Monthly Archives: December 2021

Glittery Angel Art Project Based on Fra Angelico’s Painting of the Annunciation

Angels surrounded the coming of Immanuel. The Archangel Gabriel announced His coming birth to Mary. An angelic host appeared to the shepherds on the night of His birth. Children will enjoy making glittery angels to display on a Christmas tree or table and remind us of the angels who sang at Christ’s birth.

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step directions
  • Examples of angels done by 1st graders this year
  • Helpful hints
  • Clean-up tips
  • Variations and/or adaptations for different ages
  • Molly Photo

Let’s get started!



  • Inexpensive white paper plates—the kind with rippled edges (coated or foam plates don’t work with the watercolor paints)
  • Watercolor paints
  • A fairly large paint brush
  • Tissue paper—white or light-colored
  • A copy of Hark the Herald Angels Sing music
  • Scissors, pencils, glue
  • Thin markers, colored pencils, crayons
  • Gold paper for halo
  • Glitter
  • Optional, clothespin



  1. Wet paper plate all over with clear water (don’t soak it but make sure it’s wet)
  2. With a wet, but not dripping brush gather some paint and run the brush over a short section of the rippled edge. Allow the paint to run down onto the plate center.
  3. Repeat step 2 with other colors, swirling the plate a little so the colors mix in the center of the plate.
  4. Set plate aside to dry
  5. Cut an angel pattern from an extra paper plate (see photo)
  6. Use the pattern to cut an angel with its wings from the dry plate. Choose the part of the plate you like best.
  7. Cut a robe from colored paper or sheet music
  8. Cut a cape from the tissue paper.
  9. Glue the robe with the music to the angel’s body.  
  10. Glue the tissue robe on top of the music robe (Just glue both of these along the top so they look like fabric)
  11. Use colored pencils or thin markers to make the angel’s face
  12. Add a halo of gold-colored paper behind the angel’s head
  13. To add glitter, spread a thin layer of white glue wherever you want glitter. In a shallow box or over a large plate, shake the glitter over the glue areas. Allow glitter and glue to dry then shake off excess glitter into the box or waste basket

Examples of angels done by my 1st graders in art this year!

Helpful Hints:

  • It’s fun to swirl the paint on the plates, but stop before the colors become muddy.
  • You may have to experiment with several plates to learn how much water to use. (too much water and colors will be too light. Too little water and colors won’t flow and mix)
  • Rinse and partly dry your brush between colors

Variations and/or adaptations for different ages:

  • Younger children may need to watch once as an older child or adult applies the paint
  • Younger children may also need help cutting out the angel
  • Many children will enjoy experimenting and doing several plates.
  • Attach a clothespin to the back of the angel, if you wish, to hang on the tree

Clean up Hints:

  • Be sure to put a plastic table cloth or large paper under your work
  • Wax paper under items you’re putting glue on keeps them from sticking
  • When using glitter, place a clean sheet of paper or a large box to catch the glitter. It speeds cleanup and you may be able to return the unused glitter to its container.
  • Have a wastebasket handy for trash
  • Wash and lay brushes flat on paper towels to dry so they keep their shape
  • Leave paint set open until paint pans have dried.

 Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide about how art benefits children cognitively, physically, spiritually, and socially, along with some fun and easy art activities.

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, patterns for Christmas projects, and coloring pages for kids. You’ll also find an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.


Molly the Artsy Corgi and I wish you a joyous Christmas! May your angels remind you to celebrate the birth of our Lord, just as the angels did!

Molly and I will be taking a short break for the holidays, but we hope to see you back here for more great art and art projects in the New Year!







Pause from the Hustle and Bustle to Glimpse the True Meaning of Christmas in Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Painting

This year many of us are back to a more normal and busy season of shopping, decorating, and preparing for Christmas! What a blessing after many months apart, but sometimes the hustle and bustle becomes overwhelming and takes our eyes off the true meaning of Christmas.

In the Renaissance Florence, Italy was a city filled with hustle and bustle. It was a major center for weaving and dying wool and silk, and merchants made lots of money exporting their cloth all over Europe.

Their wealth helped fuel the Renaissance. Florence produced some of the most famous artists of all time:

Ghiberti (the bronze doors of the Baptistry), Brunelleschi (the architect who finally figured out how to build a dome big enough for Florence’s cathedral),

St. George, Donatello

Donatello (revolutionized sculpture with relaxed poses and realistic figures),

and of course Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

A few years before the pandemic my husband and I joined the thousands of tourists who daily spill out of trains into Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station and into a city still filled with hustle and bustle.

Getting our bearings outside Santa Maria Novella train station

Long lines await those who come to tour Florence’s Duomo (cathedral), gaze at the masterpieces by Leonardo and Botticelli at the Uffizi Art Gallery,

The Uffizi, author photo

Madonna and Child by Botticelli, photo by author

and see Michelangelo’s statue of David at the Accademia.

Not to be outdone, Florence’s streets are a shopper’s paradise. High-end fashions, gold jewelry, and home goods fill stores and overflow into big outdoor markets. Venders of leather products are everywhere, making it a toss-up whether the sales pitch, or the smell of leather is stronger!

Florence bustles even more at night. Families with babies in strollers and dogs on leashes emerge for their evening passeggiata, (stroll), joining tourists still snapping photos. Everyone throngs the streets, walking, shopping, visiting, and dining in outdoor restaurants. In every piazza (square), street musicians and puppeteers draw happy crowds. It’s fun, but can become overwhelming.

After a couple days we wanted a quiet place to refresh our tired minds and bodies and found it at the Museum of San Marco in what was once a Dominican monastery.

Surrounding a quiet cloister is some of the most beautiful art in Florence, though few people know about it. A cloister sometimes refers to a whole monastery, but is technically the covered walkway around a peaceful garden that the monastery buildings surround.

In the 1430s Dominican monks took over the monastery, dating from a much earlier time, and began renovations. One of the friars, Fra Giovanni, soon known as Fra Angelico, painted frescoes of the life of Christ throughout the monastery and in each of the monks’ cells (rooms).

In fresco painting, paint is applied to a freshly plastered wall, becoming part of the wall itself as plaster and paint dry together.

Once only monks could see Fra Angelco’s frescoes, but today anyone can wander through the quiet halls, looking into each small cell to see brightly colored frescoes of Jesus’ life on the otherwise plain walls.

One large fresco, The Annunciation, once greeted the monks, and now greets us, at the top of the stairs to the monks’ cells. Because the stairs turn a corner, we didn’t see the fresco until we were right below it. Then it filled our eyes as we climbed the last few stairs.

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation is a beautiful annunciation painting, showing a moment of quiet serenity in a cloister like the one downstairs. The archangel, Gabriel, bows before Mary to announce that she will bear the Christ Child, and Mary folds her arms in humble submission to God’s will.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

The fresco is part of a plain wall. It has no elaborate frame, but the simplicity of the painted columns and arches create lights and shadows that draw us into its painted space. They frame the serene Annunciation in beauty as no gilded frame could.

Archangel Gabriel’s colorful wings and gold embroidered robe catch our attention next. The robe drapes in graceful folds, showing rich shades and tints of pink.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, detail. author photo

That pink repeats in just two other places—the floor of the open cell behind Mary and on her headband. The repetition of pink takes our gaze from Gabriel to the woman seated on a humble wooden stool. Mary’s plain, white robe contrasts with her dark blue mantle and frames her face and folded arms.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, detail. author photo

Fra Angelico didn’t want us to miss her sweet expression and submissive gesture.

Behind Gabriel in the fresco, a garden blooms with delicate flowers and lush greenery. A walled garden in annunciation paintings symbolized Mary’s purity and virginity. It also reminded viewers of the Garden of Eden and what mankind lost when Adam and Eve sinned.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

Devotion, based on Luke 1:26-38

Fra Angelico eventually became prior of the monastery of San Marco. The Dominican order was founded, as were the Franciscans, as Europe transitioned from a mostly rural economy to a time of more trade and bigger cities. Traditional, often rural, monasteries and monks couldn’t easily help city dwellers.

Dominicans and Franciscans didn’t stay in their cloisters. They went out into the busy city streets to preach the gospel in down-to-earth sermons and minister to people in need. During the years of the Black Death thousands of friars died caring for the sick.

When the San Marco friars returned at the end of a busy day, they would pass through the quiet cloister and trudge up many stairs to their cells.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

  • As they turned the corner and Fra Angelico’s fresco of The Archangel Gabriel coming to Mary filled their eyes, were they reminded of the vast splendor of God and His heaven?
  • When they looked at Mary, did they share her attitude of humility and submission to be obedient to God’s call?
  • When they looked at the garden, did they think of the Garden of Eden and mankind’s fall into sin and separation from God?
  • When they looked at the cloister and thought of their own cloister downstairs, did they long for a permanent rest from their labors, especially against their own and others’ sins?
  • Did they stand in awe of the amazing love and grace God has given us in the gift of His Son?
  • Were they amazed anew by the miracle of God taking on human flesh and being born of a virgin to dwell among His people?
  • And did they praise God for opening the Way to return to a renewed and eternal garden of peace with God through faith in Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection?

Most of us today can’t withdraw into a monastery to get away from the hustle and bustle of the materialistic holiday season.

But perhaps we can daily find a little quiet space and time to think on God’s splendor, our humble estate, our longing for a permanent rest from struggling with our own sin and a sinful world, and praise God for opening the Way through Christ back to the Garden!


Molly and I hope you’ll come back for just one more post in December for an angel art project for your children. It’s so simple, yet bright and beautiful, you will want to display it on your tree or table!