Becky Christ

Becky Christ

Oct. 1, 1999


Section 4

Cave Painting

Grade level: Sixth grade

Time frame: 45 minutes plus 15 minutes closure

Topic: Visual arts lesson featuring cave "paintings" that are constructed by individual students’ drawings that attempt to duplicate a Stone Age cave painting.

Rationale: Direct involvement in creating art is necessary for understanding and appreciating it. Learning the historical and cultural contexts of cave painting furthers that understanding to its time and place of creation and helps students gain appreciation of other cultures and their own heritage.

Goal followed by Objective:

Artistic Perception: The students will use flowing lines, texture, and earth colors in their cave paintings.

Creative Expression: The students will draw a unique representation using chalk and flowing lines, of what would be found on a cave wall from the Stone Age.

Historical and Cultural Context: The students will identify and discuss how the animals and colors in their paintings are like those shown from the Stone Age.

Strategy: A combination of direct instruction and guided discovery

Vocabulary: Ochre, Reeds, Flowing Lines, Earth Colors

Ochre---clay containing iron, used as a pigment

Reeds---a tall, slender grass

Flowing Lines---a smooth boundary between two shapes or areas

Earth Colors---colors like those found in the earth such as red, black, yellow, and brown


Introduction: To set the scene, the teacher will ask the students to close their eyes and imagine this scene. The teacher will read the following: You enter a cave; walking deeper and deeper, you move almost instantly into complete darkness. Lighting a torch soaked in animal fat, you gingerly make your way through a passageway with a low ceiling. Clinging to the cool, damp wall for support, you stumble over loose stones. As the passageway takes a sharp turn, your smoky torch suddenly reveals two great bison lunging straight for you with their horns lowered! Fur flying, jaws agape, the eight-feet long beasts seem to be airborne. You freeze, poised to flee. Then you realize that you have been tricked by a masterful illusion. A clever artist has used the natural contours of the cave wall to create a three-dimensional picture that seems to leap from the rock.

(Have the students open their eyes now). Stone Age artists created these works of art thousands of years ago without any modern conveniences, such as latex paint or machine-fashioned paintbrushes. These prehistoric artists applied their chalk and paint to the walls and ceilings of caves by the flickering light of animal fat torches, taking advantage of bumps and cracks in the rock walls to form the animal figures. For chalk and paints, they used ground up minerals–iron oxide for red, manganese for brown, charcoal for black, and clay ochre for yellow. They mixed the mineral powders with animal fat, honey, blood, or the whites of eggs and stored them in hollowed bones. Cave dwellers used some techniques and tools that we recognize today. They made brushes from animal hair, feathers, or chewed twigs and reeds. Painters usually outlined their animals first and then painted to fill in the colors. Many paintings were "signed" by the artist by making an outline of a hand placed over the cave wall. Today you are going to be making a cave painting.

Activity Sequence:

1. The teacher will point out the connections to Boy of the Painted Cave by Justin Denzel which they have been reading, where the main character, Tao, wants to be a cave painter.

2. The teacher will show some examples of cave art, and will let the students look at the picture of the animals in the front of their book for ideas (or up on the wall where a large tracing has been done).

3. Discuss the large poster of the cave painting from France. Talk about the flowing lines, colors, and how the texture of the rock was used.

4. Demonstrate how the students will crinkle their paper to give it contours and texture like the rock and will tear the edges to give it a unique shape.

5. Have the students get out scratch paper to practice drawing flowing lines and the animal they choose. Remind them they are attempting to duplicate a Stone Age painting.

6. Have the paper monitors help pass out the manila paper, chalk, and paper towels for wiping their hands.

7. Play some primitive drum, chanting music, or nature sounds and dim or turn out the lights if there will be enough light from the sun. Discourage too much talking while drawing so the music can be heard.

8. Students should draw the outlines first, rubbing in the colors, using their fingers and the side of the chalk. Rubbing different colors across the background will make the paper appear more like a cave wall.

9. Encourage the students to sign their art works by making chalk thumb prints.

10. As the students finish, have them take their drawings to the teacher or aide who will spray them outside with hairspray to set the chalk and keep it from smearing.

Closure: Close the activity by making connections to the story they have been reading and doing writing activities for, Boy of the Painted Cave. Have small group discussions where the students discuss how it felt to make a cave painting and why they chose the animal and colors they did. They will also discuss if they have a better understanding of why Tao wanted to be a cave painter.

Evaluation: Evaluation will occur during the group discussions of their cave art. (See closure.) The teacher will listen for use of vocabulary and book connections. The teacher will mount the art done by the class on red, brown, or black construction paper and display it on the Boy of the Painted Cave bulletin board. The teacher will visually check the completed cave art by each student to see if they attempted to duplicate a Stone Age painting using flowing lines, earth colors, texture and appropriate animals.

Clean Up: One student from each table will put the chalk away and recycle the paper scraps.

Materials: 12" X 18" pieces of manila colored paper, one per student

Scratch paper for students to practice drawing shapes

Colored chalk in brown, black, red, yellow, and orange

12" X 18" pieces of red, brown, and black construction paper

Inexpensive aerosol hairspray

Paper towels

References: Parts adapted from Early Humans. Teacher Created Materials, Inc. 1995.