Lesson #4: Layering Shapes - Big and Small

Part of the unit: Discoveries in Paint |


How do artists use shapes and colors?
Students will be able to:
Layer shapes to create foreground, middle, and background
Use light and dark colors to create contrast
Students will understand that:
Artists manipulate compositional elements.
12"x18" drawing paper, tempera paint, 1" and 1/2 " brushes, mixing palette, water can, sponge
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Think about the discussion you had with your classroom teacher about Tar Beach.
  • Why do you think Faith Ringgold wrote Tar Beach?
  • What did you like most about the pictures (illustrations)?
Direct students to the illustration of the Union Building with the text, "Well, Daddy..."
  • What shape does the artist repeat in this picture?
  • What does the artist do with this shape to make the picture interesting?  (layering, changes the size, uses light and dark colors)
  • Ask for student volunteers to point to buildings that are in the foreground,  the middle, and in the background.  Explain that the artist layered the shapes to create this effect.
  • Which building stands out the most on this page?  Why?  (the Union Building stands out because it is larger and lighter than the others)
  • How does the artist create the windows on the buildings?  (layering and using contrasting - light/dark - colors)
The teacher will use the demonstration painting from the previous lesson to show how to layer shapes to create a foreground, middle, and background, emphasizing that the paint must be dry before layering.  He/She should discuss adding white to lighten colors and adding black to make colors darker.  Discuss how light and dark colors are used to make shapes stand out. 
Distribute materials and student paintings. Remind students to layer shapes and work with light and dark colors to add visual interest.  Bring attention to successful works in progress.
Display student paintings. Which paintings show:
  • shapes that are layered
  • use of light and dark colors
  • colors made from mixing primary colors