Susannah Kelly
Grade Level: 6th grade
Time Frame: 50 minutes


TOPIC: Visual arts lesson featuring still life sketching and watercolor painting created by individual students.


Artistic Perception: Each student will identify and use the concepts of shading, outline, and watercolor wash.

Creative Expression: Each student will design a unique sequential still life painting with pencils and watercolors.

Historical and Cultural Context: Students will discuss a brief history of still life paintings and see several examples created during different periods in art history.

Aesthetic Valuing: Students will share and discuss their paintings in groups of four and evaluate the techniques they used to create their artwork.

RATIONALE: Creating these sketches and paintings will stimulate creativity and higher thinking skills. Students will learn to appreciate and evaluate watercolor and still life paintings. This is important because it reinforces visual literacy skills which are used throughout one's life.

STRATEGY: A combination of direct instruction and guided discovery will be used.


Form: three-dimensional shape and structure of an object.

Outline: a sketch using only line, without shading; outside edge of a figure or object.

Shading: surface shadows on an object used to indicate form.

Shape: flat, two-dimensional form of an object.

Still life: pictorial arrangement of inanimate objects.

Transparent: material through which object can be clearly seen.

Wash: layer of paint, usually soft and fluid.

INTRODUCTION: I will ask the following questions: Does anyone know what a still life painting is? What kinds of objects are often found in a still life? After a brief class discussion, I will show examples of still life drawings and paintings and give the background for this art form. Then I will explain that we will be exploring sketching and watercolor painting while creating our own still life painting. I willdemonstrate the project for students before they begin their own projects. I will list the steps on the chalkboard as a reference for students.


Still-life paintings are close-ups of objects. The objects can be natural, such as fruits and vegetables, or manufactured, such as bottles and rifles. Many still lifes express the bounty of nature and the harvest, or the wealth of patrons or the artist's society. In the 1600's, European painters often showed fish shops and vegetable stalls overflowing with goods. In the Netherlands during that time, some still-life artists painted arrangements of food called breakfast pieces. An example is Breakfast Table by Willem Claesz Heda.

Some artists have painted precise, minutely realistic still lifes called trompe-l'oeil (fool the eye). Some artists have made formal, almost abstract compositions of still lifes, as in The Bottle of Banyuls by Spanish artist Juan Gris. (World Book Encyclopedia 1998 CD-ROM)

Artist example:

Harnett, William Michael (1848-1892), is often called the leading American still-life painter of the late 1800's. His style of "fool-the-eye" realism was hard and precise, well suited to such subjects as groups of objects on tabletops and minutely realistic paintings of currency. Many of his paintings use objects to tell stories or symbolize moral themes.

Harnett was born in Ireland, and was brought to Philadelphia as a baby. He studied painting at the National Academy of Design in New York City. In 1873, he began painting still lifes that show the influence of the painting style of the Peale family. By 1880, he had saved enough money to travel to Europe. He spent much time in Munich, Germany, where his realistic style received much praise. Although at the height of his career, Harnett was prevented by illness from doing much painting after 1886. His work was largely forgotten after his death, but rediscovered about 1935. (Sarah Burns, Ph.D., Associate Prof. of Fine Arts, Indiana Univ. at Bloomington.)



Each painting must use sketching, using outlines and shading, and watercolors.

1. Select the fruit you want to draw.

2. With a faint pencil line, divide paper into thirds, either horizontally or vertically.

3. Sketch the fruit in the position you choose in the first square on your paper.

4. Using watercolors, paint your fruit.

5. Eat part of your fruit and then arrange it how you want to draw it.

6. Sketch the fruit in the second square on your paper.

7. Using watercolors, paint your fruit.

8. Eat the rest of your fruit. Arrange remains (peel, core, etc.) how you want to draw it.

9. Sketch the remains in your third square on your paper.

10. Using watercolors, paint your fruit.

(11. Mat your painting in another lesson.)

CLOSURE: After students finish their paintings, they will discuss and share them in groups of four. Students will evaluate whether or not the required components are in each painting. Students will then display their paintings on the wall for the whole class to view. The teacher will then review the vocabulary words by discussing the paintings with the class.

Sample questions students should ask in groups:

1. How were the ideas of form and shape used in the paintings?

2. Describe the watercolor technique used.

3. Is shading used effectively? How could it be improved?

4. Does the overall composition fit together?

EVALUATION: The teacher will visually check students' progress as they create their artwork to see that the proper steps are being used. (see Student Activity Sequence.) The teacher will listen to group discussions as students critique their paintings. (see Closure and sample questions.) The final class discussion will also include evaluation as students identify the key components in the still lifes as a group.


watercolor sets and brushes

pencils with erasers

paper cut 24" x 8"

fruit with core or peel (such as apples, oranges, bananas,

papaya, avocado)

masking tape

CLEAN-UP: Students will clean-up supplies as they finish their paintings. The first four students done will form the first group, and so on. If all students finish close to the same time, assigned students can clean up supplies instead.

FOLLOW-UP LESSON: Have students mat their paintings.