Oil Pastel Cats Inspired by Laurel Burch

Oil Pastel Cat inspired by Laurel Burch

What’s not to love about these whim­si­cal, col­or­ful cats inspired by San Fran­cisco artist, Lau­rel Burch? This fun project can be adapted to most any age group.… the exam­ples here were done by my 4th graders.

My stu­dents always enjoy learn­ing about the lives of famous artists, and the story of pro­lific artist Lau­rel Burch (1945–2007) really inspired them!  Her highly styl­ized art­work can be found on prod­ucts from cloth­ing to jew­elry to dishes, but her strength of char­ac­ter is what really cap­tured my stu­dents’ attention.

Lau­rel Burch is a great exam­ple of how a pos­i­tive atti­tude can get you through all kinds of adversity.

She was resource­ful.… As a self-taught artist and sin­gle mom in her 20’s, she started a busi­ness in her home sell­ing her paint­ings and jew­elry made from metal found in junk yards.

She knew how to per­se­vere.… She suf­fered her entire life from a painful, rare bone dis­ease called osteopet­ro­sis. This caused her bones to be so brit­tle that she endured over 100 frac­tures in her life­time, yet she rarely stopped working.

She thought of oth­ers more than her­self.… Even though her life was hard, she was more focused on those around her than on her­self, and she became known for her gen­er­ous dona­tions to charities.

Lau­rel Burch was only 61 when she died, but her legacy lives on through her art and her many con­tri­bu­tions to char­i­ta­ble causes.  She viewed her dis­ease as a “gift”, believ­ing that you could make some­thing beau­ti­ful from any sit­u­a­tion, and refus­ing to accept any other way of think­ing!  Lau­rel Burch is inspi­ra­tional far beyond her artwork!



  1. Use a white oil pas­tel to lightly draw a bor­der about 1″ from each edge of your paper.
  2. Con­tin­u­ing with your white oil pas­tel, use sim­ple lines and shapes to make a rough out­line of a cat or cats.  Include sim­ple pat­terns on the cat, back­ground, and bor­der.  There’s no need to draw with pen­cil first, as any mis­takes can be eas­ily cov­ered up later on.
  3. Now use the side of your oil pas­tels (the halves with paper removed) to apply the first layer of color on your design.  (Oil pas­tels give the best results when you layer them, com­pletely cov­er­ing your paper, so don’t skip this step!)
  4. For the next layer (or lay­ers), hold your oil pas­tel as you would a crayon, press­ing hard to get the most intense col­ors.  It can be fun to color “every which way” to add a lively “brush stroke” effect. Be sure to hold your oil pas­tels close to the tip… they’re very soft and will break eas­ily, espe­cially once the paper is removed!  Take care to layer col­ors that blend well together and avoid lay­er­ing com­pli­ments (col­ors across from each other on the color wheel, like red and green).  A scrap of black paper is handy for test­ing pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tions.  (Hint: Apply­ing white on top of any color will make it brighter!)
  5. Now play “hide the black paper” and keep work­ing until your entire paper is cov­ered with at least two lay­ers of color.
  6. The final step is to out­line by sim­ply trac­ing over your orig­i­nal draw­ing… we usu­ally use black for this, but some­times a white out­line can look great, too!

Oil Pastel Cat inspired by Laurel Burch

Oil Pastel Cat inspired by Laurel Burch

Oil Pastel Cat inspired by Laurel Burch

Oil Pastel Cat inspired by Laurel Burch

Visit Teach Kids Art on Face­book for more charm­ing exam­ples of our 4th grade cats! 

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