Monday, March 9, 2015

Sunset & Shadow Stations of the Cross Art Project

To continue our celebration of Lent in the classroom, and to get the kids thinking about the Stations of the Cross, we made this Sunset and Shadow Stations of the Cross art project over the last two weeks.  I am so pleased with how they turned out, and thought that I would share the idea and a few steps that worked for us.

1. First, we assigned the stations to various kids.  I don't have 14 or 28 students in my class, which would have been ideal, but we just made sure that there were 14 kids doing each station and then had duplicates of some stations.

After deciding who had what station, I told them that they were going to have to create a silhouette of that station, and it had to be connected to a horizon (meaning that it had to be a view of a scene, not just a symbol of the station).  We looked at pictures of silhouettes, and discussed how inner detail is lost, so the outline and the placement really matter.  I mocked up a couple of stations on the board, starting with stick figures and filling in to make it 2-D.  

2.  The kids then created their representation of the station they were assigned.  They had a copy of our school's Stations of the Cross booklet for inspiration if they wanted it.  They just sketched on notebook paper and cut it out as a template.  

3.  They then traced that pattern on to black construction paper and cut it out as well, creating their silhouette.  Here are a couple of examples:

That part of the project took up one art class.  We saved the next step for art the following week.

4.  Next, on to the sunset watercolored background.  I knew average watercolor sets wouldn't yield enough red, orange, and yellow paint for my whole class, so I mixed school tempera paint and water to create a sort-of-cheap-version.  I use an approximate 1:3 paint to water ratio, and just mixed until it was a smooth consistency that was watery but still carried color. 

I used red, orange, yellow, and white to mix various hues, starting with just one color and then dumping and stirring cups together, creating some variation for the kids.

5. I had a couple cups of each shade of paint and spread them out on one table, where all the paint stayed for this project.  Paintbrushes were assigned to a cup, not a kid, and I only had 4-5 kids working at the table at the time, helping prevent the disastrous mess it could have been.  As it turns out, we only ended up spilling one cup, and all of it stayed on the table.  None got on the floor, or even one of the projects.

Anyways, the kids created a sunset across the horizon of a heavy piece of white paper.  We talked a bit about blending, but the kids had some very different takes on the creation of a sunset, which was great and creative.  
And our industrial janitors' closet sink made clean up easy.  (Wouldn't it be nice if all classrooms had one?)

6.  Once the watercolored page was less than dripping, we moved it to the clothesline in our classroom, which coincidentally hangs over our radiators.  I intentionally had the kids do art a little earlier in the afternoon, because we then went over to the church for our whole school Stations of the Cross. By the time we got back about a half an hour later, the sunset pages were dry and we were able to assemble everything before they went home.

7.  The final step was to glue the silhouette onto the sunset page.  We just used Elmer's glue, which sticks fine, but causes everything to curl.  To remedy that, we place a textbook on top of the art as it dries.  Sometimes even as little as a half an hour under a book is enough to encourage it to dry flat.  Once they were done, we added a roman numeral in the corner of the Station of the Cross it represented, and they were done!  Check out the awesomeness:

I hung the first 14 in the hallway in order, and it looked awesome.  Very eye catching, and you clearly can see the pieces of the story of Christ's suffering and death fitting together as a whole.
And here's a tiny panorama trying to capture them all:

I love how this project turned out, and I particularly like the symbolism of the darkness of the silhouette and the fading sunset as Christ battles evil on Good Friday.  On that day, Satan thought he had won, and the darkness looked stronger than the light.  However this death, His Death, was the turning point for all history.  The perceived darkness was conquered by the victory of the Light, and the sunset was actually a ray of hope and joy for every new dawn after.

"They who dwell in the ends of the earth 
stand in awe of Your signs; 
You make the dawn 
and the sunset shout for joy." 
~Psalm 65:8


  1. Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing this idea. I think I'd like to try this one with my students.


    1. So glad you like it, Angela! If you do make them, I'd love to see how they turn out!

  2. We did this but had the kids draw on the black paper with white pencil crayon, then cut it out. We used the reverse side to the front so the white pencil lines did not show. It is a good way to skip a step of cutting and tracing. Thanks for the beautiful idea.

  3. This project is incredible. I made these stations with my fifth grade class and they turned out so beautiful that the Knights of Columbus encased them in wooden frames and used them for their outdoor Stations of the Cross walking trail. Beautiful!