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The Interconnectedness of Us All: Exploring the Tree of Life with Young Painters

Gustav Klimt's Tree of Life

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This week to coincide with our tree unit, we studied the artwork of Gustav Klimt and his famous Tree of Life.

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter and a prominent member of the Vienna Secession movement. His art is remarkable for his very decorative, elaborate style. In particular Klimt’s “golden phase” included paintings embellished by gold leaf.

To start our lesson we read Klimt and His Cat which was a good little introduction to Klimt told from the perspective of his cat. We then looked at some photos of Klimt’s work. (You should note here that some of Klimt’s work may not be suitable for children. I suggest selecting photos in advance of your lesson based on what your comfort level.)

We focused most of our attention and study on the Tree of Life. We noticed the colors and shapes Klimt used.

I love the symbolism of the tree of life. To me, the tree represents the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. For a child, I think it’s a jumping point for conversations about how important trees are for us. Trees clean our air, they give us shade and shelter, food and materials. Lots of great conversations can come out of studying this piece!

Tree of Life Art Project

Materials Needed

White cardstock or watercolor paper


Black Sharpie


First we sketched out our tree in pencil. We started by sketching a horizon line.Then we drew the trunk of our tree and our first branch with a swirl at the end. (You can find a few tutorials on Youtube if you need some help on how to sketch the swirly branches of the tree of life!) We continued up the tree. We then drew some roots at the base of the tree.

Next we traced over our sketch with a Sharpie to help the lines pop.

We then painted our drawing using watercolors. I love Mr. J’s color choices!

Finally we used some gold glitter glue to add gold embellishments on our picture after learning about Klimt’s “golden phase.” I love glitter glue! You get the benefits of using glitter without the mess!

You might notice I said “we” throughout this post because I almost always work on art alongside my kids during our art lessons and make my own version of it. I think this is an important component of our lessons that we create something side by side and experience the process together. It’s really a great experience.

Bonus activity: If you a child working on scissor skills, cutting out swirls drawn on a paper is great practice!

What artist did you study this week?

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