Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The 3rd graders paid a visit to Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends last week, so they could see how shape and value could be used to make 3d space in an image.

I love both the humor and style of that cartoon. The style aspect was shaped by animation and background designer Carol Wyatt. I love her color palette and use of implied lines throughout these images.

To start the lesson, I introduced foreground, middleground, and background and the kids and I defined them together- front, middle, and back. We then look closely at the setting below and determine what is in the front... and why. What is in the back... and why. The kids notice that the foreground in big and bold while things in the middle and back get lighter and smaller. One other element kids pick up on is that the front is more detailed then the other 2 layers.

We then look at another image from Foster's and we use this as the inspiration for the hands on portion of the lesson.
It's always fun to use contemporary art as a focus and it's even more fun and engaging for the kids when you can use pop culture elements. They look at cartoons all the time, but they don't look at them closely and analyze how the scenes are put together to get them to focus on certain aspects. As educators, we can turn them on to this and they can start to see and appreciate how the skills and concepts they learn about in class are applied by artists that entertain them on a regular basis.


The students created landscapes inspired by Carol's work on Foster's. They used 3 different value papers and different sizes to create 3 layers of space. They started with the background first, then middle, and then foreground.

Students measured 4 fingers down from the top of their paper to start their background layer. The rule was keep it small and simple. They cut that layer out and moved on to the middle. On that sheet, they measured 4 fingers up from the bottom and drew things a little bigger and with more detail. On the foreground layer, they measured 2 fingers up and drew even bigger and with more detail. Once all 3 layers were cut, they assembled them. Before gluing things down, I asked students to look and see if they needed to adjust anything, so that they could create the most interesting composition. If they needed to edit, they could cut parts off along the ground lines and slide them to the left or right.

When I see the classes again after Thanksgiving break, we will reflect on this project in a writing and presentation activity.

 making adjustments.
 adding details to the foreground.


  1. Love this! My kids liked that show when they were younger and I always thought it had great style.

  2. I have been wanting to create a lesson based off of that show for years. So glad to see someone do it, and do it successfully. Looks awesome. Great approach. I have often thought it would be a good jumping point for contrasting colors. Often the character is in contrast to the setting. Glad to see the kids enjoyed.

    Jack Fleming

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  4. Great lesson! Love the 3-D layering effect that the students get with their cut paper colors.