INSPIRED BY KANDINSKY – Concentric Shapes, Colour

Students use oil pastels and watercolours to create geometric patterns in an art work inspired by Wassily Kandinsky.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 3


Language Arts
Visual Arts


abstract art concentric geometric shapes pattern resist shape


Crayola Oil Pastels - 16 Count Crayola Watercolour Paints - 24 Count Crayola Assorted Paint Brushes - 5 Count Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Pencils

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INSPIRED BY KANDINSKY – Concentric Shapes, Colour - Step One

Step One

  1. Fold the paper in half, short end to short end.
  2. Fold it in half again, short end to short end.
  3. Open it up.
  4. Fold it in half, long end to long end.
  5. Open it up.
  6. You should have 8 boxes.
INSPIRED BY KANDINSKY – Concentric Shapes, Colour - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Draw a small circle in the centre of one box.
  2. Draw another slightly larger circle around it.
  3. Draw another slightly larger circle around it.
  4. You have drawn concentric circles.
  5. Make a concentric square in the next box.
  6. Make a pattern of concentric circles and concentric squares in the remaining boxes.
INSPIRED BY KANDINSKY – Concentric Shapes, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use oil pastels to colour in the shapes. Only colour the shapes, not the space around the shapes.
  2. Press hard so you get lots of oil pastel on the paper.
INSPIRED BY KANDINSKY – Concentric Shapes, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use watercolours to paint the 8 boxes. Paint right over the oil pastel. 
  2. The oil pastels will resist the watercolour paints.
INSPIRED BY KANDINSKY – Concentric Shapes, Colour - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Look at your painting from a distance to see it with fresh eyes.
  2. How do the colours make you feel?
  3. How does the resist technique affect the colours?
  4. What do you like best about your design? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use crayon resist technique to create patterns with concentric geometric shapes;
  • use colour expressively;
  • explain their process; 
  • express opinions about the works.


Have students:

  • use the crayon resist technique and shape tracers to create a set of small shape cards – one for each of 5 shapes;
  • find examples of the various shapes in their home – square tiles, round plates, for example;
  • record them on the back of the appropriate card;
  • share what they have found with each other.


  1. Gather materials needed for this lesson. 
  2. Download images of Wassily Kandinsky’s art from the Internet.
    Colour Study - Kandinsky
  3. Gather and make available books about shape, for example, Icky Bug Shapes, by Jerry Pallotta; Shape by Shape, by Suse Macdonald; Captain Invincible and the Space Shapes, by Stuart Murphy (math start); A Circle Here, A Square There, by David Diehl.
  4. Gather and make available books related to Kandinsky, for example, The Girl Who Heard Colors, by Marie Harris; The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art, by Barb Rosenstock; Wassily Kandinsky, 1866-1944: The Journey to Abstraction, by Ulrike Becks-Malorny 
  5. Download the Shape poster available on this website. 


  1. Read one of the shape books and refer to the shape poster to introduce the idea of shapes to students.
  2. Invite students to point out shapes they see in the classroom. Make 2 columns on the chart paper – one for geometric shapes and one for organic shapes. Record students' contributions on the chart paper making a small doodle drawing to represent the object along with the word for it.
  3. Introduce Wassily Kandinsky. Read the The Noisy Paint Box, or share a few points about the artist.
    - born in 1866
    - Russian artist
    - had a special gift called synaesthesia cognate - a condition that meant when he heard a sound he also saw a particular colour
    - he used colours and shapes in his abstract paintings to express feelings and music
    - he painted the first non objective painting called the First Abstract Watercolour, 1910
    - he thought each shape created specific feelings – square caused calm feelings; triangle caused aggressive feelings; circle caused heavenly feelings.
  4. View and discuss the painting, Colour Study, Squares with Concentric Circles focussing on the shapes and colours Kandinsky used. Talk about how the painting makes students feel, and why.
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Use resist technique to create patterns with concentric geometric shapes.
  2. Use colour to express your feelings.
  3. Explain your process.
  4. Express opinions about the artworks.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - drawn concentric shapes
    - used colours to show my feelings
    - applied a heavy layer of oil pastel so the resist technique is effective
    - kept the paper in good condition 
  3. Guide students through the steps in this project.
  4. Encourage them to share ideas and to learn from each other.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Once all the pictures are complete display them for a group discussion. 
  2. During the discussion include references to:
    colours - How do the colours make you feel?
    - expression - How do the colours contribute to the feelings you wanted to express?
    - technique – How did you make sure the paint resisted the oil pastel? How does the way the paint is applied contribute to the emotions expressed in the picture?
  3. Ask students to think of different ways they can use their art piece to demonstrate ideas they have learned in mathematics. For example,
    - graphing – Create a class graph showing the number of circles and squares used in the class.
    - creating addition questions  – Create a class chart with lots of student generated addition questions based on the art works, for example, number of times you used each colour; number of people who used more than 2 circles; etc. 
    - creating and reading patterns.
  4. Display student’s art in the classroom or hall.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their designs – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the design, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - Kandinsky_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - Kandinsky_self-assessment.pdf)