15 Famous Paintings Show the Wonder of the Christmas Story

Artists through the years have been filled with wonder and joy at the events of the first Christmas and I pray their efforts here to illustrate their wonder will bring joy to your Christmas this year!

Here are 15 famous paintings of the Christmas Story and the Bible verses they illustrate.

 The Annunciation to Mary  

. . . the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with chlld and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke,1:30-33 NIV

Fra Angelico was a monk who painted frescoes of Jesus’ life throughout his monastery in Florence. This annunciation greets you as you climb the stairs to the monks’ chambers. I wrote a Christmas post about this painting in December of 2015.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, 1395-1455, Italian, Convent of San Marco, Florence, author photo

This triptych or 3-panel altarpiece is one of the first Annunciations to show Mary in a regular home, in this case,  a typical home in the Netherlands in the 1300 and 1400s. Almost everything in this painting symbolizes something about Jesus and His birth. For example, Mary is sitting on the floor to symbolize her humility.

The Annunciation triptych of the Merode Altarpiece by Robert Campin, 1375-1444, Netherlandish, Cloisters, NY, public domain

This Annunciation is part of a huge altarpiece painted by Matthias Grunewald. It is now a treasured part of a monastery-turned museum in Colmar, France. But it narrowly escaped destruction during the French Revolution.

The annunciation, part of the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald, 1470-1528, German, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France, author photo

Henry Ossawa Tanner, an African-American artist of the 19th and early 20th centuries depicts the angel Gabriel as a column of radiating light.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, American, 1850-1937,Philadelphia Museum of Art, public domain

The Incarnation

The angel answered [Mary], “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 NIV

In this illuminated manuscript by the Celtic monks of Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland, the Incarnation is depicted as the miraculous mystery it is–a mystery beyond our imagining–that God could be born of a woman to live among us as Immanuel and die for our sins! In December of 2014, I wrote a post about the Chi Rho page that most illuminated manuscripts of the early Middle Ages have.  It is the illumination of Matt. 1:18, where the gospel switches from Jesus’ ancestry to His birth with the Latin words Christi autem generatio, which means, “this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about….” For this reason it is called the Incarnation page, and on it the monks used a traditional symbol for the word Christ–the first two letters of Christ in Greek–Chi-Rho or XP.

The Incarnation or Chi Rho page of the Book of Kells, Irish, ca. A.D. 800, Trinity Library, Dublin, Ireland, public domain

The Visitation 

.  . . . [Mary] entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored; that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:40-43 NIV

In this beautiful painting of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, we see the emotion in each of their faces and gestures as they experience together the wonder of what God has done!

The Visitation by Jacopo Pontormo, Italian, 1494-1557, Church of San Francesco e Michele, Carmignano, Italy, public domain

The Nativity 

While they were there [Bethlehem], the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7 NIV

In the lower, plainer church of St. Francis of Assisi is this beautiful painting of the Nativity by Giotto. St. Francis is said to be the one who began the practice of having a creche scene at Christmas.

The Nativity in the Lower Church at Assisi, Italy, by Giotto di Bondone, Italian, 1267-1337, public domain

The Annunciation to the Shepherds

   And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be assigned to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2:8-14 NIV

Another beautiful painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, this time a nocturnal scene of the angel’s annunciation to the shepherds. It captures the wonder of the angel’s appearance and their amazement!

Annunciation to the Shepherds by Henry Ossawa Tanner, American. 1859-1937, public domain

The only print in this group, it’s by Rembrandt and also captures the wonder of that night.

Annunciation to the Shepherds by Rembrandt, public domain

Honthorst has captured the continuing wonder of the shepherds as they follow the angel’s instructions to find the babe wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. This year’s Christmas post was about this painting.

Adoration of the Christ Child by Gerrit van Honthorst, Dutch, 1592-1656, Uffizi,Art Gallery, Florence, Italy, author photo

Mary’s joy in her son is so evident in another panel from the Isenheim Altarpiece. The Altarpiece was painted for a monastery where the monks treated people with skin diseases, and it was believed that gazing on these paintings would help the patients be reminded of Christ and His love and salvation for even the most humble. In December of 2018, I wrote a Christmas post about this painting.

Mary and the Christ Child, a panel of The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald, German, 1470-1528, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France, author photo

The Visit of the Magi

after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem and asked, “where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they [Magi] went on their way in the store they had seen in the East went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 NIV

Durer shows the coming of the wisemen, here depicted as elegant and wealthy men, to worship the Christ Child. Medieval tradition held that one of the wisemen was an old man, another was a young man, and one was African.

Adoration of the Magi by Albrecht Durer, German, 1471-1528, Uffizi Art Gallery, Florence, Italy, public domain

The Massacre of the Innocents

when Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Matthew 2:16 NIV

This fresco is from a series Giotto painted on the life of Christ in the small but beautiful Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy. A forerunner of the Renaissance, Giotto amazed his contemporaries with his life-like people. Here he shows the intense emotions of the Massacre of the Innocents.

The Massacre of the Innocents by Giotto di Bondone, Arena Chapel, Padua, Italy, public domain

The Flight or Escape into Egypt

When they [Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt . . . Matthew 2:13-14 NIV

After the intensity of the last painting, this one of the Fight into Egypt seems so calm and even restful.  but as Mary holding the Baby Jesus looks back at Joseph, you can sense her sense of urgency.

The flight into Egypt by Annibale Carracci, Italian, 1560-1609, Galleria Dorla Pamphilj, Rome, public domain

Another calm painting as Mary offers grapes to her son. In the background Joseph is shown beating  nuts or perhaps fruit from a tree to care for them. The donkey waits patiently beside them.

Rest on the flight into Egypt by Gerard David, Netherlandish, 1460-1523, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. public domain

I hope these paintings will bless your celebration of the wonder of the birth of our Savior–Immanuel, God with us! And that the wonder and joy will continue to fill you in the New Year!


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Don’t Allow the Pandemic to Make You Miss Jesus this Christmas

I almost missed this painting of Jesus. Small and tucked away in an out-of-the-way gallery, it was overshadowed by the larger, more famous paintings at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

In this post the devotion is first, followed by an art project the whole family can enjoy together. Next is a very short bio of the artist Gerrit van Honthorst.  And last of all a couple of photos of Molly and me in the snow. I hope you’ll enjoy any or all of these.

The Uffizi, author photo


Like other famous museums, the Uffizi is crowded. People fill every gallery. Many are tired. Not everyone is polite. As we stood in front of one especially famous painting, someone in the crowd actually rested a camera attached to a selfie stick on my husband’s head! (selfie sticks are now banned in most museums!)

But to visit the Uffizi was a once–in-a-lifetime experience,

The Holy Family by Michelangelo, photo by author

so we persevered, even though we often had to wait and then stand our ground for space to gaze at great Renaissance art. I marveled at the rich colors of Michelangelo’s Holy Family and so many other beautiful paintings.

At the end of the day when we trudged into a small, plain gallery, my feet ached, and my head was on art overload (yes, even art teachers get there!) I collapsed on a bench, like this guy I photographed at the Louvre, and didn’t even look at the art on the walls.

So my husband saw it first—a small nativity painting by Gerrit van Honthorst that uses light and shadow to focus on Jesus. I had come to the Uffizi on a mission to see the big Renaissance artworks for real. It took a small painting by a not-very-well-known artist to show me I was missing Jesus.

Long ago people had to go to Bethlehem for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of a Roman census. Crowds of tired people were on missions to find rooms. Not everyone was polite. Tempers flared, and children cried.   And most missed Jesus. He was small, like any baby, and He was tucked away in a stable behind one of those inns. No halos, crowns, or beautiful garments made Him stand out. Instead Mary had wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger.

But the shepherds stopped everything and hurried to see Jesus, because they believed the angels’ announcement:  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 (NIV)

Adoration of the Christ Child by Honthorst, photo by author

They truly saw Jesus. They saw the One who created the stars lying humbly in a manger. They saw God’s most amazing miracle of all time–Immanuel, God come to dwell with us and in His great compassion save us from our sins. They worshiped Him with wonder and delight. Let’s make sure we don’t get so focused on our holiday missions of shopping, gift-wrapping, and baking, that we miss Jesus, God’s greatest gift to us—Himself.

If you can’t gather with friends or family this year send them a link to this blog or the one to the painting at the Uffizi and then zoom with them to talk about the painting together. Ask them to tell you what they see and share with them the wonder of Immanuel, God with us.


Art Project—a pop-up card to help everyone see Jesus!


  •      pencil, ruler, scissors
  •      1 piece of medium blue cardstock, cut a little smaller than the white card
  •      1 piece of white or other light-colored cardstock
  •      small pieces or scraps of yellow and/or brown construction paper
  •      old Christmas cards with nativity scenes or scraps of white cardstock to draw on
  •      markers
  •      white glue and glitter or glitter glue

Directions (This is a fun project to do as a family—adults or older children helping younger children)

1. Score and Fold both blue and white cards in half

2. The blue card:

A few inches from the top on the inside draw a wavy line for some hills and add a few small   buildings and palm trees. Leave room for the big star!! (look at towns on old Christmas cards for examples). Use blue marker to color the buildings and trees.  Leave some windows and doors to fill in with yellow marker after blue marker is dry.

3. To make the pop-up section on the blue card

Refold the card and on the outside at the fold, place a dot at the middle. About an inch on each side of the dot draw one line that extends 1 ½” up from the fold and with the card still folded, cut along the 2 lines. Do not cut across the top.

Open the card and poke the cut section through to the front. Scoring for the folds helps.

Crease along the two scored lines so the cut portion stands up like a bench.

4. The Star

In the sky above the little houses on the blue card, draw a large star and outline in glue. Make dots for small scattered stars. Sprinkle glitter over the stars and allow to dry.

5. Attaching the blue card to the white card

Turn the blue card to the back and thinly spread glue over its back, being sure not to get glue on the poked-to-the-front section. Center the blue card on the white card, lining up the folds and press to stick.

6. The Manger Scene

Cut out a manger scene from a Christmas card (You don’t have to cut out every figure—maybe just a shape that includes everyone). Or you can draw and cut out your own from another piece of cardstock.

Glue the manger scene to the front of the “bench” so when the card is opened, the manger scene will stand up. Cut yellow and brown paper into small, thin pieces and glue at base of manger for straw.

Place your manger scene where everyone can see Jesus!

If you’d like to send your card to someone, turn the card over to the white front and add a Christmas message about Jesus!  Decorate around your message with markers

A very short Bio of Gerrit van Honthorst, who painted The Adoration of the Christ Child:

Gerrit van Honthorst was born in the Netherlands in 1590. He studied art in Italy, learning how Carravaggio created dramatic lights and darks. While in Italy, Honthorst painted many night scenes, mostly religious. Although not very well-known today, Honthorst helped bring the dramatic Baroque art style to northern Europe, and influenced Rembrandt in the Netherlands and Georges de la Tour in France.      


 Molly and I wish you all a blessed Christmas celebrating the birth of Jesus.


Three Little Trees Discover How God’s Love Helps Each One Serve the King of Kings in Their Own Special Way

“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


  1. 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)
  2. Draw a stump for each tree, but not too tall as the trees start out small.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Helpful Hints:

  • 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 hope you enjoy your 3 beautiful little trees while you finish A Tale of Tree Trees together.

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.


Fun and Easy Pumpkin Thanksgiving Cards

You may not be able to get together with family or friends this year for Thanksgiving, but you and your children can brighten your days and theirs with these fun and easy pumpkin Thanksgiving cards. They print up quickly, so you can make lots and send them out with encouraging verses.


  • card stock or heavy-duty construction paper
  • 2 or 3 apples, fairly round in shape
  • orange tempera paint or red and yellow to make orange
  • a plastic container to mix paint
  • medium sized brushes
  • green and brown markers
  • googly eyes or white paper to make eyes
  • envelopes


      1. cut apples in half
      2. cut and fold card stock or construction paper to fit the envelopes you have
      3. if you don’t have orange paint, mix yellow and red paint to make orange. Be sure to start with yellow and add just a little red at a time
      4. with the paint brush spread the orange paint on the face of the apple and press straight down on paper to make the print (you may want to practice on some scrap paper first to see how much paint and pressure you need. Encourage children not to move the apple around on the paper, but don’t stress out if they do. The pumpkins will still be cute and lovable because you and your children made them!)

    While the pumpkins dry, Molly wants you to be sure to look at her posing next to a pumpkin in her artist beret at the end!

    1. after the pumpkins are dry, add stems, leaves and tendrils with green and brown markers
    2. add googly eyes (if you don’t have these cut out round or oval pieces of white paper, glue to pumpkins and color in some “dots” with marker)
    3. add a mouth under the eyes

That’s it—Fun and Easy!!

Now open up the card and add encouraging messages, more pumpkins, a picture of your family, a turkey, verses from Scripture.

Here are a few Scripture selections to get you started: all are from the NIV

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2           Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

3           Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4           Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

5           For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Chronicles 16:8-12

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;

make known among the nations what he has done.

9           Sing to him, sing praise to him;

tell of all his wonderful acts.

10         Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

11         Look to the Lord and his strength;

seek his face always.

12         Remember the wonders he has done,

his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

    Chronicles 16:34

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

his love endures forever.

    Psalm 62:5-8

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

my hope comes from him.

6           He alone is my rock and my salvation;

he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

7           My salvation and my honor depend on God;

he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

8           Trust in him at all times, O people;

pour out your hearts to him,

for God is our refuge.

Isaiah 40:31

but those who hope in the Lord

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.


Use these cards at each person’s place on Thanksgiving day.  Write the person’s name on the outside. Inside write headings such as Blessings, Prayer Requests, Things that have been hard this year, Ways God has helped us this year, etc.

Molly and I hope you enjoy making these Fun and Easy Pumpkin Thanksgiving Cards and sending them with encouraging verses for you and your family and friends.


Molly preping for her pictures! She loves dressing up in her
artist beret!

Molly is all set to celebrate Thanksgiving! Her ears are just right for holding the beret in place!

Molly and I also hope to see you back soon for Art to help you celebrate Christmas!

Create a Colorful Autumn Tree with Contrasting Warm and Cool Colors

Older children will enjoy the challenge of creating an autumn tree with contrasting warm and cool colors. Jasper Cropsey used contrasting warm and cool colors in his painting, Autumn on the Hudson, and this activity extends the learning from that post.  

 In this art activity older children will:

  • Learn how to draw a tree
  • Practice using a ruler and compass to draw squares and a large circle
  • Choose 3-4 colors from the warm group and 3-4 colors from the cool group to color in the squares
  • Experiment with several different mediums to decide which best fits their vision for their project
  • Learn about 2 Principles of Design—focal point, and repetition

This art activity can help your children in these other areas of learning:

  • Measuring with a ruler and using a compass will help improve math skills.
  • Opportunities to make choices with color and different mediums enhances problem-solving skills.
  • Discussing their choices as they work aids in vocabulary and conversational skills.


  • heavyweight white drawing paper or construction paper, 9” X 12” size is best, making it easy to measure and divide into 3” squares
  • pencils, ruler, compass (If you don’t have a compass, trace around a medium-size plate or bowl)
  • colored pencils, markers, crayons, and watercolor paints
  • brushes of various sizes
  • scrap paper to experiment with colors and mediums
  • small containers for water


  1. Using the ruler, divide the paper into 3” squares
  2. Using the compass or a plate, draw a centered circle where the tree’s leaves would be
  3. Starting at the bottom of your paper draw the trunk of a tree that extends up into the circle
  4. Draw branches that extend only to the edge of the circle
  5. You will paint or color the squares within the circle with warm colors. Warm colors are red, orange, yellow, and mixtures of these. These colors remind us of the sun, fire, and autumn leaves.
  6. You will paint or color the squares outside the circle with be cool colors. Cool colors are blue, green, purple, and mixtures of these. They remind us of the sky, water, and faraway mountains.
  7. Decide whether you want to use watercolor, marker, colored pencil, crayon, or a mixture of these.  To decide, draw some squares on scrap paper and try the different mediums to see which you like best. Watercolor and colored pencils can give softer color. Markers are brighter, and crayons can give more texture. Left to right in the photo are watercolor, colored pencil, crayon, and marker. (I chose watercolor, but outlined each square in a matching crayon color, making it easier to keep the watercolor within the square)
  8. Once you have made your choice, choose 3 or 4 warm colors and 3 or 4 cool colors
  9. Scatter each color around the boxes so that boxes of the same color are not next to each other
  10. Use whatever medium you would like to add color and texture to your tree. I wanted give an idea of both, so tried different techniques on another paper.

Then I drew pencil lines so it would be easier to fill in the various colors.

Now you have a colorful autumn tree with contrasting cool and warm colors that will look great on any fridge!

 2 Principles of Design children can learn from this art activity:

  • Focal Point or Emphasis: Most paintings have a focal point or the place they want you to focus on. In this painting the warm colors, the interesting patterns of the tree’s branches, and the almost central position of the circle, make it the focal point. (often artists use red to indicate a focal point)
  • Repetition:  At the same time, by scattering and repeating your colors around the painting you’re helping to keep a viewer’s eyes moving around to notice other sections of your work.

Helpful Hints:

If possible, before starting this project, go outside and look closely at some trees to observe the following:

  • All the colors and textures in the bark, especially before deciding what way to add color and texture to the tree.
  • How the branches get thinner as they get farther from the trunk
  • How leaves may have mixtures of greens and yellows or reds, as the chlorophyll is no longer being produced.

Molly hopes you’ll hang your Colorful Autumn Tree with Contrasting Warm and Cool Colors on your fridge or in your room to remind you of all the beautiful colors God has given us!

We’d love to hear what your favorite part of this project was!

Join Molly and me in just 2 weeks for a Thanksgiving Art Project for Everyone!!

Make a Colorful Painting of Fall Leaves to Hang on Your Fridge

Winter may be coming, but your children can make a colorful fall painting to hang on your fridge to brighten wintry days ahead.

In this project children will:

  • Learn how to draw a tree
  • Have fun mixing yellows and reds to make orange; reds and blues to make burgundy. They can discover that adding a little brown to yellow gives them a golden color.
  • Choose and experiment with different tools that are easy for little hands to use.

And this art activity can help your children in other areas of learning, because:

  • Opportunities to make choices with color and tools, as in this activity, enhances problem-solving skills.
  • Discussing their choices as they work aids in vocabulary and conversational skills.


  • Red, yellow, blue, brown, and green tempera paint and containers for mixing paint
  • blue and green construction paper (for the variation explained below, you’ll need purple and a darker blue)
  • markers or crayons
  • pencils
  • scissors
  • glue stick or white glue
  • round brushes, clothespins to hold cotton balls, Q-tips held together with a rubber band, and small pieces of damp sponge


  1. For the background cut a wavy piece of green paper and glue it to the bottom of the blue paper. This is the foreground on which the tree stands.
  2. For the tree use a pencil to draw a simple Y tree. You can see this in the photo. On the left is a tree of single lines, each branch formed by the letter Y. In the tree on the left you can see how those lines are thickened to form the tree.
  3. Color the tree with crayons or markers using different browns, grays, and even a little black. Add some greens below to suggest grass.
  4. Mix the paint in shallow containers.  
  5. Let your children try different tools on scrap paper first to discover the different effects they will get. Sometimes the marks will look better after dabbing on scrap paper first.
  6. After they have experimented, they can paint colorful fall leaves all over the branches of the trees and falling onto the ground below.

Helpful Hints: If possible, before starting this project, go outside and look closely at some trees to observe the following:

  • All the colors and textures in the bark
  • How the branches get thinner as they get farther from the trunk
  • How leaves may have mixtures of greens and yellows or reds, as the chlorophyll is no longer being produced.
  • It might also help to stand in front of a tree and look into the distance while you explain that the tree next to them and the one they’ll do in their painting are large as we would expect. But things farther away look smaller in real life and will in their painting, too.

Help your children experiment with mixing and creating new colors from the ones they have. Show them that when you make a color like orange, mix just a little bit of the darker color (in this case, red) into the lighter color, yellow. The other way around, and you’ll find yourself having to use way more of the lighter color and may never get the light mix you want.

Hints for Clean Up:

Have a large plastic container to put the tools in when finished so you can easily throw away used Q-tips and cotton balls and wash the rest in the sink.


If you and your children wish, you may add the other two landscape distances to the green foreground of their picture. Add blue water for the middleground and purple or gray mountains for the background. You can also use one of the tools and white paint to add some clouds.

Molly hopes you enjoy Making a Colorful Painting of Fall Leaves to Hang on Your Fridge, We’d love to hear what your favorite part of this project was!

Molly and I hope to see you right back here soon for a Fall Art Project for Older Children!

Devotion based on the painting, Autumn on the Hudson River, by Jasper Cropsey

Hudson River school artists wanted their light-filled landscapes to teach lessons about God. The beauty of the landscapes, and the realistic details of foliage, skies, and clouds weren’t just to celebrate nature, but to show God’s glory and power in creation, and His continuing care of it all.

Autumn on the Hudson, Jasper Cropsey, public domain


Gather your children in a room you an darken and discuss how hard it is to see details of the leaves and other objects you collected. Depending on how dark the room is, it’s also hard to see much color.

Now open the curtains or turn on the lights and look at all the details and colors of the objects, especially the veins in the leaves.  

Now look at the painting by Jasper Cropsey. He has illuminated his whole scene with that light. We can see every detail!

He’s painted sunbeams coming through the clouds in the afternoon when the sun’s rays are longer and warmer, making his landscape look warm and peaceful to remind us of God’s loving care of every detail of His creation. Read together, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:2-3 NIV)

God created each of His creatures, and He continues to care for them!

Look at the pictures that you gathered of animals and plants and ask what are some of the ways God cares for each one. For example, how the bright colors of flowers attract bees and other insects to cross pollinate them. Ask how a rabbit can blend in with grass and bushes. How does a woodpecker’s bill differs from a duck’s, and why. How does each bird get its food? Read together, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26 NIV)  

The Hare by Albrecht Durer, public domain

God created each one of us, and He continues to care for us!

Ask children what are some of the ways God has cared for them. For example, discuss how their eyes can see colors and can see into the distance or close-up. Ask what are some of the many ways they can use their hands and fingers. Read together “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV)

God created everything that exists and He continues to care for All of His creation!

We can also look into the distance to see some of the biggest things – the mountains, the sky, and the river. Cropsey wrote that the sky was a beautiful gift of the Creator and encircled the earth “like a halo.  Read together, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2 NIV) 

Prayer:  Dear God you created everything from the smallest leaf to the tallest mountains, and all the bright stars above us. You have wonderfully made each of us, too! We praise You for creation’s beauty and the careful care You give to every part of it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed looking at how Autumn on the Hudson River can help us understand some Spiritual truths!

Be sure and come back for our next post. It’ll be an art project for younger children, based on Cropsey’s painting.

Painting the Light, Making Connections to Other Subjects

Art works can spark stories to write, suggest books to read, historical events to explore, and science to discover!

So read on to see ways Jasper Cropsey’s painting, Autumn on the Hudson can help you and your children make connections with other subjects such as language arts, social studies, and science.

Connections to other subjects

Social Studies


  • Use maps and photos to look at this region’s sections of the Appalachian Mountain chain called the Catskills and Adirondacks and important rivers such as the Hudson and the Mohawk, which helped transport goods to bring prosperity in the 1800s. The Hudson Highlands figures prominently in the Revolutionary War.

History: this region is rich in history with so many topics to pursue, that I’ll just mention a few:

  • The Iroquois League or Five Nations (their culture and history before and after the coming of Europeans)
  • The Oneida, an Iroquois League tribe that trekked hundreds of miles to bring corn to Washington’s troops at Valley Forge.
  • The discovery and exploration of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson who was sailing for the Dutch and therefore why the Dutch claimed and were the first European settlers of the region. Reflected in many place names such as Catskills, Schenectady, Tappan Zee, etc.
  • The importance of this region of the Hudson during the Revolutionary War. What did the American troops do to keep the British from traveling up the river and cutting New England off from the other colonies?
  • The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, which connected Lake Erie with the Hudson River at Albany, enabling the easier transportation of goods and people between western New York and New York City.
  • Albert Bierstadt, 1830-1902, who traveled the American West with various expeditions. His paintings helped encourage people to go west to settle.

Language Arts

Writing: Story prompts:

For Younger Children:

  • Write a story about the children on the bridge. What are they doing there? Do they live in the cabin? Are they taking a break from their chores?  What are their chores? Do you think their parents allowed them to take a break or not? Is that their dog? What other sorts of things do they like to do?

For Older Children:

  • Pretend you’re traveling on the paddlewheel steamer. Are you going downriver to visit New York City? What will you see in the city? If you’re traveling upriver to Albany and then taking the Erie Canal west to your home, tell about your trip, describing things you’d see you’ll be traveling the Erie Canal, describe what it’s like to go through a lock. What gives power to boats on the canal?
  • If you like horses, you might imagine and write about where the rider has been and what the roads were like. Was the rider on a trip? If so, where would the rider have stayed, eaten? Was the rider a doctor, returning from treating a patient? Or a traveling preacher?

Books to read that are related to the region or times:

For Younger Readers 1st -3rd:

  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh, a true story of a young girl in 1700s, a Newbery Honor book
  • The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmunds, Dutch settlers in Hudson Valley,  a young boy’s courage, Newbery Medal

For Middle Grade Readers:

  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingolls Wilder, story of Almonzo Wilder growing up on a western New York farm in the 1860s
  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol R. Brink, growing up on Wisconsin frontier in mid 1800s
  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz, a family moves to the Pennsylvania frontier in late 1700s
  • Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry, true story of a frontier school teacher in Vermont and his amazing horse, late 1700s
  • Rip van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, legends of the Dutch settlers, set in the Catskills

Classics for Older Readers:

  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, classic adventure and romance
  • Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds, the struggle of pioneers in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution
  • The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter, a young settler boy captured and raised by Native Americans must return to his true family as a teenager.


  • Sunbeams or Crepuscular (Latin for twilight) rays. Discover how sunbeams are created as they shine through gaps in clouds, mountains, or tall buildings.  Your research will also help you find out why the sky is blue for much of the day, but reddish at sunrise and sunset. You can go to this link to Britannica to begin  .https://www.britannica.com/science/crepuscular-ray
  • Look up why and how leaves turn colors in the fall. It has to do with the green chlorophyll not being replaced as days shorten and grow colder. But this link to the University of Vermont will tell you lots more!    https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/fallleaves.html

Wow, can you believe what a lot of interesting paths this painting could lead you on? Molly and I hope you’ll choose a few to follow!

I’ve discovered that these interconnections, deserve their very own post, so these new series will now probably have 5 posts instead of 4!

 Come on back for a kid-friendly devotion next time on post 3 of this series!!





Painting the Light

Artists of the Hudson River School, America’s first home-grown art movement, flooded their panoramic landscapes with light.

This first in a series of 4 posts will give you:

  1. Background information about the Hudson River School of art and Jasper Cropsey, a member of that group
  2. A lesson plan that includes
  •      Materials and vocabulary lists,
  •      One principle of art or design to learn about
  •      A fun activity and story to introduce Jasper Cropsey to your children
  •      A kid-friendly game to help your children explore one of Cropsey’s paintings

Now let’s get right to the first in the series of 4 posts based on art by Jasper Francis Cropsey.

Background for You.   

The Hudson River School artists were a group of artists whose lives and work stretched across most of the 1800s. They knew and learned from each other, sometimes painted together in the same areas, and often exhibited together.

It all began with a sketching trip Thomas Cole, who is considered the founder of the school, took up the Hudson River in 1825. The Hudson River flows south from the Adirondacks, through scenic landscapes, such as the Catskill Mountains, to empty into the Atlantic in New York City.

Following his lead, more and more artists took sketching and painting trips north on the Hudson. Many of them had grown up in New York or New England, while others were immigrants. A few were women, and one was an African American man.

These artists also explored rivers and mountains throughout the northeastern part of the United States, which was still largely rural. They encouraged each other to make careful observations of nature and detailed sketches of what they saw. (Here’s a link to see images from one of Jasper Cropsey’s sketch books at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library)

Eventually some traveled even farther. Frederick Church painted in the Middle East, South America, and the Arctic. Albert Bierstadt (who had immigrated with his family from Germany) traveled with exploratory expeditions to the American West. His paintings helped make the West better known back East.

Look at this painting called Autumn—On the Hudson River by Jasper Cropsey to see many of the features of Hudson River School paintings

Autumn on the Hudson, Jasper Cropsey, public domain


(here’s the link to this painting in the National Gallery in Washington D.C., which enables you to enlarge the painting and scroll around to see its details)  https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46474.html

  • Wide, panoramic views of a river, distant mountains, and lots of light-filled sky, usually from an elevated position.
  • The river or a winding path invites you to “walk” into the painting
  • Lots of realistic details of plants, rocks, and trees, rural life
  • Light used to reveal the form of things, unlike the Impressionists, who used light to dissolve outlines
  • Often show a few people or animals, hiking, resting, or working in fields
  • Sometimes the artist shows him or herself painting in the foreground

Above all else you’ll see light and 1 point perspective used to draw you on into the mountains and beyond. (when we see look at a road or wall receding into the distance, we see an illusion of the parallel lines receding at an angle and coming together at “one point” on the horizon. Artists use this 1 point illusion or perspective to help create the illusion of distance in a painting).

In a Hudson River School painting all the lines converge at a point that is lost in light, so it seems as if we can see beyond nature to infinity—to God who created all that beautiful nature. And that’s just what these artists wanted.

Lesson Plan:  Engaging your children’s minds to explore and enjoy this painting!


  • link from above to this painting in the National Gallery so you can scroll around to see details
  • links in this post to maps of Hudson River and photos of the actual places painted
  • colored leaves gathered on walk or photos of these
  • Optional, but fun! Make a “magic” paintbrush pointer—add a little glue and glitter to the handle of a paintbrush—when you sprinkle a little “magic” artist glitter on children, it becomes fun to imagine walking into the painting or pointing out objects with the brush.

Vocabulary The words will be in bold green the first time they come up.

  • autumn
  • landscape painting
  • sketching
  • foreground, middleground, background (big words, but ones that will help you and your children talk more easily about different parts of a painting)

One principle of art or design to learn about:  Color can help create a mood by using warm and/or cool colors

Introduction: An activity and a story

Activity: If possible go on a walk and let children gather colorful fall leaves. If that’s not possible, look at a few photos of bright fall leaves. Ask questions such as: Which colors do they like best? Did they find any leaves that still showed some green? Are there any patterns formed by the changing colors? What do those veins do?

photo from a previous post’s leaf painting activity, showing the leaf veins

Isn’t it wonderful that God has given us such beauty before winter?

Story: There was once an American artist who loved colorful fall leaves so much that he took lots of sketching and painting trips along the Hudson River and in New England in the autumn to paint the bright red, orange, and yellow leaves. But when he showed some of his autumn landscape paintings in London, the British were amazed. Their fall leaves weren’t that colorful, and some thought he had exaggerated the colors in his paintings. So the artist, Jasper Cropsey, attached samples of leaves to his paintings to prove his colors were right on!

Teaching and Sharing: Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900) was part of a group of American artists who lived not long after the American Revolution when America was still a small country with few cities. They loved to hike along the Hudson River in New York State and in other northeast states, sketching nature and painting landscapes. (The link to the map of the Hudson River is helpful here)  https://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/hudson-river-valley-map

Let’s look at one of Jasper Cropsey’s autumn paintings together.

Ask children what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that.    (Giving children time to look at and talk about the overall painting before using a game to get more specific improves cognitive and social skills)

A fun game to explore the painting and enhance children’s observational skills:  Tap a child lightly on the shoulder with the “magic” paintbrush and invite him or her to pretend they are walking through the painting. Encourage their imaginations even more by first asking if it’ll be cold or hot, rainy, or sunny, etc. and therefore, what clothes they should wear and what they might take with them on their walk. Will they need a snack or water?

Ask them to tell what they see, hear, smell, and touch as they travel from the foreground, through the middle ground, to the background. Encourage them to find the men and dogs sitting on the hill, the man on horseback, the town along the river, the children playing on a bridge, trees with red leaves, blown over trees, a paddlewheel boat on the river, and to see colors and patterns.

With landscapes, it can be fun to compare the artist’s work to actual photographs. Here are links to 2 photos taken of that mountain seen in the distance across the Hudson River in Cropsey’s painting. Called Butter Mountain by early Dutch settlers because they thought it looked like a lump of butter, today it’s called Storm King Mountain. It helps form the northern entrance to the Hudson Highlands, a narrow section of the Hudson River. West Point Military Academy is on a bluff just south of this section of the river.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_Highlands#/media/File:Hudson_Highlands.JPG


One principle of art or design to learn about:  Color can help create a mood.

  • Ask children which colors Cropsey has used. They’ll see he has used both—warm colors for the foliage and cool colors in the sky and river.
  • Explain that while Cropsey has painted his landscape with realistic colors, he’s also creating a mood with his color choices. Often warm colors, (reds, oranges, and yellows) can make a painting exciting. Cool colors (blues, greens, and violets) can give a feeling of peace.
  • Ask children how the painting makes them feel.
  • Help them notice that Cropsey’s reds and oranges  and his blues and greens, too, are a little muted by distance.
  • And one color seems to warm up every part of this landscape.  Which one is it? (that golden sunlight gives an overall mood to this painting of a warm welcome to a peaceful country scene)

Whichever of the above activities you choose, enhance children’s verbal skills by rephrasing words and helping them use the new vocabulary. Encourage their observation skills by pointing out nuances of color such as the different blues and greens of various parts of the sky, water, and land.



Molly and I hope you and your children will enjoy learning about the Hudson River School artists and exploring Jasper Cropsey’s painting, Autumn–On the Hudson River!


I’ll post Connections to Other Subjects very soon! As I was listing them, I realized this post would be too long if I included them now. But sign up to receive these posts by email so you don’t miss them! There are many great connections to social studies, science, and language arts from this painting!










Changes Coming To Help You with Homeschooling or Online Teaching

Are you looking for ways to enjoy art with your children as you homeschool or teach online? If so, this is the blog for you!

Since so many are homeschooling or teaching online at this time, I’m making some changes to better help you engage your children’s minds, hearts, and hands in learning about art and make connections from it to other subjects.

Each post will typically be part of a series of 4, all relating to one artist or art movement.

This is what you can expect from each series:

Post 1 will engage your children’s minds in art appreciation activities. This post will include background information with pictures and links for you.  Then I’ll give you some kid-friendly activities to introduce the artist’s work to your children. I’ll also include ideas to help you make connections to other subjects you are studying or how to use the art as an attention-grabber to introduce new topics in other areas of your curriculum.

Post 2 will engage your children’s hearts in a kid-friendly devotion based on the artwork

Post 3 will engage younger children’s hands in an art activity based on the artwork

Post 4 will engage older children’s hands in an art activity based on the artwork

Whether you’re homeschooling or teaching online, I hope this new format will help you with games, lessons, and activities to engage your children’s minds, hearts, and hands in learning about and enjoying art.

The first series will begin this Friday, September 18th with Artists Who Painted Light, and feature Jasper Cropsey.

Autumn on the Hudson, Jasper Cropsey, public domain

So be sure to sign up to receive these posts in your inbox and share with others who are looking for ways to enjoy art with their children.



Molly and I are looking forward to  helping you and your children enjoy great art and your own creativity this fall!