Artwork by Megan
Because the 5th grade Social Studies curriculum expands to the entire United States, we began this unit with a discussion of how early expeditions into the western U.S. often included artists who visually documented the landscapes of famous places like Yellowstone and Yosemite. The students learned how the paintings of these and other landscape artists inspired a movement to preserve many of these special places as some of our first national parks.
Turning our attention to the art element of space, we analyzed how the landscape artist creates a sense of depth by varying the relative size of objects, the level of detail, and the color value (how light or dark a color is) from foreground to background in their work. Students started by drawing three levels of mountain ridges on their paper to create a foreground, middle ground, and background. Then, using acrylic paints in red and yellow, they painted a sunset sky above their background ridge. The real challenge came when students had to create light and medium values by mixing either blue, green, or purple with white. On their middle ground ridge, they added small trees with no detail. Finally, they used their pure (no white added) colors to paint their foreground ridge and added taller trees with a little mote detail to this foreground.
This is a complex lesson for elementary students, both in terms of thinking three-dimensionally on a two-dimensional surface and in terms of pulling off the sense of space with paints and brushes. I think they did a fantastic job, though -- their paintings have a real sense of depth!
Artwork by Mason
Artwork by Mia
Artwork by Zach