5 Art Activities to Unwind After Testing and Portfolio Submissions 

artist book

After completing state testing, AP or IB testing, and submitting art portfolios, you and your students have finally reached the finish line! With only a few weeks left in the school year, it’s time to celebrate with stress-free artmaking. This time of year is perfect for those lessons you never got to during the year or fun ideas you’ve wanted to try out with your students. The art activities below are more suitable for students in a secondary-level art class, but you can always tweak them to suit any grade level. In addition, they are an excellent way to see the culmination of all of the art skills you taught them throughout the year.

Check out the five art activities below to unwind after the stress of testing and portfolio submissions!

appropriation collages

1. Collaborative Contour Line Portraits on Butcher Paper

Contour line partner drawings are a fun opportunity for your students to loosen up with markmaking. This provides a change of pace in drawing compared to their intricate, time-consuming portfolio pieces. Harness the relationships and community students built in your art room by challenging them to unwind, work together, and incorporate movement

Students will have so much fun drawing their peers in a low-pressure environment with contour lines using these steps:

  1. Lay a long piece of butcher paper down.
  2. Pair students so they are sitting across from each other with the butcher paper in between them.
  3. Draw the student across from them for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Rotate students.
  5. Repeat until contour portraits fill the butcher paper; encourage overlapping!
  6. Cut up the butcher paper into smaller sections for each student to work back into. 

The cut sections of contour drawings are ideal for students to add their creative spin with color or additional details. Prompt students to use varied contour lines like blind, modified, and continuous contour to review and reinforce their markmaking knowledge.

contour portraits

2. Paint Your Classmate

Take a fun spin from the popular social media trend where couples paint their spouses. While this option is more challenging than contour drawings, encourage students to not take this activity too seriously. Remind them often to have fun and enjoy the process! Paint Your Classmate offers potentially burned-out students space to create art purely for fun. Use table easels or prop canvases against a stack of books so partners can’t see the completed piece until the end. There are many ways to pair students like student choice, prior skills and knowledge, skill level, or at random! 


3. Artist Accordion Books

Accordion fold books are one of the easiest to make. They can consist of one long single sheet of paper or smaller sheets combined in a zigzag pattern. Making artist books at the end of the year is an excellent opportunity for students to develop a series of mini-artworks with art mediums they love. A collection of paper scraps is perfect for accordion books! Not only are artist books fun for students to create, but they are also great as summative assessments at the end of the year. 

In addition, accordion books work well to review color theory or the Elements and Principles, illustrate narratives, or create collaborative drawings. For instance, students can do a round-robin exchange of drawings on each page. Connect today to discover How to Create An Accordion Fold Book and Accordion Haiku Books in FLEX Curriculum.

artist book

4. Appropriation Art Collage

Use pictures from magazines, newspapers, or printed stock images to create appropriation art collages. This activity requires students to think critically about transforming and reimagining existing images. Students must decipher the original meaning and context, decide what their new concept will be, and then implement design choices to communicate their message. Collaging allows students to experiment with composition, texture, and color—no drawing skills required. Found imagery also can provide immediate gratification. Take the collages to the next level and incorporate mixed media such as gel pens and acrylic paint markers to draw or add accents. 

appropriation collages

5. Photocopy Flyer Collages

Inspired by the 1970s and 80s scene of vintage posters and flyers, this activity combines graphic design, appropriation, and collage to create punk-inspired imagery. Students use existing images but combine them with typography and lettering to communicate a message. For punk flyer examples, check out this vast collection for ideas. Provide students with themes or prompts to generate ideas for their flyers. Create flyers for past events, future events, or even invented ones! Don’t forget to remind students to leave a small border around the edge of their paper. When photocopying the finished collages, the copy machine won’t print to the edge of a sheet of paper. 

retro flyers

The end of the school year is an ideal time to engage in enjoyable, low-pressure art activities such as creating artist books, collaborative partner drawings, and mixed media collages. It’s the perfect chance to use up leftover materials and observe the skills your students acquired throughout the year. Join your students in artmaking because you deserve unwinding too. Try an activity above for a fun way to relax, make art without pressure, and remind everyone why they love art! 

What’s your favorite post-testing art activity? 

How do you celebrate submitted portfolios with your students?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Kristina Brown

Kristina Brown, a high school art educator, is a current AOEU Writer. She is passionate about inquiry-based learning, student-centered art education, and creating a welcoming and engaging environment for students.

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