Rotation.org Writing Team
The Story of Creation
Celebrating God's Creation & Creativity
with a Painting Workshop Lesson
In addition to all the "things" God created, Genesis 1 also reveals the creative joy of God that calls the universe into being—light and color, stars, plants, and animals, and sheer goodness. To capture and experience this understanding of God's heart students will be guided to create a Creation Story painting using the "wax resist" technique in the style of artist Ted Harrison who was known for his bold, simple, and joyful landscapes reflecting the beauty of the Creation he saw around him.
To begin feeling the creative and loving inspiration that brought the world and us into being, students will watch a brief video-reading of portions of When God Made the World, the inspirational children's book about the story of Creation by Matthew Paul Turner. In this video, the text is shown onscreen as we see children playing in some of the places described in the story.
This lesson includes a PowerPoint (and a PDF) you can show to your students, displaying samples of Harrison's art and explaining the process they will use to create their artwork.
What a time-saver for your teachers who do not have to search for art samples and then print them in color!
Scripture for the Lesson
Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 (NIV)
Key Verse: Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
"So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them."
See the Bible Background at Rotation.org for insights on this story and this set's complete list of objectives.
This art lesson includes a focus on the creative joy and artistry of God in Genesis 1, and the fact that we are made in that same joyfully creative image.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and scripture.
- Preview the video of the book reading on YouTube: When God Made the World (2 minutes).
- Preview and prepare to show the "Creation Art in the Harrison style" presentation available as a downloadable PowerPoint file and as a PDF. Both versions have teaching comments included that explain the art project and prime students to create. You can show them on a screen or print either version as a handout.
- Oil Pastels and White Oil Pastels (Not your typical crayons! Oil pastel crayons create a better line and "resist" the watercolor paints better)
- Watercolor paint and brushes (notice Harrison's bold and complementary colors!)
- White, heavy art paper (135 lb works best), one sheet per student (and plenty to spare)
- Small bowls of water (to wash brushes frequently)
- Scrap paper (optional, for trying out the process)
- An easel or whiteboard; appropriate marker
- Play with the art materials ahead of time, to become familiar with the wax resist technique.
- Practice pronouncing the Hebrew words "tov" (sounds like cove) and “meh-ode" to say, "meh-ode tov."
Opening (8 minutes)
Welcome students and say “It is so tov to see you today!”
Ask, what do you suppose “tov” might mean?
Maybe you had a clue from the way I said this word, even though you probably had not heard it before. “Tov” means good in Hebrew, and “meh-ode tov" means VERY good. “Tov” can also mean beautiful.
Ask students to think of something in God's Creation that is “meh-ode tov"—VERY good. Ask a few students to “pop up” and say their “something” along with the words tov or meh-ode-tov. (Example: waves at the beach are TOV!) Encourage enthusiasm.
Explain: The Bible tells us that God used these very words to describe his Creation. Creation is “tov,” good. It is beautiful.
Continuing to concentrate on joy, delight, and love and care...
Ask: How do you suppose God felt when he was creating the world?”
I wonder what God expected? (This is a lead into the direction they will hear in the video.)
Video Inspiration! When God Made the World (10 minutes)
Say: Our Bible story is about how God was the first and greatest artist of all time. The Creation story shows God’s delight in Creation! Joy is at the beginning of everything. God made people to share in his joy and his love, and to be like him in their ability to express joy and be loving.  Even the word "hovering"—used in the Bible to describe what God was doing at the first moment of creation—can be understood to mean "shaking with anticipation," even dancing!  As God created, God was joyful!
Say: God's Creation has inspired millions of artists to paint skies and fields and flowers. His stars have inspired billions of people to look up with awe at the majesty of his work.
Say: Today, we will hear a version of the Story of Creation by watching and listening to a video presentation of the book When God Made the World. Then after we watch and talk about the video, we will create joyful paintings of God's Creation.
Say: As we watch this short video, listen for what the author suggests we remember about God's Creation.
NOTE to teachers: When God Made the World is a children’s book by Matthew Paul Turner. It tells the Creation Story in rhythmic, whimsical text in a similar style to the Genesis scripture. This video was created with some of the same text from the book but instead of using the illustrations from the book, video clips of joyful children are used to illustrate the words about God's Creation.
Questions to ask after the video:
- What did you see in this video that was "tov" (good)?
- What do you suppose was the emotion that the children in this video were feeling? (Point out that though all the children in the video were different, they all looked and acted joyfully. That's how God wants us to respond to him and his Creation—with joy.)
- What did the video say to remember?
(Replay the answer which is at the 1:12 minute mark in the video: "God had a purpose for making you.")
- What did the video say that God wants us to do with our "every gift or talent or shtick?" 
- Shtick is a word that means "what you are interested in." This is saying, "Use whatever you've got—what God created in you—to make the world a better place!" One way we can make the world a better place is by sharing our joy, just like God shared his joy at Creation. We share our joy when we are inspired by wonderful things like bugs and mountains, stars and oceans, and creating art!
Expressing our Creative Joy Just As God Did in Creation
To Prepare Your Students (10 minutes)
- Show the PowerPoint or PDF version "Creation Art in the Harrison Style." Note: When you show the PowerPoint in Presenter View, you can see the talking points for each slide. The talking points are included in the PDF as well.
- Let them practice the "wax resist" method on scrap paper by drawing a quick image of Creation they might include in their finished work using the oil pastels. Have them paint within their lines (as they are able) with watercolor to see how their drawing will look.
- Then give everyone a fresh sheet of art-quality paper to begin their creation.
To Begin Drawing and Painting their creation about Creation...
- Remind students that they are to draw a favorite part or scene in God's Creation in the Harrison style, beginning with bold curvy lines, and finishing with bright joyful colors. Remind them that the place or scene and the curves they draw it with should express both God's joy and theirs for that place.
- Have them draw their creation scene and its objects and symbols using oil pastel lines in the Harrison style—curvy lines!
TIP: Avoid drawing too much detail.
TIP: Press the oil pastels so that the lines are strong and thick. This will help separate the watercolors.
TIP: If they need to start over, let them. Even in Creation things get a fresh start.
- When they are done drawing their Harrison lines, have them begin to fill in the blank spaces with watercolors.
TIP: Harrison would have kept each color within the lines, so as not to blend his colors. Try that!
TIP: Harrison did not use "primary" colors, but shades of them.
TIP: Start with the LIGHTER colors first. Don't soak your paper. The smallest amount of water will provide the most color. Remember to use complementary colors.
TIP: It's okay to leave some of the paper unpainted.
Putting something in your painting that represents YOU.
In addition to drawing a favorite place in God's Creation, you will also want to include some sort of representation of YOU and your feelings about God's Creation in your landscape. This could be a simple outline of you, or your favorite pet or animal. How could your sun or sunlight suggest a heart or an embrace? Could your hills and mountains leap up and touch the sky? Are your water or waves calm or swirling with energy? Are you reaching up to the heavens? or holding someone's hand? You will want to keep these expressions simple and use your curves and colors to express beauty, thanks, and awe.
Circle around everyone's completed artwork and invite each artist to share and explain their creation. Point out some of the beautiful features and expressions before you.
Offer a prayer that gives thanks for Creation, but most importantly, for God's loving joy that surrounds us every day. Lord, make us more like you every day—joyful, loving, and creative just like you! Amen.
For Younger Students:
Your youngest students may need more help and examples drawn for them on the board. One way to show this technique might be to put your hand over theirs to guide their oil pastel on a piece of scrap paper. (Part of the joy of Creation is that we get to share it!)
To keep things simple, pick one oil pastel color (or white) and stick with that. (Remind them that color will be added with the watercolor paints.)
For Older Students:
Challenge students to express in advance what they hope to draw, then offer suggestions.
Have them dig into the concept of "adding God" to their painting. Artists often represent God in art using light, motion, glowing objects, bright clouds, or a certain color.
Use tube watercolor paints for a more saturated color. (Palettes with compartmentalized paint wells will be needed for diluting paint and mixing colors.)
For Those With More Class Time:
Before watching the video, add finding Genesis in the Bible. Include reading the scripture from the Bible.
Spend more time planning their art creation. Discuss what they would choose to represent Creation. It could be your favorite canyon or ocean or both! They could add birds, animals, wonderful trees, streaming warm sunlight, outer space. (God certainly painted a lot of space!) Think of what you like to look at in God's Creation or where you like to be, or what you are grateful to God for creating in your world; what brings you joy?
Allow students to make a second painting.
As you gather around the completed works of art, ask students to describe a portion of their creation and what it means to them.
For a Shorter/Simpler lesson plan:
Omit the students sharing what they think is “meh-ode tov."
Have students pick one oil pastel color (or white) and stick with that. (Remind them that color will be added with the paints.)
For At-Home Use:
Families may take time to explore creation on a walk or by reviewing some of their experiences in Creation. Include their discoveries in their art design.
About the Harrison "style"
More details and thoughts for the students are found in the attached presentation.
Ted Harrison's style features bold contrasting colors in a simple, almost child-like style. He used large patches of warm colors beside patches of cool colors to create contrast.
He almost never used straight lines. He kept his colors separate with curved (wax) lines. He drew landscapes and light with color and curves that made them come alive with a sense of wonder and majesty.
He would often include small details, such as animals or people or objects in the landscape, but these were dwarfed by the majesty of their surroundings. His people and animals often expressed an emotion, such as joy or embrace.
In the Harrison illustration seen above left, the sun almost looks like a heart, the sky seems to be sending a message of love, and the person in the foreground seems to be on a journey. Harrison skies always seem to come alive --and not simply be a blue field with white clouds as children will paint without direction. Encourage them to use curves and shapes and colors that send a bold message about Creation --as bold a message as God' Creation does to us!
Harrison used a complicated wax silk-screen process to create his works. Students across the world today use a simpler "wax resist" technique.
Here is an excellent walk-through with photos of how kids can create in the Harrison style.
 If your classroom doesn't have wired or Wi-Fi Internet access, you can use your cellphone's Internet connection to access YouTube (learn how here). Connect your cellphone or your computer to a TV screen using a simple inexpensive cable (learn how to do that here).
 From Sally Lloyd Jones, The Jesus Story Book Bible.
 See the Bible Background for more on the meaning of the Hebrew word used to describe the movement of God's Spirit over the waters of Creation.
 In the book by Matthew Paul Turner, it is spelled "shtick." The video spells it "schtick." Either way of spelling is considered okay.
Certain images are used under the "Fair Use" rule for non-profit teaching and commentary. Other samples of Ted Harrison art.
Written by Robin Stewart and the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright Rotation.org Inc.