As a graphic designer myself, I’m always looking for ways to translate the work of some of my favorites into art projects that will work well for kids. There are a few designers I’ve run across whose work has instantly caught my eye, and Celestino Piatti is at the top of my list. Having fallen in love with his books as a child, I grew to appreciate his vast body of work and unique style even more as an adult.
Using inspiration from his work and children’s book illustrations (you might recognize him from his books The Happy Owls or Animal ABC) we made our own Celestino Piatti-inspired garden art peacocks and suns! Their bright colors, along with the bold mosaic/stain glass style scream summer (they even twirl in the breeze!). A perfect way to decorate a children’s garden, use to spruce up school landscaping for a special event or give to a teacher as a back-to-school gift!
I love Piatti’s ability to break animals’ complex bodies into groups of stylized shapes, and the bold style of his linework. It’s an aesthetic and process kids are instantly drawn to – the illustrations certainly stuck with me as a little one, and have influenced my own work.
This is a project that utilizes simple shapes (circles and triangles create every feature),
For more Celestion Piatti-inspired projects, be sure to visit our DIY puppet theater, where a cast of his animals puts on a daily show. Or experiment with Piatti-inspired mark-making processes with these spring landscapes.
To make your own Piatti-inspired garden art you’ll need:
- Watercolor paper, heavy card stock, or similar (we used 2 sheets of 11″x 17″ watercolor paper)
- Plates or bowls to trace around
- A black oil pastel or crayon, black chalk or black paint
- Watercolors, acrylic, or tempera paints
- Small metal brad
- (4) 2″ x 2″ squares of scrap cardboard
- Glue stick or craft glue
- A stick, round dowel or similar
- A piece of masking tape or hot glue gun
- A potted plant (this makes a wonderful teacher’s gift!)
Celestino Piatti-Inspired Garden Art Instructions:
Trace a small, large, and medium circle onto watercolor paper
Use bowls or plates to trace a small, medium, and large circle onto your watercolor paper with a pencil or pen. This is a great opportunity for kids to recognize the shapes that are present in their everyday life.
Cut out circles
Cut out your three circles with scissors.
Stack circles and trace
Stack your circles on top of each other smallest to largest. With your circles stacked and centered, trace around your smallest and medium-sized circles.
Add a face and simple line patterns
On your smallest circle, sketch a simple face in pencil. On
Draw over lines with oil pastel or crayon
Use a black oil pastel or crayon to go over all of your pencil lines with big, bold strokes. Tip: outlining the edges of your small/medium-sized circle will help to create a distinct border between each
Add color with watercolors
Now it’s time to start adding color to your circles (this is the magic step that will create that lovely stained-glass style!). Grab your watercolors and decide which colors you’d like to use. Do you want to use a warm palette, cool colors, a mixture? Ocean colors? Desert colors? Summer colors or winter colors? It’s all up to you! Fill in the outlined shapes on each circle with your watercolors.
Cut around the lines of your large background circle
Once all your layers have dried, cut around the rays of your large circles.
Stack bottom circles and thread with a metal brad
Stacking your medium and large circles on top of each other, make a small hole in the center. Cut (2) small squares out of a piece of scrap cardboard and make a small hole in the center of those as well (we’ll use these between the circles to add dimension to our sun). Thread your metal brad through the medium circle, 2 small cardboard squares, then your large square to create the first piece of your stacked sun.
Affix face to the top
Using craft glue or a good glue stick, stack (2) glue 2 small cardboard squares together, glue the stack to the center of your medium circle, then glue your face on top.
Add a dowel rod to the back
Use a piece of tape or hot glue gun to affix a stick (like we did) or dowel rod to the back of your sun stack.
Add to a garden or flower pot!
Pop into a flower bed or potted plant for an instant touch of handmade summer garden art!
I thought it would be fun to make these 3 different pieces that would add dimension and move independently, but you can easily simplify this project by gluing all the pieces together or just drawing your 3 circles within the same large circle on one piece of paper.
For the peacock, you’ll use the same process – just a different combination of shapes!
You can use the shapes above as a guide or experiment with creating your own designs from simple shapes.
We used a warmer palette for our sun, so decided to go with a cool palette (a more literal representation of Piatti’s own work) for our peacock.
Instead of putting these on a garden stake or branch you could hang them from a ribbon, or make a full set to string into a garland.
For younger kids, you can simplify this graphic garden art project by creating the oil pastel outlines first, then letting them color and add details with watercolor and additional colors of oil pastel.
For more summer art ideas, try making a set of melted crayon butterflies, a colorful upcycled camp lantern, create cool scrap supply pool art, or some modern mini flower collages!