I also prefer if the art project has a literacy tie-in or lesson in addition to art exploration. Lastly, it doesn't hurt if the project isn't too messy... while it can be fun, as a TTOC, the clean-up process can be more challenging with students you do not know well.
I absolutely love Leo Lionni picture books, one of my favourites is Matthew's Dream:
Matthew dreams of becoming a painter. He lives in a dusty attic with his parents. Through his vivid dreams, he becomes more confident of his decision to create beautiful paintings.
This art project, using Matthew's Dream caught my eye on Mrs Brown's Art page:
Students read the book Matthew's Dream by Leo Lionni. They then created abstract designs based on the story. This is a great opening project for early in the year as students are getting adjusted to their classmates, the artroom, and the art supplies.So fun! I can't wait to give this a try. I really suggest checking out Mrs. Brown's Art page. She has several art activities from K-5. I plan to continue to feature a couple on my blog because I just love them so much!
Here are some more activities using Leo Lionni's books: