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I love the change from spring to summer. It’s such an exciting time. The kids can taste the freedom from school and everything feels like a countdown to awesome. We worked on contrast paintings in art class this week. The simple difference between the black and white drawings and the colorful background felt like a nice celebration of spring to summer. Can’t you just feel the freedom in the paintings? Summer, here we come!

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First I explained a little about contrast (when something looks really different to something else) to my 5 year old students and then we talked about the difference between school time and summer time. It was pretty fun to see the kid’s faces light up at the mere mention of summer break. They are so ready. Then, I introduced the two steps to making our paintings. Here’s what you’ll need.


– Watercolor paper

– Oil pastels

– watercolor paint (We used these neon tempera cakes that act more like watercolors. I absolutely love them!)

– Black sharpie or permanent marker

1. The first step is to make as many marks as you want with the oil pastels. Kids love working with pastels. My daughter’s are obsessed. They are so smooth on the paper and the harder you press, the more vibrant the color will be. I encourage students to make different interesting marks all over their paper. Younger kids will likely just do a mish mash design. These girls were into drawing different rainbow designs.

2. Next, add water to your water color paints and move the paint brush round and round the color you chose. This will get the most pigment on your brush. Then paint right over the oil pastels. Since oil and water don’t mix I always tell my students that the pastels are saying “Hey, get off of me watercolors. You’re not my friend.” The kids always like that part. Cover all the white parts of the paper with watercolors.

3. Next step is to draw the contrast picture to your background. We talked about how different black and white would look against our colorful background. The kids agreed it was kind of a whacky way to do art because usually rainbows have all the colors. All the conversation was a great introduction to contrast. It will likely take a few lessons before the concept of contrast really sinks in but this was a great start.

Everyone’s paintings came out so cheerful and full of life. I’d love to do this with 3 and 4 year olds and have them do self-portraits or family portraits in black and white over the colorful background. They would make great gifts in a frame.

Thanks for reading along everyone and thanks for having me over hello, Wonderful. It’s always a pleasure.

Meri Cherry, yes, that’s her real name, is an arts and crafts blogger at She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. Meri works as an art teacher. She is passionate about the process of art, thrift stores, and the Reggio approach to learning.

Agnes Hsu is a mom of three and has been inspiring parents and kids to get creative with easy activities and family friendly recipes for over 10 years. She shares her love for creative play and kids food to her 2MM+ followers online. Agnes' commitment to playful learning and kindness has not only raised funds for charity but also earned features in prestigious nationwide publications.