May 23, 2012

One Line Design - inspired by Paul Klee

The One Line Design lesson that I do based on a lesson from MaryAnn Kohl's book "Discovering the Great Artists" is one of my favorite art lessons.

I show a Power Point about Paul Klee's artwork, which you can download by clicking on the title below. I have already posted about it before in a post called Art Appreciation using Technology.


  • What does Paul Klee art make you think about? Feel?
  • What do you like about his work?
  • Which painting was your favorite? Why?
I stopped the power point so we could discuss the paintings. I noted the wonderings they had. After they saw the whole power point I went back to "Dramatic Landscape" painting and mention that someone said he liked the lines in the painting and could see parts of shapes but no pictures. I asked them to wonder how Kandinsky created that painting. Then I outlined the Dramatic Landscape painting that was projected on the white board. I turned off the computer and projector and the kids saw the lines I had traced. I colored a few of the spaces created by the lines with colored white board markers. I asked the children to tell me if they could create an artwork inspired by Kandinsky using permanent markers and paint, similar to what I did on the board. 

I told the students that some art teachers call that technique the 'one line design' because we start a line and go on and on until we are happy with the design. At this point we have already discussed that abstract art does not need to have a person or objects in it. Colors, forms and shapes are good enough.

I do not live in the 'Land of Sharpies' so I give regular permanent markers for the kids to do the lines. The thicker the better. The 'chisel tip' markers are not very good for this kind of work as you want thick lines but they were the only ones we had available so I had to show the students how to use them.

After the lines were ready they used watercolor to color the spaces created by the lines.

Then I wash or help the students wash the paintings for two reasons. The watercolor looks more uniform and the kids tend to paint over the lines and the black lines get very faded. After the painting is washed you can see the black lines clearly. 
You have to be careful not to wash too much or the colors will be faded to the point it is too dull.

Notice how we can see the black lines much better. 

Here are some of them. 


  1. The paintings are amazing. I love the intent concentration on the kids' faces as they are painting.
    What do you mean by "washing" the paintings.

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  2. Thanks Sandi! The children were really into their artwork. By washing I mean literally washing the painting under running water in a sink. The photo I posted does not show it very well I will try to find another one.