Art for Kids: James Rizzi Birds

This spring, I’m teaching a five-session class at Little Crafter’s school where we study various artists, then create our own projects in those artists’ styles. Our first class was focused on Georgia O’Keeffe, where we made our own up-close flower paintings. This week, we learned about American Pop Artist James Rizzi, who is famous for his bright and colorful birds, people, and city skylines. 

Art for Kids: James Rizzi Birds

First, we read a brief biography of Rizzi, who lived almost his entire life in Brooklyn, New York, then we looked at samples of his work. We noticed that he used simple black lines filled in with color. Then, we focused our attention on his birds. Starting with the head, we identified the shapes he used…a semi-circle, a triangle, small circles inside larger ones, and so on. I drew each step on the board while students sketched it with pencil on a piece of computer paper.

Once each student had sketched his/her own bird, it was time to create our masterpieces. Each child got the following materials.

– watercolors
– water, paintbrushes
– black permanent markers
– watercolor paper
– pencil

Now that they had drawn one bird, they felt confident drawing a second one, this time on the watercolor paper. Then, they traced the outline with a black permanent marker and painted the bird and the background with watercolors.

Another thing we noticed about Rizzi’s style is that he loved to give faces to inanimate objects, like the sun, moon, buildings, etc. So, some of the students added that special touch to their own paintings as well.

James Rizzi inspired birds

Some of the children simply drew a line of grass for the bird to stand on, while others created mountains, trees, and rainbows for a background. Some used random colors for the background; others created blended sunsets.

Art for Kids: James Rizzi's Birds

Several of the girls in the class decided to add eyelashes and even hair bows to distinguish a female bird. I think Rizzi would have approved.

Art for Kids: James Rizzi Birds

It was fun to see how the students kept to the essential style of the artist we were studying but added their own personal touches.

Art for Kids: James Rizzi Birds

The birds were similar in so many ways, yet just as unique as the artists who created them.

Art for Kids: James Rizzi Birds

This one is Little Crafter’s, who got so involved in coloring his original sketch that he never did get around to making a watercolor. Instead, he added some mixed media details by cutting out a speech bubble and rainbow and gluing them onto his picture. At six years old, he is my youngest artist in the class, and the only boy. The others are girls ranging in age from 6-10.

Art for Kids: James Rizzi Birds

This project was a huge hit with the class, who enjoyed Rizzi’s colorful cartoon-like style. Although more than half of them said they preferred O’Keeffe’s work because they liked the flowers and the realism of her paintings, they loved the birds and the way Rizzi gave things smiley faces.


What do you think; is there a little artist in your life who would enjoy this project?

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