Ripe idea: The non-artist's guide to creating big art

Published on: 
September 06, 2012
Hannah Debelius

The Green Apple Day of Service is less than a month away, but it’s not too late to plan something great! When I was in elementary school, we had a giant map of the United States painted on the blacktop. This simple picture let students have fun outside, use their imagination and learn about geography all at the same time. Whether it is a map of the United States, the globe, or an image about sustainability and healthy living, there's an easy way to scale your image to blacktop size, and make a great Day of Service project out of it.

  1. Choose your image (ex: outline of the United States) and print it out on a simple piece of standard copy paper.
  2. Using a ruler, draw a grid across the entire image with vertical and horizontal lines 1 inch apart, creating perfect squares with 1”x1” dimensions. Label each square with a number.
  3. Now, head out to the blacktop and choose a space where you want the image (the space should have the same proportion of height to width as your original image). Be sure you have all of the permission you need from school administration to create your work of art. 
  4. Using a yard stick to measure increments, lay down lines of painters tape to create perfect squares. Label these squares, with marker on the tape, with matching numbers corresponding to your small image.
  5. Use sidewalk chalk to sketch the outline of the larger image on the blacktop, drawing one box at a time.
  6. Remove the tape and fill in the outline with chalk numbers like “color by numbers.”
  7. Now let your volunteers loose with paint and brushes! Be sure to check your local hardware store for safe, low-VOC outdoor paint.

For a more in depth description with illustrations, check out this website for great instructions.

This method is not only easy for the non-artist, but can be used for blacktops, walls, or banners. It’s also a great math lesson for teacher’s continued use throughout the school year. Oh, you are an artist? Then grab sidewalk chalk and have some fun by getting kids outside to express their creative side while breathing fresh air!

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