Hot Air Balloon Art Project

In art, sometimes we get new ideas from looking at something old. At our art school  here in Seattle we recently taught this lesson, inspired by historical illustrations of the first passenger-carrying hot air balloons. Students of all ages, from 4-year-olds to adults, had such a great time I decided to share the project here as well. This is a project that can provide useful challenges to little ones as well as teenagers and adults, depending on how you approach it – which makes it a wonderful chance to do art together and play around with all the different ways it can turn out! Use the step-by-step guide for the basic shapes; if you’ve got older artists in the family, add extra ornate details from our examples, or from your imagination.

balloon example 2


sturdy, smooth paper

permanent black pen (for older artists, try one with an extra-fine tip)

markers or colored pencils (or both!)

1. Share a little about the history of what you’re drawing: Hot air balloons were the first way humans experienced sustained flight, before planes or parachutes. Initially they were developed in China, as floating paper lanterns that could signal to people far away. The first passenger-carrying hot air balloons, though, were made in France, in 1783. Before they tried lifting people, they sent one up that successfully carried a sheep, a duck, and a rooster! The art examples shown here are all inspired by actual illustrations of those first balloon flights.

balloon blackline

2. Sometimes balloon shapes can feel tricky to draw. Don’t worry! Start with the bottom of the balloon, which is shaped a little like the outline of an eye. Trace up from the middle of it with your finger, and make a dot where you want the top of your balloon to be.

balloon steps

3. Take it slowly with the sides of your balloon. Start at your top dot, then curve out to one side before joining up with the bottom shape. On the other side, try to curve out the same amount. It’s ok if your balloon ends up a little pointy on top – some of the first hot air balloons actually were pointy too!


4. Draw two straight lines from the bottom edges, going down to where your basket will be. Add your basket connected below, using curved lines for the bottom and top to show that it is round, not flat.


5. Start your decorations by dividing your balloon into sections, using lines that curve up gently. This trick helps the balloon look full and round, instead of flat. Then fill in different designs and details throughout your balloon. You can look at the examples for ideas, and add others from your imagination.

balloon extra details

6. Fill in your colors using the markers or colored pencils. If you want to use both, fill everything in with markers first, then draw extra designs or shading on top with the colored pencils. If using just colored pencil, try filling everything in solidly with very firm pressure – this will help your balloon really “pop” out from the page!


Extra Tip: If your kid gets frustrated about her/his balloon shape at the beginning, there are lots of ways to solve it! You can add extra lines around the original ones, to make the shape you want, and then turn the first lines into part of the design. Or, suggest that this balloon is blowing in the wind, or about to land or take off, and isn’t fully inflated – encourage your kid to turn it into a fun scene to draw. When we’re making art, something that seems like a mistake is actually just a surprising new challenge. When we see it through, we can come up with new ideas for our art we might never have thought of before!

balloon example youngest

balloon example 1




Talk nice to yourself

‘Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative….’ Do you know this song? Some say focusing on the positive is the key to happiness. I happen to think it’s a great concept – one that has become my mantra when teaching art and parenting my kids.

Having positive self-talk can make a big difference when our kids are learning something new. Take learning to draw- when kids are unhappy with their drawing, it can go one of two ways- they either keep trying or they give up. Wouldn’t it be great if our kids’ internal voice was compassionate and compelled them to keep trying?


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Easter Art Project

With my two boys home with colds today and Easter this weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to try one of my favorite Easter themed art project with them.

I love coloring Easter eggs so I took that concept and put it to paper to make an Easter Egg Resist painting. These paintings can be used as greeting cards, table setting decorations, or?

A “resist” is a  fine art technique which can easily be done with kids at  home. In a resist artwork, a picture is created using a material, such as tape, or glue or, in this case, an oil pastel and then painted with a water-based material such as watercolor paint. When the paint is brushed over the oil pastels, the paint does not stick to the pastels, and it creates an interesting effect on your paper.



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Watercolor Techniques

If you have art supplies around your house, it’s likely you have a set of watercolor paints and very little guidance is necessary before your kids can dive in and create bold bright paintings or subtle delicate masterpieces with them. But like anything, the more they learn and explore different techniques, the more options they will have when they want to create specific effects-  like filling in small spaces without color running around or creating a sunset in the background of their picture.

This week I’m sharing some traditional watercolor techniques you can practice with your kids to get different effects, plus a few tips to care for your supplies that will make them last longer.

Here’s a video from the Intermediate Program that will have your child’s watercolor repertoire expanded in no time.

If you’d like to have watercolor supplies on hand but not sure where to begin, here’s a basic list:


Watercolor Paint

This set of eight colors provides rich, fade-resistant paint that goes on smoothly. The lid can be uses as a palette to mix additional colors. For more color options, look for Prang Oval Set of 16. Non-toxic and odor free.

Flower mosaic art project

Mosaics are artworks that arrange small pieces of glass, tile, or stone to look like a picture. It’s one of the oldest traditions in art, dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times – and earlier! Elaborate mosaics were used throughout the ages to decorate the floors, walls, and ceilings of prominent buildings. This is a great art form to explore with your family, but it’s pretty hard for most of us to do an actual mosaic at home. Luckily we have a more accessible solution! This flower mosaic drawing can introduce your kids to the idea of mosaics, using whatever basic art materials you have on hand. It’s also a playful, colorful project – perfect for adding new designs and brightening up your home this winter.

Mosaic 2

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Creative Parenting

Mom and Son Pic (Small)

Since working on my recent podcast, “Your Family is a Work of Art,” I’ve been a little obsessed with the notion of creative parenting. I’ve been examining what it can look like in my own life, the ways it benefits my family – and how to do it more often! As I chew on this concept, consciously calling on my own creativity when I’m with my kids, my parental stress dissipates. When I parent from a creative place, we have more fun, flow and connection. Who doesn’t want more of that in family life!

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Winter Art Project- draw a snow globe!

Here in the Northwest we haven’t had much snow this winter… but it’s always snowing in a snow globe! You and your kids can use this snow globe art project to build a snowman in the comfort of your own home, using paint instead of snow. It’s a great solution if snow is in short supply, as it is here – or if your family just needs a fun activity that doesn’t get everybody’s feet wet. It also introduces a bunch of useful art techniques to try, that’ll come in handy whenever your kids create new projects.

Snow globe1

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Wintry Penguin Art Project

Are your kids itching for some wintry, snowy fun? This penguin art project is the perfect indoor option! It’s a great celebration of the season, with fun winter details to add like scarves and hats. There are lots of ways to do it, so everybody in the family can find something to spark their imagination. The finished art could make a great decoration for your home, or a sweet family gift.

Winter Penguins 3

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Fall Harvest Drawing Project

Fall is definitely here – the leaves are turning red and orange, and we’ve all been seeing a lot of pumpkins around the neighborhood. Now’s the perfect time to try out some of those details in an art project! This fall harvest scene combines trees and pumpkins with learning a step-by-step technique for drawing a cow. There’s also lots of space for kids to add their own designs and ideas along the way. For art time with the whole family, parents can make their own project alongside the kids – see how many fun, different ways it can turn out!


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