Lesson #8: Telling Details

Part of the unit: Painting a Cityscape |


How can details enhance a painting?
Students will be able to:
Recognize the benefits of a sustained investigation of a work of art.
Add details to create a "sense of place" and to add visual interest.
Students will understand that:
Artists engage in close observation and sustained investigation of works of art.
Details enhance a painting.

Student paintings, tempera paint, water cans, brushes, palettes, reference materials


John Sloan's Backyards, Greenwich Village


Display John Sloan's Backyards, Greenwich Village.

Explain that the class has been examining this painting over an extended period of time, and that each time they have looked at a different aspect of it.  Today they will examine this painting for the small details that create a "sense of place."  Explain that they will be responding to the question "What do you see?." Their answers will be charted on the board during a "go around."  Each student must find something that has not been mentioned.  Encourage the students to dig deeper as they use the time to sharpen their powers of observation.

Ask the following questions:

  • How did this experience differ from the way you usually look at an artwork?
  • How can you apply this exercise to your own painting?
  • How can they create a "sense of place"?
  • Why are they necessary to create visual interest?

A student volunteer will show his/her painting and ask students for suggestions on what details could be added to create a "sense of place" and visual interest.

Students will add details to their paintings.

The teacher should select several student works for display.  Ask students to discuss how these works illustrate the use of details to create:

  • a sense of place
  • visual interest

Create a list of criteria to be used to assess the cityscape paintings.