Great American Artists for Kids: Hands-On Art Experiences in the Styles of Great American Masters

Great American Artists for Kids: Hands-On Art Experiences in the Styles of Great American Masters

by MaryAnn F. Kohl, Kim Solga

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Fun and easy art-appreciation activities abound in this resource that features 75 American artists from colonial times to the present. A brief biography for each artist tells why his or her work is important, and a kid-tested art activity tries out the artist’s approach. For Georgia O’Keeffe, the activity is a desert painting; for Frederic Remington, a face cast; for Leroy Nieman, a sketch of athletes; and for James Whistler, a clay engraving. Projects stress the creative process and encourage kids to try unusual techniques such as block printing, soak-stain, and stone carving as they learn about architecture, drawing, painting, photography, and sculpture. A resource guide provides a glossary of art terms, a list that groups the artists by style, a list of the artists’ birthdays, an index of art supplies, and websites for viewing art online.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641601733
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Series: Bright Ideas for Learning (TM) Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
File size: 14 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 4 - 12 Years

About the Author

MaryAnn F. Kohl is the award-winning author of Discovering Great Artists, First Art, and Preschool Art. She lives in Bellingham, Washington. Kim Solga is the owner of KidsArt, a mail-order art supplies catalog for teachers and parents, and is the author of Draw!, Make Prints!, and Paint! She lives in Mt. Shasta, California.

Read an Excerpt


John Singleton Copley

July 3, 1738–September 9, 1815 Realist painter, Narrative, Portrait

John Singleton Copley [KOP-lee] was born in the colonial city of Boston in the years before the United States was an independent country. He taught himself how to paint and became Boston's most popular portrait artist. Portraits were a fine way for an artist to make a living because rich people paid top dollar to have an artist paint their pictures. Copley created many portraits of Boston's wealthiest families. One of his most famous portraits is of the patriot Paul Revere. Copley was very good at portraits, but he really loved to make paintings showing thrilling moments in history. In 1774, he moved to England and began to specialize in historical drama. He painted battle scenes and great sea victories. His best-known painting, Watson and the Shark, shows the true story of sailors trying to rescue a young swimmer from a hungry shark. Copley painted the most dramatic moment of the rescue, when the boatman is about to spear the shark as it surges toward the floundering boy. People viewing the painting have no way to tell if the boy will be saved or will be captured by the shark. The true ending of the story is that young Watson was rescued and grew up to be mayor of London at the time Copley lived there.

Narrative Drama

Copley's art tells stories. A picture that tells a story is called a narrative. Before cameras were invented, pictures were drawn of an event from reports by people who were witnesses. Draw a narrative picture, choosing a dramatic event. The story can be a true event or imagined.


white 9-by-12-inch drawing paper

pencil and eraser

for inspiration: news magazines, newspapers

choice of coloring tools: paints, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, markers, or crayons


1 Select a dramatic event to illustrate: a true event, perhaps a recent story from a newspaper, or an imaginary event. A rescue is the perfect subject to capture the spirit of Copley's famous painting, Watson and the Shark. Possible ideas include:

• fire fighters saving people from a burning building

• lifeguards trying to reach a swimmer through crashing ocean waves

• search-and-rescue team finding an injured hiker

• rock climbers rescuing a fallen climber who is clinging to dangerous rocks

2 Draw the scene from imagination, focusing on elements that tell the story. Try to imagine the scene as it really happened if true, or might have happened if imaginary. Choose what parts of the story to include in the drawing and what to leave out. Sketch with a pencil and eraser, and feel free to add elements that make the picture more dramatic. Zoom in on the action. Draw the people up close and fill the drawing paper edge-to-edge. Idea for detail: Use the Internet to find photos of equipment, see what a firefighter uniform looks like, or learn how a climbing rope attaches to a rock climber.

3 Color the drawing with a choice of paints, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, markers, or crayons.

4 Idea for Expression: Use color contrast to make the drawing more interesting, spooky, or dramatic. To do this, color the center of the action with bright colors, while making the background dark and shadowy.


Thomas Jefferson

April 13, 1743–July 4, 1826 Architect, Classical

Thomas Jefferson [JEF-er-sun] was an influential Founding Father of the United States of America, the third president of the United States (1801–1809), and the leading author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). Architecture was Jefferson's favorite thing. He collected a private library of books about architecture and taught himself about Greek and Roman classical buildings. The keystone arch was one of his favorite design features. Some fun things to know about Jefferson: he washed his feet every morning in cold water to prevent colds, he was over six feet tall with red hair, he could read seven languages, and he once had a pet mockingbird. Jefferson died on the fourth of July in 1826, and many years later in 1993, he was honored with the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal.

Clay Keystone Arch

The arch is a way of making a roof, doorway, or window using only clay bricks or blocks of wood or stone. The weight of the blocks holds the arch together without beams, cement, glue, or tape. To experiment with this phenomenon, build a keystone arch with play clay. The "key" stone will make the arch stand. Add more walls and windows to expand this architectural experience.


play clay, Plasticine, or other clays

plastic placemat or a large sheet of paper

assortment of clay tools: ruler, hammer, plastic knife, toothpick, rolling pin, bamboo skewer

optional building materials: wooden building blocks, marshmallows, cardboard boxes, milk cartons


1 Form clay into small bricks about 1- to 2-inches square. Make about 20 blocks, all the same size. More can be made, but 20 is a good number to begin.

2 Stack five to nine of the blocks in a column that balances nicely.

3 Stack an equal number of blocks into a second column a few inches away from the first.

4 Now for the magic moment that Jefferson loved! Form one keystone block that is slightly smaller at the bottom and larger at the top. Hold the keystone between the columns. Slowly lean the two columns inward toward each other, holding the keystone between them. Let the columns touch the keystone. Let go! Do the two columns form an arch that stands alone? If not, try again. It will work with a few more attempts. Try higher or lower columns, and larger or smaller bricks. This is an experiment, which means trying different ideas is important and interesting.

5 When the two columns meet in a curve and stand alone, the keystone arch is a success.

6 Continue building more walls, doors, or windows, if desired. Add a cardboard roof. Think of other features to add, like a flagpole and flag, sidewalk, or courtyard.


Gilbert Stuart

December 3, 1755–June 9, 1828 Realist painter, Portrait

Gilbert Stuart [STOO-ert] grew up in the American colony of Rhode Island before the United States was an independent nation. He traveled to Scotland, England, and Ireland to study art. He then returned to America about the time the war for independence broke out, but he returned to Europe once again because the war made his career as an artist difficult. Even so, he didn't find much success until he came back to the United States in 1795, when he painted a portrait of George Washington. The portrait soon became famous, and the demand for copies and new paintings kept Stuart very busy. Stuart is called the "father of American portraiture" because he painted pictures of all the famous people of early America. One of his paintings of George Washington was hung in the White House. During the War of 1812, the British burned the White House, but First Lady Dolly Madison rescued the painting before it went up in flames. Today, this painting still hangs in the East Room of the White House. The image of Washington on the US dollar bill came from one of Stuart's most famous paintings of Washington.

Painted Crackle Crayon

Stuart's portrait paintings are now 200 years old, and the smooth, glossy oil paints he used have dried and aged, showing antique texture cracks. To approximate a crackled antique appearance, draw a portrait on manila paper with crayons. Gently crumple the portrait into a ball, then open and flatten it, causing cracks and creases. Paint over the portrait with a thin black wash.


manila paper, 9 by 12 inches


paint wash: black tempera paint, thinned with water

2 soft paintbrushes

white glue, slightly thinned with water

construction paper, larger than manila paper (optional)


1 Draw a picture portrait of someone's face. Draw and color heavily with crayon, covering the manila paper with thick crayon color.

2 When the portrait is done, gently crumple the paper into a little ball. Squeeze it and press on it to get a very wrinkled ball of paper. Then carefully open and flatten the paper on the work surface.

3 To create the cracked design, brush the black paint wash over the crayon work. A thin wash works best. (Any dark color will work in place of black.) The paint will go into all the little cracks that appeared when the paper was crumpled, but it won't stick to the waxy crayon. Let the artwork dry.

4 Once dry, a coating of slightly thinned white glue can be brushed onto the portrait to give it a little shine. Dry overnight.

5 The completed crackle design may be further glued or taped to a larger sheet of colored paper to give it added weight and a colorful framed edge.


Edward Hicks

April 4, 1780–August 23, 1849 Folk art painter

Edward Hicks [hiks] was born in Pennsylvania just a few years after the United States became an independent nation. He grew up on his father's farm. As a young man, he became an apprentice coachmaker and used his artistic abilities by painting designs on the coaches and signs for many of the businesses in his town. When Hicks became a Quaker, a peaceful and conservative religion, he gave up painting and for many years was a traveling preacher in the northern US and Canada. He later decided that a good Quaker must earn a living, and because painting was one of his skills, he returned to creating art with a message. He believed deeply in peaceful cooperation, and his paintings express this spiritual message over and over. Hick's most famous work is titled The Peaceable Kingdom. He made nearly 100 paintings with this same title. The paintings show animals who are natural enemies lying down peacefully together: a lion rests next to a lamb, predators sit gently with their prey, little children walk unharmed among wild animals. His paintings have a moral message that helps people understand they could live peacefully together.

Peaceable Collage

Find animals in magazine pictures that are natural enemies in the wild. Clip and assemble these and other collage materials in a simple, peaceful collage.


sheet of heavy paper or posterboard

magazines with wildlife photos


white glue or glue stick

any additional collage materials: crayons, markers, leaves, grass, yarn, small fabric scraps, sequins, glitter, colored paper scraps, foil, dry rice or beans, sand, sewing trims, lace, buttons


1 Look through magazines for photos of animals that are natural enemies or "predator and prey." Some possible choices are: the arctic wolf and caribou, owl and field mouse, lion and zebra, or shark and colorful coral reef fish.

2 Cut out each animal picture chosen, cutting around the animal shapes following the edges of their bodies.

3 Arrange the prey and predator pictures on white paper or posterboard in any design. Glue the pictures in place.

4 A collage is a design made from many different elements, so now add any coloring, outlining, decorations, papers, or other materials and items to finish the collage. Glue and color until satisfied. The finished artwork will show animals together in a peaceful design.


John James Audubon

April 26, 1785–January 27, 1851 Realist painter, Naturalist

John James Audubon [AW-duh-bahn] set a goal to paint every kind of bird in North America and to do it by observing real birds in the fields and forests where they lived. The paintings he created are the most famous pictures of birds in the world. Audubon was born on an island in the Caribbean. He grew up in France, then he moved to the United States as a young man. He was interested in the natural history of birds, how they behaved, and where they lived. He spent much of his time roaming and painting in the outdoors, but he was a good businessman, too. He took his paintings to Europe and had them made into fine prints to sell to collectors. Audubon's book, Birds of America, filled with large, hand-colored engravings of birds, has been called the greatest picture book ever made. Audubon's art shows birds in their natural habitats. He traveled through the wilderness to find new species to capture and paint. His work took him from the swamps of Florida to the ice of northern Canada, and his dedication to excellence made John James Audubon one of the best-known American artists of all.

Draw Bugs 'n' Critters

Adult supervision required

John James Audubon observed real birds as models for his paintings. He drew birds in their natural settings, active and true to life. Explore Audubon's techniques by drawing a living creature like a bug or animal found in your area.


a living bug or other critter

handheld magnifying glass

small clear jar

aluminum foil for lid

tool to poke holes in foil, such as an opened paper clip

drawing paper

pencils and eraser

choice of coloring tools: colored pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, marking pens, watercolors


Draw Bugs

1. It's easy to find an insect model to draw, especially during warm summer months. Bugs are everywhere: moths circling the porch light, ants crawling on the sidewalk, ladybugs and beetles flying in the garden. Place the insect in a small clear jar covered tightly with aluminum foil. Poke tiny holes in the foil to let in air. Bugs will be released unharmed at the end of the project. Adult supervision is required.

2 Drawing a living bug is an adventure in observation. A handheld magnifying glass is great for seeing details. Look closely. Notice the bug's colors and shapes, how the legs move, the appearance of wings and antennae and eyes. Work big! Lightly sketch its outline on paper, making the picture much larger than the actual bug.

3 Draw each part of the bug, looking at the living model to draw every detail as realistically as possible.

4 Color the drawing with colored pencils, markers, or crayons, or use watercolors and a fine-tip paintbrush.

5 Audubon liked to name his art and provide dates or other details. Do the same with a pencil or pen, if desired.

6 When the drawing is complete, return the bug to the place where it was caught so it can continue with its life, unharmed.

Draw Critters

Other living creatures can be drawn in detail as well. Following are some suggestions. All shoud be observed or captured safely and released with your adult helper.

• lizard

• frog

• dog

• cat

• parakeet

• parrot

• gerbil

• hamster

• guinea pig

• rabbit

• fish


Frederic Remington

October 4, 1861–December 26, 1909 Realist sculptor, painter

When he was a boy growing up in New York, Frederic Remington [REM-ing-tuhn] liked to draw pictures of firefighters, soldiers, heroes, and adventurous people. He grew up to draw, paint, and sculpt the heroes of the American West, and he became the most famous of all cowboy artists. The American West was a thrilling land to visit in 1881 when young Remington first left the city and traveled to the wild frontier of the Montana Territory. He sketched the scenery and people he met in his travels. Remington sold his drawings to publishers in the East, where newspapers and magazines were thrilled to receive such exciting illustrations. Remington returned to the East and a studio in New York filled with a huge collection of Western souvenirs and cowboy clothing. Here Remington painted romantic pictures of colorful trappers, cavalry, bronco-busters, and Native American braves. He learned how to make bronze statues of his art by pouring molten metal into a hollow mold, a process that allowed him to make hundreds of bronze copies of a single sculpture. His bronze statues of cowboys and horses are his most famous works. Although Remington did not live a long life, he was a hardworking, successful artist who created thousands of works of art celebrating the American West.

Face Casting

Adult supervision required

Remington created bronze statues by making a clay sculpture first, an art process called "casting." Polymer clay and Plaster of Paris will take the place of Remington's clay and molten bronze materials. The artist can make a casting of a face in this sculpture project.


1 to 2 pounds of polymer clay, such as Sculpey or Fimo

Plaster of Paris (found at a hardware or hobby store)

water and container for mixing plaster

small sticks and other small tools to shape the clay

choice of decorating materials: markers, acrylic paints and paintbrush


1 Start with a small lump of polymer clay about the size of a lemon. Squeeze it to soften. Push the lump onto a table and shape it into a face. Think of a face to make such as a monster, superhero, princess, cat, owl, any face at all. Poke and pinch the clay to make a nose, eyes, lips, and hair. Use small tools to poke and carve textures and details into the clay.

2 Have an adult bake the clay face sculpture following the instructions on the polymer clay box. Then let it cool completely after baking.

3 The casting part of this project starts once the face sculpture is baked and hardened. Now it is time to make a mold of the face sculpture, then cast a copy of it. To do this, take a large chunk of polymer clay and flatten it into a brick shape that is 2 inches wider and taller than the face sculpture, and is about 3 inches thick.


Excerpted from "Great American Artists for Kids"
by .
Copyright © 2019 MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga.
Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Icon Guide,
1 Early American Art,
2 New American Ideas,
3 American Art Explodes,
4 American Art Onward,
Websites to Explore,
Artists by Art Style,
Portrait Credits,

What People are Saying About This

Joseph Raffael

Great American Artists for Kids: Hands-On Art in the Styles of Great American Masters (2008) is written in the tradition of my other best-selling art books, that is, it values the child's unique creativity, individual discovery, and joyful exploration of art. Those of us who work with children and their development believe in "Process, not Product", which means that the child's creative process is more important than the finished product. However, the activities presented in this book are also highly satisfying to see and deeply atheistically enriching to enjoy. Each art project is all new and uses easy to find materials like paint and glue, cardboard and ribbon, and other common materials. One of the most exciting aspects of this book is that it is packed with full color images of great masterpieces by great American artists -- and also by amazing children! Over 75 artists are featured, and the color examples of their art are bright and clear and inspiring. My Bright Ring website has sample pages you can download, as well as a full click-to list of masterpiece examples for each of the 75 artists. As the great American artist Joseph Raffael said about this book, "This book shows art at its fullest and liveliest and brings out and inspires the would-be artist in all of us! The spirit of creativity streams off its pages. What a gift this is to young and old alike and indeed art itself. Looking at the book makes me want to rush into my studio and paint!" The child-tested activities are truly inspirational and...FUN!

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Great American Artists for Kids : Hands-on Art Experiences in the Styles of Great American Masters 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
ArtsyKids More than 1 year ago
I am always looking for art books to use with my own children and with my elementary classroom. Art was removed from our schools for who knows what ridiculous reason, but that doesn't mean we won't have art. I have art every day in my classroom. It helps to have the connection to great masters, and "Great American Artists for Kids" is superb. I don't need expensive materials or unusual supplies for my kids to enjoy the projects from this book, just the regular stuff like glue, tempera, and so forth. Liquid watercolors seem to be a staple of this book and I buy mine at Discount School supply. They last all year! Art tissue (bleeding kind) is another staple. One of my favorite things about the book is that it is in full color, both showing great artists' artworks as well as examples of art by children. (I love the profile pictures drawn by children.) I recommend this book to home school mothers and fathers, to after school care, to daycares, to elementary teachers of all grades, and to parents who want to have some cool stuff at home for kids to do besides video games. My own kids' (ages 4 and 7) favorite project so far is Wayne Thiebaud (tay-boh) "Yummy Cake Painting". It's just an easy watercolor painting of cakes or pastries, but add scented extracts to the paints and provide candy sprinkles and redhots and other cake decorating materials to glue to the painting when it's done. They also love the Alexander Calder "Rocking Stabile". Last, I wanted to say that the publisher's website has direct "click to's" for each great artist so you can go directly to one of their artworks to show the kids. I give this 5 stars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an elementary classroom teacher, I have used Kohl's art lessons with students for many years. Discovering Great Artists has been my favorite book. Her child-tested and easy-to-use lessons are perfect for introducing kids to the styles of great artists. Kohl's latest book, Great American Artists for Kids is superb. The Chart of Contents outlines artists, art activities, art styles, techniques, etc. Each lesson includes brief background on the artist, concise list of materials, clearly-written instructions and examples of student color. This is a 5-star book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
MaryAnn Kohl has written many super art books with lots of ideas for Process Art for kids. I like this one because of the color images -- and of course because of the art activities themselves. But it's the color that has my attention. Not only does it show color pictures of great art, it also has lots of kids' full color artworks too. The color is fun for kids to see. I understand her website has direct clicks to famous artworks too. Nice job!
brightring More than 1 year ago
Enjoy trying the styles of techniques of American's greatest artists from Colonial times through the present. All you need are common art supplies and a little space to create. Each art project includes full color artworks by the masters and/or great kid artists. The book is getting rave reviews for educational excellence. No expertise is needed.... just be ready and willing to create art. The author's favorite page is a Wolf Kahn style project using colored chalk, as well as a surreal photographic project in the style of Skoglund. Kids especially love the Audubon and Rockwell art projects. Check out the author's website for free ideas from the book. www dot brightring dot com
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. MaryAnn has found a way to involve all the ways a child learns to teach about famous artists. You can hear about an artist, you can see their works, but when a child actually has a hands-on activity to learn about the artist, it becomes 'imprinted', strongly, in their minds. I can't recommend this book enough for any teacher who wants to share the joy of art and artists with their children. Being in full color is also beautiful. Well done!
brightring on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
75 great American artists are introduced through open-ended art activities allowing kids to explore great art styles from colonial times to the present. Each child-tested art activity presents a biography with full color artwork and techniques covering painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, architecture, and more. Special art options are included for very young children. FULL COLOR. 144 pages. ages 4-12 A Collection of Creative Hands-On Art Appreciation Activities for Children 4-12 To Inspire a Life-Long Love of Art.The activities are so interesting when based in the style of the famous artist. I especially love: 1. the Andy Warhol activity, 2. Romare Bearden activity, and 3. Dale Chihuly activity. Kids are bonkers for these! They emulating great American artists while doing their own creative thinking.