Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In the Art Room: Egyptian Style

Portrait of the Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis created by one of my fourth grade students. I love that the artist embossed the goddess' name in hieroglyphics at the bottom of the frame.
For the record, let me just say that this lesson is not mine. I found it on pinterest, which lead me to artsonia. The image I found there showed that the middle school-aged students had watercolor painted their gods and painted their frame with metallic paint. As you can see, I altered the lesson some. It has taken my fourth grade students quite a bit of time but they are finally seeing the light at the end of the Never-Ending-Project tunnel. The kids and I are both pleased with the results so I though I'd share my version of the lesson.

Don't let the picture fool you. This photo was taken at the begin of the year before the dementors, er, students entered the scene. Now there's a drum kit where the rugs were and the third grader's half-painted sarcophaguses (sarcophagui?) drying all over the floor.

Our year long theme is the study of Ancient Egypt (really? I had to tell you that? I'm kinda like Mrs. Obvious, if you've not noticed). I chose this theme because of the Egyptian exhibit at the local art museum that the majority of my students field-tripped to.

Portrait of the Ancient Egyptian god Horus.
 This particular unit began with a sit down in Ancient Egypt where the students were told the story of the two gods portrayed on my window, Isis and her son Horus. In case you don't know the story, it goes something like this: Jealous brother Seth decides to take down his brother Osiris. Builds him sarcophagus, convinces him to climb inside and suffocates him. Wife of Osiris, Isis, sends her eagle-headed son Horus to avenge his father's death. That's what she's chatting with him about on my painted window. Confused? Well, the Ancient Egyptians believed in hundreds of gods, some animal, some human and some a combo of both, all with strange tales of their own. Needless to say, to the average 10 year old, the stories are fascinating.   
Ancient Egyptian god Osiris who is often depicted the color green. We're guessing it has to do with all that suffocating business.
After learning about the Ancient Egyptian gods (with an emphasis on the fact that these are false gods), students were given a handout with a list of about a dozen gods, their back story and their image in profile. After they chose one that piqued their interest, they began to sketch out their god in pencil and trace their lines in sharpie.
Learning the fine art of metal tooling.
From there, I introduced colored pencils. I briefly chatted with the kids about coloring and let them have at it. It was a total disaster. After creating such beautiful drawings, I was disappointed that their coloring skills were lacking. Or, rather, their art teacher had failed to teach them some important things about shading, value and blending.
So I backtracked. I created a colored pencil coloring sheet (don't stop reading, hear me out) that involved creating a gradation of values. There was also a little review on color theory. Some got it and applied it to their drawings and some didn't. But it did improve their application of colored pencil greatly.

Once the gods and goddesses were complete, I introduced the kids to Ancient Egyptian symbols. We looked at symbols we see and recognize everyday (hearts, peace signs, smiley faces, etc.) and discussed how the Egyptians used symbols as well. Using a 3" by 4" piece of styrofoam, the kids chose a symbol that they felt related to their god and engraved it into the foam.

I love the tooled metal design on this frame.
As you can see from these drawings, the ankh was a very popular symbol with the kids. When printmaking, I set out two trays of ink and brayers for each table of four students. Working with a partner, the kids printed for several art classes. One day we printed with metallics and the next, we tried our hand at rainbow printing, which they loved. It was an absolute mess and sometimes frustrating for both the kids and myself. But by the last day, they were printmaking fools.
Last week, we started the metal tooled frame. I have five rolls of tooling metal in red, blue, green, gold, and silver. We chatted about embossing, looked at Egyptian patterns, recalled hieroglyphics and symbols. With dull pencils and a foam board for cushion, the students managed to complete their frames in just a few classes. I've been dangling the carrot of weaving over their heads, so they are more than ready to move on. I began assembling the works of art yesterday in my excitement to see what they would look like. 

I don't know if you can tell, but the images of the gods are three dimensional. Pieces of foam core were glued underneath to raise them up. I also hot glued the metal frame to the construction paper because the edges are sharp and that metal gets as hot as a mother with hot glue on it. Oh, convection, how I hate you.

In all, I thought this was a pretty successful project. We managed to learn about drawing, shading, printmaking, metal tooling and just a smidge of Ancient Egyptian history. I am so thankful for pinterest and the art teacher behind the original lesson.


  1. Alyssa Naylor1/19/2012

    This is an amazing art lesson! They are learning how to use so many different mediums and techniques and applying so much knowledge into their work. This is what teaching art should look like!

  2. Anonymous1/23/2013

    Is tooling metal the same as tooling foil?
    Where would I purchase this?

    1. Hi! Yes, I believe it is...I purchase mine thru online art catalogs like Sax Arts and Crafts and/or Blick. I purchase it by the rolls and usually get a couple of different colors for the kids. I hope that helps :)

  3. Hi - I have a similar lesson (I wonder if we were inspired by the same lesson?) Not sure what it was anymore, but this is what did this year. (you have to scroll down to get to it)
    I wasn't unhappy with the results, but it's not "wow" compared to what you shared above. So I plan I breaking the project up, like you did. I like the color and texture you were able to add. I am wondering if you are willing to share your colored pencil "worksheet"? I can see myself falling into the same trap. I know some kids will just press hard or just press lightly and not see all of the tonal qualities of a pencil. Also, were they only allowed to choose gods? I opened up to full choice as long as it was about Egypt. I mostly got a lot of so-so pyramids. I am pushing myself to a choice based room, but with criteria. The side effect? It slows projects down big time as they need time ( talk excessively to their friends) to think about what they are going to do. Ok, now I am babbling. Thanks for anything you are willing to share - erica 873 at g mail dot com (thanks again)

  4. I don't really understand how you made the background... could you explain it more clearly?

  5. Irene Perez11/03/2015

    Dear Cassie,

    I have to say that I am COMPLETELY AND ABSOLUTELY in love with your blog and your amazing art projects! I stumbled across your site while I was looking for an art project on Pinterest (as every art teacher clearly does). For the past week or so, I have been OBSESSED with every single project you have posted. I think I have bookmarked at least 6 ideas so far that I can do with my students. You see, this is my eighth year teaching but it's only my second year in the art room. Used to having a curriculum to follow, I downright panicked when I found out there was NO curriculum for art. I'd like to call that a double-edged sword. Being the OCD teacher that I am, I don't really know how I survived my first year pulling art lessons out of my _______ and of course, relying on mere trial and error. I think I cursed my decision to move to art every single day last year. This year, I feel better. Not only do I have an idea of what kids can and cannot do at certain ages, but I already know all the kids in the school and more importantly, they know how I function and what ticks me off (haha). All kidding aside, I can't wait to put into practice all the wonderful ideas and projects you have shared with the world. I admire you so much for having the time to teach, take pictures, blog about it, and rock super cool outfits. You're my hero!


    A not-so-frustrated-anymore-thanks-to-you South Florida Art Teacher :-)

  6. Hi Cassie, Do you happen to have access to the short Egyptian God/Goddess bio pages you mention for kids' research? *Thank you so much!*


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