AUTUMN BIRCH TREES: Elizabeth St Hilaire inspired – Year 5/6 art lesson

Painted paper collages of ‘Fall’ birch trees by Elizabeth St Hilaire were the inspiration for these mixed media artworks by Year 5 students. The process we used was different than that of St Hilaire, though I got the students to suggest what materials and techniques they think were used by her.

Elizabeth St Hilaire was born and raised in New England, USA and has lived in Florida for more than 20 years. She makes collages from painted, found and hand made papers, which she tears and collages to make her amazing textured and patterned artworks of landscapes, trees, animals, flowers, birds and portraits. St Hilaire does an underpainting first then uses swatches of painted and found paper in matching colours to glue over the top, giving her work a painterly finish, with the texture of a collage. We used a different process, painting the collaged newspaper after it was stuck down. For this project we looked at her Autumn (Fall) Birch trees for inspiration.

Learning Intention & Success Criteria:

To make a mixed media artwork of Autumn birch trees in the style of Elizabet St Hilaire.

I will learn about artist Elizabeth St Hilaire and view her artworks of Autumn (Birch) trees and how she shows texture and perspective in her artworks.

I am learning about PERSPECTIVE and TEXTURE so I can use collage and painting techniques to resemble  Birch tree trunks.

I can tear and glue down overlapped newspaper to cover a piece of A3 paper.

I will use masking tape to make some trunks thin, some thicker to give the illusion of depth and perspective. I can use scraped and dabbed black paint to give texture. I can choose and blend colours and emphasize texture in the Autumn background.

I can analyse artworks by Elizabeth St Hilaire by noting materials, process and elements of art.

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First of all students look at the Birch tree artworks by Elizabeth St Hilaire to infer the materials and techniques. For example: Materials: paint, paper: newspaper, sheet music, painted paper, glue, etc. Techniques: tearing, overlapping, gluing, painting, collage, outlining, etc.

This is a video of an interview with St. Hilaire explaining her process and collage techniques: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9obDq-QLtA  and this one: “A peek into my Process”: demonstrates how she goes about an artwork.


Elizabeth St Hilaire: “A peek into My Process” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R69zzS9Ok3E

Our Process: (different from St Hilaire)

Collage the entire page with torn newspaper. Brush over with ‘Modge Podge.’

Use masking tape of varying widths to make the tree trunks from top to bottom of the page with some thin branches off the side.

Use Autumn colours to paint the background- could be in layers or mixed all over.

Use a thin brush to paint black paint along the edges of the tree trunks. Using the edge/side of a card, scrape paint inwards along the edges of the trunks to give tone and texture of a birch tree trunk.

Students evaluate their work with a rubric:

Autumn Tree Collage- Eloise Renouf style- Year 1-2

Eloise Renouf is an artist, designer and illustrator from the UK whose designs adorn fabric and printed textiles for homewares and greeting cards. She designs all sorts of nature-inspired patterns: from flowers, trees, clouds, birds and leaves. Her overlapping trees use circles, ovals and roundish shapes or ’round cornered’ squares!

First the students made painted paper, using warm coloured paint to print and dab with brushes and texture wands onto warm coloured cover paper. While this was left to dry, they made their background- one class used paint to dab on the grass at the bottom of a piece of blue cover paper; the other class overlapped pieces of green tissue paper along the bottom third of the paper.

The next lesson, students used pre-cut templates mostly in the shape of ovals and round cornered squares to trace the shapes on the back of the painted paper, and cutting out, making sure to share and use other students scraps to get a variety of colours and patterns.

They then used permanent markers to draw a line up the middle of the shape for the tree trunk, then add various lines for branches, using Renouf designs for ideas.

Students then had to arrange their trees with the colours spread into a “back row” on the top half of the page, gluing down, then adding the trunk in the black marker to touch the top of the “ground”. The next row of trees were glued lower, slightly overlapping the back row, and with the various colours spread out.

The trunks drawn from those trees needed to be drawn down a little lower because they are closer!

This took 2 one hour lessons. We had discussions about shape, colour, line, overlapping etc.

My art lesson with Year 1 and 2 students was adapted from “First Grade landscapes” from a Cassie Stephens post.

Lesson plan to purchase with learning intentions, success criteria, lesson activities, linked curriculum and assessment rubric below.

Autumn Leaves- easy home school lesson!

Autumn Leaves – pastel & food dye wash

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions we are still allowed to leave our home to exercise, so whilst out for a walk I collected some varied shape Autumn leaves from the ground and used them to create a simple artwork suitable for any primary school age child. I had done this lesson previously with Year 1’s and 2’s, shown further down in student examples.

Choose 4-6 leaves of varied shape to arrange on your paper. Once happy with the arrangement, trace around each leaf with a grey lead pencil. Use oil pastels in warm colours to trace each leaf, and use the leaves as reference to draw the veins on them.

Colour each leaf with pastels, using the colours of the real leaf if it’s not just brown! Then use your finger to smudge and blend the colours.

Once all the leaves have been coloured and blended, trace around the outline again and go over the veins of the leaves. Now time for the food dye background! You can buy food colouring from the supermarket. Use the COOL colours- which will be green and blue; I tried mixing purple with red and blue, but it turned out a little murky! Mix a few drops of food colouring with a little water and “paint” the background in dabs of each colour.

Artworks are by Year One & Two students:

Autumn Texture Trees- Foundation-Year 1 Art lesson

Foundation (Prep) students loved experimenting with the effects of texture wands and implements before choosing one to create the Autumn leaves on their textured tree.

These artworks took three lessons (though they could be done in two), but there were great art concepts for learning the elements of art along the way. One element was texture – the bark of the tree and the leaves themselves. The other element we looked at was colour, and specifically warm colours.

The full lesson plan with learning intentions, step by step activities, resources, and alignment to the Victorian curriculum, and student examples is available in a Word Document.

Spring Flowers Eric Carle Collage- Yr 1-2

This lesson is great at the beginning of Spring, and fits in nicely with the theme of growth and change. We read the Eric Carle book, “The Tiny Seed”, and discussed how he might have made his pictures.

Students had fun making painted paper, learning about texture, contrast, and warm and cool colours. They made their own petal template shape, cut and arranged them, following steps shown . Full lesson plan below.

Lesson plan includes Learning intentions, Success Criteria, Victorian Curriculum links, student self assessment rubric and pictures of steps in the process.

Autumn Leaf Prints

Autumn leaf Prints

Different Autumn leaves can be used to add variety of shape and size to this art project. Students used a foam roller to roll white paint over a leaf, and then place it carefully onto black paper, placing another piece of paper on top and rubbing it with a flat hand, before carefully lifting the paper and leaf.

Autumn colours (warm colours) were then dabbed around the leaf print.

Autumn Leaves in Oil Pastel -Yr 4

Autumn is a great time to use colourful leaves of various shapes and sizes for students to use for observation drawings. I had Year 4 students choose a leaf to place in front of them to draw (some students found it easier to trace the leaf to get the shape right)  They began using oil pastels in a colour close to the colours on the leaf, making sure to emphasise the veins on the leaf. They blended colours with their finger to spread the colour to look natural, rather than blocks of colours.