Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Drawing a Dr. Seuss Inspired City Scape

Solla Sollew by a 7th grade student

Thursday March 2nd is Dr. Seuss's birthday, also known as 'Read Across America' Day. Many schools across the country hold celebrations every year and plan special projects incorporating literacy and the arts. To learn more about ways your school can celebrate this special day, please click here.

My students will spend the weeks leading up to Read Across America Day creating their own unique Dr. Seuss inspired cityscapes. This lesson also introduces concepts like color theory, overlapping, foreground, middle-ground and background, linear perspective and atmospheric perspective. Best of all, it encourages literacy, story telling, creative problem solving and fun! Here is how you can create your own whimsical, playful imaginary world, just like Dr. Seuss:

This art lesson is inspired by the Dr. Seuss story I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew  and by an art lesson by Phyllis Levine Brown from the blog 'There's a Dragon in My Art Room' on warm and cool city-scapes. You can find her original art lesson here.  I was able to draw inspiration from her ideas and modify them for my older students.

Below is a wonderfully narrated read along version of the Dr. Seuss story that inspired this art project:

Nobody knows what Solla Sollew actually looks like, since the hero of the story never actually manages to get there. All we know of it is what he imagined. It could look like anything we can envision. Here is the imaginary city that I drew after reading the book myself:

My classes started out by creating the sky and learning how to mix colors. On the first day we learned how to create concentric circles and then create tints by gradually adding white to each color. 

On the second day we mixed two primary colors using the same method. One primary color was painted in the outermost circle. The other was painted in the center circle. And then the colors were gradually mixed to create a gradient.

Instructions for creating the cityscape:

Cut out your concentric circle color studies and glue them onto a piece of construction paper to create the background.

Overlap the circles and glue them so that they go slightly off the top and sides of the construction paper to create the sky.

Flip the paper over and trim the excess from the back, without cutting into the construction paper.

Use another piece of construction paper to create the horizon line. The horizon should be higher than the bottom of the circles. Draw it with a piece of chalk before cutting it out.

Overlap the horizon line so that it cuts off the bottom of the circles, lining the bottom edge of the construction papers up exactly. Glue it down to form the sky, horizon line and land.

Here is an easy method for drawing wacky Dr. Seuss style
 3-D buildings. Start out by drawing a curved arrow and then turn each arrow into a skyscraper by adding the sides. Group the buildings together and use overlapping.

Please watch the video below for more detailed instructions on how to draw the 3-D cityscape and complete your collage:

My unfinished cityscape 
(student art gallery coming soon)

How to draw a Dr. Seuss style staircase

Student Art Gallery
6th and 7th Grade Cityscapes


  1. Another inspiring work of yours <3 I'm lovin' your blog already! ^^

    Classes A-Z UK

  2. These are awesome and just in time for my combined 6th and 7th grade art class. What weight paper do you recommend?