Lesson #5: Blocking in Color

Part of the unit: Painting a Cityscape |


How do we begin our painting?
Students will be able to:
Block in broad areas of color
Mix colors to create an interesting palette
Students will understand that:
Artists carefully plan and execute paintings.
Artists mix colors to create an interesting palette.

Red, yellow, and blue tempera paints, brushes, water cans, palettes, student drawings of city scenes, reference materials such as sketches and photos


John Sloan's Backyards, Greenwich Village 1914


Display John Sloan's Backyards Greenwich Village.  Ask the class to imagine that they are the artist.

  • Explain how you would begin this painting.
  • Why should you begin by painting in the broad areas of color?
  • Why should the details be painted last?
  • Why is it important to mix colors rather than using them straight from the jars?

The teacher should demonstrate how Sloan might have created Backyards, Greenwich Village by painting the broad areas first on a sketch of the image.  The teacher should emphasize the use of layers - starting with the colors on the "bottom" layer first and then gradually adding colors in the mid and background areas. Using a student's reference materials, the teacher should explain how these materials can help with the choice of colors.

Students will begin by blocking in broad areas of color in the painting.

Ask volunteers to show their works-in-progress and to explain the choices they made.

What mood do you want your painting to convey?  What colors will you use?