Monday, October 11, 2010

Monochromatic Still Life

This week 3rd graders are working on Value (tints & shades)

Tempera (one color, black and white at each table)
Mixing tray or palette, brushes
Paper  9”X 12” 
Paper towels for blotting
Still life set-ups for every 2 students to share (Styrofoam cup, pencil) and a white paper for it to sit on

This script is how I envision the lesson going:

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the expression, “thinking outside of the box.”  What do you think that means?

Last week we saw a video of glass artist, Dale Chihuly, in his studio making drawings of bamboo and potatoes as he planned a sculpture for his team.  Remember how he told them “It doesn’t have to be exactly like nature”?  That is just how some artists often think – they imagine how they might make something different. That is what CREATIVE means – thinking up something that is new or different.

Today we are going to do an exercise to help us practice value (tints and shades) and paint a small still life.  But instead of making our still life look exactly like it really is, we are going to make everything using only one main color plus black and white.  This is called monochromatic (one color).

Model mixing paints, cleaning the brush between colors by dipping in water and blotting bristles. (Students will paint a practice strip of tints & shades of a color before starting their still life.)

When I am painting a cylinder, instead of starting with the main color like we did last week with the bamboo, I like to mix the lightest tint first and work from light to dark as I paint.  I will use my light source to remind me which side of the cup I want to be light.  I actually often leave the paper white for the very lightest part of the cup.  Some artists start with the dark side and work the other way.  You can decide which works best for you. (model doing this)
When students have painted their cup they can place in it a pencil, paintbrush, or their own imaginary cylindrical object to paint.

You can try this at home using any cylinder you can find (tree trunks, paper towel rolls, a can of soup, etc).  You can use any media at all, just making the light side of the cylinder very pale and the shade side very dark.


California Content Standards 1.4, 2.4      


  1. This is a cool, simple, yet profound lesson idea.

  2. ...and now we have done a project using this lesson, too. Thank you!

  3. I'm loving the monochromatic value study! I usually have my students work with oil pastels on learning tints and shades (my theory is that they would have more control), but the resulting range of colors using paint would definitely be worth the time and potential of painting! Smart use of the paper strips... thinking I can incorporate that idea into a lesson this upcoming week. Thanks for the inspiration! :)