15 Best Back To School Art Projects To Try Today

The first few days back at school can always be a bumpy ride. The students are still on summer vacation time and let’s be honest, the teachers are rarely much better.

And when you find yourself confronted with a class of faces you don’t know, you might find yourself floundering!

15 Best Back To School Art Projects To Try Today

Back-to-school art projects should be fun and engaging, encouraging students to get hands-on. They can also be a good way to learn about your students, with projects that get them to show their personality. 

Ready to go back to school? Even if you aren’t, these 15 art projects can help you make it through those first few days!

15 Inspiring Back To School Art Projects

We’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite art projects that are perfect for going back back-to-school.

1. Silhouette Portraits

Silhouette portraits are an excellent back-to-school art project. They aren’t hard to create, they’re more “hands-on” than other portraits, and you can get to know your students.

Use a light to create a shadow on a piece of paper, which the students draw around to create their silhouette. 

The students can then fill the interior of their silhouette with all the things they love. The picture should be absolutely packed full of ideas.

Alternatively, paint the inside of the silhouette black, and the students can decorate the background with all their favorite things.

2. Create A Wall Mural

What better way to celebrate the start of the school year than by encouraging everyone to work together?

If you have enough space, you can paint a mural directly on the wall, but it’s often better to work on a big sheet of paper.

Fantasy landscapes are a good choice for a mural, as you can experiment with different styles and scenes, so kids can express themselves.

But there are plenty of different options to choose from. You could get kids to decorate handprints, craft paper butterflies, or design aliens for an out-of-this-world mural!

3. My House Drawing

Perfect for younger kids, a “my house” drawing is a low-key art project for the first day of school. Students can draw a cross-section of their house, and fill the rooms with all the things they love.

Another way to explore the “my house” idea is with a template that folds to create the house.

You can cut out the windows and doors, and the students can draw their family and pets looking out of the house! When the front of the template opens, you can see what’s going on in the rooms.

4. Name Illustrations

Art lessons should encourage students to think about the world around them and to engage with their creative side.

Name illustrations help kickstart their imaginations by exploring how to play with shapes and objects.

To create name illustrations, students need to write their names using different objects. For an obvious example, a snake could be an “s”.

They can use any object they like to create their letters, but try to encourage them to really think outside the box! The names should also express their personality.

5. Quick Sketch Prompts

There’s a good chance at least some of your students will have spent the entirety of the summer vacation without once picking up a pencil.

That’s fine, but these back-to-school lessons should help kids get back into the habit of making art. Don’t spend hours discussing theory when you should be creating!

Quick doodles are perfect for throwing students in at the deep end. The limited time means they have to create something, but there isn’t pressure for it to be good!

Set a time limit (between 30 seconds and 5 minutes) and shout out a prompt. At the end of the time limit, immediately shout a new prompt, and start again.

6. Picasso Portraits

Picasso is one of the most famous artists of all time, and his abstract portraits are immediately recognizable. Have your students create their own Picasso portraits, based on themselves!

These portraits can be drawn, painted, or even collaged. Whatever style you like will work, as long as it’s bright and weird.

This is a great back-to-school art lesson for middle school students. It teaches art history as well as practical application, and the bold designs allow students to express their personalities.

Make sure to bring a few images of Picasso portraits with you, to act as inspiration.

7. Op Art For Kids

Op art, short for optical art, is an art style that uses abstract lines and designs to create optical illusions.

These brain-busting images are always popular with children, and they’re not as hard to create as you might expect!

Op art is a particularly good back-to-school lesson if you teach kids roughly 10 years old. At this point, they might not have had much experience with more abstract art styles.

Op art can help them to expand their idea of what is, which can intrigue kids who might have been previously uninterested in painting. 

8. Onomatopoeia Words Pop Art

Add a touch of literary learning to art with this onomatopoeia art project, a back-to-school activity that’s super fun for younger students.

Kids are encouraged to choose an onomatopoeia (print off a list, to provide some inspiration) and illustrate the word.

But here’s the trick — the word should look like it sounds! So, a bang needs to have plenty of bang!

Students can draw inspiration from the works of Roy Lichtenstein, as well as their favorite comic book illustrators.

9. Three Styles In One Painting

“Three styles in one painting” is exactly what you expect it to be. Students are encouraged to choose a subject (an animal, object, or landscape will all work well).

They then divide their paper into three. The middle section is the “realism” section. Here, they’ll draw their subject as realistically as possible. With the other two sections, they can experiment with different styles.

A tricky project for back-to-school, but a good one for engaging art lovers early. It pushes your skills, but the chance to play with styles makes it fun.

10. Illuminated Initials

Loosely inspired by Medieval art, illuminated initials get students thinking about form, and can help you get to know their personalities.

The focus of the illustration is their first initial. This is then decorated with imagery they feel depicts them, in the style of a medieval manuscript.

Another option is to try zentangle initials. Zentangle is all about using repeated patterns and abstract designs to soothe and relax.

Have the students draw their first initial on an A4 page, and fill the background with their zentangle patterns.

11. Yayoi Kusama Inspired Fruits And Vegetables

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist perhaps best known for her dotty squash sculptures. These giant sculptures depict squash and pumpkins in bright colors, covered in polka dots! 

As a back-to-school activity, have students draw their favorite fruits and vegetables in the style of Yayoi Kusama. The paintings will encourage them to think about line, form, and color.

As a bonus, they’ll also learn about contemporary female artists!

12. Half Photo, Half Drawing

You’ll need some tracing paper to create this half photo, half cartoon back-to-school art project. It teaches kids about lines and perspective while allowing them to get creative.

Ask the students to bring in a photograph. Self-portraits are a good choice, but the pictures can be anything you like.

If this is the first lesson you’re spending together, you can use photos from old newspapers and magazines instead.

Lay a piece of tracing paper on top of the photo, and draw a squiggly line across the middle. On one half of the picture, create a cartoon-style version of the photo beneath.

13. Pastel Sunflower Art Project

Start the new school year with an art project that encourages big, bold colors. Sunflower portraits are perfect for the start of school when everyone is still dreaming of summer.

Provide plenty of photos of sunflowers to act as inspiration, and ask the kids to zoom in on one part of the flower. They then recreate this on a bigger canvas, using chalk or oil pastels to capture the colors. 

14. Me And My Goals Self Portrait

Back-to-school is a time to start fresh, and what better way than taking a look at your goals for the upcoming year?

The “me and my goals” self-portrait is an artistic way to get students to start thinking about what they want to achieve in the coming school year.

The cartoon style of this self-portrait, combined with the goal setting, makes it a fantastic project for younger kids. 

15. Design An Ice Cream

With summer only just in the rearview mirror, there are probably plenty of students (and teachers) still dreaming about vacation.

Designing an ice cream captures that vacation feeling while encouraging creativity.

Begin by drawing a simple ice cream cone at the bottom of the paper. On top of the cone, students are asked to draw scoops and scoops of ice cream, each one a funny flavor. The bigger (and sillier) the ice cream grows, the better!

Final Thoughts 

It can be hard to get students engaged when they’re first back at school. You need an art project that’s fun and delivers quick results, helping students remember why they love art.

We hope the ideas we’ve collected here can help you find the perfect art project for beating the back-to-school blues!

Helena Waters

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