Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Guide to Art Materials for Children

What are the best art materials for children to explore painting? Regardless of how young the artist, good quality paints, brushes and art surfaces should be used, otherwise negative associations with art might be drawn due to cheap poster paints and nylon brushes. The good news is, quality art materials do not mean expense.

The Best Paints for Children’s Art
Few things are more frustrating for a child than to aspire for artistic effects only to be limited by the cheap art materials available. Cheap poster paints are a common culprit, the sort that yields gritty pigment that refuses to cover the art surface evenly. Tablets that require a lot of water and working over can waste valuable time and energy if the child simply wants to get down to the painting. Nylon brushes that cannot hold much paint, splays easily or permits only the broadest brushmarks will do little for children’s self confidence if wanting a particular effect. Again, thin paper that buckles at the smallest drop of water can be offputting. So what are the best art materials for children’s painting?

How to Encourage Children’s Artistic Expression

One of the secrets to encourage children to pursue art is to ensure success in learning. This means supplying good quality art materials for kids to explore. When it comes to paints, practicality pervades, which means non-toxic, low-odour and water-soluble. I would recommend acrylic paints. Good quality acrylics such as Daler Rowney or Winsor & Newton have a high tinting strength and easy flow. This means the paint can be manipulated easily, whether a solid block of colour is the aim or detail. System 3D acrylics enable young artists to apply the paint impasto, as it has body. Liquitex is also recommended. For economy, purchase large pots and dish out only what is required for the art project. Children should be informed not to allow the paint to dry on the brushes as this will ruin the bristles.

Pigments for Kid’s Artwork

A wide pigment range is not necessary to mix a variety of colours. In fact, the purchase of a mere handful will provide all the colour mixes children need. I would recommend the following pigments:

The three primary colours, which in acrylics are: process yellow, process magenta and process cyan. Useful others are: ultramarine, lemon yellow, cadmium red, viridian, burnt sienna, burnt umber and black. A large tub of white will be invaluable.

Children’s Art Brushes

Synthetic sables brushes are cheap to buy and long-lasting. Rounds sizes 6 and 10 would be useful for detail. Household brushes for edging windowsills or such can be used for applying large areas of colour. Different sizes can be purchased from any DIY shop. Other mark making implements can be used for art projects, which might be: old toothbrushes, combs, sponges, rags, spatulas and spoons. Hobby shops provide stamps for impressing with.

Art Surfaces for Beginners

Cheap paper will buckle and perish if too much water is applied over the surface. To prevent this, prefer thick paper (at least 240gsm) or card. Paper can also be primed with cheap white acrylic paint or emulsion. This paint is water-soluble but provides a tough, water-resistant surface. (Artists use gesso primer for this purpose but gesso can be costly). A large tub will cover countless art surfaces and will seal the absorbency of the paper or card. Simply apply a coat via a wide brush and allow to dry over four hours. Clean the brushes immediately afterwards in warm, soapy water.

Other Art Materials for Kids’ Art Lessons

Sturdy plastic pots for holding water and storing brushes, newspaper, aprons, rags and a place for the paintings to dry will come in useful. Any non-absorbent object can be used as an artist’s palette; old china plates, varnished wood or Clingfilm stretched over a piece of card. Once finished with, the Clingfilm can simply be folded inwards and disposed with.

What to Paint for Kids

Unless the painting is runny, I will peg the paintings onto an old clothes horse or line to dry. Good visual resources in the form of photographs or magazine cuttings might spur inspiration. Imagery such as close-ups of objects, animals, interesting weather, plants or patterns can be used. A repository of interesting objects for still life can be sourced from charity shops or simply a rife through the attic. Sea shells, ornaments, toys, leaves or household objects can create interest.

The Children’s Art Studio

With small expense, children will be able to explore art via the use of good quality art materials. A few crucial pigments will enable kids to mix any colour required. Synthetic sables will cut the price of art brushes so long as they are washed immediately after use. Similarly, thick paper or card sealed with household emulsion will provide an absorbent-free art surface for kids to lay paint. To ensure success in learning, good visual resources can be sought from household objects, photos or charity shops. Laying the foundations for a tendency for creative expression in the future lies in making sure the child enjoys applying that first brush mark. And this entails the purchase of good quality materials.

Art Lessons for Kids

Kids' art lesson on abstract art
About primary colours

Art Class for Children: Create your First Abstract Painting

Creating abstract art at an early age opens creative channels for future creative expression. Such artistic freedom enables children to explore artistic techniques that aid hand-to-eye coordination and colour experimentation without the painting having to ‘look’ like something.

Art Activities for Children

Criss-cross Explosion by
Joseph Busby (5)
Abstract painting need not be restricted to post compulsory art schools. Children of any age can explore line and colour for its own sake. Every random line possesses visual energy at various points. Focal points can be created by a splash of colour here, a bizarre shape there. Children may also explore how emotions can be evoked by colour and/or shape, as well as making random associations.
Colours used in Abstract Art

The inclusion of bright coloured pigments within the colour range is important for colour mixing good secondary colours. Useful pigments are: primary red, yellow and blue (cadmium yellow pale, crimson lake and pthalo blue will result in good colour mixes.) Useful others are ultramarine, bright green, black and burnt sienna (or any good earth colour). Acrylics are water soluble paints that dry water resistant. Synthetic sable brushes that allow paint manipulation without too much cost. Size ranging from 6 to 12 would be suitable for detail and for large areas of paint.

Mark Making with Paint

Other mark making implements will encourage exploration: old toothbrushes, combs, sponges, stamps and even hands. Stencils of everyday objects can be used: coins, hands, rings, scissors or rulers. String can be placed at random on the page and children can trace the lines. To spur inspiration, provide imagery of abstract art by such expressionists as Kokoschka, Kandinsky, Picasso and Miro.

Art Lesson Plan on Abstract Art for Beginners

The teacher may explain to children that not all art need to be representational. Some art use line and colour to symbolize an emotion, a sensation, a memory or an object. Children might be asked to think about how colour and line can evoke associations with something, starting with the obvious, which might be:

Red: warmth, fire, sunsets, anger, houses.
Blue: sky, holidays, sea, freedom, freshness, coolness, summer.
Zigzag lines: icebergs, rhythm, loudness, electricity, explosion.
Swirly lines: calm, travelling, water, reflections, soothing.

Children are encouraged to make any association as they like and to swap ideas. These associations may be kept in mind as the children begin their artwork but the painting need not mean anything at this stage; the aim is simply to render line and colour onto the paper.

Lesson Plan on Abstract Art for Kids

Some children will require more encouragement than others to begin an abstract painting. The following steps will help.
  1. To help those that do not know where to begin, place string onto the page and get children to trace the resultant lines. Place stencils at random areas of the paper and draw around them. Other children may draw freehand if they wish.
  2. Enclosed shapes created by stencils or random lines may be filled in with solid colour, stippled over, smudged or applied impasto.
  3. Encourage children to take stock now and again to evaluate the effects they are getting by their colour choices and line shapes. For instance, when bright colours are placed side by side, they cause a focal point. Focal points can also be created by: contrasting tones, patterns, the intersection of lines, a splash of bright colour, the inclusion of an odd shape or anything rarified.
  4. Encourage children to pay attention to the largest areas of the painting, which could get overlooked. What colour is it to be? Can it be broken down? Can it be cut out? Encourage children to cover as much of the paper as possible.
  5. Point out any challenges that may result from the children’s colour choices and composition. For instance, if there are a lot of shall shapes in one area to be colourd in, or a large area that lacks visual interest.
An Abstract Art Lesson

Once the session is over, children may look at their creations. They may think about: which part of the painting draws the eye? Why does it draw the eye? (The answer may be found in the points above). Are the colours warm or cool? Are they dark or pale? Are the lines smooth or jagged? Do the shapes evoke anything? Do the colours evoke a mood or sensation? This may be referred to in the exercise regarding colour/line associations earlier. Is there any part of the painting the child would do differently and why?

Abstract Art for Children

Learning about abstract art from a young age will help open up creative channels when it comes to artistic expression. Guarding against the rigorous view that only figurative art rendered well is acceptable can more easily be challenged as the children’s artistic perception develops and they continue to explore how paint can be applied in an abstract way.

Articles on Art Exploration

How to paint alla prima
How to mix colours you want
Step by step on painting strawberries

Friday, 24 February 2012

Artclass Challenge: To Paint a Tomato in Opaque Paints

An ideal painting exercise for beginners, recording how a single-coloured object appears to vary under different lighting conditions will help develop visual perception and banish the notion that a red object is simply one red.

How to Paint Red


This lesson explores the colour red. For ease and the purpose of this exercise, a tomato is the chosen subject matter, (although a pepper can be used.) Tomatoes possess smooth undulating contours enabling the artist to explore how its local colour shifts from one area to the other. To begin with, look for as many variations to red as possible within the tomato(s), such as

Violet-red, russet- red, orange-red, golden- red, blood-red, oxide- red, pink-red and brown-red

Parts of the tomato may possess no red whatsoever. In such cases, watch out for the automatic inclusion of red within the colour mix due to the nagging insistence that tomatoes are red all over. Often this is not the case. In fact, when painting a bright-coloured object, subtle or neutral hues will often predominate.

Art Materials Required for the Art Exercise
  • Students may use acrylics, alkyds or oils as their chosen medium. Pigments to include are at least two different reds – one warm, one cool. Recommended reds are: cadmium red, permanent rose, alizarin crimson, crimson lake or carmine. Other colours that will come in useful are cadmium yellow, ultramarine, burnt sienna, burnt umber and white.
  • A large red tomato (or pepper)
  • The art surface, fine sable brushes and hogs.
  • Associated art mediums (linseed oil or alkyd medium).
  • Soft pencils
Method on How to Paint Red in Variations
  1. Position the tomato onto a white surface to encourage reflections. Aim for side-lighting to promote light and shadow over the form.
  2. Make a rudimentary sketch of the tomato by using a soft pencil with faint lines. Don’t dwell over detail.
  3. Observe the tomato as areas of different reds, some will vary in colour temperature (warm or cool) others will appear more neutral than others, again others will vary in tone. Simplify these areas into 3 – 6 different types of red (and non-red colours if any can be seen).
  4. Begin with the middle toned red first. Decide on its colour temperature and tonal value. Adding a little blue or violet will cool the red; adding a little yellow or burnt sienna will bring it warmth.
  5. Darken the colour for shadows if necessary, adding a little blue or blue-green or burnt umber. Record the shape of each colour area. Take note of whether it has a perceivable outline or whether it grades out.
  6. Look for reflected light from neighbouring bright surfaces. Just a little white to suggest a bright area is needed.
  7. Clean the brushes before working on the lighter areas. Again, observe the colour temperature of these areas, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow or yellow ochre can be used for lighter reds.
  8. Apply neat white over the highlights.
  9. Observe the shape of the shadow pooling over the worktop, which might be violet, blue-brown or grey. Work outwards with a paler colour for the background Detail is not necessary here. This background ‘wash’ is intended only to help key in the tomato’s tones.
Perfecting Techniques for the Tomato Painting
  • Stand back from the painting to get an overall view of the tomato. Extra highlights or deeper shadows may suggest form if the tomato appears flat.
  • For smooth effects, acrylics can be mixed with a drying retardant to offer more time to blend colours into one another. Alternatively, thinned glazes can be applied one on top of the other. Glazing is ideal for deepening colours and for perfecting the appearance of the lower paint layer.
Differentiating the Lesson on Painting Red

Students who find this exercise a challenge may paint the tomato without perceivable shadow. This can be achieved by placing the object within a well-lit area, such as near a window. Fewer reds will be perceived and therefore only two or three flat colours will need to be mixed and applied.

More able students may cut the tomato in half and have a go at painting the inner structures including the pips. Fine sables will be needed to illustrate the inside of the tomato. Further reds will be seen, which will border on green, yellow, brown and blue in places.

Why do my colour mixes look dirty?
All about oil painting mediums
Step by step demo on wet into wet

Artclass Challenge: To Complete a Still Life Painting in Blue

This art lesson explores tonal values in monochrome, in this case by the use of variants of blue. Painting in monochrome is a great way of exercising artistic resourcefulness when presented with a limited palette. How does the artist represent the other colours with only blue as the chief pigment when painting an object?
How to Paint in Monochrome

Many artists like to work with a limited palette; some of Monet’s sketches explored but three oil colours. With just one chief colour at the artist’s disposal, rendering the subject matter in front presents fresh challenges.
This exercise involves using blue as the chief pigment. Students may use a dark earth colour to darken blue, white to lighten it, and also to use a pigment that adjoins blue on the colour wheel, which can be either green-blue or violet.

Variations in Blue Paint

There is a multitude of different blues in oil pigments to choose from: ultramarine, cobalt, Prussian, pthalo, cerulean or Winsor.

Learners have a choice of blue’s adjoining colours to use which might be (if green) viridian, sap green or olive green. (If violet) might be permanent rose, crimson lake or midnight blue.

For this exercise students are to use an opaque paint which might be oils, alkyds or acrylics. Pastel pencils can also be used for this exercise.

Art Materials Required for the Monochrome Study
  • Two to three object for still life which offer contrast in tones, sheen and texture. Fruit, candlesticks, crockery spectacles, vegetables, artifacts or ornaments may be used.
  • A choice of blue paint, white, a dark earth colour (such as burnt umber) and the aforementioned harmonious colour (violet or green).
  • Art brushes.
  • Prior to the art lesson, apply a thin underglaze over the art surface, which might be diluted blue acrylic paint. This underglaze should be dry prior to the painting exercise.
Tips for Painting Development
  • Work the paint thinly initially so that if the colour is unsatisfactory, the layer can be worked over or adjusted to suit.
  • Work progressively thicker as the painting progresses.
  • Highlights can be applied with thick white.
  • Half-close the eyes to simplify the scene into areas of light and shadow. This will also stop the interference of bright colours from hindering tonal judgments.
  • Stand back from the still life to get an overall impression of how each tonal value relates to one another. Adjust as necessary.
Art Method for a Monochromatic Study
  1. Make a rudimentary sketch of the still life with a soft pencil
  2. Observe the arrangement as a mass of light, shadow and mi-tones.
  3. Apply the mid-toned colour first, which might be a mid-blue, blue-neutral or blue tinted with its harmonious colour.
  4. Work lighter adding small increments of white for paler areas of the still life. Neat white can be used for highlights.
  5. Clean the brush (or use a fresh brush) to work a little darker, introducing the dark earth colour to the necessary tones. Equal amounts of blue and brown can achieve deep, rich darks, preferable to using just black
  6. Apply some detail onto the painting with a fine sable. Thinned white can be used to illustrate little touches of detail; a little earth colour to suggest shadows.
Practicing Monochrome Painting for Different Abilities

Less able students need not use blue’s harmonious colour (violet or green) in the exercise if this proves too much. Three colours will suffice: blue, white and brown. One object may be used for the exercise instead of several, an apple, a bowl or a spoon.

More able students may try applying the harmonious colour only onto selected areas, such as where warm tones can be perceived, and to use blue for cool tones. For example, to apply blue to cool shadows pooling over the worktop, and green (or violet) for warm tones, this might be seen on an orange. Making choices on whether to use blue or its adjoining colour to key an actual colour or tone will make students more aware of how tones shift throughout the scene.

More Painting Exercises

The best blue pigments to use in art
Step by step demo on how to paint a tomato
How to paint in glazes
Tips on painting water and reflections
White color balance in photography

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Artclass Challenge: To Paint a Landscape in a Hundred Brushstrokes

Painting with economy of brush marks forces the artist to make each count. The resultant landscape sketch will appear less fussed over and fresher.

Painting Technique Cure for Perfectionists

Learners afflicted with the compulsion to work over a painting in pursuit of perfection might be dissatisfied if all life appears squeezed out of the painting. The teacher may suggest the use of large brushes on a small art surface to complete a simple landscape study. With limited marks allowed the painting will inevitably retain expression, vibrancy, and freshness, albeit with imperfections. The exercise may feel awkward at first and some learners may still be tempted to fuss over the painting.

Art Materials for the Painting Exercise

  • Painting surface no larger than A3 in size (or around 12x15in)
  • Wide bristle brushes, sized around 8-10.
  • Essential pigments of the student’s chosen medium, which must be opaque in nature (oils, acrylics or alkyds.)
  • A photograph featuring a landscape with simple elements.
Tips for Expressionist Painting

As the painting will be completed in as few marks as possible, the method will inevitably be alla prima, which means in one go and in one layer. The challenges this presents is that the artist must think carefully before applying the first brushstroke and then to clean the brush between colour mixes. The colours might be applied with prior thought to how one relates to another regarding tone and hue. The technique would be like fitting together a one-hundred-piece jigsaw.

The first mark is usually the hardest to apply. The best thing to do is just to do it. Push forward, mix the colour and put it down. Accept the mark will never be perfect. Aim for the closest approximation of the colour desired.

Method for Economical Landscape Painting

  1. Beginning with the largest area might be easiest. The colour could be a patch of blue sky or an expanse of wheat. Use the largest brush for application.
  2. Mix the next colour, factoring the following: 1) Is the colour darker or paler than the first? 2) Is it warmer or cooler? 3) Is the colour solid or a blend? 4) What is the shape of the colour?
  3. Apply the colour onto the area concerned. Remember that accuracy and perfection is not the aim but making rough estimates.
  4. Learners may work outwards from the first brushmark, or place marks on various areas of the art surface, joining them up towards the end.
  5. If the subject matter exhibits clean or bright colours, apply these colours prior to the darks to prevent the clean colours from getting sullied.
  6. Think carefully before applying each colour, making every mark count. Don’t be tempted to smooth outlines.
  7. Try not to get waylaid with detail. Generalise the appearance of intricate objects as opposed to illustrating them in full. Employing suggestive brush marks to represent figures or animals can be achieved by blurring the vision and painting only what is visible.
Expressive Landscape Painting for Differing Abilities

Less able students may use photographic reference that has been pixilated. This can be done via photographic software that will simplify the image into sizeable squares. Painting only these squares will make the challenge a little easier.

More able students may have a go at completing a series of small sketches in less brush marks, say ninety or eighty. The images depicted may possess complex subject matter such as architecture or farm workers. The challenge is to create a convincing impression of such subject matter in just a few brushmarks. Blurring the vision is the key.

Challenging Landscape Painting Exercise

I believe every painting completed in one sitting is allocated a limited number of brushmarks before it looks muddled and overworked. To retain freshness, try completing a painting in a hundred brushstrokes. A small painting surface and large art brushes will make this possible. The painting exercise only forces the learner to make the most out of each brush mark, but also loosen up an over perfectionist-style.

Further Tips on How To in Painting

Painting in alla prima
How to paint snow
Essential oil painting materials
Glazing technique in oils for beginners

Art Class Challenge: Pencil Shading Technique with Textures

A pencil sketch exhibiting textures or patterns as the pencil is worked over the paper will add an extra dimension to the drawing and offer opportunities for exploration techniques for shading.

Shading Technique with Pastel Pencils and Patterns

A multitude of effects can be achieved if the drawing paper is laid over a textured surface prior to sketching. This rubbing technique can be used to give a textured effect to an otherwise solid area of shading within a drawing. A different texture can be used for various areas of the drawing or the pattern orientated differently throughout the drawing.

Art Materials for the Sketching Exercise
  • Thin drawing paper of around 80gsm. This will permit the texture to show through during the shading process.
  • Soft graphite pencils (2B or softer). Coloured pastels pencils can be used.
  • A selection of textured surfaces. Off-cuts of embossed wallpaper would be ideal. Woodchip, weave effect, swirly patterns or grainy can be found at most DIY stores.
  • A suitable subject matter exhibiting large areas of tones. A sphere, bottles, crockery or fruit can be used. Photos can alternatively be used as a visual resource
  • Masking tape will prevent the paper from slipping around during the shading process.
Tips on Pastel Shading
  1. To ensure the pattern shows through the paper, select wallpaper that possesses a texture that is sufficiently raised to leave a rubbing print. The pattern should not be too fine, too large or too soft.
  2. During the shading process, angle the pencil tip so that the point has no contact with the drawing paper or harsh lines will be left.
  3. Apply even pressure whilst moving the pencil in even strokes back and forth over the paper.
  4. Work over the area to attain more even shading.
  5. An area can be worked back over to darken an area.
  6. Don’t apply the strokes in perpendicular fashion over the paper (horizontally or vertically) as this will be visually jarring. Aim for an oblique angle. Gentle circular strokes can be used to eradicate any lines, for an airbrushed effect.
Method for the Sketching Technique
  1. Make a light outline sketch of the subject matter onto the paper.
  2. Place the embossed wallpaper onto a stable work surface. Tape into place if necessary.
  3. Place the drawing paper on top .This can also be taped down.
  4. Begin working the pencil lightly over the shaded areas of the subject matter in front.
  5. Remember to use the softest part of the nib to prevent unwanted lines.
  6. Don’t worry if some of the texture does not appear to show through straight away. Working on a large area and by standing back will make the pattern more evident.
  7. Work back over the first shading layer for darker areas. Don’t press the nib too hard or the texture may be lost. Keep working over the shading, keeping the pressure even.
  8. Use lighter strokes for the paler areas, leaving the highlights untouched.
  9. Stand back from the drawing to ensure the tones key in to one another, that one area is not too dark or not dark enough. Don’t rub out an areas that is too heavy; achieve balance by making the whole drawing a little darker. Do this by small increments, standing back from the drawing periodically.
Shading Techniques for Different Abilities

Less able students may experiment with rubbing techniques over an abstract mosaic of lines, filling in each area with a different pattern or pastel colour in an even fashion. Learners may also have a go at darkening the shading by small increments, one area being slightly darker than the other. This will help perfect shading technique.

More able students may experiment with different textures over various area of the drawing, for example to use a swirly pattern for the background or a weave pattern for the foreground. Students may also use different wallpaper textures to compliment the subjects’ actual textures. For example to use woodchip to suggest orange skin, weave for a cornfield or a fern leaf pattern for a potted plant.

Opportunities for exploration into using unexpected textures to represent subject matter are endless.

Art Techniques for Colour Use

Primary colours in art
How to darken the colour of tomatoes
Drawing basics

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Writing Learning Objectives for Art Seems Difficult

Writing objectives for a class of art students is not easy if there is a diversity of learning needs and artistic aspirations to cater for. How does the art teacher write clear objectives that cater for all?

Aim and Objectives: What’s the Difference?

To write good objectives for art courses, the teacher must first understand the difference between aims and objectives. An aim in teaching context is a general state of intent that may or may not be fulfilled. The teacher may formulate generalised teaching aims at the beginning of the course module after initially assessing the students and which will help the teacher formulate a series of art lessons. This aim (or learning outcome) might be

To help students:
  • Develop their drawing ability
  • Know the key art movements.
  • Learn the colour theory
  • To explore mixed media
  • Improve figure drawing.
  • Or simply to improve painting skills.
Clear Art Objectives
These general statements of intent really define what the course is about. They are vitally different to objectives, as objectives pertain not to a whole course, but to each lesson or part of a lesson. Objectives are not generalised but particular.
  • Each objective is a paragraph, to the point and is clear.
  • Each objective must be specific.
  • It must reflect the level of the course.
  • It can realistically be performed within the time frame and with the resources available.
  • It must be evidenced by the student.
  • It must be easy to measure and assess.
  • Have scope for differentiation.
Art Teacher Objectives

A useful mnemonic SMART serves as a reminder. This is specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

Think carefully about the verbs used in each art objective to ensure each fulfils the criteria. Example of objectives in class is:
  • To draw the proportions of the human form onto A4 paper.
  • To paint a watercolour exhibiting two washes.
  • To complete a sky sketch en plein air in oils.
  • To mix four types of greens.
  • To write a one paragraph definition summarizing the style of the Impressionists.
  • To recite the primary colours.
  • To fuse two art mediums within a still life painting.
Notice the verbs, to draw, to paint, to complete, to write, to recite. Each of these verbs describes a practical undertaking which can be evidenced. Each objective must also reflect the class level. To recite the primary colours might fit a class of beginners. To fuse two art mediums within a still life painting might suit a more advanced class.

How Not to Write Learning Objectives for Art

Below shows examples of badly-written learning objectives:

1 To know what the secondary colours are.
2 To understand what Cubism is.
3 To synthesise two art techniques.
4 To complete a painting.
5 To complete a painting with three glazes in one lesson.
6 To draw a cube.
7 To paint the Mona Lisa.

Objective 1 and 2 use the verb ‘to know’ and ‘to understand’ which cannot be evidenced without something concrete (i.e. a painting, written assignment or a vocalization). How can the teacher be sure if a student ‘knows’ or understands’ something taught without evidence? Student evaluation would not be possible.

Objective 3 is too vague. Are the two techniques to be combined in a painting, print or drawing? Number 4 again is too vague and cannot be measured.

Number 5 is not realistic as glazing techniques takes hours to dry before the next glaze can be applied. What are the students to do whilst it is drying? There may not be sufficient time available.

Number 6 might be OK for a class of beginners but will need to be rewritten for advanced students to offer more challenge.

Number 7 is an extreme example, but the objective violates just about all what SMART is about. It is not specific: is it to be a replica or an interpretation? It cannot be measured: How is one student’s painting ‘better’ than another? What are the criteria? It is not attainable if the class consists of beginners or hobbyists. It is not realistic with the time frame and resources available, and there would simply not be enough time to complete it. The objective is too big and encompassing. Objectives are more about small, achievable activities in art class.

Perfect Objectives for a Class of Art Students

Writing objectives to suit the students’ artistic ability and aspirations (collated from the initial assessment) will help the teacher think about the most suited objectives for art class. Each must be a SMART objective, it reflects the level of the course, the student’s needs, the resources, time available, be measureable and evidenced. Each must also accommodate for both ends of the ability spectrum. This is known as ‘differentiation, and will promote inclusive learning. More about differentiation in a separate article.

Teaching Art and Art Activitiy Ideas

What is Sgraffito?
Troubleshooting painting hands
How to paint figures from a photo
Initially assessing students

Why Won’t my Art Student Paint?

Almost every art class has one student that cannot or will not deposit paint onto paper. The teacher may offer assistance on the rounds only to find the student has done no work by the end of the lesson. How can the teacher raise student motivation in art class?

How to Motivate Students in Art

Before tackling the problem of the procrastinating student, the teacher must first identify the source of the problem, which, for example might be that the art activities are too advanced for the student, or not advanced enough. Many other factors might come into play, which could be any of the following

Art Activities too Advanced

Beware of the subconscious assumption that anyone can draw a cube or mix blue and yellow to make green. Some students may still need guidance with such practices. An absolute beginner might not have the confidence to pick up a paintbrush, let alone mix paint. A fear of looking stupid might hide itself behind a fa├žade of bravado or a withdrawal response. The student might simply not know what he/he is supposed to be doing due to vague learning objectives. In an effort to encourage the student, the teacher might make things worse by the following actions:
  • Devise an alternative art activity that is so basic, it shows the student up.
  • It highlights a disability or learning need that might make the student feel singled out.
  • Being overzealous with prompting that makes the student feel pushed into a corner.
Art Activities are Too Basic

The lesson plans might not inspire the student or does not offer sufficient challenge. An art course that centres upon basic colour theory is unlikely to motivate an ex-graduate in Fine Art. Either such a student needs to enroll on another class or the teacher will need to rethink the art lesson plans. The activities must not be so prescriptive that it forbids experimentation, a little deviation or differentiation. On the other hand, it must not be so vague that it lacks meaning.

Bad Learning Experiences in the Past

The learner might have been emotionally conditioned by past failures in education. This will cause a low self-esteem whenever exposed to an environment of learning. A fierce inner critic will certainly sabotage any efforts the student will make in being creative. A fear or looking stupid could also be borne from the student who lacks the confidence to experiment and make mistakes, not helped by spending a lifetime away from a creative hobby due to an academic and demanding career.

Communication Barrier Between Student and Teacher

Learners have preferred learning styles which might not be catered for in the art lesson. A teacher who explains pastel shading techniques too quickly, imprecisely or incoherently will not be understood by the student. Some students might prefer to digest at leisure from a handout, or discuss within an art group, or to be shown via a demo. Similarly, some students might prefer to be told what to do rather than to be left to ‘get on with it.’

The Art Studio Environment

An art class might not be as welcoming as it could. A clique of noisy students could make a quiet student withdraw further .The room might be cold, cluttered or the student might not feel ‘cared for’ by the institution, either due to an admin negligence or the teacher who fails to convey any encouragement or praise. A grey classroom with flickering tubing, displaying spilled paint and old easels (I have taught in such places) is unlikely to inspire.

Human Needs in Art Class

Basic human needs might not be satisfied such as hunger and tiredness. Home pressures and worries can also be a factor that will impact upon the student’s output. Debt worries, travelling difficulties or even the time of day can cause the student to feel ‘not up to it.’ Evenings and wintertime can be most difficult.

A Drive to Learn in Art Class

Once the problem has been identified the teacher can make changes to address any of the above. The following actions might help:
  • Match the art activity with the student’s ability.
  • Make sure the art exercises are sufficiently clear that the student knows exactly what is expected.
  • Take caution the student is not singled out because of a learning need, disability, cultural or gender difference.
  • Devise an ILP (individual learning plan) that sets out clear and precise goals and in small increments. This must be agreed with the student. If confidentiality is preferred, the student may fulfil the ILP at home. (Devising an ILP for the art student is an involved process and is covered in another article.)
  • Make sure the learning objectives are sufficiently flexible to permit differentiation, from the gifted student to the beginner.
  • Ensure the student experiences success in learning to instill a positive leaning experience. Give praise whenever the opportunity arises and offer encouragement.
  • Establish a preferred learning style. A student might prefer to be given instructions than to be left alone on a self-discovery in creativity.
An Effective Classroom in Art

Students will keep returning if the environment of the classroom is welcoming and friendly. The teacher has limited powers in such matters but ensure the room is well-lit, tidy and clean, and tries to exhibit a Rota of students’ work on the walls to make their efforts look valued.

A teacher might be criticised for parting a clique of students but in the long run will be respected. Firmness, fairness and ground rules are essential to any classroom and will in fact make students feel more secure. A student who feels catered for in the classroom is unlikely to withdraw into non-productivity.

Dynamics of the Art Class on Student Inspiration

Some students are harder to motivate than others. By eliminating possible factors as described above is a good start. In some cases, the cause may remain hidden. If this happens, keep motivating and keep encouraging. Revising the ILP might be necessary.

Further Articles on Teaching and Art Activities

Two opposing teaching methods for art
Alla prima painting technique
Step by step demo on painting fruit
Essential art matierials for oil painting

Saturday, 18 February 2012

How the Initial Assessment Stops the Master Oil Painter Joining a Beginner’s Watercolor Class

Initially assessing students at the beginning of an art course is vital if the course teacher is to formulate a meaningful programme of lesson plans that are geared to the ability and needs of the students. It also ensures each student is enrolled upon the correct art course.

Why do an Initial Assessment in Art Courses?

Without a preliminary assessment, the teacher cannot make informed decisions on what teaching methods to employ within the class, and the students cannot make informed decisions on whether to pursue the course. Really, the initial assessment establishes crucial facts about the students prior to enrolling which the teacher can use. Initially assessing students also helps students decide whether the course is really for them. After all, a student interested in botanical illustration would be inconvenienced if the art course focused mainly on landscape art. Similarly, a hopeful watercolorist might be disenchanted with a course that concentrated mainly on acrylics.

Student Evaluation for Art Class

So the initial assessment is needed to establish the following:
  • Each student’s past artistic experiences, including hobbies, art qualifications, exhibitions, commissions, achievements and competitions (if any).
  • Where the students are ‘at’. Their present artistic ability prior to embarking upon the course. Examples of artwork will help clarify this point, which might be in the form of a sketchbook or a portfolio of paintings. This will help the student (and the teacher) see how the student has progressed by the end of the course.
  • The art medium and/or the subject matter the student wishes to explore. This might be watercolor landscapes, or still life oils. In most cases, the students may not have such prescription, but simply to explore their chosen medium. However, the teacher needs to ensure the course module will fulfill any prescriptions.
  • What each student hopes to gain from the course. This might be to complete several oil paintings for an exhibition, to improve drawing ability, to prepare a portfolio for an interview, to explore watercolor techniques, to learn how to do portraiture, or simply to exchange ideas with other students.
  • Student’s special needs. By examining the student’s work and from collating the student’s viewpoint regarding his/her artistic level, the teacher may highlight a special need, which might be difficulty in with perspectives or colour mixing. In some cases, the teacher may need to draw up an ILP (an individual learning plan) which sets out the learning need and agreed art exercises that helps the student to develop.
  • Student’s strengths. To offer a counterpoint to special needs, some students might have a natural flair for drawing, yet still exhibit a special need when it comes to shading techniques. This is known as an individual learning profile, and no two students will be alike. Establishing strengths will guard against art activities that do not offer sufficient challenge.
How to Use the Art Assessment

I will conduct the initial assessment on the first session of the art course after ensuring all the students have an activity to keep them occupied during the assessment period. Unless the teacher meets the students before the art a course begins, it is not possible to plan the art activities ahead to match the students’ learning profiles.

The results of the initial assessment will firstly ensure that all students are enrolled on the correct course. If not, the teacher may suggest a more suited art course elsewhere. The teacher may also establish the needs of the students and devise art activities to suit. A class that consists of mostly beginners may benefit from a series of highly-directive art activities such as a step by step demonstration on shading techniques, or colour mixing. If, as is often the case, the group has diverse artistic abilities, the activities will need to be flexible, employing a variety of teaching methods, but which must form a coherent art module that all can follow. Such flexibility in art activities is known as ‘differentiation.’ This means that students of various abilities may take part in the same art lesson without feeling excluded.

Needs Assessment for Art Students

In a perfect world, an art class will consist of students with the same ability and interest in the same art medium. This seldom happens. This means the initial assessment will reveal a multitude of artistic aspirations and needs. The results of the initial assessment will enable the student to make an informed decision on whether to pursue the course if it does not inform on what is desired. In such cases, the teacher may advise an alternative course. Otherwise, the teacher may use the information to create a scheme of work that will (hopefully) fulfill all the student’s needs and aspirations. However, it is still the teacher’s decision on what the course theme will be and the art activities involved. This will create a coherent art course.

Ideas for Art Activities

Two opposing teaching methods
Painting alla prima
Step by step demo on how to paint flowers wet into wet
Cheap oil painting for students

The Two Opposing Methods to Teaching Art

An art class will often comprise students with an assortment of leaning needs and levels. For this reason no one teaching method will suit all. But a blend of the two opposing teaching approaches: pedagogy and andragogy will suit everybody.

The Best Teaching Methods for Art Instruction

Contrary to first impressions, any teaching method can be seen fit into one or the other divergent teaching approaches. These are known as andragogy and pedagogy. Andragogy is based on the behaviourist approach to teaching.

Behaviourism is where something is learned without involvement of the higher thought processes. This ‘learned’ behaviour becomes automated due to conditioning. A stimulus brings on the response, which can be as subtle as the tone of the teacher’s voice to urge a student  to complete a project on time. Behaviourism in the classroom can be seen when children automatically file out of the classroom at the sound of the bell. The bell is the stimulus; the filing out is the response.

Andragogic Art Activities

Incorporating the behaviourist approach to teaching methods is what andagogy means. Art activities that fit into this approaches are highly-directed, ‘do as I say, or do as I do.’ Such a lesson is teacher-centred, as the students have no control over the lesson activities. Behavourist teaching methods in art might be as follows:
  • Art lectures.
  • Step by step instructions on a painting demo.
  • A teacher talking about what the lesson is going to be about.
  • Following a health and safety drill in the studio.
  • Following instructions on how to measure proportions in the human figure.
  • Reciting information the teacher has given about colour theory.
  • Informing the assessment criteria for an art course (if applicable).
Pedagogic Art Activities

Employing a cognitive or humanistic approach to teaching is what pedagogy means. Cognitive art activities encourage independent learning and self-direction in learners. Students are free to find their own answers by prompts and suggestions by the teacher. Critical thinking as a result of reflection and self-analysis means the lessons are student-centred. Examples of cognitive teaching methods might be as follows:
  • Group discussions on how symmetry was used in art.
  • Research assignments into how Pop Art begun.
  • Exploratory art techniques that combine two painting methods.
  • Problem-solving thought shower.
Andagogy Versus Pedagogy in Art Class

An art lesson plan that is biased towards cognitivism or behaviourims is unlikely to result in an effective learning experience for all students. But a blend of one with the other approach in various measures could enhance the lesson. But when should the teacher use one teaching method above the other?

As a general rule, the andragogic approach comprise of highly-structured lesson plans which might work best for:
  • A class of beginners.
  • Within the initial stages of the course module, particularly the first lesson.
  • Art students with learning needs.
  • Students with low self-esteem.
  • To help a student who needs extra help with a particular aspect of art.
  • Young art students.
  • A class of children.
  • A lively art class.
  • When time is running short.
  • When deadlines are due.
A pedagogic approach comprise of a more organic lesson plan, where the students lead the art activities. This might work best for:
  • Gifted students.
  • Students who already know a little about painting.
  • Students who are highly self-directed.
  • Students with high self-esteem.
  • Students who simply prefer to learn certain things by self-discovery.
  • More pedagogic approaches can be incorporated into the lessons once the course module is underway.
The Best Teaching Method for Art

Art activities featuring a blend of the two teaching approaches will help engage all students whatever their level. An art lesson that solely comprises an art lecturer talking at length about how art movements evolved in the Renaissance period is likely to result in a restless and/or sleepy audience. Conversely, a teacher that requests a group of beginners to explore a diversity of collage materials may encounter blank looks.

How to Engage All Students in Art Lessons

The answer to the dilemma of whether to use andragogy or pedagogy is to conduct an initial assessment of the art students to establish their needs, abilities and learning styles. The teacher may then formulate art activities that mix up both approaches in the art class and in the most fitting places.

Art Subject Ideas for Teachers

The colour theory
Step by step demo on painting a still life
About oils and associated materials

Friday, 17 February 2012

About The Artclass Challenge Blog

Developing artists looking for exercises to expand art techniques or teachers looking for art lesson plans may find something on this blog to fulfill a particular requirement. Online artclass challenges exploring the key art mediums: pencils, acrylics, watercolours, oils, alkyds and pastels are covered here. Art activities to suit young children to adults of varying abilities can also be found.

New Ideas for Artistic Expression

Finding new art challenges to try can be difficult if seeking inspiration or new ideas. An over-familiarity with one’s chosen medium can make the practice seem stale. But trying a new way of colour mixing, untried subject matter or combining two techniques can bring a fresh insight.

Art Lesson Plans for Arts Education

In this vein, this blog can be used by developing artists and teachers alike. A section for teachers can be found on matters as lesson planning, learning theories, assessments and health & safety, etc,.

Each artclass challenge can be used by teachers and artists, and comprise of clear sections:
  • Introductory paragraphs setting out the challenge.
  • Art materials needed for the artclass.
  • The method, describing step by step instructions on how each drawing or painting exercise was done.
  • Differentiation via suggestions on how less confident students as well as those who are more experienced may adjust the activities to suit ability.
  • Links to related articles and videos that may further inform on the art lesson.
Essentials of Learning Art

Overall, the submenu on the right are divided into:
  • Teaching Art: Preparing for the art class, such as making a safe studio, writing objectives and basic learning theories.
  • Art Materials for Artclass: Information about the art materials needed for the art lessons.
  • Essential Art Theories: Lessons to underpin painting, such as colour theory, composing paintings and basic drawing methods.
  • Art Lessons for Children: Art activities for infants and juniors.
  • Painting for Beginners: Artclass for first-time adults.
  • Classes for Practising Artists: Classes for intermediate ability.
  • Experimental Art: Art lessons to encourage advancement.
  • Advanced Class: Art lessons for experienced artists.
  • Life Class: Art lessons on rendering the figure.
  • Literacy in Art: Ideas to incorporate literacy into art class, such as research assignments and dissertations.
  • Artclass Differentiation: Creating differentiation for students who need support.
  • What Went Wrong? Troubleshooting problem areas in the art lesson where things didn’t go to plan.
  • Evaluation & Assessment: How to inform students of their progress and to conduct the end-of-course assessment.
Art Lesson Ideas in Clear Sections

This blog is designed for developing artists and art teachers looking for art activities or lesson plans. A section on how to prepare for teaching will also help art teachers get to grips with conducting a class; the numerous artclass challenges.offers comprehensive ideas on art activities.

The introductory section and the basics of art theory have been sourced from my book, How Can I Inspire my Painting Class? (which focuses upon art lesson ideas for oil painting.) But this blog offers comprehensive ideas for art exercises for a wider choice of art mediums including acrylics, alkyds, pastels and watercolors.
Art Materials and Further Painting Tips

Advice on buying easels
How to mix greens
Colour mixing theory

Book for Art Teachers: How Can I Inspire my Painting Class?

My teaching book on oil painting for post compulsory education could come in useful for the art teacher who has hit a mental block when it comes to oil painting lesson ideas.

Guidance for Art Teachers

My book which condenses my knowledge of oil painting and my experiences teaching art is in fourteen sections, which are: guide to art materials, students’ needs, preparing to teach art, the initial lessons, lessons to underpin painting, lessons on colour use, lessons exploring painting techniques, lessons on still life painting, lessons on landscape art, lessons on alfresco painting, lessons on life painting, lessons for further exploration, end of course preparation and assessment.

How Students Learn

A gifted artist does not necessarily make a great teacher although it might help. This is why learning theories are essential in helping the teacher understand the different ways people learn. Practical issues such as the layout of the classroom, logistical factors of the art materials and making the most of the time available are just few of the many issues surrounding art delivery, and which is likely to result in a more efficient class. These problems are tackled in this book.

Art Lessons for Oil Painting

The main body of my book offers art lesson plan ideas for still life, landscape, figures and abstract art lesson plans. Although inspired by this book, only the preparatory chapters and basic theories have been used in this blog. The oil painting lesson plans themselves have not been included here. But if needing ideas for teaching oils, 60 or so lesson plans can be found within. My book is available on Kindle and most key ebook sellers. The hard copy is available in full colour, or for a fraction of the price, a black and white version is available. See details below the preview video.


Teaching Guide for Oil Colours

How Can I Inspire my Art Class? – Lesson Plan Ideas for Oil Painting in Post Compulsory Education, and an Essential Guide to Teaching is 46,000 words long, with 90 images. The dimensions of the hard copy are 8.5x5.5in and 220 pages long. The print version of the black and white edition is $8.99 (the colour edition is $28.99). Kindle version is around $3.
For art lesson ideas for different age groups and different art mediums, read on here.

Links to my other Art Articles

The colour theory
How to avoid dirty colour mixes
Step by step demo on painting a sunset