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Today my Granddaughter and I worked on another painting idea from The Usborne Complete Book of Art by Fiona Watt.  We changed it up a bit, and added a watercolor wash to our paintings as well as a little wax resist but the technique with the acrylic paint came from her idea in the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone’s art library,  young and old alike.

The first thing we did was to draw a ground line across the bottom of our paper (140 lb Arches coldpress)  about one fifth up from the bottom.  We decided to include a moon or sun in our cityscape and traced a circle using the bottom of a small spray bottle. We then colored that in, applying pressure,  with a white crayon to act as a resist to the following wash. We then created our watercolor wash using two colors.  We thoroughly wet the paper, first, with a one inch flat brush and then fed in two colors. My Granddaughter used diox violet and cerulean blue in the wash pictured above. She stroked in her colors one next to the other (one inch flat brush) and tilted her board so the two colors would run and mix  together. We were careful to wipe up any water and pigment surrounding the edges of the paper so they would not run back into this wash, creating blossoms.

While we waited for this wash to dry we:

Cut out different widths of corrugated cardboard strips about 3 to 4 inches in length to be used as our brushes……

Chose to use our set of heavy body acrylics

and layed out the tubes on some paper towels with their respective caps above them so we did not mix tube caps when we went to store them away. She chose the colors brilliant blue, phthalo blue, diox purple and white.

In the next step, we squeezed out short ribbons of the four colors, in no particular order, along that ground line we had drawn earlier.  We then picked up a cardboard strip and used it like a brush, dragging the ribbon of acrylic upward.  We worked this way moving from the left side of the paper to the right to avoid getting our arm in the paint. Lefthanded artists may wish to work right to left.  As we did this, we changed our cardboard strips from wide to narrow to create variations in the shapes and heights of our future buildings.  We discussed things about light and dark, tall and short and if we needed to change a color or two in areas that looked too boring. 

We also pulled some of the pigment below the groundline.  This stage was then allowed to dry completely.

                                              Granddaughter’s Finished Cityscape

The final step was to take black and white acrylic and paint with the edges and corners of the cardboard to furthur define our paintings.  I was amazed at my Granddaughter’s creativity at this stage. She talked about what was the road and when she was painting windows. She created a walkway between buildings.  When she saw me put in a streak of white at a diagonal she decided she needed one, also, and reached for a wider section of cardboard and did it.  This was a  fun and creative afternoon for the two of us and I can envision so many other scenes that can be created this way. The book gives an example of painting a castle.

                                                      Grandma’s Finished Cityscape 

Grandma’s colors were bronze yellow, cadmium yellow medium hue and cadmium red light hue.  The watercolor wash was aureolin and halloween orange.


  1. They are both so beautiful, Leslie! I am not saying this out of being sentimental about a precious painting by a little girl – they are truly beautiful.

    • Hi Alex,
      I believe you. I am increasingly amazed at the ideas in this book. It is full of inspiring techniques to try. I can see so many more adaptations and applications of what is suggested in each exercise. Thank-you so much for your praise of these. I have such a difficult time reaching for the abstact, but can somehow manage when I have the company of my Granddaughter and the ideas in this book. I tried to link to this book on Amazon and it obliterated my whole comment with their logo, so I deleted that.

  2. You have a competitor at home Leslie! Fabulous to see an abstract from you and the technique neat!

    • I know! She is awesome! The first place she goes, most days, is to the bookshelf to get this book or the drawing one for children and point to what she wants to try next. I have had to go for extra supplies that I didn’t have so we could do some of them and I’m smiling all the way to and from the art store. Thank-you, Padmaja!

  3. WOW! I like them both. Your granddaughter is one talented girl who took after grandma, for sure!

    • Thank-you, Earthianne! It is so much fun to work with her because of her willingness to attempt anything! No one has told her she “can’t”, yet. 🙂

  4. Both of these are so beautiful, and just like Alex, I am not just saying that because your sweet granddaughter created one of them. They are both stunning! I’ll have to try this sometime, it looks like a lot of fun. Thank you for sharing the how tos.

  5. Yes I certainly have been.
    Thank you, Leslie!!

  6. way fun and aloha on the two of you. i like your creative choice in the materials you used and the way you used them. in the first stage above – with the ground line and sun/moon i thought the wash felt like the aurora borealis (northern lights) – and the ground line felt like a wire between poles across the sky. …more potential ideas for the future i suspect. way fun to work this way between the two of you. a painting for two and a collaboration as well. lucky granddaughter. lucky grandma! awesome on both of you – aloha

    • Thank-you for that idea about a wire! (Leslie makes note in her notebook). That would be so cool for the twoof us to create birds to sit on it. Ha! I am lucky to be able to have someone enjoy sharing this with me. I think the book has made this so much more fun because we are really learning all these new things together. Thanks, Wrick!

  7. This is lovely and special, Leslie!

  8. I am going to try this! That is the best compliment I can share. What beautiful results and alot of fun besides.

    • What a wonderful compliment, Nancy! I can think of no better than that! Others’ art inspiring one to create! You have made my day! 😆

  9. What a wonderful project for the two of you! I like both of the finished projects and will have to take a look at that book.

    • Thank-you, Kathleen. You know how I struggle to do anything of this nature. When you take a look at this book, don’t be turned away by the fact that it is for children. The techniques are fascinating and so open ended that I see the exercises as only starting points to creativity.

  10. O these are like cityscape at dawn and cityscape at twilight. Great stuff, Leslie. So lucky you and your granddaughter are to be able to create together. Every child should be so blessed.

    • I thought the same thing about night and day and summer and winter, Eva. Every grandma should be as lucky as I am. Thank-you for what you say! 🙂

  11. Coming into the world on the tail end of family lines, I did not have time with either of my grandmothers. It is hard to imagine the joy a young girl would feel about sharing a project like this with grandma.

    I love that you meet her at her level, with her books, and ‘companion’ her creativity. Please Universe, don’t let anyone say she can’t – about anything.

    • Thank-you for that blessing for her, Amy.
      I was fortunate. I had a Grandma who shared all things warm and loving and a Granny who took us to places that dazzled our eyes and minds as well as cooking the best fried chicken in the world! They took time.

  12. Well Leslie it seems like artistic talent runs in the family or maybe she just has a good teacher.
    I think they’re both great.
    They are kind of loose almost distant cityscapes and it a really cool method

    • I actually think she has talent running through her for this. Maybe it is that we all do and many don’t have an opportunity to explore. I don’t know. I actually like her painting better than mine. It is just more creative I think. This exercise brings to mind all the different things, other than brushes that can be used to paint with. Thank-you, Richard!

  13. What a great project for the two of you!! Both paintings are wonderfully creative. Your grand daughter is lucky to have such a wonderful grand mother!

    • You are so kind, Kate. I was just thinking how lucky I was to have her in my life. This project was a blast. It was only the second time we have been able to sit down and both work on something together. The other was the snow day post. I am looking forward to more experiences like this where we can chit chat and both be happily sharing each others’ visions. Thank-you, Kate!

  14. Leslie, I just love the way you work with your granddaughter. I think it will be interesting to see how her own art evolves over time.

    Love the cityscapes. Charming. Thanks!

    • Her own art is evolving, daily. There is a companion book on drawing that parallels this some and she will often pull that out and start working from it, trying to work out the lines and angles to something on her own. I think I am actually learning from her. I like how she used the black in these cityscapes much more than how I used it. Thank-you, Jamie!

  15. Wow – interesting and pretty at the same time!
    (I’ve been playing with paints recently… hope to put some stuff in my blog soon. Need to get a bit warmer in the house first, though!)

  16. It looks like you both had great fun with these cityscapes Leslie! Your grand daughter’s quite an artist too! I love the colours used in both 🙂

    • I was totally fascinated with how this exercise in painting held her interest. Even when we would stop to let the stages dry, she would jump up to see if the paint was changing as it dried. I think you are right. She likes this creating art. Thank-you, Lynda!

  17. Oh this is so wonderful. Your granddaughter will remember and cherish these projects! She’s quite the painter too!!

    • It has given us something to do ever since she was two. I think this year has been the best, though, because she is realizing some freedom from me having to help her all the way through. She really enjoys this. However! If it were warm out, her choice would be a LONG bike ride! We do that too. Thank-you, Amber!! 🙂

  18. OOOOOOOOOOOO Blllluuuuueeeeee! Delicious.

  19. They are both beautiful! It’s like the same city but night and day. The blues and blacks represents night time and your bright colors represent day time. Looks like your grand-daughter has inherited your artistic talents. 🙂

    • I somehow think my granddaughter far surpasses anything I ever did at five. I wonder, if given the proper supplies and support many children could find expression through their creations. Crayons, coloring book and paper were my treasured things when I was very young. Thank-you, Emily!!!

  20. Leslie, this is a really creative exercise. You can teach a budding artist alot as you do it. Your granddaughter’s painting is remarkable! (and yours too.) It is always interesting to see the color choices when doing an activity like this.

    • Thank-you, Linda. Maybe this is something you will be able to share with the guys the next time they visit? It was a blast painting with different size cardboard strips. It took the need to be exact out of the equation for us and I loved that! 🙂

  21. What I can see is a little girl’s hip, urban, metallic, electrifying, thrilling night life version of a beautiful modern city that she is eager to explore..
    And a grandmother’s muted, soothing, relaxed, pastel, mature, brilliant interpretation of a world that she has seen and one that has grown on her..
    One word, AMAZING!!

    • What a wonderful and creative comment, Rachana!!!! Thank-you! 🙂

  22. I like both of the finished projects, beautiful work…Well done 🙂

  23. What a fine grandmother you are! I send my grandchildren out to the yard to pull weeds for their recreation then I put them to work.

    • Hi Bill!
      We pull weeds together. Ha! One day we sat and cleared the edges of the patio bricks from creeping grass and weeds. With each disturbance of the soil, there seemed to be an earthworm to rescue. 🙂 I lost my weeder friend to her carrying the worms carefully into shaded grassy areas and she watched them crawl their way back down into the grass and soil. Maybe she will be a bioligist and not an artist as I received a “blow-by-blow” report on each worm’s progress. Thank-you, Bill, for the visit and always for the “humor”!

  24. Leslie, thank you so much for posting the step by step with this! What a great project. How neat to see what different colors you each chose. I am going to do this one with my daughter. (And I have a funny feeling that it will be a good exercise for me to try to loosen up a bit)

    • Oh yes, try it! I can imagine all sorts of cityscapes, castles and fantasylands that could be painted this way. It gave me a whole bunch of ideas to try, not to mention all sorts of things we could use to paint with. I face the same challenge to loosen up. Thank-you, Karen!

  25. What a wonderful collection of talent. I can see that creativity flows through your family Leslie, and your granddaughter has created a wonderful painting and memory. Soooo Cool!

    • Your family, also! 🙂 What thrills me is that she has a real interest to do these paintings and drawings we share together. Thanks, Ryan!

  26. Love both the abstract cityscapes. I am glad to see that you enjoy working with your granddaughter who is equally artistic.Is this your first acrylic tryout?

    • Hi Raji! It is my first painting in acrylic since I started this blog. I was horrible with acrylic my first try with it. So bad that I put them up and all the tubes had dried up it was so long ago. This little exercise in this book got me thinking about them again, though. I enjoy working with my granddaughter very much. I did not have access to all these materials when I was young. Being able to share some of this with her has helped me to “see” better. I love some of what she is able to do and come up with! Thank-you for the comment and the visit!

  27. I have read this post numerous times but realized I forgot to comment! I just loved this project. I want to try it myself. I think you are the best grandma ever to do this with your granddaughter. Even if she doesn’t grow up to be an artist, this special time with you will be remembered forever.

    • Thank-you, Carol. Painting with varying widths of cardboard is refreshing. The pressure is off! I can mess up. What was fun was to see a city scene appear in spite of it all. This was fun. Try it.
      The Granddaughter will already have a head start on knowing what to do with her time after “50”. Ha! Just had to throw that in there.

  28. dear leslie,

    i have always been fascinated by the gift of art by your granddaughter’s hands. she has a very promising future as an artist herself. i specially commend you for nurturing this talent in her at such a young age. that i think is the most precious heritage you can pass on. i just hope that i have this chance to pass on my artistic gifts to some kids, like you do.
    happy weekend.

    • Thank-you, Marvin! She asks me, everyday, if she can paint or draw. We place no judgement on what we share and she is always so happy when she is actively working on something! Oh the stories she tells and the beauty of her marks on paper teach me to be ever mindful of her developing voice! I had read a long time ago that it is important to share who we are and what we know. She makes it easy for me! I am sure you will find a way to share your creativity with others, Marvin! I honestly believe that gift of sharing is much more rewarding than anything we record on paper…….. 🙂

  29. Fantastic Leslie. I’m always looking for new ideas for the children, I’m sure they would enjoy this approach, although I can see the mess now! I also enjoy the way you take the time to show each stage.

    • Thank-you, Keith. The mess was not too bad. If you paint the wash in the background with watercolor, as we did, you will have time to do something else while you wait for it to dry. Watercolor supplies can be put away, cardboard strips can be cut. Blow dry the wash if you are in a hurry. Have wastebasket at the ready next to where you are working and have the kids drop their used up strips of cardboard in there. This was fun and I will probably play around some more with acrylics because of this exercise.

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