This easy and fun Thanksgiving art project for children will help decorate your Thanksgiving table and remind us all of our need for prayer, not just at Thanksgiving, but in all situations. It follows a brief outline of Albrecht Durer and his artwork, the Praying Hands.
Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) lived in the German city of Nuremberg, an important center of the new technology of printing. Life was hard. The German states often warred with each other, and there were military threats from outside, frequent famines from crop failures, and recurring outbreaks of the plague. Durer was one of just 3 in his family of 18 children to reach adulthood.
Durer had 3 years of school to learn to read and write, and at 15 he apprenticed to a Nuremberg painter and designer of woodblocks for book illustration.
At 18 he traveled as a journeyman, making and selling woodblock designs to book printers. Twice he traveled to Italy to study the art of Raphael and da Vinci. Durer was one of the first northern artists to do this, and his work shows a mingling of the Northern artists’ careful observation of detail and the Italian concern with the rules of perspective and form.
Although a great painter, Durer was one of the first to make the major part of his income from woodblock prints and engravings, which were affordable by all. In these Durer used fine lines to produce life-like details and shading. One project, 15 large woodblock prints from Revelation, instantly became a bestseller, making Durer famous throughout Europe. Some were later used in Luther’s German New Testament.
Wherever Durer traveled, he studied and painted ordinary places and creatures with the interest of a naturalist. He painted dandelions, hares, and crabs he saw in the fish markets of Venice. Once he tried to see and draw a beached whale, and it’s believed he contracted malaria from that excursion, and later died from it.
The Praying Hands have become an enduring symbol of faith. They were done as a study for a large painting that was part of an altarpiece for a church. We know the painting only from a copy, because the original was destroyed by fire in 1729.
The Praying Hands study was drawn with a brush on a greenish blue paper. They show careful observation, but go far beyond mere recording, to illustrate humble faith and trust in God.
Durer followed Luther’s writings closely, often requesting copies of new pamphlets from Frederick the Wise’s secretary. When Luther was “kidnapped” Durer was in the Netherlands. He, along with most others, thought the kidnapping was real and that Luther might be dead.
This quote from Durer’s journal shows his worry as well as his desire to understand the ways of God. “Oh God, if Luther be dead, who will henceforth expound to us the holy Gospel with such clearness? What might he not have written for us in the next ten or twenty years?”
This well-educated, hard-working, spiritually-seeking artist, who loved to investigate and depict the simplest things of God’s creation, shows us in The Praying Hands a wonderful symbol of our need for prayer. Perhaps as an artist, he realized more than most how wonderfully made the hand is, and what amazing tasks God has designed it to be able to do.
Which brings us to the EASY and FUN ART PROJECT:
This project can be done very simply in about 20 minutes with crayons while everyone is waiting for dinner to be ready.
At the end I’ll show an extra step you can do if you wish. It’s a little messier, but fun if you’re game!
Materials: basics–brown, white, or Thanksgiving-motif paper lunch bags, scissors, pencils, a little glue, and crayons or markers. Add poster-type paint and a largish brush, if you want to do the extra step. And some paper towels!!
1. Place a folded paper bag flat on the table with the folded bottom of the bag facing up. Have the child place his or her hand flat on the bag with finger tips pointed toward the top of the bag and their wrist at the upper edge of the folded bag bottom.
2. With a pencil, trace around the child’s hand.
3. Keeping the bag folded, cut in from the sides of the bag (just above the folded bag bottom) to the child’s wrist. Then cut up and around the traced hand (through both thicknesses of the bag) and out to the bag’s other edge on the other side of the hand.
The child may then decorate or color the hands.
The extra step: before opening the bag, fold the two hands away from each other and the bag bottom. Spread a thin layer of paint on the child’s hands (too much paint just smears and doesn’t show the lines of the hand. If you’re not sure how much to use, have some scrap paper handy and do a couple trial prints)
They will also need to do each hand separately so thumbs and fingers match. (To cut down on the mess, as you finish printing with each of the child’s hands, fold a paper towel around and into their hand so they have the towel to hold until you get them to wherever you’ll wash up)
I like to do this additional step if possible because when children see their hand print, it’s a great time to talk to them about how wonderfully made they are and that they are so special to God that even their finger prints are different from anyone else’s.
Last step: Whether you do the printing part or just the coloring, now open the bag. To form the praying hands, glue the tips of the fingers together. (just a little glue so you can still put things into the bottom of the bag)
Whichever way you do these, it’s fun and a great reminder of what Thanksgiving is all about!! At the Thanksgiving table guests may write prayer requests or things they are thankful for on slips of paper and put these in the bag.
May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with time to relax and remember the Lord’s love for you and His many blessings!