Snowmen with Tempera

Cropping and a unique point of view make this “not your everyday snowman”!  I first saw this composition idea on Art Projects for Kids (done with oil pastels) and then on Deep Space Sparkle (done with tempera paint).  I used this lesson to teach my first graders about cropping and the 3/4 view portrait.  They loved it when I told them the portrait they would be painting was of a snowman instead of a person! 

  • 12×18 blue construction paper
  • pencil
  • black oil pastel
  • tempera paint in white, red, yellow and blue (we use turquoise for our “blue”)
I began by showing examples of portraits (I chose several by Vincent Van Gogh) in three different formats: straight on, profile, and 3/4 view.  I explained that with the 3/4 view, you see both eyes but only one ear (if the ears are showing) and you see one side of the nose.  I told them our portrait would be of a snowman, so we would see his carrot nose from the side.  Then we talked about how we could make our snowman look BIG… either by putting him next to a house and making him bigger than the house, or by cropping – showing just a section of him with the rest going off the page, like he’s too big to fit on the paper!

1.  With your paper in the vertical position, first draw your snowman with a pencil:  Draw a large semi-circle that starts and ends on the left edge of the paper.  Start about 2″ down to leave room for his hat!
2.  Now draw a curvy line beginning about 2/3 of the way down on your semi-circle and ending on the bottom edge of your paper, near the right side.
3.  Next add all the details your snowman needs: two eyes, a carrot nose, mouth, buttons, hat and scarf.  Don’t forget a stick for his arm!  When drawing the carrot nose, be sure to place the carrot so that it begins between the eyes, to get the correct angle for a 3/4 view!
4.  Trace all your pencil lines with a black oil pastel.
5.  With white tempera, paint your snowman’s face and body, painting around the oil pastel lines.  Add some snowflakes in the sky.
6.  Then, paint your snowman’s nose by mixing some red and yellow to make orange.  Mix more colors to paint his hat and scarf. 

(Quote of the day…. We don’t ever see real snow where we live, so after my demo one of my first graders announced, “We don’t need snow to make a snowman – we can just make one with ART!!”)


4 Responses to Snowmen with Tempera

  1. Miss December 11, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    These are adorable! What brand of tempera do you use? It looks nice and opaque.

  2. TeachKidsArt December 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    I use “Sargent” brand tempera… just the regular one, not the washable version. I find it to be the best for opacity and color, and the best for mixing, as I only give my students the primary colors plus black and white!

  3. jaeartworks December 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Love these!

  4. Sleepyhead Designs Studio December 29, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    These turned out sooo wonderful! I also wanted to thank you for all the readers you sent me this year! Hope you have a great 2012. See my latest post @