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Art History Meets Pop Culture Acrylic Paintings

Yesterday was my last day of the school year, and this year, my kids were focused up until the very end! This year, I decided to start an acrylic painting assignment the last few weeks of school. I gave each student a canvas, and I feel like having a canvas helped. Many of the students had never worked on one before so they were really excited at the opportunity to create something great! Working on a canvas enabled them to stay focused, which is definitely hard to do in the month of May and June!

This assignment is one that I have been doing throughout my teaching career. I think this is the third time I have done this! I’ve taught this not only in high school but also in middle school and I love the results! We talked about Pop Culture and what types of things are popular today. Students brainstorm many ideas and come up with a good list. Then, we research all different types of art and artists! I have had them research in a computer lab, but this past time, a computer lab wasn’t available so I brought in a ton of printables and art magazines and books. I had students work in groups to write down different artists that caught their attention and different art movements that they enjoyed.

Then, students had to come to me with an idea. They needed to tell me what artist they wanted to base their painting off of, what painting specifically, and what they would incorporate into the painting to make it more original and their own.

Another really great thing about this assignment is that you can guide students in a direction that they will all be successful. For example, I had some students who were more successful doing a Pop Art inspired painting, where they did not need to mix colors or do any shading or blending. Some students had experience painting before so I guided them in the direction of a Monet or a Rembrandt painting, etc. This way, all students had different results at all different levels, yet they were all able to be successful!

The PowerPoint that I created for this lesson can be found at

I have a variety of different examples on the slideshow, all of which I have permission for.

Besides though examples, take a look at some of my examples from this current school year!

What works for you as an end of the year lesson? Would love to hear! Enjoy summer!!



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6th Grade Monochromatic Paintings

This quarter, I had a very challenging sixth grade class. It was all mixed levels, some very interested and educated in art, and others with absolutely no interest and no experience. This particular class required extra chairs to be sent to my room, because there were about 30 students. One very successful lesson that I taught was a Monochromatic Painting.

I really enjoyed this lesson because it allowed a great introduction to basic Color Theory. Students learned about Primary and Secondary Colors, Analogous and Complementary Colors, Monochromatic Colors, and Warm Vs. Cool Colors. We took some time focusing on the different schemes and completing worksheets and discussions until I felt that students could pass a basic color theory test.

Once students passed the color theory portion, we began painting. Students were asked to select a monochromatic color palette (black, white, and one additional color of their choice). They needed to create a value scale using those colors. We spent some time focusing on value and how it adds great detail to a work of art. Students spent some time creating a value scale and aimed to create 5-7 different shades. This was also a great time for students with no artistic background to practice painting, how to hold a paintbrush, how to apply paint, etc.

The next step was focusing on the composition and subject matter of their paintings. We discussed creative and interesting subject matter. Students were asked to sketch two different ideas that they wanted to paint. I counted their sketches as a classwork grade, which I typically do so students work hard on them.

Once their sketches were approved, I gave them a canvas and let them start painting. I graded them on Creativity and Subject Matter, Use Of Values (that they were able to mix colors effectively), Craftsmanship, and Effort and Participation.

Here are some of the final paintings!

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8th Grade Acrylic Painting Assessment

At my current Elementary Middle School, I have 8th grade students for a semester, or in other words, for half of the school year. Throughout this semester, they have learned a variety of different things. Here are SOME concepts that have been taught to my 8th grade class this semester:

Color Theory: Primary and Secondary, Warm and Cool, Analogous and Complementary, and Monochromatic.

One Point Perspective: Perspective, Vanishing Point, Vantage Point, Horizon Line, Orthogonal Line.

Surrealism: Salvador Dali, Surrealism, Dream-like, Exquisite Corpse, Imaginary, etc.

Watercolor Techniques: Using different techniques in watercolor including layering to create strong, believable colors.

Mexican Folk Art: Ceramic Suns in the style of Mexican Folk Art. Frida Kahlo inspired Expressional Self Portraits using Symbolism.

Printmaking: Additive and Subtractive, Printmaking tools, Printmaking Techniques and Methods, Linocuts, Trial Prints, etc.

So to wrap up a good portion of what my students learned this semester, I wanted to create a lesson that showed me what stuck most for them! I created a template for students to select at least three concepts that they had learned about this year. They were asking to come up with an original sketch and show me their ideas before they got started.

The way that I graded these is similar to how I grade most middle school and high school projects. 25% Subject Matter Creativity (if they copied an idea directly offline or another source, they lost points!), 25% Technique (ability to mix colors, paint successfully, etc), 25% Craftsmanship (they took their time and their painting looks neat and clean), 25% Effort/Participation (they took the time to plan out their ideas, execute their concepts, and create a successful painting, they used time effectively and tried their hardest).

Lastly, I had students write an Artist Statement to go along with their painting. I wanted them to summarize what they had learned not only visually, but also in writing.

Here are some great examples of the final product!

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Chuck Close Inspired Acrylic Paintings

I created this unit for high school painting classes but I have also adapted it to fit my seventh grade classes. This unit is a series of two different paintings. This is a great thing to do once students have learned basic color theory, color mixing, etc.

To begin, pre assess the student’s knowledge of the following: Abstract, Chuck Close, Warm Vs. Cool Colors, Grid, Non-Objective and Acrylic. (For me, although I was teaching a high school painting class, some students did not know acrylic vs. watercolor)!

The first thing I taught them in this unit was the difference between warm and cool colors. We looked at various examples and talked about how they make us feel. I then taught them about Chuck Close. We looked at his work before he became paralyzed, then compared and contrasted it with the work that he did after he was paralyzed. We talked about his grid method and discussed how to set up a grid within our artwork. We discuss advantages and disadvantages of working with a grid. We then covered one more thing: Non-Objective art. We looked at various examples until I felt that students had a good understanding of what it meant.

The first painting served as a great practice for good craftsmanship and working with acrylics. Students were asked to create a non-objective acrylic painting using a grid and either warm or cool colors. This is how they turned out:chuckclose img_8956 img_9331 img_9332 img_9333 img_8645