Tuesday, February 10, 2015

contrast in the desert.

This week the 4th graders are starting their value unit by creating a drawing inspired by Ed Mell. The focus of the lesson is contrast- in value and media to make part of an artwork stand out from the other parts.

We start by looking at one of Ed's paintings. I chose one of his more realistic pieces, but he also creates some fantastic scenes of skies and desert landscapes that have some more abstract elements. He primarily does landscapes of the Southwest- big skies, rocky canyons, and plateaus. In the focus piece for the lesson we looked at how he used value and detail to contrast the cacti and foreground elements against the soft sky and washed out mountains in the distance. We also took a minute to talk about the desert habitat and how, once you get over the mountains east of San Diego County, the landscape is pretty similar- minus the Saguaro cacti that are found out in the Arizona desert that surrounds Ed, where he lives in Phoenix.

The lesson also provided the students an opportunity to get practice working with both oil and chalk pastels. We used the chalks for the sky and mountains and oils for the foreground elements. They got to practice blending chalk pastels in a couple different ways. Students created their skies first and the cacti came after. This allowed them to blend without having to go around the foreground shapes. The foreground elements were drawn right on top of the chalk pastel background. As long as students press hard, the cacti overpower the chalks in those areas and the chalk doesn't effect the cacti color. The contrast in color saturation between the 2 mediums really gets the cacti to stand out. Students also added light and dark color values to their foreground elements to give them more detail and 3d volume.

 using the side of the chalk to lay in color.

mini Rothko's;)

 finger blending the sky. one color into the next from the bottom up.

 adding clouds on more of a diagonal.

 laying white softly over sky and finger blend. clouds stay unblended for added contrast.

oil pastel foreground goes directly over background.

I have to say, I am LOVING how these are turning out. So many kids are having success with it! Next week when I see them again, I plan on doing a writing activity with the students that reinforces their understanding of contrast in art and English language arts. Contrasting their work and that of the artist and then posing a question they would ask the artist.


  1. They nailed the light and shadow in these. Awesome! Pinning ;)

  2. OMG, those are GORGEOUS!! TOTALLY doing this with my fourth grade! Thanks, Don!

  3. Love these!!! Don't you live close to this landscape? I've found that my kids do best on things they've seen before.

    1. thanks, ted:) yup, we're close. just over the mountains east of SD and boom, you're in the desert. totally agree about the success kids have with what they've seen before. the fam and I will be camping out in the desert near phoenix over spring break. i'm hoping to do some drawing out there and sharing them with the kids when we get back:)


  4. Emirates Desert Safari is a UAE based Safari Company. We are working since 2013. Our company is one of the best safari companies in Dubai. We are providing travel & tour services including desert safari and city tours.
    family desert safari dubai reviews

  5. You ought to join in a contest for starters of the highest quality blogs online. I will recommend this page! Quad biking dubai

  6. I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. Vip desert safari