With a purple crayon in hand and a four-year-old’s imagination, Harold creates an alternate reality that includes a frightening dragon, a picnic lunch with nine kinds of pie, and more. Harold ends his long eventful walk by drawing his bed and dropping off to sleep. I read Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (published in 1955 and still in print today) to kindergartners as an introduction of using one’s imagination.
A student imagines one more adventure for Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon.A student uses a brush to blend the colors in her insect chalk drawing.A student focuses on line and pattern.
Continuing Harold’s Journey
An individual’s imagination has been likened to a muscle—just as athletes exercise their muscles, artists exercise their imaginations. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” said Einstein.
With a single purple crayon, I tell kindergartners they will imagine one more adventure for Harold before he pulls up the covers to sleep. “Imagine you are Harold. What animal would you like to meet? Harold drew a police officer; who would you like to encounter? What environment or faraway place might you draw yourself into?”
I give each student a piece of white paper to which I've glued a picture of Harold holding a crayon in one corner. I tell students to place their purple crayon on Harold’s crayon and draw one more imaginative page of this classic book. As students draw, I walk around and observe as their imaginations unfold in purple.
Sidewalk Mark Making, Part One
We continue our mark-making journey with sidewalk chalk drawings. Bert the screever (sidewalk artist) in Mary Poppins created works of art. And, with a little instruction, so can kindergartners.
I show students sidewalk chalk drawings by contemporary artists. Since students will be drawing large-scale bugs, I also show them the giant Nazca Lines spider in Peru’s Nazca Desert. Created between 200 bc and 500 ad, this geoglyph is one of many images and geometric shapes created by the Nazca culture that are so large they can only be viewed from an airplane.
We start from small to big. On a 3" square of paper, students draw a bug. I give students a handout with lots of bugs and spiders to generate ideas and point out the basic anatomy of insects: three body parts (head, thorax, abdomen), six legs, antennae, etc. Imaginary bugs are also acceptable.
Sidewalk Mark Making, Part Two
Taking their sketch outside, each student finds a square of sidewalk to work on. I have brooms on hand for them to clean their cement canvas. Students also have a 1" stiff easel brush that can be used to blend or soften the colored chalk. They share large boxes of sidewalk chalk.
A step ladder from the custodian provides me with a better vantage point to photograph students’ work. Buckets of water and towels are nearby for cleanup.
Back in the art room, while students line up to wait for the classroom teacher to walk them back to class, I check my attendance sheet. It's not unusual at this impressionable age for a student to have used their active imagination to enter their own chalk drawing, pursuing their own fascinating reality.
Craig Hinshaw taught this lesson in the Lamphere School District in Madison Heights, Michigan. He is a ceramic artist, retired teacher, and the author of three books about teaching art to young students: Clay Connections, Animals, Houses, and People, and The Nature of Art. CraigHinshaw@Hotmail.com; CraigHinshaw.com
Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
Art teachers offer studio lessons that utilize unexpected mark-making materials. Young students draw large-scale insects with sidewalk chalk, elementary students and adults collaborate in a virtual drawing activity to celebrate Black historical figures, middle-school students discover upcycled Haitian metal art and create ink-embellished designs on metal tooling, high-school students combine digital photography and illustration to render thought-provoking compositions, and more.