Day of the Dead Inspired Pumpkin Artwork & Display

Teaching Art

Because we are such a large school and lack permanent space to exhibit students’ work, I have had to get a bit creative on how to share our students’ art within our community. Therefore, I have hitched my wagon to our school’s annual Pumpkin Festival and this year it was another wild ride!


Wanting to recycle the same lessons, planning and logistics from last year, Grade 2 students made papier-maché pumpkin sculptures, Grade 1 created oil pastel and watercolor resistant pumpkins and Reception 2 collaborated to make a large banner that tied in their learning from their color theory unit. Last year students pulled inspiration from the art and life of Yayoi Kusama, whereas this year students looked at the imagery, colors, and designs from Dia de los Muertos to influence their art.

Reception 2: Painting Pumpkins using Tints & Shades

After learning how to mix secondary colors as well as how to lighten and darken a color by adding white or black, Reception 2 students painted pre-made pumpkin templates demonstrating their ability to create two tints and two shades. Once we had all two hundred painted, I cut them out and glued them to a banner that I painted and prepped prior.  I painted latex glue onto the back of each one and then flattened them with books while they dried.


Grade 1: Day of the Dead Inspired Oil Pastel a Watercolour Wash Pumpkins

Students began the unit by creating observational drawings of pumpkins. Once they had the outline of the pumpkin traced in marker, we looked at images and videos from the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. Students then created posters to have as reference later.

Students practiced drawing Sugar Skulls in their sketchbooks before transferring their designs to their pumpkin drawing. After tracing the rest of the designs in marker, students added oil pastels and then painted a watercolor wash over the top. for the background, I taught a step-by-step lesson on how to draw a web with rulers also using oil pastels and finishing with a watercolor wash. Lastly, pumpkins were cut-out and glued to their background.

Grade 2 Day of the Dead Inspired Pumpkin Sculptures

Grade 2 students began by applying several layers to a balloon. After the form was solid, they added a stem using rolled newspaper and masking tape. Then applying a final layer of papier-maché to connect the two forms. A layer of black or white gesso was applied to create a smooth surface.

The Day of the Dead celebrations were introduced and students learned how to cut a symmetrical paper skull to which they then glued onto their pumpkins with latex glue both under and on top of the skull. Before drawing directly on to their sculpture, students practiced different patterns and designs in their sketchbook first. Posco paint pens were used to build color, shapes and lines to make their skulls unique and their own.

When I first began visualising this display, I knew I needed a cohesive color scheme to help tie the three different art forms together. I made sure to stick with the same colors for each project as well as using black and white to ensure the artwork looked both stunning on its own and as a collective.


I enjoyed my second ride through the pumpkin patch and the students felt excited and proud showing off their pumpkin paintings and sculptures. It made the prep, planning and pungent smell of papier-mache in the art room all worth it! cheers to another wild wagon ride in 2020!

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