Backyard Art Camp – Wayne Thiebaud

Today, I’m jazzed to talk about art with kids! A while back, I was contacted by Jane of Buzzmills, and she invited me to participate in the awesome Backyard Art Camp series she is co-hosting with Melissa of A Happy Stitch. The idea is simple and brilliant: choose an artist, learn about said artist and work, then create a fun project inspired by the artist in some way with your kid(s). I was immediately in. And knew instantly who I wanted to feature: Wayne Thiebaud.

Wayne Thiebaud is an American artist who became famous for his dessert paintings during the Pop Art era, which I’m sure you’ve seen at some point. I checked out this book from the library months ago and was reminded of how much I love his art:

It’s a simplified version of his life, of course, meant for children, but I enjoyed it immensely. I especially love the accessibility, the humor, and beautiful use of textures and colors of his work. I saw his oil paintings for the first time at the SFMOMA over fifteen years ago, and spent the most time in front of his pieces. I love that he was tenacious and painted his whimsical art despite having a hard time getting taken seriously. There is a quote from him in the beginning of the book: “I had a great life, so about the only thing I can do is to paint happy pictures.” And I agree. His paintings are cheerful and buoyant.

So. The book was not available for this project, unfortunately, but K and I viewed this video together and looked at a few of his paintings online. Then we dug into the best part: creating the project!

I decided to make it a two-in-one project including cooking and painting. Part 1 was the making of “fruit pizzas” and Part 2 was the painting of the delectable creations. Following are the easy steps. This is a great project for kids aged 4 to 8 – the kids I did this with are 7 and 8, and they loved it.


Butter cookies
Cream cheese (plain and strawberry)
Fruit (any fruit that strikes your fancy, but we used pineapples, strawberries, mandarin oranges and blueberries)

1. Make the cookies. We used this recipe and the cookies were fantastic! Store-bought would also be more than OK, especially for younger kids. Each cookie was about three to four inches in diameter.

2. Spread cream cheese on cookies and decorate with fruit. K and her buddy S got very creative with these!



Canvas (I had 8×8 inch canvases lying around, but you could get similar ones at your local art store. Plain paper works just fine too, but the girls got a thrill from using real canvas)
Acrylic paint
Plastic dishes or paint palettes
Papertowels/napkins for wiping off paint

1. Let the kids arrange the fruit pizzas on a platter or cake stand, unless the kids are very young. Spillage will result in very unhappy painters.

2. Place small dollops of paint in different colors on a plastic dish or palette. Let the kids go to town. I did do a brief art lesson explaining how Thiebaud applied paint thickly to get the texture and how to mix colors, rinse the brushes, etc.

3. Admire their work and take pictures! Bonus: dig into the fruit pizzas after the paintings are done!


Make sure to check Buzzmills and A Happy Stitch for fabulous projects, and there are oodles of other art-inspired projects from the other Backyard Art Camp participants too:

10 thoughts on “Backyard Art Camp – Wayne Thiebaud

  1. Thank´s for letting me learn something new! I did not know about Thiebaud before. Your project is delightful! And I love “I had 8×8 inch canvases lying around….” I imagine your house as a giant fabric and art supply store 🙂 K´s painting is beautiful, those strawberries and blueberries would make a nice fabric design!

    1. Haha, my house is pretty much a storage unit for my supplies at this point (though I do a good job of keeping most out of sight). And you’re right – her painting would make an awesome fabric design! 🙂

  2. Sanae, I love this project!! Why not have double the fun, right? Treats and Painting, sounds like a delicious combination to me! The paintings turned out beautifully. Thank you so much for joining us for Backyard ART Camp.

  3. I wish my Lilah could be K’s friend and get invited to a cool art camp like that:) Coincidentally, I’m hosting my own kid’s camp this week as well, but have 5 five year olds coming . . . recipe for chaos, I know. Wish I’d seen your post earlier . . . an art camp is a terrific idea! (we’re following a “book” theme . . . library book bags, bookmarks, etc.).

    1. Oh, the book theme sounds like so much fun!! Good luck with the gaggle of five-year-olds – I’ve done my share of kid camps and they’re so much fun but so much work too!

  4. So wonderful! So happy to have your fantastic project in BAC. I have no idea how you got the kids involved to hold off on just eating the dessert. It looks so incredibly tasty. I’d have a hard time! Thanks again.

    1. Thank YOU, Melissa – it was a blast working on this project. And yes, it was mighty challenging to get them to wait before eating the goodies, but it worked as incentive to get the paintings done too 🙂

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