Positive/Negative Shapes Early Childhood
The Art Problem
How can positive and negative
shapes be cut out and used to make
Students will accurately draw, cut
out, and arrange simple positive
and negative shapes to make an
9" ( 23 cm) and 4½" ( 11. 5 cm)
squares of assorted colors of construction paper, crayons or oil pastels, scissors, glue
1. Give each student a 9" square
to use as a background, and two
4½" pieces of different colors of
paper. Guide them to fold both
small squares in half, one at a time,
and then set one aside. Have them
each use a crayon to draw half of a
simple shape along the fold. Check
each one before having students
cut out, and flatten both positive
and negative shapes that result.
Repeat the same procedure with
the second small square.
2. Have students arrange the pieces
with the negative shapes on the
background paper so that each
touches an edge of the background
paper on two opposite corners.
Have students glue these in place.
3. Have students arrange the
remaining two positive shapes in
the empty squares so that they line
up with the negative spaces in the
first set of shapes. Have students
glue these in place.
4. Invite students to add lines and
designs using crayons or oil pastels.
To what extent did students accurately cut and place positive and
negative shapes? Were different
kinds of lines used to add interest to
By Nancy Walkup, editor of
SchoolArts and art teacher at
W.S. Ryan Elementary School in
Bottle People Middle School
The Art Problem
How can students create a sculpture
using recyclable materials?
Students will explore color and
three-dimensional techniques to
create a personalized bottle char-
16 oz. water/soda bottles, wire,
cardboard for shoes, masking tape,
tempera paint, tissue paper, plaster
1. Help students poke holes with
scissors in sides of bottle and bot-
tom of bottle for legs and arms.
2. Put wire arms and legs into the
holes and arrange them into a pose.
Tape where the wire meets the bot-
tle so it won’t slip all the way in.
3. Tape cardboard shoes to the
ends of the wire legs and find a
position that allows the bottle to
4. Using plaster craft material and
water, cover and sculpt a body onto
the bottle. Show students how to
fold, layer, and stack plaster craft
material to create form and dimen-
sion. Show students how to cut
small strips to create fingers and
5. Let dry and paint creatively! Add
tissue paper accents if you wish.
Assess each student’s effort, creativ-
ity, and artistry.
By Katharine Malone-Smith, an
art teacher at Monument Valley
Regional Middle School in Great
Decoding Jackson Pollock Elementary
The Art Problem
How can students create a mirror
image of their names and use the
letters to create lines in a painting?
Students will create a painting of a
mirror image of their names
using a monoprint technique.
12 x 18" ( 30 x 46 cm) sheets of
white paper, black tempera paint,
additional paints in assorted colors,
1. Discuss Jackson Pollock’s paint-
ing, Mural, and have students try to
find the letters of his name in the
painting (other than his signature).
2. Fold a 12 x 18" sheet of white
paper horizontally in half. Have stu-
dents paint their first names, or first
and last names, using black paint
on the top portion of the white
paper. The letters should take up
most of the space from the fold to
the top of the paper.
3. Immediately fold the top half of
the paper over the bottom half of
the paper to print a mirror image
of the name on the paper. Press,
and then open the paper to full
size. Students may have to paint
over names with additional black
paint. Students may wait for the
black paint to dry, or begin to paint
around the letters right away.
4. Have students create their own
color schemes and paint in between
the letters using other colors of
Did students print a mirror image
of their name and come up with a
way to blend their names into the
By Mary Saternus, an art teacher
at St. Joseph School in Buffalo,
Exploded Square High School
Students will reverse positive and
negative shapes, creating a har-
moniously balanced composition
in dark and light. They will also
develop skills creating a high level
of detail with a craft knife.
6 x 6" ( 15 x 15 cm) squares of scrap
paper, 6 x 6" squares of black or
dark-colored construction paper, 12
x 18" ( 30 x 46 cm) sheets of white
paper, craft knives, white glue
1. Have students develop their
designs on a 6 x 6" square of scrap
paper, extending their shapes all
the way into the center. Remind
students to consider negative space
and to make sure that all of their
shapes relate to each other; the
negative and positive shapes should
be in harmony.
2. Have students lightly redraw
their designs on a 6 x 6" dark col-
3. Students should place their
dark square on a sheet of 12 x 18"
white paper (making sure that it
does not hang off the edge of the
paper), then trace lightly around the
By Carol Horst, art teacher
at Tehachapi High School in