if you would like to learn more, get all of the information and other examples, visit our website. Make your art docent program really stand out!