“Once upon a mountaintop, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up…” This is how A Tale of Three Trees, a picture book retelling of an American folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt, begins.
You may not be familiar with the book, as it was published back in 1989, but I recommend you and your family read it as part of Advent. As a classic, it will be available through most libraries, Amazon, and many bookstores this time of year.
The story and its illustrations will capture your family’s heart as it tells the story of Christ’s miraculous birth, His earthly ministry and miracles, and His death on a cross for our sins. It’s told from the viewpoint of three trees, whose original dreams come true in ways they never could have imagined.
Following is an easy Christmas art project to go along with this delightful story for all ages. If I were doing this project at school this year, as we made each tree, we’d stop and read about their dream. Then we’d finish the trees and read the rest of the story to see how God made their dreams come true in a way that amazed them and pointed others to who Jesus really is!
Not only does this folktale beautifully capture the message of the gospel, it can also remind each of us that when we humbly put our dreams in God’s hands, His love will transform those dreams into amazing adventures that serve others and glorify Him.
- Sturdy background paper in whichever color you choose
- Pencils and erasers
- Green, yellow, blue, and white tempera paint
- An old fork with smooth-backed tines and a few paintbrushes to mix paints and apply paint to the fork tines
- An old toothbrush to spatter white paint for snow (you could also use a Q-tip to paint snowflakes or punch out little circles of white paper to glue here and there)
- Plastic or paper plate on which to mix colors
- Crayons, colored pencils, or markers to color the tree trunks
- On the back ground paper, have children draw, or if they’re too young, you lightly draw triangles for the 3 trees. The triangle is a guide for painting (see the photo)
- Draw a stump for each tree, but not too tall as the trees start out small.
- Color the stump, coloring up a little into the lower section of each tree, so it looks attached. In the photo you can see that I’ve lightened my pencil lines so they won’t show through the paint.
- Mix a little blue paint into some green to create a dark green, and a little green into the yellow to make a yellowish green.
- Apply the dark green paint to the back of the fork, and use downward strokes to “paint” the boughs of each tree. Let dry. You will need to keep applying the paint to the fork either with a brush or by running it through the paint you’ve mixed up
- Using the same technique, “paint” strokes of yellowish green down over the dark green to create highlights. Be sure to allow the dark green to still show some.
- Let your trees dry, and then, if you wish. Spatter white paint to create falling snow. The spatters don’t show much in the photo.
- In this project, you don’t want the 2 shades of green to mix much, and you want to see the strokes, which help make the tree look like an evergreen, which is why you let each layer dry.
- This necessary drying period is also why I think it would be fun to read about each tree and its dreams as your children work.
- If you decide to spatter paint with a toothbrush, dip the brush in a little white paint ( it may help to mix in a very little bit of water to the white paint). Then while moving the brush over your painting, run your finger across the bristles back toward you. This seems opposite of what would work, but the other way just spatters you! Also keep the brush moving as you spatter or you’ll get clumps instead of little snow-flakey spatters.
- If using Q-tips, dip in white paint and encourage children to just go up and down against the paper to print little dots.
- Do 3 large trees and display on the fridge or a wall.
- Do 3 small trees on cards to send to loved ones. Inside tell the story of the 3 trees.
- You could include verses, such as the following ones about Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:22-23); His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:23); and His death and resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7)
Molly and I plan to be back next week with some of our favorite Christmas paintings! You may not be able to see it, but Molly has little antlers in the above photo.