This project is about creating texture through paint. The Impressionists used a technique called “impasto”, using thick paint on the canvas in such a way that the texture was very apparent and purposeful.
When I first did this lesson several years ago, I followed the lesson idea from the book Discovering Great Artists closely. You can still find that video in this post, but I’ve also included a new video that suggests a different method. I find using this new lesson (using just joint compound to thicken paint) better teaches the Impressionist’s technique and is a more realistic experience for students to discover Morisot’s style.
Below you will find lesson plans as well as downloadable line drawings of some of her paintings. The students will use the textured paint to fill in these images. Because the paint is so thick, it is best to do this project in the beginning of the day so it has lots of time to dry.
Our last great artist for the year is Domenikos Theotokopoulos. Try saying that five times fast! It’s no wonder people just called him “The Greek”. Or maybe it’s because he lived and worked in Spain, but was born in Greece. Hmm.
El Greco (“The Greek”) is known for his elongated, slender figures. He was more focused on the emotional and imaginative aspect of his paintings than on capturing reality, and I think the beginnings of abstraction can be seen there. Students will create a portrait similar to his style by elongating a basic figure, then adding their own features and color to the work.
For additional images that would work well for masters classes, check out Half a Hundred Acre Wood. At the bottom of the page you’ll find templates for the Mona Lisa and El Greco Son. The same process applies as in the video below, just with more complicated subject matter.
When I think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, I picture him lying on his back atop huge scaffolds, working in this position for years and years. I’m not sure if I was formerly taught this, but come to find out, it’s a widespread misconception! He did work atop tall scaffolds, but stood upright with his head craned back to paint. Not surprisingly, that dude was fed up with the Sistine Chapel ceiling by the time he was done.
The Michelangelo project in Discovering Great Artists, p. 25, still goes off the assumption that Michelangelo laid on his back to paint the ceiling. The directions in my lesson plan mimic this, as it is much easier to tape paper under a table than to erect scaffolding to reach the ceiling, but if you find a solution that allows students to stand and paint above their heads, please share!
Fra Angelico is well-known for his altarpieces and frescoes, his most notable being The Annunciation painted in the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy. He painted several paintings on this same theme throughout his life, but this is by far his most well-known work. To help students get a firm grasp on his subject matter, we will be replicating another of his images of the Annunciation, but one that is much simpler. The Annunciatory Angel also depicts Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will be the mother of the Christ and shows the golden halo typical of the time. Continue Reading →
Ghiberti’s masterpiece, dubbed the “Gates of Paradise”, are beautiful relief panels adorning the doors of the Baptistry of San Giovanni in Florence. It took over twenty years for Ghiberti to complete this project! He first carved wax molds, then cast them in bronze, and then polished, sanded, and incised details. Finally, he covered them with a layer of gold. Twenty years on the same project takes a lot of dedication!
Our twenty-first century replica is to use wax wikki stix, dull pencils, and aluminum foil to create the same thing in half an hour. Well, maybe not the same thing, but you get the idea. Continue Reading →
Get a box handy, ’cause you’re going to be packing in a lot of stuff for this project. It’s a super fun activity and totally worth the extra prep time and supplies!
Giotto di Bondone was an Italian painter and architect during the late Middle Ages. He created beautiful frescoes and also did tempera paintings on wood panels, which is what our students will be mimicking. Tempera paint allows for vivid color (medieval artists even used toxic substances like arsenic and mercury to get these colors. Yikes.) that has retained its vibrancy for hundreds of years. While chalk isn’t quite the same as what Giotto used, it’s a fun substitute to learn about pre-Renaissance painting techniques.
To get started, here’s the supply list. Some have links to the items on amazon.
Cardstock (can print the images from page 2 of lesson plan, if desired)
For me, Norman Rockwell’s illustrations do more than tell a story. They often convey something deep about life and human fragility. Yes, many of his drawings are humorous, but even then they contain so much more. They capture the emotions of the subject, the complexity of a seemingly everyday scene. We connect with the inner thoughts of the people pictured. Norman Rockwell was extremely gifted with understanding and empathizing with people in all stages of life.
The learning targets for this week are (1) defining the word “illustration” and (2) conveying emotion through our work. Continue Reading →
Starting out the “Great Artists” this year we have Grandma Moses. Her work is considered folk art, meaning her art pieces reflect her community, culture, and the everyday things around her. She was not a formally trained artist, and amazingly did not even begin painting until her late seventies. In her paintings we see the quirky nature of her self-taught art: the flattened buildings, the funky use of perspective, and the robustly busy scenes. They are charming and endearing, and your students will love to create their own scene as well.
Though the lesson is primarily about Grandma Moses and folk art, this plan will also focus on learning the terms “foreground”, “middleground”, and “background”. It’s always nice to throw in some extra art terms and use these projects to practice specific techniques. Continue Reading →
As a girl I loved looking at Degas’ work. I was enamored by the beautiful ballerinas in voluminous tutus practicing their movements . It seemed effortlessly feminine. Though most of his work focuses on the female form, he also did paintings of men and children in everyday life. The overarching theme in his work is the human figure, and he was able to expertly capture the movement of the body.
Because I want to teach my students about Degas’ mastery of the human figure, I am straying completely from the Discovering Great Artists lessons. Instead, this lesson will teach VERY basic figure drawing ideas. Don’t worry, it’s simple! Continue Reading →
This week we continue to study Impressionism. When we think of Impressionism we think of Claude Monet. And when we think of Claude Monet we think of water lilies, landscapes, and dabbled paint. This is exactly what we want our students to think of as well. Hopefully by the time this project is done, they will have a permanent impression of Monet’s work and will be able to recall the imagery and technique of his style.
Not only will they see his style, but they will know what it feels like to paint as he did… with one exception. Monet usually painted outdoors. Though the Discovering Great Artists lesson has students painting what they see outside, this is hard to do during winter. Here it is cold and snowy, with very little color outside. To compensate for this, my lesson has students experiment by copying parts of Monet’s work, then replicate a painting. Continue Reading →