Fairy Tale Castles: Mixed Media Collage (June 2013)

This two week project was completed by my pre-school group who range between four and six years old. A few days before our class, two of the children asked me “What are we making this week?”. This often happens, and usually I already have a plan, although I like to keep it a secret! However, on this occasion I asked the girls for their ideas. In unison, and without any hesitation, they said “castles!”, so this is what I came up with…

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I love combining lots of techniques in my art projects, in order to bring texture, depth and detail to the finished artworks. It’s also great to revisit methods and ideas from earlier projects, as this hopefully encourages the children to apply those materials and techniques in new and different ways when creating their own art projects at home or in the classroom.

‘Shape printing’ with household objects or sponges is one of my favourite techniques, and you can see some other projects using these method by clicking here and here. I thought this would be the perfect way for the children to paint the rough stone walls of their castles.

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First of all they used white pencils to draw their own fantasy castles on brown paper, complete with towers, spires and crenellated parapets. I asked the children to start by drawing a large door – a ploy to encourage them to draw the rest of their castle on a large scale (I find that children often draw quite small, especially when using pencils). Later I cut out the doors so they could be opened.

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The children painted over their drawn outlines with gold acrylic paint, and then used little rectangles cut from cheap washing-up sponges, to print the stone structure.

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The next job was to cut out some window shapes from black paper and glue them on, as well as adding black paper behind the opening door. At this point the castles had to be left to dry, and the next day I cut out the castles ready for the following week. Of course, I could have asked the children to do this, but I wanted the next session to focus on creating the background. Cutting out such complex shapes would have taken up most of the class time and I didn’t want there to be any mishaps to ruin their wonderful castles!

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When we returned to the project, each child used white pencils to draw princes, princesses, dragons and knights looking out of the windows and doorways.

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Then it was time to create a landscape setting inspired by the spectacular Austrian Alps that my students are very familiar with! The children tore strips of dark and light green paper and overlapped them in layers on a large sheet of blue paper, to create the effect of receding planes. We used the same technique earlier in the year for a landscape project, Snowy Mountains: Wallpaper Collage.

Each child then tore a zig-zag down the length of a sheet of white paper to create two pieces that could be placed alongside each other forming a line of snowy mountains. They screwed up both pieces into balls, carefully opening them up and flattening them before gently rubbing grey/blue soft pastel over the surface to delineate and emphasise the creases further.

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I got this brilliant idea from the blog of elementary art teacher Cassie Stephens, whose own castle project for much older children may be viewed here. Cassie’s students used a different medium – water-based oil pastels – which they blended with brush-strokes of water, as well as adding ridge lines by rubbing with more pastel. However I was very satisfied with the simplified method that we used – the crumpled up paper looks just like snow-covered mountain peaks!

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All that was left to do was to add some white chalk clouds to the blue paper before the pictures could be assembled!

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Please click on one of the images below to scroll through a full-screen gallery of the children’s Fairy Tale Castles.


  1. I love your art – and I believe it is an art – of coming up with these wonderful projects, to help children learn the fun of creating something. Watercolour raindrops and cut-out castles – I wish someone had taught me art like that!

  2. Hannah, this is wonderful! I love the architecture of the castles. It is beautiful seeing how each child came up with a different design. I specially admire the one with the triangular windows. If I were a princess living in one of your student’s castles, my favorite ritual would be looking through the windows to admire the clouds 🙂

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