Sunday, October 10, 2010

Visual Arts for Halloween

  Halloween is, I suppose, the first seasonal/festival occasion during the school year when we tend to forget all our good intentions about engaging in process art and dig out the old pattern for the witch for the children to replicate. Here are a few simple ideas that might help us to finally consign her to the bin.

I did previously write an article for InTouch that used poetry as a stimulus for Halloween art (October 2004), check this out on the website at

In the infant classroom add a dressing up box to your play corner that includes lots of different fabrics, hats, scarves, etc. so that the children can invent Halloween costumes for themselves. This simple activity is in line with the curriculum objective of enabling children to invent costumes.

For drawing ask the children to imagine that they wake up one morning to discover that an evil witch has put a spell on them. Get them to draw what they see when they look into the mirror that morning.

Ask the children to write a spell. Make a painting about this spell using only paint patterns in chosen colours – but you are not allowed to use any images or symbols, only lines, shapes, colours, textures and patterns. Display the written spells beside their images.

Roll printing ink onto a sheet of acetate. Cut out lots of Halloween shapes and lay them in the rolled out ink. Place a piece of paper over this, rub and reveal a masked out mono print. When dry add detail to the shapes you have created using coloured drawing tools such as oil pastels.

Explore the theme of monsters. Some ideas for this are outlined in a further past article entitled “Have a Monstrous Good Time” (October 2003) also available online. This theme is a particularly good one to explore using clay.

A mobile or a diorama based on a sub theme of Halloween e.g. witches is a good stimulus for construction work. With a senior class group the children into small groups and ask them to make a construction that represents the famous scene from the Scottish play.

As an alternative project for senior classes have a go at designing and making large scale scarecrow figures. Again have the children working in small groups. The scarecrow heads can be made with newspaper (create a head sized ball by wrapping layers together) wrapped in layers of masking tape. This is attached to a cross shaped support made from two pieces of wood. The heads can be painted to create a character using poster paint which is sealed with PVA glue when dry. Hair and facial hair can be made with fibre offcuts. Costumes can be created for the scarecrows using old items of clothing and/or pieces of fabric.

Blank mask moulds can be bought from most good art stores. Try coating them with vaseline and then with layers of modroc (plaster of Paris bandaging) to create mask shapes that can then be painted and added to in other ways to create unique masks.

The design a costume activity can be used with any class. Have a fancy dress parade in school where the children have to come in a costume – but with one condition; no commercial costumes or masks are allowed. This really gets the kids’ imaginations working overtime – great homework too!

And if you do like to decorate your classroom, use commercial decorations – making decorations has little to do with process art, unless of course you ask the children to design and make them themselves and do not provide any templates, step by step instructions or patterns.  HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

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