Arts Renaissance in Tuscaloosa Schools

Bringing the arts to Tuscaloosa-area schools.


March 2018

Cartooning at Matthews Elementary

Cartooning is more than just creating overdrawn caricatures, and the fifth grade students of Matthews Elementary School caught a glimpse into that world this past week. The lesson was to draw cartoons of themselves included with adjectives that best described them, while simultaneously bringing out their creativity. The fifth graders were encouraged to exaggerate their favorite feature on their face and then, using lines to create spaces in the background, fill in the spaces with adjectives that best describe themselves like “kind” or “funny” or “smart.”


All of the students that I was able to talk to were extremely enthusiastic about their work. Perhaps the only downfall was that most of them were intent on making their cartoon drawings “perfect;” however, this gave us the chance to show the real reason that we decided to do this activity: to boost self-confidence and cultivate creativity that was not necessarily realistic. By the end of the session, the students seemed to be grasping the concept that cartoons don’t have to look real; in fact, often they don’t and shouldn’t.

When the time came around at the end of class to present their work, it was amazing to witness the shyer students getting out of their comfort zone and presenting their cartoons to their fellow classmates. They were proud, and it was heartwarming to watch.

Matthews Elementary School Landscapes

Paul Klee once said, “Drawing is the art of taking a line for a walk.” That is just what some of the fifth grades girls of Matthew’s Elementary School did last week when they designed landscapes for the backdrop of their final performance with the Alabama Blues Project.

The lesson started by reading Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon. The girls were then broken into groups to plan, draw and paint the landscapes. The goals of this exercise were to elicit collaboration and communication through group activity, produce planning skills and

reveal how lines make-up the things we see every day. The girls became so enthralled with planning that many almost ran out time to paint. Because of the time constraint, the lesson began to be an exploration of creativity and problem-solving to come to a stopping point.

Interestingly, the three groups designed and implemented different lines and symbols in each landscape and created three unique and clever designs. This lesson was a reminder of just how important every person is to the design process and how fun every step in the process of creating can be.

Thankfully, the girls finished their landscapes beautifully and will be on display along with the other talents the students of Matthew’s Elementary are learning from the gracious volunteers of the Alabama Blues Project.

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