Teaching Painting: BrushWork 2

Teaching brush strokes to middle school students

Teaching brush strokes to middle school students

In my last post I shared how I taught my 7th and 8th grade art students the many different effects they could achieve by simply varying the way they applied the paint. Some of the techniques produce loose, textured results, others produce highly controlled, smooth results.

Exercise Five: After mastering those techniques I have them use the three values of blue to paint a ball. When I first started using this exercise I would have the students use a filbert brush, but I did’t find that it made a great deal of difference so in time we simply continued using the 1/2 to 3/4 inch bristle.

The goal of the exercise was to create a crisp edge on the outer rim of the ball where the color is the darkest and then gradually blend it into a lighter and lighter value toward the center of the ball. The result will be a three-dimensional looking ball.

Exercise Six: For the final brushstroke exercise, the students had to expand their palettes to include three values of green (a true green, a light warm green, and a dark cool green) and three values of brown (a dark rosy brown, a dark golden brown, and a light golden brown). I also gave them a #10 round synthetic brush. We used the first 4 x 5 inch tile on which we had painted the blended graduated technique that looked like a sky.

Using the true green and their 3/4 inch bristle brush I have them loosely smear a grassy green hill in the lower fourth. They then use the round brush and a twisting motion to lay in the tree trunk and branches using all three brown hues. I usually grabbed a scrap piece of paper and demonstrated how to roll the brush between your fingers as you lay in each hue in a single stroke. I’d encourage them to practice a few times on the scrap paper before tackling the tree.

After the trunk and branches were in, we used the three hues of green and an up and down pouncing motion to pounce in the leaves. We don’t use much acrylic medium for this because it is more effective when it is almost a dry brush. I remind them that there is going to be more of the dark green closest to the branches and that we should be able to see some of the sky coming through the “leaves” at the outer edge. Often they come back to me later commenting that they were looking at a tree in their backyard and noticed for the first time that they really could see the sky peaking through the leaves.

Finally, I have them use their round brush and green paint to add a few blades of grass showing them how to start at the bottom of the blade flick their wrist to get a disappearing stroke.

Now that I’ve shared with you the basic brush stroke exercises, I want to show you some of the intermediate paintings I developed to reinforce what the students learned and to expand their sense of accomplishment.

2 responses to “Teaching Painting: BrushWork 2

    • Thanks for your interest in my blogs. It’s always great to find other people interested in teaching art. I hope to get an opportunity to share ideas with you.

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