Winter Village Landscape Inspired by Grandma Moses

This elementary lesson focuses on the element of shape and technique of collage to create a winter village scene and exposes young students to the work of “Grandma Moses”.  The above examples are from Kindergarten where the children had a wonderful time creating these winter landscapes and learning about this classic artist.


I start the lesson with a discussion about the work of Grandma Moses.  I’ve found a pretty good video reviewing the artist’s work via Martha Stewart of all people! See the link here.

My favorite take away from the video is Grandma Moses’ thought that anyone can paint. I like to repeat and reiterate this with my young students, because it’s such an encouraging sentiment. The other idea well exemplified by Grandma Moses is to paint what you know.  Art can absolutely be scenes from your everyday life.

To closely examine and discuss the elements within the winter scene, I like to use one of the Take 5 prints, Pull Boys(seen above).  My little ones really get into the narrative aspect of the painting. It is also a great artwork for them to make a personal connection.  The actions in the paintings are things they might be doing themselves this season. Students also easily relate to the simple style of the buildings and figures.  In future classes, when we are reviewing objectives, I share other samples of Grandma Moses’ work to compare and contrast.

img_6665Onto making the artwork! Students begin by painting a white ground and snowflakes in the sky.  This is where we begin talking about the horizon line and using the vocabulary of landscape.

On day two we review information about the artist, our artwork's goal.  Trays of colored paper squares/rectangles are set out to make buildings.  Enter discussion and demonstration on how to use shape to create buildings.We discuss varying the placement and making sure the buildings touch the ground (enter that vocab word, horizon line again).

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The windows and door are cut by the students from strips of paper on the trays.  It’s fun to see each student deliberate over their color choice of windows and whether or not they choose to make all the buildings the same or some different.  Roofs are created by cutting squares in half on the diagonal to create two triangles.  Kids also love to make chimneys and shutters for their little houses.  Some really get into it and make little signs for the buildings as well if they are planning on shops while others are content with three little homes.

image-8 image-1On day three after a review of the artist and the lesson objectives, the students add bare winter trees or even evergreens to the sides of their landscapes.  The last couple of years I’ve done the trees as a bit of guided drawing.

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Then students use their creative powers and skinny markers to draw people and animals into their scene.  We review the kinds of actions seen in the Grandma Moses works for ideas, but the kids are generally pumped with their own fun ideas.  Sledding, snowman building, peeking out of windows can all make their way into student work.  As the very last touch, I direct the students in going back to add just a little layer of snow on the rooftops and tree branches.  No blizzards, I note! Just gentle, peaceful flurries!

Modifications for special needs

This lesson is fairly easy to modify for (always take into account the varying skill levels of students you may be modifying for). The first steps of painting the ground and gluing down rectangles and squares for buildings does not usually need to change. What I have modified in the past is drawing line on the square that turns into the roof. I still want the students to practice their scissor skills, but some help seeing the diagonal may be needed. The same modification can be applied to the strips which turn into windows and doors.  When it comes to  adding the tree(s) a possible modification is to do an evergreen tree instead, either instructing simple lines to make the tree or even using paper shapes again.  Cute skinny triangles could be great trees!

I always recommend creating a visual version of the directions to help modify any lesson as well.

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It's nice creating with you! Have you ever done a lesson on Grandma Moses?  I don't think I really appreciated all she has to offer a young artist until I began teaching this lesson to my kinders. Her work is so accessible and really inspires them. profile pic (1)