Brushstrokes: Fourth Graders Create Paint Brushes from Natural Objects

Creativity was on display recently, when Mount Madonna School fourth grade students gathered materials found outdoors around their classroom to use as brushes for painting.

Their finds included leaves, branch tips from cedar, redwood and pine trees, small flowers, and grasses. They then attached these materials to sticks and experimented with their brushes and ink to see how each one made a different mark.

“In art class students are learning about how artists are very resourceful, and great experimenters,” said teacher Angela Willetts. “Previously, we watched a wonderful video, ‘The Brush Maker,” about Australian artist Lorna Crane. She is an abstract painter who makes her own brushes using diverse natural and man-made materials. Students also learned about artists who make paint from all kinds of materials, including mud and pollen.”

This week students started creating abstract paintings using their new brushes; the project is ongoing, and this is just the first stage of the exploration. They will have the opportunity to make their own paint.

“Art students must surely learn the traditional techniques and skills of art; learn how to see and render detail, manipulate the elements and principles of design, find shadows, shading and lines of perspective to create the illusion of depth,” commented Willetts.  “But equally important to these making and seeing skills, is the development of an artist’s ‘habits of mind.’ These include the ability to envision, stretch, persist, engage with and solve visual problems, fail forward, reflect, explore and experiment. Open-ended exploration of materials, tools and ideas is essential to learning in art. Growth and new discoveries happen when there is no goal other than to test and play. Led by their own curiosity, students wonder, ‘what happens if…,’ and then get lost in the process. The result? Joy, a deeper understanding of materials and tools, and an ability to spot possibility and potential.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.