Deep in the heart of winter, I typically find myself turning to rainbows for cheery, bright art inspiration. A few years ago I shared a Frank Stella deconstructed rainbow project, and it’s been a site favorite ever since. This year I thought I’d tweak that original idea, and came up with this “rainbow road” abstract art experiment.
Using a combination of regular old rainbows (I made a printable for this, but you can also draw your own) and a process art background, we made an absolutely exquisite set of graphic wall hangings! They are our colorful reminder that spring’s blue skies and vibrant fresh blooms are just a couple of months away.
You can use these as an interesting twist on process art, or turn them into a collaborative project by using BIG pieces of cardboard and inviting kids (or a classroom) to build one long, winding road together. And by the way, I found these highly entertainting myself, so don’t sleep on trying one out on your own!
Because I love art that serves a function beyond just looking beautiful, scroll down to read about how I used these to make a simple daily “game” that celebrates life’s small pleasures. A little dash of optimism and gratitude during these darker winter days!
To make your own rainbow road abtract art you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- A large piece of scrap cardboard
- Tempera or acrylic paints & brushes
- A glue stick or craft glue
- Our Frank Stella Rainbow Art Printable (if you’d rather not make your own) or construction paper, or paper & markers
- Mark-making supplies like crayons, soft pastels, or colored pencils
- Wire, string, or ribbon to hang
- A glue gun
- Dice and a removable sticky dot (or similar) to make a functional “game
Rainbow Road Abstract Art Instructions:
- Cut a large rectangle or square from scrap cardboard
For our canvas, we used a piece of cardboard from a delivery box. You can cut these to any size, but keep in mind that you’ll have more room to make your roads turn and spiral if your cardboard piece is larger. If you’re working with younger kiddo or someone not quite sold on the idea, you may want to work smaller for a faster process.
We wanted to try out a variety of sizes, so we cut out three cardboard canvases.
- Paint your cardboard canvas
The foundation for this project is a great introduction to simple process art. Using one, two, or a few colors, you can create a background for your artwork by free-painting your cardboard canvas. Smushing the paint around creates beautiful textures and color combinations, and this is a great opportunity to experiment with different kinds of brushes or painting tools.
To make this muted, but colorful background, we squeezed a few lines of white acrylic paint right onto the cardboard, then added about 12 small dots of different colors. Using a foam brush, we mixed them all together right on the canvas to cover the surface. You can also add layers of colored pencil or pastel scribbles.
- Print our rainbow templates or draw your own
While your canvas is drying (you can hit it with a hairdryer if you used a lot of paint) color or paint your own set of rainbows – or use our rainbow art printable. I recommend making a few different rainbows, with different color combinations – this will give you a great variety of size & color combinations to choose from!
- Cut apart your rainbows
Cut apart your rainbows in different ways. For some of our rainbow road pieces, we cut along each of the lines of the rainbow to make single colorful arcs. We then cut a few of those in half.
For a different look (and less cutting) we also tried cutting our full rainbows in half. Or cutting 2-3 bands of the rainbow together. The more variations you make, the more fun it is to mix and match the pieces!
- Begin building “roads” on your cardboard canvas
Using your rainbow pieces, you can begin to build “roads” on the top of your canvas. Sort of like a game of dominoes, we started by laying down one arc, then adding on to each end to build a continuous “road”. You can lay down arcs end to end, then also build them up along the sides.
Turning the arcs at angles. join up the lines to create circles, s-shapes, c-shapes, or swirls, mix-in a few half-rainbow shapes – it’s all up to you! How can you create a twisty, turning colorful road of your own?
- Glue your final composition down
Once you’ve made an arrangement you like, use a glue stick or craft glue to glue it all down to your cardboard canvas. Gorgeous!
- Optional: Add wire, string or ribbon to hang
As an optional last step, you can add a small wire, string, or ribbon hanger to the back of your cardboard canvas to display artwork. We used a glue gun to secure a small copper wire hanger at the top of our rainbow road art.
If your kids have gone rainbow crazy and love making these, go wild and create a gallery of rainbow road pieces – they look SO fantastic hung in groupings on the wall!
I absolutely love finding unique ways to turn our art pieces into something a bit more interactive. The bright colors of this art felt so positive and uplifting, I thought I could use these to somehow incorporate that joy into a daily activity…
Create your own rainbow road “simple pleasures game
- Make a little color-coded key with squares of color that correspond to the colors in your rainbow road. Assign each color a very small but fun positive activity to look forward to. For example, pink is “read a book together,” blue is “play a card game,” “yellow is “make movie-theater-style popcorn,” etc.
- Next, cut an icon or shape out of scrap paper, attach a removable sticky dot (or something similar) to the back and stick it in one of the arcs on your rainbow road art. This creates a little game piece that can be moved around your art.
- Grab a die to keep near your rainbow road art. Every morning (or at any time of your choice) you can roll the die, moving the game piece along your rainbow road the same number of arcs as you rolled. You can travel in any direction, but have to stay on the “road,” only moving from colorful arc to another that’s directly touching it. The color they finish on gives your kids a fun simple pleasure to look forward to for the rest of the day!
For more ways to experiment with rainbows or use our printable, try out a new medium with these DIY chalk pastel rainbow pillows. Or combine your rainbows with a fun scratch art process for some magical unicorn wall hangings!
Did you notice your little one really enjoying the unstructured painting part of this project? For more process art using a totally different set of supplies, visit our hammered nature process art or scribble art collages.
*A note about Amazon affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!