This is a collage project, suitable for elementary grades, using paper painted in a plaid pattern. If you encourage the use of "Halloween" type colours (oranges, purples, greens) it could make a nice Halloween project. One of the main objectives, though, is to teach students how to paint a plaid pattern, and how to look at an animal in more simple terms of basic shapes in order to create a collage (similar to the technique used by Eric Carle).
I was initially inspired by the "Mixed Media Plaid Puppy" project posted by Barbara Boville on the Incredible Art Department website here.
So start off by showing students example of plaid patterns. Maybe point out some that students themselves might be wearing. Have them describe the pattern and colours used. A plaid is a pattern consisting of crossed horizontal and vertical bands in two or more colors in woven cloth. Common examples of plaid patterns include: tartan (most common) and the more simple gingham. (Source)
So to start off, students need to use flat brushes in at least three different sizes:
large, medium and a thin one. For the paint, you can use watercolours, tempera or acrylics.
This is the most simple way I found to create a plaid, but there are limitless ways so just experiment.
We used watercolour paint. Start off by painting the thickest or widest lines first and then work down to the thinnest lines. On white paper (heavier weight is best), paint three wide stripes (largest brush) horizontally, then turn the paper around and paint three vertical lines. Depending on how watery your paint it, you might need to wait a bit at this point before adding any more stripes or the paint will just end up bleeding together. Try to have student work on 2-3 different sheets of paper separately so each one has a bit of time to dry in between.
OK- then switch to the medium sized brush and add more stripes both horizontally and vertically.
You don't need to use the same colour at this point.
Using a smaller brush, add some thinner stripes of colour. Again, you can switch up your colours.
Finally, try to add some really thin stripes. And there you have a basic plaid. You can paint over more and more if you like, continuing to layer different colours to get a more complex design.
For younger students (Grade 2 for example), a simple check or gingham pattern is much easier. Try to have the kid paint the stripes as close to each other as possible. Using larger paper will help alot with this.
The next class, once the paper is dry, flip it over and have students draw the basic shapes for a cat collage- encourage them to 'break-down' or separate the head, the body, paws, tail and ears. Cut those apart.
Assemble them onto a black sheet of paper and arrange it how you like, then glue all the pieces down using a glue stick. Then add facial features using markers or more collage pieces or
googly eyes or however you like.