Banner Painting

or: supporting local community art projects!

banner finishedSince 2010, I have, as a teacher, been involved in our town’s Rotary Community Banner Art Initiative. Basically, I’ve been painting road-side banners with my class.

While I always look forward to the RESULT of this activity, the actual execution of this project can be daunting, especially with a class of anglophone 7-year olds to whom I speak only in French and tubs of latex paint. Oh la la!

Over the past 4 years of completing this project, I’ve learned some tips that I thought I’d share.. even if it’s just to remind myself of “what went right”!

You start with a banner:

Luckily for me, I have made friends with the wonderful past-president of the local rotary club who delivers a fabulous banner STAND to my school every year. DO NOT ask me how it’s made.. remember when I tried to cut wood, and my uncle had to take over? But I’ve tried to take pictures of the important parts, so that if you were so inclined, you could make one yourself. Having a banner stand – of one form or another-  is pretty essential, I think, because you have to paint on both sides of said banner. By the way, the banner is made out of nylon, it has reinforced grommets and two pocket seams, at each end.banner stand

The other supplies:

The way the club has it set up is SO easy for teachers to just pick up and go. Each year there are a few more paint colour choices, and the variety of brushes has been getting better and better.

I love the variety of the brushes: the foam ones work particularly well. Because you are painting on a vertical surface, the foam brushes tend to cut down on the amount of drips, because the absorb more of the paint. The first year, I was having to repaint every night after the kids worked on it, painting over their drips!

The paint is just your regular house-old latex – I think this is best to stand up to the inclement weather we get here on the West Coast.

This year we had: dark blue, light blue, turquoise, dark green, light green, yellow, gold, brown, orange, red, purple, grey, black and white, and extra containers for mixing colours.

banner materials

Are you feeling inspired yet?

This is the part that stresses me out the MOST about the painting.. what to paint!

The first year I was still in my Klimt obsession… and I was trying to think about the city we live in, and the kids got involved, and somehow we came up with a banner inspired by the Tree of Life with fish (fishing being the livelihood of many in our community, and the hobby of many more) and birds, for some reason, sitting in the tree!

The next year, we had just finished a unit on Matisse, so that was easy – also he’s French, also this one had a under-water theme to it.

Last year was our town’s centennial, so I found a painting that was finished in 1912 – also by a Frenchman, and I LOVE circles, so that was great.


banner insp

But THIS year.. oh mon dieu! I was waking up in the wee hours of the morning worrying about it! Then on Monday I got to school and looked around the classroom – our caterpillars were just becoming chrysalises! I then remembered a piece of Eric Carle “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” fabric that my mom had bought for my classroom a while ago. PARFAIT!


ya ya ya, get to the PAINTING already!

Here’s what I’ve figured out:

  • Paint the whole darn’d banner – front and back – in white to start.

The key to a successful paint job is to cover every square centimeter with paint, so it survives outside..

  • Sketch out your design in pencil.

But you only have to do one side.

  • While the kids paint one side, you paint the other.

Because of the way we hang it – both sides are visible – and there is a certain translucency to the banner (think of sunlight through fabric) this means that the front and back have to be painted in the same colour in the same spot.

The way this worked is that I have a multi-station art activity going in my classroom which keeps those kids occupied. Meanwhile, I work with two kids at a time in the hallway on the banner. As soon as “Johnny” finishes his “section” with yellow paint, he goes and chooses someone else to come and paint. While Johnny is doing this, I grab the yellow and fill in that section on the back. Again, because of the translucent property, I don’t need to have it sketched in pencil on that back side, I just follow Johnny’s lines.

  • When you paint, be aware of how much paint goes on the brush.

I’ve already alluded to the multiple issues I’ve had with dripping.. and don’t get me started on the year they decided to make paint “go a little further” by diluting it with water! ahhh!

banner front and back

  • Use a Sharpie-laundry-tag pen for the writing.

No matter how hard I try and paint the names on the banner, I can never get it looking pro.. whereas my printing is teacher-printing and is totally legit! I got this Sharpie ages ago and it stays in a compartment of my desk drawer for this exact purpose. It’s made to label kids’ clothes and not get washed off in the washing machine.. or, as I’ve proven, in hurricane rains!

Hang and Admire!

As this project was just completed this week, I don’t have a fabulous picture of the finished product, hung outside of city hall. However, I like the picture below, as it’s my first banner, hung with my class, and my latest one.

To celebrate the end of the year, I take my class to see the hung banner, and then go for a picnic lunch. It’s a great way to see what we’ve accomplished and also it shows them where to look for it when they’re driving around with their parents in the summer. banner 3 - finalThanks very much to the Rotary Club for continuing to support this program, and encouraging teachers to participate – it’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to get involved in making their community beautiful!

And in case you need further inspiration..

Jim Henson

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider

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